Lucas Pouille punctures Andy Murray’s comeback in Cincinnati.

The 24-year-old Frenchman defeated the double Wimbledon winner in three sets. 

Andy Murray’s comeback hit another bump in the road after defeat to Lucas Pouille in the first round of the Western & Southern Open.

Cincinnati is well known for being home to the famous Graeter’s Ice Cream, but unfortunately for Murray, his hopes for a decent tournament ahead of the US Open melted quickly in the Ohio sunshine.

It was his first appearance on court since pulling out of the Citi Open two weeks ago and rustiness showed as the former world number one began timidly against a fresher Pouille.

Whether he was still recovering from those titanic matches in Washington, or changed his approach, something wasn’t quite right from the outset. His serving was not up to scratch during the opening set, as he recorded six double-faults. He was broken three times by his French opponent, who closed out a comfortable first set 6-1 within 29 minutes.

The one positive the Scot could take from a lacklustre opening set was that he was winning the majority of points from the long rallies. However, Pouille hadn’t needed to get out of second gear and looked well on course to end the contest quickly.

But where most players would capitulate in such a situation, Murray rallied. His performance levels improved during the second set, and the roles were quickly reversed. The 31-year-old broke the 16th seed, before holding serve to take a 2-0 lead. The former world number one only made three unforced errors, and won more points on his first serve as he raced to take the second set 6-1, as the match went to a decider.

The tables then turned once again. Murray started the final set nervously and double-faulted the opening point, before being broken by a resurgent Pouille desperate to make amends for a poor second set.

Missed chances then cost the 31-year-old the match. He failed to convert a crucial break point before falling 3-1 behind. Despite saving a match point at 5-3, Murray was helpless as his French opponent served out the match to claim a 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 win.

Whilst this defeat will disappoint British fans, it was a first victory over Murray for Pouille at the fifth attempt.

The Frenchman has been a regular on the ATP Tour this season, with this being his 17th competition in 2018. Whilst he is gaining more experience on court and slowly climbing up into the world top 20, the 24-year-old can still be a loose canon on the court.

His performance against Murray showed why. His game heavily revolves around speed, and this can sometimes effect the accuracy and precision of his shots. Where he was clinical in the opening set, he lost composure during the second and mistakes began to creep in.

But he held his nerve in the final set, and found his range once again to hit some impressive winners. Pouille hit a total of 40 in the match as he defeated the former world number one in an hour and 53 minutes to book his place in round two.

Murray is not scheduled to play again until the US Open at Flushing Meadows, which begins on the 27th August. He now has four tournaments under his belt after missing a year out with a hip injury, but there is much that needs improving still – especially his serving.

He may take up a wildcard at the Winston-Salem Open next week after this defeat, but it will depend on whether his body can cope with another tournament just one week before the gruelling five-set matches at the final Grand Slam of the year.

 

 

 

 

 

Pyeongchang 2018: Cancellations and dangerous women’s slopestyle final cast doubts on Korean city’s ability to host the Winter Olympics.

Four years ago Sochi came under criticism for being too warm to host the Winter Olympics. Beijing, who have been awarded the 2022 games, has come under similar scrutiny. So hosting the games in Pyeongchang, where it falls to sub-zero temperatures, should be more suitable, shouldn’t it?

Well so far the decision to finally hand the games over to the Korean city after two previous failed attempts has cast doubts in people’s minds.

Both the men’s downhill and women’s slopestyle qualification were postponed on Sunday, as well as the women’s giant slalom today, all due to high winds.

It therefore came as a shock to many when the women’s slopestyle final, which took place this morning, didn’t befall to a similar fate.

All the riders fell at least once, as the winds once again wrecked havoc at Phoenix snow park.

Great Britain’s Aimee Fuller came 17th, whilst Austrian Anna Gasser – one of the favourites to finish in the medal positions – could only manage a 15th place finish.

USA’S Jamie Anderson went on to defend her Olympic title from four years ago, but many felt the competition was unfair and dangerous.

Bronze medallist Enni Rukajarvi told the BBC: “It was pretty bad. I’m happy to land my run and get a good score but I’m most happy that no one got hurt bad.

“I don’t think it was a fair competition and I’m a little disappointed in the organisation that they pulled through with it,” Grasser added.

“I think it was not a good show for women’s snowboarding.”

Fuller also wasn’t pleased, stating that she “feared for her life at times.”

“The wind ripped me sideways and there was not a chance I was going to land,” she said.

“I don’t think this was a true reflection of women’s slopestyle which is a shame for our sport.”

With the two skiing events rescheduled for Thursday, discussions have already begun to possibly extend the games , in an attempt to restrict congestion with multiple events taking place on the same day.

For some, the decision to let extreme events like the slopestyle final take place in such harsh conditions was a shocking one by the organisers. Serious injury were a huge possibility and on hindsight it was a minor miracle everyone came away from the contest relatively unharmed.

Although some would say the criticism is unfair and unjustified. This is after all the WINTER Olympics. Athletes come from across the globe to compete against each other and attempt to overcome the conditions they are met with.

