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Archive for January 2009

Serena sweeps away Safina

Serena Williams swept away Dinara Safina to win her tenth grand slam title as she won the 2009 Australian Open title in straight sets.

Safina did not manage to win a single game in the first set as Serena showed her compusure and experience at this stage.

This match looked so similar to the final of two years ago when Serena dispatched Maria Sharapova in just over an hour but this time she wrapped the title in less than an hour.

With the win Serena takes over the world number one from Jelena Jankovic who didn't even make it into the second week at Melbourne Park.

Although Safina lost in the final I think she had a good tournament overrall and her trickiest match was probably the one against Australian Jelena Dokic. She was also taken to three sets by Ekaterina Makarova and Alize Cornet in the second and fourth rounds respectively.

This was Safina's second grand slam title and I think she is not far off from claiming her first grand slam.

MDC to join government

The Zimbabwe Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has decided to join the unity government following on to the SADC summit held earlier in the week.

This is going to be a very unpredictable path for the MDC and I hope that they have joined knowing that things are not going to be straight forward because Zanu PF will try every trick in the book to make sure that when the next elections are held they will be better placed.

At the same time I think it was a good strategic decision to join because if a mistake was made it was in the signing of the original document way back in September.

Having gone this far and having involved SADC as much as they have done they needed a very good reason not to join.

I think to make sure that the MDC has good relations with the fellow SADC leaders it was a good decision to join now and review after six months.

The other way was not to join and let the country run to the ground but this is also a risky strategy because what happens then is not certain because Zanu PF could call elections on its own terms.

I am not expecting much from this unity government because I have always felt that the problems Zimbabwe currently have are better solved by having one ruling party and not a coalition who may not agree on many fronts.

But by giving this unity government a chance its a relief to SADC who had nothing else to give this time but SADC itself must have learnt some harsh lessons and the organisation needs to be neutral in future cases to maintain whatever credibility it is left with now.

Nadal to meet Federer in final

Roger Federer will meet Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final after Nadal won the marathon match against Fernando Verdasco last night.

Federer reached the final after dispatching Andy Roddick on Thursday night in straigh sets.

This will be the first time for Nadal to reach the final at Melbourne Park and I am sure its going to be an exciting match and that can potentially go all the way to five sets.

Nadal found the way tough against Verdasco and put pressure on Nadal by taking the first even though it was on a tie-break. Three of thee matches had to be decided on a tie-break and Verdasco won two of them.

I think Verdasco had a very good tournament and he also knocked out one of the pre-tournament favourites Andy Murray and by reaching the semis he showed that the win was no fluke.

Meanwhile in the women's final Serena Williams will meet Dinara Safina and whoever wins will become world number one replacing Jelena Jankovic.

I think Serena has experience on her side but Safina has been very well and even managed to beat crowd favourite Jelena Dokic.

Sizzling week in Melbourne

Today was the first day of the days over the 40 degrees and although the forecast was for 41 degrees the mercury actually reached 43 degrees.

Tomorrow the forecast for Melbourne is 43 degrees and the same thing for Friday but I actually expect the temperatures to go beyond that.

The first 'cool' day will be Saturday when the temperature is forecasted to reach 35 degrees and then 31 on Sunday.

The continous hot days are very hard to handle because there is no cool change at night and the temperature basically stays high all that time.

One of the biggest problems that I dread at this time is cancelled train services. Today I had to wait for more than 20 minutes to get the train on my way home and I expect a similar thing for the next two days.

I am not surprised about all the talk about heat at the Australian Open and I actually wonder how people can sit down in 30 plus heat watching tennis when the roof is not closed.

I am hoping that there will no more heat wave until next summer. Its interesting to see that it had not been really 'hot' so far until this week.

Setanta with FA Cup

This year I realized that the FA Cup is no longer on SBS and Espn but its now on Setanta.

I am not sure whether SBS will actually screen the final live because their website doesn't to say anything about it.

Last season it was quite good with coverage from both Espn and SBS and I was able to watch most of the matches leading to the final.

But this year is different because the matches are now on Setanta and because I have Foxsports with Optus I still cannot get Setanta.

I am hoping that SBS will show the final live.

Victory wins minor premiership

Melbourne Victory won the minor premiership after Adelaide United failed to win its match against the Central Coast Mariners by the required two goal margin.

This minor premiership is very important for Victory because it means that Victory will be back in the Asian Champions League next in 2010.

With two teams qualifying from the group phase for the knockout stage, the Asian champions league should be more exciting and I am glad to see that Victory are back in the mix.

I doubted Victory would win the minor premiership after the 2-nil win over the Wellington Phoenix because I thought that a three-nil victory was needed to make sure Adelaide had to win by three clear goals.

