The first of the big 3 races of the cycling calendar year gets underway on Saturday with the Time Trial for stage 1. A start studded cast on show this year with riders such as Simon Yates, Remi Cavagna and World Champ Filippo Gana.This one will be a 8.6 km flat surface in Turin of which first off would be Filippo Tagliani (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec).
Not many riders realize this but it is an absolute advantage to go first. Why you say? On most times you would have to do the same distance as a practice ride on your own right? So why not play beat the clock with yourself. Run the gauntlet yourself like two to three days before the race. Time yourself the first time then do it three more times making sure to exert yourself to beat your own time. It is however important not to do this a day before the race to avoid fatigue. You must also practice riding against the wind, crouching as low as possible on the bike to reduce wind to body resistance. Hamstring and back exercises also are a must. Here are a few below that actually help.
Clay is Nadal’s favorite and most productive surface. So when he loses on it its bound to make headlines. To lose it in straight sets is all the more eye catching. Rafa has only won the title in Barcelona thus far in the clay court season which by his lofty standards has gone off to a poor start. Sasha Zverev impressed particularly in the first set where he was 4-2 down a break and came back to win 6-4. Now the Rafa forehand is notoriously difficult to counter but Zverev shows how in this point,4-2 to Rafa(30-30). Whenever your opponent comes to the net, he or she leaves a gap either side because he will place himself centrally. Sasha could have gone cross court and still won the point. Nadal had the one break for the whole match.
Who can outhit Nadal from the baseline? Zverev can. The German was finding the corners with alarming regularity. The one break was enough in the second to win the set and match 6-4. Experience has taught us not to rule out the 20 times Grand Slam Champ based on teh build up tournaments to the French Open. Last year Nadal hardly played much or won especially on clay but he crushed all before him to lift yet another Roland Garros title. Zverev moves on to the semis to face Dominic Thiem of Austria in a match up worthy of the final. Unseeded Casper Ruud of the Netherlands and Italy’s Matteo Berrettini the eighth seed.
What is happening to the LA Lakers? Are they that much of a one guy team?Top in the West at start of the year they are now heading South into the Play Ins in 6th position after a crashing 118-94 loss to fellow LA franchise the Clippers. With no sign of King James for the foreseeable future as well, it was left to the likes of Anthony Davies and Kyle Kuzma to carry the team and they are failing. Davies(4 points) had just 9 minutes on court and had been suffering from back spasms. Paul George led the way for the Clippers scoring 24 points in a scoring sheet that makes us proud, virtually evenly spread out amongst the Clippers. Watch Reggie Jackson’s pass to Zubac, taking out twp Lakers out of the equation with scores tied at 2-2. A disastrous second quarter for the Lakers saw them trail 65-42 at half time. The Clippers turning over the ball with speed and the likes of Caruso and Pope couldn’t cope.
On top of the spasms, Davis twisted his ankle in the first quarter and that ultimately led him to the exits. Now Tony is a big dude. Back spasms are very common in guys who are tall with big frames.We hope he is watching his diet ESPECIALLY not taking too much salt as well as watching his posture when seating.
Well there goes the Gunners’ European hopes. Sterile in front of goal, Arsenal flattered to deceive in the Europa League again this season. Needing nothing short of a victory, Mikel Arteta’s men fired blanks and it was inexcusable given the arsenal they had on the pitch on Thursday night.Odegaard, Saka, Auba,Smith Rowe and Pepe all started in a fearsome front five. The best chance of the first half fell to Hector Bellerin, the Spaniard’s shot clipping the outside of the post. Nigerian Samuel Chukwueze suffered a worrying injury mid first half and was replaced by Pinto. It did not change much though in terms of the result.