The last few editions of the games have taken place in warmer conditions, with the temperatures at the 1994 games in Lillehammer the closest to what people are experiencing in Korea. That factor may have affected athletes preparations. Training in warmer conditions may not of best placed anyone when they competing at -11 degrees.

One will hope the organisers will take the last few days in consideration when they look to elect host cities for future Winter Olympic games, although it seems nowadays that wherever the games take place, there will always be controversy.

MEDAL WINNERS: DAY THREE

Figure skating team event: Gold- CANADA, Silver- OAR, Bronze- USA

Women’s 10km pursuit: Gold- Laura Dahlmeier (GERMANY), Silver- Anastasiya Kuzmina (SLOVAKIA), Bronze- Anais Bescond (FRANCE)

Men’s moguls: Gold- Mikael Kingsbury (CANADA), Silver- Matt Graham (AUSTRALIA), Bronze- Daichi Hara (JAPAN)

Men’s 12.5km pursuit: Gold- Martin Fourcade (FRANCE), Silver- Sebastian Samuelsson (SWEDEN), Bronze- Benedikt Doll (GERMANY)

Women’s 1500m speed skating: Gold- Ireen Wust (NETHERLANDS), Silver- Miho Takagi (JAPAN), Bronze- Marrit Leenstra (NETHERLANDS)

Women’s normal hill ski jumping: Gold- Maren Lundby (NORWAY), Silver- Katharina Althaus (GERMANY), Bronze- Sara Takanashi (JAPAN)

Women’s slopestyle: Gold- Jamie Anderson (USA), Silver- Laurie Blouin (CANADA), Bronze- Enni Rukajarvi (FINLAND)

 

Anthony Joshua defeats Wladimir Klitschko in rocky-esc battle to become the new big dog of the heavyweight division.

It was all out war at Wembley Stadium in a contest many will see as the greatest fight of the century.

For the first time in his professional career, Anthony Joshua looked in serious trouble.

Wladimir Klitschko, one of the all-time greats of the heavyweight division, hit the 28-year-old Brit with a hard right hook that had him fall on his backside during the sixth round of their epic clash at Wembley Stadium.

It was the first time since turning pro that Joshua had been put on the canvas. One round prior to that he had put the Ukrainian on the floor with a flurry of blows, but that seemed to use up all of his energy and now needed to try and survive until the bell.

Like true champions both rose back to their feet and battled on. Here we had two gladiators full of mutual respect for each other giving it everything they got.

The fight, which had as many twists and turns in it as one we’d expect to see in a Rocky film, lived up to the expectations fans, critics and fellow boxers had all expressed in the build-up.

With Klitschko looking to have established control as the contest entered its final few rounds, Joshua unleashed an uppercut from hell – a blow that almost ripped the 40-year-old’s head off his body – which left the legend vulnerable.

Joshua sensed his opportunity used everything he had left in his arsenal to not only fall the Ukrainian once but twice in the eleventh round, before American referee David Fields rightfully stopped the fight.

There were a record 90,000 people in attendance inside Wembley Stadium that night, with the fight was broadcast in over 140 countries. This victory not only furthered Joshua’s heroic status in the UK, but it also won him many admirers abroad.

The Brit then defended his belts last month in Cardiff with a a less than convincing TKO win over Carlos Takam. Still undefeated, the 28-year-old’s record now reads 20 fights, 20 wins and 20 stoppages.

So what next for Joshua in 2018? He holds two of the four heavyweight belts after defeating Klitschko (The WBA and IBF belts), and now looks like he wants to challenge one of the other two title-holders in another unification tussle.

New Zealand’s Joseph Parker looks the more likely to be Joshua’s next opponent early next year. The WBO champion has recently moved to the UK to try and raise his profile in the country, and according to his agents he has a more realistic deal in place should the fight go ahead.

However the fight everyone wants to see is Anthony Joshua vs. Deontay Wilder, the WBC champion.

The American is just as big, just as strong and just as confident as the Brit and he hasn’t been afraid to hold back and call for Joshua’s agent Eddie Hearn to make it happen whilst both are at the top of their game.

Then there is the returning Tyson Fury to also watch out for. Having been the one to initially defeat Klitschko in Germany and end his reign as king of the heavyweights two years ago, Fury has not fought since due to a drugs ban and had his belts stripped from him.

But now he looks destined to return to the ring in 2018, and he wants his belts back with a vengeance.

The two British fighters have had a war of words on social media in the past and could now be about to put their fists where their mouths are. However I personally wouldn’t expect that fight to happen until 2019.

Looking down the line, if Joshua were to win both unification fights and then go on to defeat Fury, his name would not only be forged in boxing greatness forever, but he would become arguably the best British boxer of all-time.

Hungarian born, Australian bred, Britain’s sweetheart. 2017 could be Johanna Konta’s year.

After an unbelievable surge up the WTA Rankings, the British number one will hope to continue her rise towards the top of women’s tennis and possibly compete in this year’s majors, as the new tennis season gets underway.

