All of the top ten seeds have fallen by the wayside in Indian Wells. This meant an opportunity to the rising stars of the women’s game to end the season on a high. Annett, winner of the Ostrava Open, taking on Ons Jabeur, finalist in Chicago, wasn’t the big name quarter final expected by great tennis here nonetheless. What took Kontaveit to the title on the Czech Republic was her unusual forehand motion. Ons of course has that backhand drop shot in her arsenal. Watch first set 1-0 (Kontaveit) 0-15. This time its the forehand drop shot. Well disguised as per usual Jabeur fashion, getting the elevation on the ball as well as back spin the key. Key game of the first set was at 1-1.
Anett was way too safe with her serve during this match. She had 81% on first serve which is normally match winning form but a telling stat was zero aces. At 40-40 you can see why. Kontaveit was bested by Ons in the winners department despite Anett preferring to fight it out on the baseline. Same applies to 3-1(15-15), the serve from the Estonian was way too safe and short inviting the forehand winner from Ons. Anett did well to take the set to a twelfth game though having been down a double break. It was Jabeur’s turn to serve short. Check out 4-1 first point. Ons’s first serve percentage was at 69% which is enough to win any top class match. My point of the match was at 5-3 first set 40-30 Anett. In all honesty Ons should have won that point. Great defense from Anett getting to the deep forehand in the corner and the unconvincing overhead smash right. Ons waiving the ball away signifying her frustration.
Anett’s undoing in this one was her unforced error count. She however got the better of the Ons at the net. Check out the net coverage in second set first point advantage on deuce Anett. For once Kontaveit read the drop shot at 2-1(0-15) but nothing she could do at 3-2(15-40). Serving 101 for the youngsters. When serving to a right hander and you are also right handed, employing a mixed strategy of serving to both the forehand and the backhand during a game is the most effective way to win a match.Anett always favored serving to the Ons’s backhand, Jabeur grew comfortable with that. Now Watch 5-3(40-30) the match point. The backhand slice by Ons was do die for but the return by Anett my goodness. With the ball that low , the only shot she could play was the backhand with top spin so as to clear the net. She didn’t do that and paid for it.
Waterloo is hosting this year’s cyclo-cross world cup round 1. It was wretched conditions all round in the race making it a very difficult day. What is cyclo cross for those not familiar? It is a hybrid form of cycling involving all facets of it, road racing , mountain racing as well as test of endurance in the steeple chasing category. The bikes used here are special purpose ones called cx bikes. Most riders prefer to use gently modified road race bikes with thin tires and lower handle bars so as to easily clear obstacles. The bike has to be as light as possible because you will need to carry it on the steeple chase portion of the race.
Eli Iserbyt the European Champion soloed to victory in Round 1 making a crucial decision to change bike in the second last lap.The muddy conditions meant the tires needed to be spot on in terms of traction. The tire pressure needed to be a little lower than normal to negotiate the muddy roads. The slick course claimed some victims, notably Thibau Nys with a collarbone injury in the second lap and Toon Aerts who crashed into the barriers. Eventual third place finisher Quinten Hermans crashed into the tarmac, check out the clip. He leaned too hard. He would claim it affected his race badly. Just like in Formula one there were pit stops along the way so it was imperative to have the team move fast during the change of bikes sequence and be fully equipped. The key to winning the race was to get to the front of the group from the off when the road was fairly dry. Michael Vanthourenhout with the second place finish.
Clearly when we hear the name Marion Jones our heads are bound to shake in disappointment. So inspirational was her rise from college athlete to superstar Olympian that so many black female athletes looked up to her. We all know how it ended but today I want to talk about a guy named Victor Conte. Conte was the founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative, the lab that supplied performance enhancing steroids of Marion and her husband at the time C.J Hunter .Clearly C.J Hunter(a shot putter) was a dominant figure in Marion’s early career but Marion ended up doing time along with Conte. Who is Victor Conte? Vic is a musician turned nutritionist. He was charged with distributing the steroids and jailed in 2005. Athletes often hired nutritionists to get an edge over fellow competitors and possibly prolong their careers.
Anyway Vic later said that he supplied the drugs because he wanted to see if he can get away with it. Much like a curious scientist he is. Like any sensible businessman Conte saw a demand and simply provided the merchandise. Let’s face it here people if he didn’t provide these drugs someone would have, simple. He also alleges a cover up of other positive tests at Sydney 2000. That certainly cannot be discredited in my honest opinion. Sponsors have vested interest in athletes that they sponsor. Having invested money into them, not showing up(because of a ban) would have been a loss of profit. So the question remains to what extent did the investigators investigate the issue, did it go all the way to the top? I doubt that. Some people are untouchable, it is the small fish that fry.
