Monday, January 24, 2011

Francesca Schiavone - Wins Longest Match in 2011 Australian Open

Draining ... Francesca Schiavone won the longest ever grand slam women's match. Photo: Reuters

Yesterday saw the longest women’s grand slam match of the open era between the French Open champion Francesca Schiavone over Svetlana Kuznetsova. The 6th seeded Italian saved six match points along the way as she triumphed over No 23 Kuznetsova 6-4, 1-6, 16-14 in muscle-cramping, mind-numbing duel that lasted 4 hours and 44 minutes. The longest (and most grueling), both in duration and games played, ever match in the history of women’s grand slam. In fact if you want to compare it, top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki has spent a total of 5 hours and 31 minutes in her four matches at the 2011 Australian Open while Schiavone has 1 game lasting 4 hours.

Francesca Schiavone might not be the most elegant player, or the best looking in her active wear, but she is definitely one of the toughest both physically and mentally as shown by her dominance over her opponent in a draining and most exhausting 47 games. At only 5ft 4 inches (1.66m), Schiavone can be considered petite in an era and sport where the top players are considerably taller. But she can definitely deliver the goods when it’s needed most. Kuznetsova confessed to a bit of brain fade during their three-hour third set where there was a stage she no longer had the idea of the score and who was serving. That was how mind-numbing the game really was.

Francesca would now be playing against top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki who she defeated in the quarterfinals in the 2010 French Open where she became the first Italian woman to ever win a Grand Slam singles title. Since then she has been defeated again by Wozniacki in the 2010 Rogers Cup. And it makes you wonder who will prevail in this semi-final where anything can happen, where the favorites does not really matter, only the game, the style, physical stamina and mental endurance, and take in this case, being indefatigable.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Australian Open: “Rafa Slam” Quest Is On

Rafael Nadal of Spain looks on in his first round match against Marcos Daniel of Brazil during day two of the 2011 Australian Open.. © Lucas Dawson/Getty Images

The Spaniard favorite Rafael Nadal played his first game at the 2011 Australian Open against Brazilian Marcos Daniel with a retirement. Daniel injured his left knee during a training two days ago and though he tried to play valiantly, pain did not make it possible for him to continue. Rafa sensed his trouble and made a strategy that made Daniel move around the court which made it impossible for him to continue at that pace. He knew that if you are not 100 % focused in the game it is not possible to win and more especially if you are playing against a powerful players like the top-seeded Nadal.
Rafael Nadal of Spain serves in his first round match against Marcos Daniel of Brazil during day two of the 2011 Australian Open © Lucas Dawson/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal of Spain in his first round match during day two of the 2011 Australian Open. © Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
Rafael Nadal of Spain signs autographs for the crowd following victory in his first round men's singles match against Marcos Daniel of Brazil. © WILLIAM WEST/Getty Images

After 47 minutes, less than a practice time, Nadal went out with his sports gear to receive the greetings from his fans and to sign autographs.

Nadal waves to the crowd following victory in his first round. © WILLIAM WEST/Getty Images

Images: Australian Open

Sunday, January 16, 2011

2011 Australian Open

Almost everyone has been waiting for this day, the start of the Australian Open. Now all eyes of the tennis world is on Melbourne, Australia as it hosts the 99th Australian Open. But a day before the start of the Australian Open, the tennis players held the Rally for Relief to raise money for those affected by the flood that overwhelmed the state of Queensland. It was just like last year’s Hit for Haiti where the world’s best tennis players played, joked, and entertained fans with their oke at each other while raising money. After the 90-minute exhibition, they were able to raise $750,000 from the fans, the players, Tennis Australia, the ATP, WTA and the ITF. There were also pledges from players an amount for every ace they serve; Sam Stosur who hails from Queensland pledged $500 for every ace she serves during the Australian summer swing. Aside from the entertainment that these tennis players showed their fans, you can also see the assortment of sports wear worn by these players. Since Serena Williams is down because of injury, nobody else stood out in an atrocious costume. These seeded players were simple in their tennis or polo shirts (with the iconic swoosh, of course) and shorts.
Swiss superstar Federer is defending not only the championship but also the world’s number 1 position. And though he leads over Nadal 16 to nine in the Grand Slam, should Nadal win the Open he will hold all four major trophies and will open the age-old debate of who the greatest ever player is. The top-seeded Rafa has yet to play but a lot of fans and well-wishers are hoping Nadal makes history with a Rafa Slam and become the first man in history to achieve a non-calendar year grand slam sweep since Rod Laver 42 years ago.
Rafael Nadal and Caroline Wozniacki were given the top seeds for the 2011 Australian Open. Wozniacki has just won her first round against Gisela Dulko of Argentina while Maria Sharapova defeated Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand for the Women’s Singles. While Andy Roddick is on the court right now against the Czech J. Hajek, Federer defeated Lukas Lacko of Slovakia earlier in a game that lasted only 90 minutes.

As the Open has just begun, fans are definitely waiting for all the answers to all the questions in everybody’s mind: Federer or Nadal?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ballon d'Or 2010: Lionel Messi Wins Prize For World's Best Player

In November of last year, I blogged about the Ballon d’Or or the Golden Ball when FIFA made the shortlist of nominations available. And though I wasn’t able to list down the 3 players nominated: Xavi, Messi and Iniesta all of FC Barcelona, here is the latest on the Ballon d’ Or.
Lionel Messi wins for 2nd time in a row. He was the Ballon d’Or winner and the FIFA World Player of the Year last year when these awards were given separately, and he is again today. And as usual, the decision was controversial. First, footballers and fans alike were surprised when Wesley Sneijder was snubbed as a finalist, then Messi won again when he was in fact mediocre during the World Cup. According to the panel of judges, they chose Messi because of his astounding club form. Messi has spent the year scoring a goal per game and in the cases where he didn’t score he was able to provide or assist for the strikes.
On the other hand, the Spaniards have been really hoping either Xavi or Iniesta would win the Ballon d’Or for Spain, especially since they won the World Cup. In fact, this is the only award that any Spanish player has not received, even Raul has not received this Golden Ball despite the fact that Real Madrid has won the Champions League 9 times because of his efforts. But if you listen to Xavi speak about it the winner is actually FC Barcelona because all three finalists wear the same sportswear uniform. As Xavi himself said, the the FIFA Ballon d'Or is a triumph for the philosophy of Barcelona. He says the nomination of three Blaugrana players as finalists for the 2010 Ballon d'Or is a moment to savour. It is a testament of the Blaugrana’s philosophy that helped their football club have three finalist in the 2010 Ballon d’Or.
Let’s just hope that things might change with Real Madrid especially since Mourinho also won as Men’s Coach of the Year. If that award is really given to a deservicg player and coach, there is still hope for Real Madrid this year.