London 2012: My Top 10 Moments Of Week 2

London 2012 Closing Ceremony

London 2012 has sadly come to an end but the following are some of the memories that will last a lifetime…

Andy Murray’s Sweet Revenge:

Just a couple of weeks prior to the Games SW19 played host to Andy Murray’s proudest career achievement to date when he reached his first Wimbledon final and lost valiantly to Roger Federer, but now he can finally say that he has become a champion at Wimbledon.

He still isn’t yet a winner of Wimbledon title ‘proper’ or a Grandslam title but his fantastic performances en route to the Olympic final and then in hammering Federer in the final will have given him an enormous amount of hope in his quest to land a first Slam. It was also fantastic to see him gunning for glory on all fronts as he teamed up with his brother in the men’s doubles and with Laura Robson in the mixed doubles where they landed a deserved silver medal.

Golden Saturday:

Little can be said about Saturday the 4th of August 2012 that hasn’t already been said a thousand times but there is no way it could be left off of this list. 6 golds in one day and three of those in the space of less than an hour in the Olympic Stadium. It was awesome.

Epke Zonderland flies his way to Gold in the Men’s High Bars:

In a week of phenomenal achievements for Team GB it was tempting to fill this list with tales of home glory and triumph but one of my personal highlights of week two came in a somewhat surprising form. In the build-up to the Games I hadn’t exactly set my heart on watching an enormous amount of gymnastics but Team GB’s unbelievable success got me hooked and then a certain Mr. Zonderland  made me really sit up and take note. His High Bars routine was truly a sight to behold and he more than deserved his gold medal. If you haven’t already seen it then please use this link and do so… http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/olympics/18903127

Trotty’s Double Gold:

With some of team GB’s more high-profile members such as Jess Ennis, Mo Farah and Sir Chris Hoy delivering in fantastic fashion I felt as if young Laura Trott’s double gold went unfairly a little under the radar as did her boyfriend Jason Kenny’s double gold. Her individual winning performance in the women’s omnium was terrific and she sealed her precious second gold in stunning style by romping to victory in the final event and replacing the experienced American Sara Hammer at the top of the standings.

Ben Ainslie makes it 4 out of 4:

Ainslie yet again did it the hard way as he always seems to do as he once again he came from behind to land a stunning fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal and a third consecutive gold in the Finn class. The man is a legend and one would imagine that a knighthood could well be forthcoming.

Sir Chris replaces Sir Steve at the top of GB’s gold medal winners list:

Chris Hoy London 2012

His Royal Thighness grabbed two golds in what is almost certain to be his last Olympic Games

Chris Hoy’s outstanding performance in the Keirin was arguably the highlight of yet another stunning team performance from Britain’s cyclists at the Olympics and it saw him reach the incredible tally of six golds, one more than Sir Steve Redgrave who provided a very nice touch by going to the Velodrome to congratulate the man who has arguably deposed him as Team GB’s greatest ever Olympian.

Bolt doubles up on all three fronts:

I’m pretty certain that most people would already have regarded Usain Bolt as a legend prior to London but now he himself believes once and for all that he has the right to be called a legend. Once again Jamaica’s finest produced storming performances in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay and his second consecutive triple-gold medal haul silenced all of the doubters who thought he might not be able to match his displays in Beijing. My favourite Bolt moment from the last fortnight though was his homage to home favourite Mo Farah when he performed the ‘Mo-bot’ just after crossing the line for gold in the relay.

Farah Bolt London 2012

‘Mo Bolt’ and ‘Usain Farah’ celebrate their triumphs with each other

Brotherly love in the Triathlon:

For years I have been derogatory about triathlon in order to wind up a friend of mine who is all to keen on the sport but the truth of the matter is that triathlon is an unbelievably demanding discipline and both of the Brownlee brothers are phenomenal athletes. Tuesday’s triathlon drew an enormous crowd, one which  included myself, and Alistair Brownlee’s gold medal winning performance was well worthy of such phenomenal support.

Mo Doubles Up:

Saturday night saw Mo Farah complete arguably the greatest British athletics achievement ever as he landed the 5,000m gold medal to add to the 10,000m gold which he won a week earlier. This achievement has seen Farah soar into the realms of the greatest athletes ever to have competed at the Olympics as only seven people have ever done the long distance double at the Games.