But in the end Archie Thompson's late goal proved to be decisive as it meant that Victory finished with the same goal difference as Adelaide but Victory scored more goals than Adelaide.

I think the fact that the premiership had to be decided by goals scored shows how competitive the A-League is. Queensland Roar in third place was two points behind the top two teams.

With the Asian champions league secured I think Victory can now enter the finals more relaxed and there is a very good chance of a grand final appearance because Victory beat Adelaide in all three matches.

I know the finals are different but the second leg will be at the Telstra Dome and that is going to help Victory a lot.

Hats off to the Mariners for putting everything into the match where the result didn't matter to them but ideally these last round matches should be played at the same time.

Federer survives but Jankovic falls

Roger Federer survived a scare at the Australian Open today when he lost the first two sets to Tomas Berdych but he managed to recover and win the last three sets.

Women's top seed Jelena Jankovic was not so lucky as she lost in straight sets to Marion Bartoli.

Jankovic is the current women's world number one but she is still to win her first grand slam title and will now wait for the French Open.

I still think this was her best chance to win a grand slam with Maria Sharapova not involved and Venus Williams and Ana Ivanovic already knocked out.

After seeing off Marat Safin in the third round, Federer had a tough test against Berdych and will know that against a better player he would have been out.

Despite the difficult win I still think that Federer will reach the final. Federer will meet Juan Martin del Potro in the quarters.

Meanwhile Jelena Dokic's march in the Australian Open continues after she beat Alisa Kleybanova in the three sets.

I should say this is one of most competitive women's tennis matches I have watched in a very long time.

Dokic won the first set but Kleybanova won the second leading to a third set decider which Dokic won.

Dokic is now the remaining Australian player left in the singles draw

Sadc summit should act

There is yet another Sadc summit on Zimbabwe on Monday and I think this time the Sadc summit should use common sense and make sure there is progress in the formation of the unity government.

I think that the way things are now makes the unity government maybe the better option compared to letting Zanu PF run the country to the ground.

I still think that these Sadc summits can deliver something but they have to be impartial to start with. Ideas like sharing of ministries should be discarded and they should be able to say one party gets defence and another gets home affairs and so and so forth and if they find that hard to say then its a waste of time.

Like I said before on this blog, ministries could be picked one after the other until they are all finished and that will be a fair distribution.

I think the ministries must be shared fairly to start with and no party should get the most powerful or influential ministries and then let the other party get the scraps.

I also think that it makes sense for the issue of governors to be solved now and not later.

The MDC must be careful to make sure that their demands are met now before entering the government otherwise once in government it could end up being a government of squabbling with nothing being done for the people they are supposed to serve.

I think the problem with these summits is that Sadc sees things through opposition and ruling party and tends to lean with the 'ruling party'.

I think they consider Zanu PF to be the ruling party and side with it yet Zanu PF lost the March 2008 elections and should actually be considered the opposition at the moment.

Lets hope the summit resolves the deadlock and pave way for a unity government where all issues are resolved before hand.

Venus exits Open

Venus Williams was bundled out of the Australian Open when she lost her second round match to Carla Suarez Navarro in three sets.

I think this is one of the biggest shocks so far at the Australian Open and but Venus never looked like losing in the first set as she started quite well.

Also she reached match point in the third set and only to lose the remaining games after that. Navarro did well to come from 1-4 down and win.

On the Australian front, there will no Australian men in the third round after Chris Guccione lost to Gilles Simon in four sets.

But its not very surprsing especially after Lleyton Hewitt lost to Fernando Gonzalez in the first round. Its better with the women with Samantha Stosur and Jelena Dokic progressing to the third round. It would be good to have one Australian in the second week.

I think one of the most interesting matches in the third round is the one between Roger Federer and Marat Safin. While I think Federer will in the end emerge victorious I think Safin will give him a very good test.

Victory still with a chance

Melbourne Victory's win over the Central Coast Mariners means that a comprehensive win over the Wellington Phoenix may be enough to win the A-League minor premiership.

Its sad that the the matches in the last round of the A-League are staggered like any other round but Victory can put pressure on Adelaide United by having a massive win like 4-nil or something like that against Wellington.

Ironically a win for the Victory means that that the Mariners no longer need to beat or draw Adelaide to secure fourth place but I am sure they would like to finish their season with a flourish at home.

Queensland Roar are still in the frame for the minor premiership but they need both Victory and United to lose or draw to win it.

That's a possibility because if Victory were to lose to the Phoenix then the Mariners will need to beat Adelaide or draw to get back fourth place and that will let Roar through.

The only problem with a draw is that the Roar will need to win and better Adelaide's goal difference.

To be fair the matches should be played at the same time so that all teams go for it from the start. Also in the event of either Victory or the Roar winning the minor premiership, the home fans cannot celebrate because that will only be known after Mariners/Adelaide match and that will be on Sunday.

