Seni final day in the South of France saw Roberto Bautista Agut face Gojowczyk of Germany. Key moment of the first set. Gojowczyk leading 4-3 and had advantage on deuce. The backhand down the line by Roberto just when the German thought he had the point under control, to save break point was crucial. Bautista Agut eventually held serve to level at 4-4. At 5-5 Gojowczyk unlucky to hit net cord whilst in control of the point serving at break point 30-40 to hand the break to the Spaniard. Roberto would eventually win set 7-5. Gojowczyk’s confidence seemed shuttered going into the second set.Roberto breaking his serve in the very first one of the set for 1-0 lead. Lady luck smiled of Roberto again in the second game of the set. Gojowczyk hit net cord again,setting up an easy forehand winner while looking to break back at break point. Roberto would eventually hold serve to lead 2-0. The set and match would go to Bautista Agut 6-1.
He set up a final showdown with Belgian David Goffin today.Davis took on Gerasimov of Belarus in the other semi. After losing the first set 6-4,Gerasimov breaks first in the second to take a 2-0 lead after pouncing on a weak service game by Goffin. You must see the backhand down the line winner by the Belarusian leading 30-15 and a forehand cross court winner to convert break point ,in that game.Goffin answered to going down a break in style.How about that lob at 2-0 (0-30) against the tall guy.Gerasimov eventually took the set 6-2 proving a worthy opponent to the 7th ranked Belgian. Check out my interview with Courtney Lock of Zimbabwe who said Balarus led by Gerasimov was the most challenging opponent he ever faced in David Cup.
On to the third and last set. Goffin broke at 3-3 after back hand by Gerasimov went wide as unforced errors started creeping into the Belarusian’s game.In the end Goffin proved too strong winning it 6-4.
Tadej Pogacar won the UAE tour yesterday but Caleb Ewan of Australia takes the 7tg and final Stage. Ewan beat Stage 6 winner Sam Bennett in the final bunched sprint.Course was a flat one in the desert starting from Yas Mall Island and finishing in Abu Dhabi. Pogacar’s closest challenger Adam Yates crashed at the 41 kilometer mark close to the front of the peloton. He received medical help from the doctors for a wound on the head. He was soon back on his bike afterwards. Great sportsmanship displayed by the other riders who slowed down and enabled Yates to catch up so he could have a fighting chance at the red jersey.
The bunched sprints make it hard for someone behind the head of the bunch to win so it is trivial to say falling too far behind is fatal to chances of winning. Bennett worked well with teammate Morkov just as they did in the 6th Stage. Bennett missing a third stage victory of the tour in finishing second.
It has got to be absolutely maddening if you are a Manchester United fan to see City play a basically crappy game and still come out on tops in the end. West Ham can hold their head high in losing here. They were disciplined in keeping their shape defensively and attacked with speed when they won the ball which is the only way to play against City. Kevin De Bryune had no right to make that peach of a cross with his left foot finding Ruben Dias’s head for 1-0. City for once had not created enough in attack up to that point.Did I mention the attack was being spearheaded by none other than Kun Aguero?Starting his first match in 4 months,the Argentine failed to make an impact and was eventually subbed for Gabriel Jesus.
After the goal,the Hammers almost made it 1-1. Antonio hit the post with Ederson well beaten.Good build up with Lingard at the heart of the quick counter together with the impressive Coufal. They did get the equalizer though. Antonio did get it ,latching on to a shot by Lingard which was going wide. No offside ,he timed the run well. Having gone level at the break, normal service resumed as West Ham began getting sloppy in possession. City got the goal and the winner after dispossessing the player attempting the counter. Mahrez found space to cut back to Dias’s defensive partner John Stones who did not lash out wildly at the ball but calmly steered the ball past Rundolph in the Hammers his. It is a risky philosophy to allow your centre back to go up that deep into the opponents’ box a lot but that is how Pep likes it. It’s now 20 wins on the bounce for Man City and are 13 points too of the League. They look unstoppable.