On another day the soccer gods might have smiled on Arsenal. Watch Aubameyang’s shot on 38 minutes which yellow submarine’s goalie Rulli allowed to go through his legs and was fortunate his bum took the sting out of the shot. At half time we figured Arteta’s plan was to keep a clean sheet and nick a goal to win on the away goal’s rule. This was however no time for defending ,they had to take the game to the Spanish side. No champagne football, just pump balls into the Villarreal 18 yard box. In the second half they didn’t do that. At least until the final 15 minutes. Watch Smith Rowe try to be cheeky and aim for the far right post and in the process put the ball wide. Villarreal came for the draw and they got it, they did not threaten Leno all that much in the second, the dangerous Moreno had a tame shot saved by the German keeper on 56.Aubameyang struck the post on 78 minutes with a header that was going in had Rulli not got a hand to it. BEST CHANCE OF THE MATCH by far.
Villarreal through to their fist European final in Gdansk, Poland. They face Man United who had a sizeable cushion such that the defeat in Rome was academic on Thursday. Arsenal NOW NEED A MIRACLE TO GET INTO the Europa League next season. They trail 6th place Spurs by 7 points with 4 to play in the Premier League.
Not even the return of influential captain Ramos could save Los Blancos. Real Madrid could not create enough goal scoring opportunities in a chastening night for the multiple time winners of the competition. Kante was superb for the Blues neutralizing Kroos and Modric , breaking up play and launching attacks frequently. On a night when Chelsea badly needed a clean sheet, Mendy was on top form saving well from Benzema’s header in the first half. The two German kerls Werner and Havertz were also critical for the win, troubling the backline of Madrid on the counter.
Eden Hazard back on his old stomping ground was not his usual best self and was hooked off in the second half replaced by Valverde. Another player back on familiar territory was Thibault Courtois. The Belgian goalie saved Madrid from a heavier defeat making point blank saves from the Havertz and Werner when it was 1-0. His defense was partially culpable for the first goal, not reacting at all to the ball when it hit the cross bar maybe assuming that Havertz’s chip would go in.
The second was well deserved after great work from American Pulisic finished off by Mount. This result will almost spell the end of some of the stalwarts in the Real Madrid squad. Talking about Modric, Kroos, Ramos and Benzema there is a need for team renewal. Every team goes through this phase and the time seems right to inject new blood. If you are a Spurs, Liverpool or West Ham fan, I would be a fan of Man City for a day on 29 May 2021. Chelsea winning the trophy will guarantee them a spot in next year’s tournament even if they finish outside the top 4. According to UEFA rules, a single country can have a maximum of 5 spots in a season so if a rare combination of a Chelsea triumph and Arsenal’s in the Europa League will dash the dream for the Reds, Hammers and Spurs.
We all know that Barty likes to make life hard for herself and time and time again she wins them. She came through ninth seed Czech Kvitova in the round of 8 in Madrid on Wednesday in her biggest test thus far in the tournament. She steamrolled past Kvitova 6-1 in the first, not before the most curious point of the tournament. Watch 5-0 first point Kvitova serving. It all started with that short return from Ash setting up the net play from both sides. The overhead from Kvitova with her back turned went high into the Madrid sun and then Barty…..lets it bounce twice. Should the point not be replayed in the interest of fairness or its tough like mate you lose? What do you think?
In the second Kvitova broke early to lead 2-0 going back to what she knows best, punishing Barty for sloppy serves with great backhands. The Czech served pretty well in the second set. She uses her height to great effect on the kick serve particularly to her opponent’s forehand side. The second going to Kvitova 6-3. At the start of the third, the Aussie giving back the Czech’s own medicine racing a 2-0 lead thanks to her own great shot selection.Watch the drop shot on 3-0 to Barty with Kvitova serving. The key to a successful drop shot is to watch your opponents position, the ball should be cut through the racquet so it spins quickly and drops quick as well. Not to mention you need to be great at disguising. With the game back on serve and in the balance at 3-2 Kvitova on serve, Barty like almost always produced the goods when it mattered to break again. Watch the forehand lob at deuce, pin point no room for error stuff. 6-3 to Barty and she now faces home favorite Paula Badosa for a place in the final on Thursday.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was rocking the Fiserv Forum Arena Tuesday night.36 points and 12 rebounds contributing to a massive 124-118 win by the Bucks over Brooklyn. Normally 118 points in a game of basketball is enough to win a contest but such was the lack of defensive awareness from both teams that the match became that of attrition. Watch scores at 18-17 Nets, Giannis sinking a downtowner virtually uncontested to prove our point. The Nets did their best to keep up especially in the second half. The usual suspects Kyrie Irving(38) and Kevin Durant(32) provided the spark. Just check out the fade away basket by Durant off-balance right at the death of the first quarter showing he still got IT. When it goes down to what made the win possible for Milwaukee was sinking 22 free throws out of 27 to Nets 16/26. Bucks improving their regular season record to 41-24 to the Nets’ 43-23 and are third and second on the Eastern Conference respectively. THE HIGHER UP THE STANDINGS YOU FINISH, THE “EASIER” THE FIRST PLAYOFF ROUND WILL BE FOR YAH.