Stephen Kiprotich defies the odds to bring glory to Uganda:

Kiprotich Marathon Winner

Stephen Kiprotich took an unlikely victory in Sunday’s showpiece event

Uganda are traditionally one of the least successful competing nations at the Olympic Games and until yesterday they were still without a medal at London 2012. However, on the final day of the Games Kiprotich stepped up to the plate and beat the favourites from Africa’s distance running strongholds Ethiopia and Kenya en route to winning the marathon and becoming not just Uganda’s first medal winner of the Games but also Uganda’s first gold medal winner in 40 years. This was a staggering achievement for one so young and it was deserving of the traditionally special medal ceremony that the marathon receives in the closing ceremony.

Wimbledon 2012: Piecing Together The Tournament’s Best Male Player

Every year our TV screens are awash with a Stat-Attack throughout Wimbledon fortnight so I have used the official Wimbledon statistics website to piece together the men’s tournaments most successful players in all areas of the game and tried to come up with a resulting amalgamation of a player that would be unbeatable on the courts of the All England Club. Here goes nothing…

Federer wins Wimbledon

Roger now has seven titles to his name at Wimbledon and he features heavily in the component list for my imaginary hybrid player…

Serving Power: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga topped the charts with the tournament’s fastest individual serve when he rattled an 140 mph-er past Andy Murray in the Semi-Finals.

Aces: Philipp Kolschreiber produced the most aces in tournament with an impressive total of 98 at an average of around 20 per match on his journey to the Quarter-Finals where he was beaten by Tsonga.

Serving Accuracy: The tournament’s highest serving accuracy statistic belongs to Albert Montanes who landed 80% of his 1st serves in play. The Spaniard did however have little else to cheer about in his tournament as he fell at the very first hurdle.

Winning Points On 1st Serve: The big-serving Croat Ivo Karlovic produced a percentage of first serve points won of 86%, which is hardly surprising given the speed and angle his enormous frame helps him generate when his first serves find their required destinations.

Winning Points On 2nd Serve: Ernest Gulbis produced the tournament’s finest record in terms of winning points on his own 2nd serve with an impressive 66%. Sadly though this impressive stat couldn’t save him from an early second round exit from the competition.

Winning Points Against The 1st Serve: The now seven-time champion of the All England Club, Roger Federer, managed an impressive tournament topping total of 186 points won against his opponents 1st serves, which is of course a statistic aided by the fact that he played more matches than any other player in the tournament other than Andy Murray who also played seven times but his average of around 27 points won against the first serve per match is also superior to all other players in the draw.

Winning Points Against The 2nd Serve: Andy Murray, the beaten finalist at this year’s championships, topped the charts in this category with an enormous tally of 192 points won against his opponents 2nd serves throughout the tournament. His nearest challenger in this category was Federer who beat him in the final but the gap between the two in this department was a gaping 40 points.

Break Points Won: The tournament’s most prolific breaker of serve was unsurprisingly it’s champion, Roger Federer. Rodge notched up 38 breaks of serve in his seven matches in the tournament, 8 more breaks than his nearest challenger both in this category and in the tournament as a whole, Andy Murray, who managed 30 breaks of serve.

Break Point Conversion: Without a pause for thought you might just assume that the tournament’s strongest performers in this department would have the highest percentage of break point conversion but actually logic prevails and two first-round flops Simone Bolelli and Thomas Berdych share the honour of having converted 100% of their break points in the Championships. This, if you think about it, is an unsurprising outcome as they only managed one break a-piece in their only matches of the tournament.

(All stats provided by the official Wimbledon website: http://www.wimbledon.com/en_GB/scores/extrastats/rally_count_ms.htm

The Conclusion:

So, according the official stats for the tournament the make-up of this year’s perfect men’s player at Wimbledon would be the serving power of Tsonga, the Ace-making ability of Kolschreiber, the 1st serve accuracy of Montanes, the 1st serve points conversion of  Karlovic, the 2nd serve points conversion of Gulbis, the 1st serve returning talents of Roger Federer, the 2nd serve returning talents of Andy Murray, Federer’s prolific serve-breaking powers and finally the break point conversion and ruthlessness of Berdych and Bolelli.

Unsurprisingly, it is Federer that has dominated proceedings in the creation of this Wimbledon ruling hybrid player make-up but there were also a fair few surprises thrown into the mix. The fact that Federer topped the most categories though goes a long way towards explaining why he won his seventh Wimbledon crown and why he could yet go on to win even more, he has an exceptional all-round game and over the past fortnight very few challengers have been able to live with him! Surely, he can for now be labelled at very least the equal best player of all time?


Maturing Murray the Protagonist in British Tennis’ best fortnight in 35 years

Andy Murray’s four-set defeat to Roger Federer in the men’s singles final at Wimbledon may have been a bitter blow for Murray and his ever-growing fan-base to take but his well navigated journey through to the final, in which he gave his all, proved to arguably be the highlight in what was ultimately a very encouraging couple of weeks for British tennis.