David Goffin and Roberto Bautista Agut are on course for a finals showdown on Sunday. Both negotiated tough encounters against Lorenzo Sonego and Ugo Humbert in straight sets respectively. Roberto was down a break at 2-0 in the first set the left handed Ugo getting the better of the Spaniard in the longer rallies. Roberto leveled things up at 2-2 dominating the net and he never looked back.How about that forehand winner at 3-3 in the first set, Humbert nearly tripped himself trying to get to it.
Second set Bautista Agut brought out the big winners, especially that forehand is proving to be a major asset for him this tournament. Roberto winning second set and match 6-3 setting a semi final against German qualifier Peter Gokowczyk. The other semi pits David Goffin of Belgium take on Egor Geradimov of Belarus. Goffin beat Lorenzo Sonego of Italy 6-4 6-4. Goffin’s major asset is his speed in movement and how about that forehand wrist action to win match point at 5-4.
The penultimate stage of the tour was won by Briton Sam Bennett of Ireland(his second of the Tour) after a sprint finish at the death.Tadej Pogacar still maintains his red jersey although finishing the stage in 24th place.The crowded last sprint meant there was a risk of a crash so it is a minor miracle that it didnt happen. Tony Gallopin led the early break away in the same group with Alexey Lutsenko who like Stage 5 could not maintain the momentum. Teamwork was the key for Bennett’s victory. His teammate Michael Morkov(who finished 10th) of Denmark broke out with 150 metres to go paving way for Sam to profit.
Speaking of the Hornets, they are one of those teams who just hover just outside the 6th and final play off spot along with the Knicks, Pacers and the Bulls. Despite the loss, they have a not so bad win ratio of 0.469 which if maintained will see them in the post season for 2021. Malik Monk top scored for them in this match with 25 points in a 130-121 losing cause. Golden State blew the Hornets away in the opening half of the match. The Warriors make sure there is always an extra man free for the killer pass inside the arch.So it wont surprise you to note that they were better in the field goal category 61% to 46%. The usual suspects Stephen Curry(29 points) and Kelly Oubre(27 points) were on fire for San Francisco side. The in your face dunk by Oubre with 2 minutes of the first quarter to go, ironically against the Hornets best defensive player PJ Washington(10 rebounds) showed how good Oubre was.
Hornets had their moments too. LaMelo Ball dribbled past Draymond Green like he was not there twice in the second quarter, with 2 minutes and 1 minute 45 of the quarter to go.
The United Arab Emirates cycling tour reached stage 5 with Tour De France 2020 winner Pogacar leading the way in the Emirates. Stage 2 although I did not cover the race on the Sporting Mecca was marred by a mysterious crash by Antonio Tiberi as he finished the crossing line at speed on Stage 2. From what I see Antonio may have suffered a case of vertigo. Vertigo is a described by medical professionals as a feeling of imbalance. From the footage below you can see that Antonio was in a straight line, leaning on his handle bar so it seemed like it was a mysterious crash at best. It is common among cyclists of above 30 years of age so it was surprising to see a youngster exhibiting signs of it here. He suffered a gash on his knee as a result. I am sure the high temperatures in that part of the world contributed as well.
On to the business of the day, Day 5 saw Jonas Vingegaard win the stage. Jonas timed his late sprint to perfection having trailed until the 500 meter mark. Also finishing strong in 2nd was Pogacar who broke free from the pack to finish well.One guy who will be disappointed is Alexey Lutsenko who was in the breakaway for most of the race but did not finish in the top 10.
