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Archive for June 2009

Hewitt to face Roddick in quarters

Lleyton Hewitt came from two sets down to beat Radek Stepanek to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals.

His next match will now be against Andy Roddick and I think that will be a very tough one. I never expected Hewitt to reach the second week let alone the quarters but I think the key was beating fifth seed Juan Martin del Potro in the second round.

If he gets past Roddick then he could end play either Andy Murray or Juan Carlos Ferrero.

At this stage I still think that Roger Federer will win this year's Wimbledon and set a new record of grand slam wins. With Rafael Nadal out, I think this is his best chance to set the record.

Local favourite Murray continues to impress but I still he will have no chance against Federer should the two meet in the final.

In other semi-final matches, Murray will meet Ferrero, Tommy Haas will meet Novak Djokovic and Federer will square up against Ivo Karlovic.


F1 split averted

Last week I wrote a post about a looming split in F1 and this has now been averted following an agreement between FOTA and the FIA this week.

Basically the financial cap will no longer be enforced next season and all the teams will run under the same rules.

In a way this seems to be good news but long term I think F1 needs some stable rules and not the constant changes we have seen from year to year over the last few seasons.

Its actually hard to compare seasons sometimes with rules being changed from one season to the next and I think the cap was not a good idea in the first place.

I think the whole idea of reducing costs is a good one but it must be done in such a way that all the teams run under the same rules.

I also think that there must be broad consultation with teams participating rather than try to impose the rules in a 'take it or leave it' attitude.

Out goes Connex and in comes MTM

The Victorian Premier John Brumby yesterday announced that the Connex contract to run the Melbourne rail network will not be renewed but the contract has instead been given to the Hong Kong company Metro Trains Melbourne(MTM).

Its hardly surprising to see Connex lose the contract to operate the Melbourne rail network but its going to be a tall order for MTM to really do a good job of it.

This is because they will still get the same trains that Connex has been running and with the same inherent infrastructure problems that the network has.

Unless they go out and buy new and more reliable trains I actually don't see much happening and it could be a question of different names on the trains.

I think what the Melbourne rail network needs is further investment in terms of getting newer and more reliable trains and expanding the network somehow so that trains do not waste time waiting for other trains to pass as happens a lot of times at Clifton Hill.

For the trains that I use I can say that I have seen some improvements over the last few months and there has been less cancellations but these seem to have been replaced by more delays.

Its not surprising to hear that a train has been delayed by ten minutes and by the time the train gets to Flinders Street station the delay could have increased to fifteen minutes or so.

On the other hand I hope MTM will be able to do better in terms of making sure that at least the trains are clean and presentable most of the time and that the inside is designed so that its easier for standing passengers.

The new contracts starts in December and so I hope that MTM will now begin to do their homework to get rail network to world class standards.


Pakistan Twenty20 champions

Pakistan won the World Twenty20 tournament after beating Sri Lanka by eight wickets in the final.

I think Sri Lanka faltered where it mattered most after only managing 138 runs at Lord's and Pakistan managed to chase that total and lost just two wickets in the process.

Also Pakistan had eight balls to spare which suggests that maybe 10 to 20 more runs who have been enough for Sri Lanka.

But it was a good turnaround by a Pakistan team that started the tournament slowly and just managed to reach the Super 8 stage.

Also in the semis Pakistan had a shock win over South Africa who up until then seemed destined to reach the final.

In both the semi-final and final it was Shahid Afridi who played very well and was probably the difference as he made 54 not out.

For Sri Lanka, only Kumar Sangakkara had a respectable innings but with two top batsmen Tillakaratne Dilshan and Jehan Mubarak both scoring ducks it was a big challenge against an in-from Pakistan team.

So congratulations to Pakistan and I hope this will be a start for good times for the Pakistan team.

Red Bull dominates at Silverstone

It was one-two finish for the Red Bull team as Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber took the first two positions at Silverstone.

This was also the first race this season for Jenson Button to be off the podium after he finished sixth but the Brawn team maintained their podium presence with Rubens Barrichello finishing third.

But the day belonged Red Bull whose drivers completely dominated the race and the result leaves Vettel 25 points behind Button and two behind Barrichello.

In fourth place was Ferrari's Felipe Massa and behind him was the William's Nico Rosberg. Rosberg managed to maintain his fifth place for the last few laps of the race to make sure that Button finished sixth.

In seventh place was Toyota's Jarno Trulli who had started fourth on the grid and in the last points place was Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen who improved just one place from his starting position on the grid.

The defending champion Lewis Hamilton finished 16th and his team-mate Heikki Kovalainen did not finish the race.

The next race will be the German Grand Prix and after a three week it promises to be yet another thrilling race.

Sri Lanka to meet Pakistan in final

Sri Lanka beat West Indies by 57 runs to book a place in the final against Pakistan in the World Twenty20.

When Sri Lanka managed 158 runs in their innings I knew that the West Indies were going to struggle to reach that total and I was proved right with the Windies only managing 101 runs.

Its been a good run in this tournament for the Windies but they stood no chance against an in-form Sri Lanka team who I think will go and win the final.