Murray Wimbledon 2012

Murray took another step closer to Grandslam glory but was denied by the wonderful Roger Federer

He may have been the star of Britain’s Wimbledon fortnight but for a change he wasn’t alone in bringing joy to the ever-faithful British tennis following who battled through some of the worst conditions the All England Club has ever had to deal with during their busiest period of the year. Thank god we now have a roof on Centre!

In the women’s championship the British fans were treated to predictable opening round victories for Anne Keothavong and Elena Baltacha before second round exits for the pair and to the equally predictable host of first round exits but among the first round exits was that of Laura Robson who continues to look more and more adept at Grandslam level in spite of her loss.

Topping Robson’s efforts though was Heather Watson who played as well as we have ever seen the youngster manage at Grandslam level in convincing straight-sets victories in the opening two rounds, even if she did then go on to get firmly put in her place by eventual ladies finalist Agnieszka Radwanska in round three. It may not seem that exciting on the face of it that one of our female competitors managed to make the third round but she was the first to do so in a decade which was great to see from one so green.

In the men’s championship there was also a couple of rays of light to accompany Watson’s showing and Murray’s best performance at Wimbledon to date. These came from youngster Oliver Golding who threatened an opening round victory over the very experienced Igor Andreev before losing in four sets on his Wimbledon men’s debut and James Ward who managed a victory in the opening round of his Wimbledon bow before losing in five sets to 10th seed Mardy Fish.

The fact that Golding’s tight opening round loss, Ward’s debut victory and Watson’s run to the third round are being seen as encouraging signs may reek of desperation amongst British tennis fans to see the good in what is really a disappointing crop of players but it does seem that British tennis is slowly improving across the board and that our group of British females in particular are beginning to make more of an impression at the highest level.

The two genuine success stories though for British tennis during Wimbledon fortnight were those of Johnny Marray who became the most unlikely of victors in the men’s doubles with parter Frederik Nielsen and of Andy Murray who took his quest for Wimbledon and Grandslam glory a step further in reaching his first Wimbledon final and in winning his first ever set in the final of a Grandslam event.

Marray Nielsen

Who had honestly seen Marray play before Wimbledon fortnight? I know I hadn’t!

Marray and Nielsen’s win in the men’s double may not match up to what might have been had Murray landed the men’s singles title but it is an achievement which must lift the heart of all real British fans. It really has made for an astonishing tale of triumph against all the odds and it was a pleasure to watch Marray become the first British man in over 70 years to lift  the men’s doubles trophy and the first Brit to win a senior’s Wimbledon title since Jamie Murray won the mixed with Jelena Jankovic a few years back.

It was genuinely exciting as a British tennis fan to get to watch two of our players make the finals of their respective competitions this weekend and though Marray’s triumph would have been sacrificed by nearly all British fans in exchange for a Murray triumph in his final it was still an enormous pleasure to behold both matches and Murray far from undersold himself in his defeat.

Though we have still been left longing for a winner of a men’s singles victory in one of the four Grandslam events, Murray’s performance in the final and the performances he produced in the previous rounds of the tournament were beyond anything that we have seen from a male competitor in a Grandslam since Fred Perry way back in the 1930’s and the demeanour which Murray has shown throughout the competition was so much more positive and endearing than anything we have seen before from the young Scotsman.

I have always been frustrated by the criticism which Murray has been targeted with by many Brits in that he is a professional sportsman and not a comedian or a tv personality but I concede that it would be beneficial for Murray to become more endearing and engaging as a public persona and I hope that not only his interview blubbing episode but also his on-court and off-court character, throughout the entirety of this tournament in particular, has helped him in becoming so.

I personally have always managed to see something beyond the ‘dour’ and ‘bleak’ public persona which people have attributed to Murray but the past couple of weeks in particular have definitely seen him become a little more at ease with the glare of the media and of the expectant British nation and perhaps it is this sense of Murray maturing and becoming more comfortable with the limelight which has made him get closer than ever before to winning a Grandslam title.

Hopefully this perceived improvement and greater demonstration of his emotions will continue to have a positive effect on his game and I think it is clear to most now that Murray can win a Grandslam title and that he probably will do at some point. If he needs any greater source of belief to cling to than his own undoubted ability in his unrelenting quest to become a Grandslam winner, then he would do well to look to Johhny Marray’s success story for inspiration.

Marray and Nielsen’s win may have been something of a ‘freak’ victory but perhaps it will take something freaky for Murray to finally get past the awesome trio of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in a Grandslam event, which I for one think he will do at some point in the next couple of years.