When C.J tested positive for the steroid, Conte alleged that C.J had taken some nutritional supplements that contained it . Here is the funny thing about steroids. They have the same chemical structure as some supplements. So it is very much possible that Nandrolone could have been taken accidentally. It all comes back to who has burden of proof in this case C.J had and he failed to prove his innocence. People often ask why Marion ended up being jailed as well as Conte. It still caused an outrage even till today mainly because she was black and female. She didn’t actually go to jail for doping but for lying to federal agents about her not doping as well as check fraud.
People often ask so why didn’t Lance Armstrong get the same treatment. In the case of Lance, he was charged under a different Act(Lincoln Act) which is essentially defrauding a government body which carries no jail time. Unlike Conte he didn’t distribute the drugs. It might stink to high heaven but it is the PROSECUTOR’S DISCRECTION to prosecute steroid abuse cases so the prosecutor chose not pursue the matter for one reason or another. So did they go in too hard on Marion, maybe. Was it because of her race or gender? You be the judge. Lastly, in as much as an athlete trusts a coach or nutritionist, it is ultimately their responsibility to check and know what they are taking as a supplement. Similar to a scenario whereby a lawyer can advise a client on a matter but the client is responsible for what they end up saying on the stand. SUCH IS LAW. Victor is still in business to this very day, why that is so still boggles the mind.
The Danes joining Germany on the plane to Qatar next year. They are making a good case for the team of the year. Here they made it eight wins out of eight making them worthy qualifiers. They have play an expansive attacking brand of soccer in these qualifiers although against the Austrians here they were a bit cautious. I can’t blame them after they lost their best attacking threat Damsgaard through injury in the first half. The Austrians were always never going to be any pushovers. They stretched eventual champions Italy to the limit at Euro 2020 in the second round. With experience in their side in the form of Sabitzer(Bayern) and Alaba(Real Madrid) I kind of hoped for an upset to be honest. Great defensive organization from the Austrians though to restrict the Danes to just the single goal.
Instead they never really tested Schmeichel and despite having more of the ball and more passes. Denmark’s passing was less in quantity but it was more into the dangerous areas. Not surprised the goal came from Maehle. The amount of times he spends in the opposition half greatly increases his chances of scoring for a left back. If there is a weakness in this Danish side it has to be at center forward. They have had a variety of goal scorers throughout these qualifiers which to some is a good thing. But for me you need that out and out goal scorer to win a major tournament. No disrespect to Poulsen who is a good player but not at center forward, nope. Finding that great number 9 is the next major task for Kasper Hjulmand before the world cup.
This was easily the match of the Round even though it features one unseeded player. Fernandez warmed up to the match the fastest despite a nervous opening service game. Check out 30-40, hitting the forehand on the volley key if she had allowed the ball to bounce the momentum would have been gone. Leylah eventually started to make a mark on the set. The most potent of her weapons? The backhand winner/volley. It is easy to forget that she has had her breakthrough year this year with the way she handles high pressure matches. It was not her usual efficient best in the first set for Rogers. She couldn’t cope with the power hitting from the Canadian. Her own hitting wasn’t the best either. Watch set point 5-2(40-30). Look how well inside her baseline Leylah is. Such short serves set you up struggle during the rally and so it proved.
If the first set was easy enough for the 2021 US Open finalist, it was a total nightmare in the second set. Why the abrupt turn around? More convincing serving from the American combined with hitting closer to the baseline during rallies. Check out 2-0(40-30). Great defensive return from the Leylah angled serve, it was neither one or the other(neither lob or a full shot) so it became tricky for Leylah to handle. Serving was good, Shelby with 67% to Leylah’s 65%. Double faulting wasn’t off the charts too, Leylah had the worst record in this one with 5 to 2 from Rogers. The one at set point 5-1(40-30) was the most untimely and disappointing of all. On the second serve she actually hits he ball with the of the racquet almost on the frame SO IT WAS BOUND TO THE wayward.
Third set now. It was more close and edge of the seat stuff from both players. More break point opportunities were crafted by both. Impressive was the way Shelby saved three of them with great serving but it wasn’t enough to hold serve. The very next game it was Laylah’s turn to face three break points, couldn’t save any of them. Both held serve going into the deciding tie break, forehand winners galore. Check out Leylah at 5-4(40-30) under pressure to hold serve. Now turning point and decisive moment of the breaker was Rogers getting the mini break at 3-2. Leylah was in trouble with the short forehand on the baseline leaving a lot of court for Shelby to target. Shelby now faces Ostapenko of Latvia in the last 8. Leylah has had a good year even though it looks like she will miss the year end championships in Mexico.