For the Windies only opener Chris Gayle managed to get double figures and four players got ducks and one player got just a single run.

On the other hand for Sri Lanka, Tillakaratne Dilshan scored a superb 96 runs which is nearly the total score for the whole Windies team.

Lets hope its going to be a competitive with the best team on the day winning.

Nadal out of Wimbledon

Rafael Nadal will not be able to defend his Wimbledon title after pulling out because of knee injury.

I was looking forward to see if Nadal would repeat his heroics of last year but the injury has put a stop to that and I think this is very unfortunate.

With Nadal out world number two Roger Federer becomes the favourite and he now has a very good chance to go and create a new record of Grand Slam wins.

Its always good to see the best players in a tournament but at this year's Wimbledon injury has meant that Nadal will not participate and I hope that despite that we will see some exciting tennis over the next fortnight.


Rival F1 championship looms

It seems like there will be a rival F1 championship next year after eight teams refused to enter next year's F1 championship under the proposed new rules.

I have been following the F1 dispute about the 40m budget cap and all along I thought an agreement would be reached but it seems now that there has been no agreement and the majority of the teams will form their own series instead.

The only current teams who signed unconditionally to next year's championship are Williams and Force India.

I have no doubt that the new rival series will be more popular because it will have the popular teams like Ferrari, McLaren and Renault and also the more known drivers.

This could also be good for the Silverstone circuit because F1 is going to leave the circuit and go for Donnington instead but the rival series may use the Silverstone.

Also I hope the Australian leg of the new series will run at around 2 o'clock local time and not have the twilight race like happened this year.

The late start this year was meant to satisfy audiences in Europe and ignoring the local fans and the rival series has said that they will listen to the fans.

I will be following the events as they unfold but I will be happy to see a series with stable rules and run under one rule for all teams.

For the last few years there has been so many rule changes and there was even a proposal to give medals instead of points and these are the kind of things the rival series should avoid.

I think a lot more will be announced over the next few days and I am keen to see what kind of calendar the new series will have.


Pakistan reach Twenty20 final

Pakistan reached the ICC World Twenty20 final after beating South Africa by seven runs.

I have been following the World Twenty20 tournament for most of this month and its good to see how unpredictable the tournament has been.

This semi-final was also a big surprise for me because I thought South Africa would easily reach the required 150 runs but they failed shot by seven runs.

Also the defending champions India failed to reach the semis and Australia even failed to reach the Super 8s.

Pakistan will play the winner between Sri Lanka and the West Indies. I have been impressed by Sri Lanka so far and I hope the final will be between Pakistan and Sri Lanka.


Federer finally wins French Open

Roger Federer finally won the French Open this year after he beat Robin Soderling in straight sets in the final.

This win was so important because it means that Federer has now equalled Pete Sampras' record of 14 grand slam titles and he will now play to set his own record.

It was also important in that this was the only Grand slam Federer had not won and it means that he has now won all four majors.

Sampras got his 14 titles without winning the French Open and so in that regard Federer has also set a new mark in itself.

I thought Soderling was not his usual self in the final especially in the first set and I think it could be to do with stage of being in the final.

Soderling became the first man to beat world number one Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros and I think he did well to go all the way to the final but he found Federer in a totally different gear.

I also think things went Federer's way this year with his main rivals Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic all getting knocked out before the semi-finals.

I think Federer will set a new mark and I think he will be under less pressure now than being at 13 and trying to get to 14.

It could be this year either at Wimbledon or at the US Open and I think it would be good for him to set a new mark because I think he is one of the greatest tennis players.

Meanwhile in the women's final, Dinara Safin lost to Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets and therefore has to wait for her maiden grand slam title.

Webber gets second as Button shines

Jenson Button continued his fine run in this season's Formula 1 season after winning the Turkish Grand prix.

This was Button's sixth win in seven races so far and what made this win even more remarkable was that he did not start from pole.

The previous winners of this grand prix had won pole and Button became the first driver to win without starting from pole.

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel won pole but an early mistake in the race made sure Button capitalized and led the race from then onwards.

Mark Webber had a very good race as he secured yet another podium finish. Webber finished second ahead of pole setter and team-mate Vettel.

It was a good race for Toyota with Jarno Trulli finishing fourth ahead of Williams's Nico Rosberg. Both Toyota cars secured points in this race.

After a good race in Monaco for Ferrari, this time it was just an ordinary one and it wasn't surprising to see Felipe Massa finish sixth and his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen finished just outside the points in ninth.

The last two points places went to BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica and Toyota's Timo Glock.

BMW Sauber are not the team they were last season when they challenged for the podium in nearly every race but this season it seems like a point is a big achievement in itself.

Button's team-mate Rubens Barrichello retired after 47 laps and this was the first time that a Brawn GP car has failed to finish a race.

The next race will be at Silverstone. Whilst last year the Silverstone crowds were cheering Lewis Hamilton, this time its a turn for Button who could be wrapping the championship very soon if he continues with his winning streak.

Socceroos reach World Cup

The Socceroos secured a place at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa after a goalless draw against Qatar on Sunday morning.