Call me deluded but I honestly think he will not only go the distance once in a slam but that he will still go on to win more than one. Perhaps this is far too much wishful thinking on my part though… We can but dream….

Crunch time for Murray as the Aussie Open heads into the Quarters

With a lack of free-to-air coverage of the Australian Open you’d be forgiven for feeling a little bereft of ‘Murray-Mania’ and perhaps even for being completely unaware that the Scotsman has once again advanced to the final eight of a Grandslam event.

Murray has breezed through the early rounds in Melbourne

Thus far, Murray has come up against the talented US teen Ryan Harris in the opening round, Edouard Roger-Vasselin, the awkward Michael Llodra and the in-form Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan. Each of the four matches have provided their own unique dangers, but Murray has dealt well with all comers to date and has only dropped a single set en-route to the Quarters.

His most recent triumph against Kukushkin had the edge taken off of it by the Kazakh’s injury problems, which were almost certainly down to the tough five-set battles that he had endured in the lead up to his encounter with Murray.

Having defeated strong opponents such Viktor Troicki of Serbia and the mile-a-minute Gael Monfils of France, both of whom were seeded in the top 20 for the first ‘Slam’ of the Year, Kukushkin appeared to be in great shape ahead of facing up to Murray (mental shape that is). Unfortunately though, his endeavours in these impressive scalps left him with little left to offer physically against the fourth seed and Murray eventually ran out a comfortable victor by a scoreline that read 6-1 6-1 1-0 prior to his opponent’s retirement.

Not only was it nice for the Scot to bag another big winning margin, but by virtue of his opponent’s premature departure he only needed to be on court for a measly 49 minutes. This will undoubtedly have been welcomed not only by his body but also his fare Scottish skin which would have been taking a severe pounding in the baking Melbourne sun.

With this win Murray has progressed to the last eight at a ‘Slam’ once again and only Japan’s Kei Nishikori stands between him and a place in what would be his fifth consecutive Grandslam Semi-Final appearance. Though Nishikori has impressed en-route to these latter stages of the tournament, he like Kukushkin has had to grind his way through two five-setters already and Murray will look to make not only his superior game but also his fresher body count when they come head-to-head.

Nishikori earned his showdown with Murray through a brilliant win over Tsonga

Murray’s comfortable navigation through the early rounds in Melbourne has once again stirred up public belief, perhaps even personal belief, that the Aussie Open provides the greatest opportunity for him to break his Grandslam duck.

He has previously made it to each of the last two finals at the tournament and has forever spoken fondly of his time ‘Down-Under’ and his comfort on the harder surfaces of Grandslam tennis. Couple this with the sizeable gap between the US Open and the Australian Open and it becomes clear that this tournament will provide him with a significant opportunity on an annual basis.

This lengthy gap between the current ‘Slam’ and the previous one means that Murray’s major rivals Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are likely to have not had the opportunity to have constructed significant runs of devastating form as they are all capable of in more fixture-heavy periods of the year. Therefore, going in to the start of the new year Murray will know that if he gets himself in perfect physical shape and practices hard that perhaps the gap between him and his arguably more illustrious rivals will be at it’s very slimmest, not that there is a huge gulf as it is.

So then, victory over Nishikori would mean a match up with the world’s most feared player of the moment in the form of Djokovic and then who knows who he would face if he triumphed again. In all likelihood Murray will have to defeat two of the world’s top three players if he is to land his first Grandslam win this week, and although he is painfully aware of the difficulty of this task he will be high on confidence and hopeful as ever. COME ON ANDY!

Djoko Proves He Is Numero Uno

Another glorious fortnight has come and passed for Novak Djokovic, and another Grandslam success has left everyone wondering how on earth he is going to be brought back down to earth. Last night’s epic against Rafael Nadal was an exhibition of patient and deadly tennis from start to finish. As he has done all year, he went toe-to-toe with Nadal in every long, hard-hitting and gruelling rally and more often than not he came out on top. The brutal nature of this match was most evident in their incredible 17 minute long game on Nadal’s serve in the second set. Mark Petchey (Sky’s commentator) added perspective when he said that you “can get full sets of tennis that only last that long”, it was a phenomenal demonstration of physical and technical ability from both men but there was a sense of inevitability about it’s eventual victor.

Djokovic looked pained in the fourth but still came through in style

This game further underlined Djokovic’s fantastic year which has seen him win 10 titles, win 3 Grandslams and only suffer 2 defeats. This has been the stuff of dreams for the Serb and doesn’t he just know it. More to the point doesn’t Rafael Nadal just know it…

The likes of Nadal and Roger Federer have too had magnificent years of domination since their emergence as the super powers of World tennis, but I don’t think either of them would argue that they’ve been quite this brilliant over the course of one season. It is outrageous that anyone could reach this stage of the year with only two losses (one of which was due to retirement) in any generation of men’s tennis, let alone in arguably the greatest and strongest era of all time.