STAGE 5 RESULTS
1. Jonas Vingegaard (DEN) – Jumbo-Visma, 4:19:08
2. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) – UAE Team Emirates +3
3. Adam Yates (GBR) – INEOS Grenadiers
4. Sergio Higuita (COL) EF Education-Nippo +5
5. João Almeida (POR) Deceuninck – Quick-Step +6
6. Nicholas Schultz (AUS) Team BikeExchange
7. Sepp Kuss (USA) – Jumbo-Visma +8
8. Wout Poels (NED) – Bahrain Victorious
9. Ben Hermans (BEL) – Israel Start-Up Nation
10. Geoffrey Bouchard (FRA)- AG2R – Citroën Team
1. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) – UAE Team Emirates 17:09:26
2. Adam Yates (GBR) – INEOS Grenadiers +45
3. João Almeida (POR) – Deceuninck-Quick-Step +1:12
4. Chris Harper (AUS) – Jumbo – Visma +1:54
5. Neilson Powless (USA) – EF Education – Nippo +1:56
Number one seed from Spain Roberto Bautista Agut made light work of French qualifier Gregoire Barrere 6-0 6-3 to progress to the last 8 One thing I like about Roberto is that he is comfortable on any surface which is more than we can say about a lot of European continental players.The former Wimbledon semi finalist closed out the first set without much problems, helped by somewhat terrible hitting from the Frenchman. Barrere put up a fight in the second set but lost out to a fitter and more experienced opponent in Bautista Agut.
Arsenal’s stellar Europa League season goes on after a hard fought victory 3-2 over former European Champions Benfica of Portugal. Captain Pierre-Emerick Aubamayeng seems to have rediscovered his mojo, scoring a brace. There was a surprise in the starting 11 for the Gunners. Odegaard and Smith Rowe started the match together whilst former Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen, former City defender Otamendi and former QPR man Adel Taraabt started for the Lisbon side. Both sides technically were away as the match was being played in Greece. Bukayo Saka threaded a ball to Aubameyang for the first goal in the 21st minute. The young winger is making a strong case for player of the season for Arsenal.A clumsy foul by Dani Ceballos on German midfielder Weigl earned Benfica a free kick on the edge of the box on 42 minutes. Diogo Concalves bent the resultant free kick beyond Bernd Leno for 1-1. Sunday football defensing best describes the Benfica’s second goal of the evening. Take a look below. Dani Ceballos was having a nightmare of a game and Rafa Silva will not score an easier goal than that at this level.2-1 Benfica after 61 minutes.
Kieran Tierney got Arsenal back level 6 minutes later, beating two defenders to find space and unleashing a heck of a left foot shot past Leite. 2-2 was not enough for Arsenal to go through as they had conceded 2″away” goals on the night and they only scored once in Portugal. Saka and Aubameyang were not ready to call it quits yet. Saka found Pierre-Emerick unmarked at the far post of Leite’s goal, the cross from the right flank by the left footed winger. Aubamayeng had an easy header to send Arsenal through to the last 16 of the competition. 3-2 to Arsenal after 86 minutes and that is how it stayed. Arsenal’s season could be saved by this competition if they continue in this form.
Belgian number 2 seed and favorite to win in Montpellier David Goffin had to work hard to dispatch Frenchman and conqueror of Lucas Pouille, Bonzi in three sets. The wild card’s backhand did most of the damage in the first set. Watch the back hand down the line at Goffin serving 1-2(Deuce) as Goffin was advancing to the net. Decisive break for Bonzi came with Goffin serving again this time to stay in the set at 5-4(Deuce Adv), another back hand this time cross court giving Goffin no chance. Strong serving saw Goffin level the match at one set apiece 6-4. The final set was pretty competitive. Watch the forehand winner down the line by Goffin, bang on the line no margin for error , at Goffin serving down 1-2(0-0). Bonzi went down fighting. Have a look at the point he won when a break down 4-3 with Goffin serving(0-0). Good net coverage by Goffin but he disappointingly let the forehand volley by Bonzi past him probably thinking its going wide. WHEN IN DOUBT ALWAYS MAKE THE SHOT. With match level now at 5-5, Goffin took the match by the scruff of the neck,keeping Bonzi deep on away from his baseline forcing the unforced error and the decisive break. Goffin winning the set and match 7-5.
In other encounters Ugo Humbert of France triumphed in three tie break sets against Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor. Rising star of men’s tennis Yannik Sinner of Italy lost to unseeded Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia 6-3 2-6 6-7. Sinner was a sinner in committing unforced errors in the decisive tie break. He looked uncomfortable coming to the net. The medical time out for a back injury did not help matters.