The Socceroos only needed a draw to make sure that the worst position they could finish in the group would be second which secures a spot at the World Cup finals.

In the same group, Japan also secured a place at the finals after beating Uzbekistan with a lone first half goal.

Now Japan and Australia will use the remaining matches to decide who will win the group and the teams play each other next week here in Melbourne.

The Socceroos reaching the World Cup is very good news for the local game and I think that will help raise the profile of football in Australia even further.

I also liked the straight forward way of qualifying compared to going through South America as happened for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

I have watched all the qualifying matches that the Socceroos have played and I think they will need to raise their game to go beyond the group stage.

The good thing is that there is a still a lot of time - a year actually - to prepare for the World Cup and the coach Pim Verbeek will need to fine tune the team to make the team better than it is at the moment.

Meanwhile its going to be good watching the last two matches of qualifying knowing that a place has already been secured at the finals and it could be a chance to try some fringe players.

Soderling march continues

Robin Soderling's march at this year's French Open continued after he beat Nikolay Davydenko in straight sets to reach the semis.

Soderling earlier beat defending champion Rafael Nadal and now he has reached the semis where he will play Fernando Gonzalez.

Gonzalez reached the semis after beating world number three Andy Murray in four sets. I think the match between Soderling and Gonzalez is going to be very good but I tip Gonzalez to win and reach the final.

In the women's draw, Maria Sharapova's run came to an end after she lost to Dominika Cibulkova in straight sets.

Cibulkova will meet world number one Dinara Safina who triumphed over Victoria Azarenka despite losing the first set.

I think that was a very good effort by Sharapova especially after being out of tennis for such a long time.

Samantha Stosur needs to beat Sorana Cirstea to reach the semis. I am hoping that Stosur will play well enough to reach the semis where she will meet the winner between Svetlana Kuznetsova and Serena Williams.

SBS launches new channel

Early this week SBS launched the new digital channel called SBS Two which will feature extended coverage of sports, news, movies and drama.

I think this is a good move on the part of SBS and especially this year when the channel has to cover both the Tour de France the Ashes cricket series.

With SBS Two they are going to be able to cover both events live at the same time without upsetting some viewers.

The first mention of SBS Two that I got was when SBS won the rights to show the UEFA Champions League but then the channel was not yet launched.

I hope that when they show full replays of football they will also show the time like what both ESPN and FoxSports does.

Its good to see good use of digital channels with Channel 10 also launching One HD early this year which shows for example live F1 races.


Ancelotti replaces Hiddink at the Bridge

The managerial merry go round continues at Chelsea with Carlo Ancelotti being the latest manager to come to Stamford Bridge.

Whilst Ancelotti has seen stability at AC Milan where he has been manager for eight years, he comes to a team that that been changing managers almost on a year to year basis since Jose Mourinho left.

Mourinho left the club in the 2007/8 season and he was replaced by Avram Grant.

Grant only stayed until the end of that season and he was replaced by Luiz Felipe Scolari who then got replaced on a temporary basis by Guus Hiddink.

I think Grant did so well in the 2007/8 season and the only reason the team did not win the league was because of the poor start to the season under Mourinho.

Now in comes Ancelotti and I think if Chelsea wants sustained success then they should let him at least last a full season.

The situation at the Bridge mirrors that at Real Madrid where there have been so many managerial changes one easily loses count and next season there will be another new manager in Villarreal former boss Manuel Pellegrini who replaces Juande Ramos.

Meanwhile the stability at Manchester United seems to be paying off with the team winning its third consecutive premier league title and reaching the finals of the UEFA Champions League in consecutive years.

But at the Emirates there have been stability with Arsene Wenger being at the helm since 1996 but there hasn't been much success in recent years.

To be fair Arsenal hasn't spend as much money as Man United but the club has gone four years without silverware.

Back to Chelsea, I am keen to see how the team will perform next season under this new manager. I am expecting Manchester City to be much stronger than this season and so there could be real competition for the top five clubs at least.


Soderling knocks out Nadal

Robin Soderling beat defending champion and world number one Rafael Nadal in four sets to inflict Nadal's first defeat at Roland Garros.

Nadal had never lost at Roland Garros before and on paper the match looked like another match he would win without dropping a set.

Nadal lost the first set but then he managed to win back the second and at the end of that tight set it looked like things were back to normal.

But Nadal went on to lose the next two sets to see him fail to reach the quarters for the first time at the French Open.

When Nadal played Lleyton Hewitt he looked he was in that kind of form that would lead at least to the semis or so but Soderling was very good for him on the day.

This might the best chance for Roger Federer to win his first French Open. With Novak Djokovic already out from his side of the draw the main threat will come from Murray if he can go past Soderling.

In the women's draw, the defending champion is also out. Ana Ivanovic lost to ninth seed Victoria Azarenka in straight sets.

Samantha Stosur is still in there and she will meet crowd favourite Virginie Razzano tonight.

Maria Sharapova continues her march to the final with a win over Na Li in three sets.

I can't wait to see what will happen in the next few days after shock defeats on two consecutive days after the loss of Djokovic the previous day and then now Nadal.