Federer ousted Djokovic at the French

Federer is widely regarded as the best player ever and he has only managed one victory of Djokovic this year, and Nadal has been labelled the major threat to Federer’s crown but he hasn’t managed to beat Djokovic at all this year. The only man other than Federer to beat him this year was Andy Murray and though Murray controlled the match throughout it was eventually due to retirement that he prospered, and it remains unclear whether Murray’s domination was down to Djokovic’s inhibited play. Even in spite of the immense competition at the top of the men’s game, this year Novak has been simply untouchable.

This year has been a masterclass from Djokovic and he has taken he some of the greatest players of all time out of their comfort zones on a consistent basis. It is fair to assume that Federer and Nadal would regard Djokovic as the significant threat to their legacies and that in itself is great testament to his ability and incredible form. So is it too early to considered one of the greatest players of all time? Maybe it is, but this past year has certainly written his place in the history books.

Given the level of Novak’s domination this year the next few months are incredibly important for all of his rivals in preparation for the next Grandslam event, the Australian Open, in January. In the wake of the US Open it seems there is an awful lot of ground to make up but there have at least been some glimmers of hope for the chasing pack in the last major of the year. The first man to really cause concern for Djokovic was his compatriot Janko Tipsarevic who matched up well to his more illustrious friend in a four-set match that resulted in his retirement through injury. This challenge was followed up by a huge scare against Federer who threw away two match points having led the Serb by two sets to love, but somehow Novak managed to find a way to summon the energy and nerve to battle back and take it in five.

Winning Smile and a tribute to 9/11

It is said that true champion’s come up with the goods when their backs are against the wall, and at the moment that is a key element to his success. Some time in the future his form is inevitably going to run out and tougher times will face him but for now it is unclear when that time will come and who will be the players that can bring about something of a demise in his fortunes. We know of course that the likes of Federer, Nadal and Murray can compete strongly with him when they are at the top of their games but who else could give him a sleepless night or two? Perhaps some of the more extroverted and athletic competitors on tour like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Juan-Martin Del Potro could manage to ruffle his feathers but it is hard to see where a consistent threat is going to come from outside of the World’s top four players.

For now Nole is number one and it appears that he could be there to stay for quite a while. Next on his agenda is the aim of completing a career Grandslam and who’s to say that he can’t go on and do it?

 

Can Murray prove he is worth his mint?

Andy Murray has this week set out on yet another quest to bring the Grand Slam glory days back to British tennis. He today progressed into round three with a more than convincing straight sets victory over an out-of-sorts Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

The next round sees Murray going head to head with Jurgen Melzer, the start of a potentially treacherous route to Australian Open glory for the in-form Scot. Melzer is a tricky draw for Murray who could potentially go on and face number 4 seed Robin Soderling in the quarters, world number 1 Rafael Nadal in the Semis and a re-match with Roger Federer in the final.

Spotlight on Britain's only hope...yet again..

Such a potentially tricky route for Murray is testament to the strength of the men’s game at the moment. The fact that it is necessary to defeat arguably the two greatest players of all time, the fourth seed and the world number 11 in order to win a Grand Slam as a fifth seed is indicative of just how high the level is right now.

Murray, having strolled through his first three matches, will be strong favourite to defeat the dangerous Jurgen Melzer. However, it is vital that Murray doesn’t get too complacent. If he does we could well see a repeat of the embarrassment he suffered at the hands of Stan Wawrinka at last years US Open. Murray went into that game having been untroubled in the earlier rounds, and as soon as things started to go against him he lost his head and started to throw the proverbial ‘toys out of the pram’.

Murray seems to have already developed something of a reputation for not having the will or the means with which to go on and succeed in Grand Slam tennis, I for one believe this to be entirely unjust. Murray has already won several more titles than his predecessor as Britain’s finest , Tim Henman, and he is only 23. He has a fantastic record for one so young, and it is only the mind-blowing achievements of his peers such as Nadal that have highlighted his inability thus far to win a Grand Slam.

Being a British tennis fan has for a long while now required a lot of patience. I believe Murray is indeed demonstrating everything it takes to become a major champion and I hope that this patience won’t have to go on for too much longer. He is an exceptional sporting talent and we as fans of Great British tennis should cherish this, I myself can’t wait for the doubters to be proved wrong.