Back in 1977, ABBA released their hit single ‘Knowing Me Knowing You’, which spent five weeks at number one, whilst George Lucas’s Star Wars opened in cinemas for the first time. On a more tragic note, ‘King of Rock and Roll’ Elvis Presley sadly passed away at his home in Graceland, Memphis aged just 42 in the same year.

But 1977 was also the last time a British woman made it to a Grand Slam single’s final.

Her name was Virginia Wade. Born in Bournemouth, she made it all the way to number two in the world during a successful playing career, which culminated in 55 singles titles.

Wade was also a brilliant doubles player- reaching world number one.

She won three Grand Slam singles championships and four Grand Slam doubles championships, making her the only British woman in history to have won titles at all four Grand Slam tournaments.

Some would’ve hoped that Wade was the first of many competitive and gifted female tennis stars from the UK. Instead, it’s been 50 years without a grand slam finalist.

Laura Robson, Heather Watson and Anne Keothavong have all been hit and miss, and although Andy Murray has won the US Open and Wimbledon twice in the last five years, we haven’t had too much to get excited about on the women’s side of the game.

But now we may have found someone who has the potential to finally follow in Wade’s footsteps.

Johanna Konta may be from Australia, and have Hungarian parents, but she has become a British sweetheart since gaining citizenship in 2012.

In doing so, she has created a sense of excitement in the country.

Her remarkable rise up the rankings in 2016 was a joy to behold for tennis and sports fans, but she has steadily improved her game over the last five years.

In 2012 she won her first ever Grand Slam match at the US Open- a straight sets victory over Timea Babos. She was only 21 at the time, and ranked 203 in the world.

2013 saw her move up in the rankings at a easy pace, and by 2014, she had broken into the top 100.

A drop in form saw her fall back to world no.150 in December 2014, with people beginning to label her as another false hope.

No one saw or even expected what was to come next in 2015.

Despite an opening round defeat to Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon, Konta was able to experience Centre Court for the first time, and went into the US Open that year with subdued optimism.

At Flushing Meadows she went on a remarkable run, reaching the last 16 before being knocked out by Petra Kvitova. Bearing in mind she had only won just the single Grand Slam match prior to the tournament, her name began to once again be talked up by pundits and journalists.

Following on from her US Open displays, Konta performed heroically at the 2015 Wuhan Cup. She defeated former world number one Victoria Azarenka and world number two at the time Simona Halep before agonisingly losing out in the quarter-finals to Venus Williams.

Her runs in both the US Open and Wuhan Cup saw her climb into the top 50 for the first time in her career, and become British number one ahead of Watson.

At this point even the WTA were noticing Konta, which resulted in her becoming a finalist at the end of season awards ceremony for most improved player. She lost out to French Open semi-finalist Timea Bacsinszky.

For the first time, Konta went into a season with expectation on her shoulders in 2016, and it looked like it was having an effect on her performances.

An opening round exit at the Shenzhen Open was followed by another early exit at Hobart.

However, at the Australian Open, Konta went on a run which saw her defeat Venus Williams, Zheng Saisai Denisa Allertová, Ekaterina Makarova, and qualifier Zhang Shuai. Her journey in Melbourne ultimately came to an end in the semifinals, where she lost to eventual champion Angelique Kerber in straight sets.

But for the first time in 32 years, a female tennis player from Britain had made it to the last four of a Grand Slam. She also became the first British female player to be seeded at Wimbledon for three decades last June.

To cap off her consistent year, Konta won her first WTA event, beating Venus Williams in the final of the Stanford Classic in California 7-5 5-7 6-2.

In December 2016 she broke into the top 10 in the world- becoming the first female Brit to achieve the feat since Jo Durie in 1984.

During the off-season, Konta  has changed her coach, with Esteban Carril and Jose-Manuel Garcia being replaced by Belgian Wim Fissette.

Some may have questioned her choice, but after their first pre-season together, the pair seem to have enhanced her game even more.

At the time of writing, She has made it to the semi-finals of the Shenzhen Open- her first event of 2017.

So what makes Konta such a difficult opponent? Why could she challenge for a Grand Slam title?

Her natural skill and athleticism..yes. But also her incredible mindset. She somehow manages to keeps herself grounded, and goes into every tournament one game at a time.

She doesn’t think about rankings or prize money. She never thinks two or three rounds down the line. She respects each opponent she faces and treats each match like a final.

From watching her on television, Konta seems a calm, cheerful and well tempered individual. It’s rare you’ll see her raise her voice or answer back. She seems comfortable and at ease with the media, and doesn’t let the luxuries of being one of the top 10 players in the world effect her lifestyle.

She has also never given up on her dreams.

Financially, working with Garcia and Carril was a straining business. It was a big gamble. But one that paid off evidently. She stuck by her coaches, and her coaches stuck by her. Despite her funding from the Lawn Tennis Association being slashed, she still managed to earn the money needed to take up necessary training camps in northern Spain.

If there are any young females wanting someone to emulate or grow up to be like, Johanna Konta is a perfect example. Work hard, don’t give up and always follow your dreams.

That is the Konta way.

Moving from another country to pursue in a career is always a challenge, but it’s one that has left a young tennis starlet – and a nation deprived of women’s champions for half a century – very much on the road to glory.