PSG’s top players lose their discipline at the most distressing of time. Man City fully deserving of the finals spot with textbook counter attacking play. Pochettino failing to calm down his players in second half of both ties ultimately costing the Parisians the Champions League for this season. Expulsions to Gana in the first leg and Di Maria in last night’s tie effectively killing an otherwise thrilling duel. Who has been your player of the season in the Champions League? Mahrez has been in the form of his career since the start of the year and is firm favorite for that honor in my book. The two goals show that he is more than one footed hot and cold player.
Paris missed Mbappe. The French International could only make the bench at the Etihad and was replaced by Icardi in the starting eleven. Icadi was more like a 4 year old left alone in a crowded train station by his parents, lost. Neymar disappointed again. He showed lack of end product, doing well to get into great positions but his selfish style cost his team. Icardi was starved of the ball not because the midfield of Herrera and Verrati was poor, but because the creative players Di Maria and Neymar wanted to do it alone. What a contrast from De Bruyne and Foden. PSG will look at these two moments and wonder what if. The overturned penalty decision for a Zinchenko handball in the first 5 minutes and my PSG man pf the match Marquinhos’s looping header mid first half which bounced off the cross bar. Most telling stat, possession Man City 44% PSG 56%.I will be damned City doesn’t need much of the ball to score after all.
Derek Chisora takes the gong this week for play of the week for his opening salvo against Joseph Parker. Like him or hate him he brought his A game against Joe Parker at the weekend and the judges were smoking crack cocaine if they thought Parker won this one. Watch the opening seconds of the bout .Derek ain’t playing, he decks Parker full on with a right. I love the full hook motion on it. It allowed Derek to circumvent the block by Joe and if you look at Joe’s eyes he is saying what the hell?Look a lot had been said about the judges’ scorecard on this one but from my scorecard Derek landed the significant blows. Yes Chisora got tired right towards the end but most of Parker’s blows were not all that powerful.
Ash Barty has played a lot of tennis since the start of the year and she her journey has not stopped yet at the Madrid Open. The world number one dispatched 14th seeded former French Open winner to reach the last 8 of the WTA 1000 tournament. The player who gets the first serves in more times than not wins the match. Ash served at 53% on first serve to Iga’s 48%. The style of play peculiar to most players from down under is the serve and volley style. Watch 1-0 Swiatek (40-40). Pat Rafter and Leyton Hewitt also had that never say die attitude on court similar to Ash. Impressive to come from an early break to win the opening set 7-5.
Iga was on a roll, her head was up hitting the ball hard and accurate. Watch 3-0 to her with Barty looking to hold for the first time in the set 40-15.Barty did hold to head into the 5th game 3-1 down. By not getting a lot of first serves in, Iga was playing to Ash’s hands she was duly punished with Ash breaking back to get the match all exciting again. Second set started the same as the first Iga looking to break fast to establish a cushion. Her forehand hits were on point.My favorite point was 1-0 (15-15). The serve by Ash was superb forcing Swiatek to play a defensive high backhand back to court. Ash had to simply find her spot to finish off the point. Call it luck call it intuition , the Polish lady read the forehand at the net by Barty to win an unlikely point. Iga would go on to have her weakest service game in the next to hand the break to the Aussie.That was the all important point as Barty went on to win 6-4.The most telling stat?Barty saving 6 of the 7 break points she faced. Iga?None out of three.