I am hoping Victory wins it so that the team can get back into the Asian Champions League and failing that then Victory will need to win the grand final or play against the minor premiers in the final.

Notes enter trillion zone

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe(RBZ) this week announced it was introducing new notes in the form of 10, 20, 50 and 100 trillion dollars.

This is hardly surprising with the way prices of goods has been rising but I am bit surprised that zero slashing seems to have been abandoned now.

In July 2008 when the situation had not reached the same level as it is now, RBZ slashed 10 zeros and was even bold enough to introduce coins.

This now seems like a long way ago now yet its only seven months but I expected the RBZ to cut the zeros again maybe last month this but it seems like it now wants to continue bringing higher denominated notes.

At the same time the local currency has become worthless and the economy is slowly being dollarised. I wonder what happened to sovereignty.

Dollarisation is affecting the ordinary people who do not earn in US dollars and when they go to change the local currency to US dollars they don't get much in return.

I think if goods are being sold in US dollars or any other currency for that matter then everybody should earn their salaries in that currency. This will make going to work worthwhile for most people and I don't think it is right now for most Zimbabweans.

I am now waiting to see what the next note will be but it appears some people are about world records of some sort.

Zimbabwe passport most expensive

The recent passport charges announced in Zimbabwe makes the Zimbabwean passport one of the most expensive passports in the world.

An urgent passport will cost USD650 while an emergency travel document will cost USD50 which is more than the cost of normal passports for some countries.

A normal adult passport will cost USD120 and a replacement one will cost USD400. The passport form itself will not be free and it will cost USD20.

But it seems like there are no more normal passports for the time being meaning that the going rate for a new passport will be USD650 and this must surely be the most expensive passport in the world.

I don't think a lot of people will be able to afford these kind of figures and I don't know how the authorities can charge those kind of figures.

In comparison at the moment an American passport costs USD100.00 and a British one costs £72 whilst a South African one issued here in Australia costs AUD24. An Australian passport costs AUD208.

Adelaide's draw good for Victory

Adelaide United's goalless draw against Queensland Roar was good news for Melbourne Victory because that meant Adelaide extending their lead at the top by just one point and the Roar staying in third place.

Whilst I think that Adelaide are still favourites to win the minor premiership, I think the draw gives Victory at least a chance of also winning it but they need to win the last two matches and also score as many goals as possible to increase the goal difference.

On the other hand Adelaide will need to draw at least one of their remaining matches if Victory are to be in with a chance.

A win for the Roar would have taken Frank Farina's team above Victory on the ladder on goal difference and so a draw keeps them two points back.

Things would have been easier had Victory got maximum points against Perth Glory at the weekend but that failure to win means that even second place doesn't look very safe if any of the remaining matches is lost or drawn.

The next match is against Central Coast Mariners who themselves need a win to reach the finals because a loss would mean that the Wellington Phoenix would get a very good chance of overtaking them.

Its interesting because the Phoenix play Victory in their last match and that match will be a final of some sort.

I think the easier route to go into the Asian Champions League is through winning the minor premiership and so I am hoping that somehow Victory can get it.

Once it gets to the finals I think its anybody's game and anybody can win it. The other route would be to reach the final against the minor premiers because that would guarantee a place in Asia.

So the match against the Mariners at the Dome is going to be very important and for the Mariners their season is on the line and I am sure they will throw everything into it to make sure they reach the finals.

Murray looking good for Open

Andy Murray is looking very good for the Australian Open after winning the Qatar Open after beating Andy Roddick in straight sets in the final.

Before he reached the final he had beaten world number two Roger Federer and that was the second time this year he had done so.

My only question is whether Murray can actually beat the likes of Federer and Rafael Nadal over five sets.

I think the reason why Federer has won 13 grand slam titles is because he is hard to beat over five sets because he is able to vary his game along the way until he makes a breakthrough.

But Murray's confidence must be high having beaten the world number one and two already this year but there is also the defending champion Novak Djokovic who played very well last year at Melbourne Park and could also win again this year.

On the women's side its unfortunate that Maria Sharapova will not be able to defend her title but that should open a door Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic.

I still think there will be a lot of surprises this year and I am looking forward to the start of the Australian Open next week.

Hayden calls it a day

It was hardly surprising to hear today that Matthew Hayden announcing that he was retiring from international cricket after his performances this summer.

But I still think he only needed one good innings to be able to go to South Africa and then after that defend the Ashes in winter in England.

In five Tests after the Indian series he had to get at least one good innings but in the end the highest he got was a 39 at the Sydney Cricket Ground when the Test series had already been lost.

I think that by then he was already under a lot of pressure and under that kind of pressure everything tends to be magnified.

But there is no question he is a great batsman who has a highest score of 380 runs and I wish him well in his retirement.