‘It was not a war; nobody died out there,” declared Boris Becker, just 19 but already a two-time Wimbledon champion, after losing in the second round in 1987 to Australian Peter Doohan. And Becker was watching from the commentary box on Monday as Rafael Nadal, another two-time winner and victim of the biggest upset since then, channelled him. ”At the end, it is not a tragedy,” said Nadal after succumbing in straight sets to obscure Belgian Steve Darcis. ”It is sport.”
Darcis clinched a shock 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (10-8), 6-4 win to condemn the fifth-seeded Spanish superstar to a shock defeat.
Nobody died, but a legend partly did. Nadal is almost literally invincible on the French Open’s clay, but lost to a journeyman in the second round at Wimbledon last year, and now lost in the first round for the first time in any major championship, to a 29-year-old serial first-round loser with thinning hair.
How much of that legend perished is difficult to assess. At times, Nadal looked as if he was playing with his ankles tied together, but afterwards was adamant in his refusal to excuse himself because of injury, saying it was ”not the right day” and would be ungenerous to Darcis. ”Everything I would say today about my knee is an excuse,” he said, ”and I don’t want to make excuses.”
His good grace was evident courtside, where although doubtlessly distraught, he stopped to sign autographs for some of a crowd that was at once hushed and wide-eyed to have borne witness to this sliver of history. His facial complexion, simultaneously brown and grey, said what his words did not.
Nadal had won as many titles this year as 135th-ranked Darcis had played matches on the senior tour. Darcis admitted candidly that when the draw was made, his first thought to himself simply was: ”Shit!”. That is the scale of this upset. But hidden within those bald figures, there is an intrigue. After losing to Lukas Rosol here last year, Nadal was laid low by a knee injury and did not play for seven months.
His return this year was seemingly triumphant: he has reached nine finals and won seven titles, including the French, which is his in perpetuity. But there is a fine line between hardening and battering. After the French, he returned to his Spanish base rather than play a lead-up grasscourt tournament in Halle in Germany. He called it a week of rest, but it seems now that it was also rehabilitation. Nadal would not engage in speculation, saying that his heavy schedule had worked for him in the past, and that it was not as if he could turn back the clock and play Halle now.
Darcis saw a chance. He had played tour level matches, but four of them had been on grass. His best career result also was on Wimbledon’s grass, a victory over Tomas Berdych at the Olympics last year. As far as he was concerned, the grass was greener on his side.
Belgium’s tennis tradition is like its chocolate, scarce but rich. Immediately, Darcis sensed that although Nadal had come from the main locker room and he from the overflow, they were playing this day as peers. If injury is discounted, Darcis could be described as a player who matches up well against Nadal. No higher praise could be made of some of his retrieves than to say they were Nadal-like. One was from the squash manual, rather than a tennis handbook, and was a winner. As victory hove into view, Darcis struggled to compose his emotions and his face, wanting neither to tempt fate, nor to be seen to gloat. But this was his day all the way.
Still, the question of Nadal’s fitness hovered. Reasonably, Darcis was slightly arch when asked if he thought Nadal was injured. ”You have to ask him,” he retorted. We did; he wouldn’t say. But Darcis, though giddy, was not deluding himself, saying it was improbable that he would beat Nadal on level terms. ”Rafa didn’t play his best tennis,” he said. ”I could see it and I took advantage of it.”
In defeat, Nadal’s mortality was apparent. ”Is tough losing in the first round,” he said. ”But as I said, life continues, and this is a sport of victories. It’s not a sport to lose. Nobody remembers the losers. People remember the victories. And I don’t want to remember that loss.”
Darcis did; he said would make sure to secure the DVD. No one died out there, but one man had the time of his life. Darcis, 29, and nicknamed ”Shark”, had come into Wimbledon with just two wins under his belt on tour all year.
”Nobody was expecting my win today. I don’t know what to say. I’m really happy. OK, Nadal didn’t play his best tennis, but I knew the first match on grass is always difficult. For me, it is a big win.”
Nadal had warned following his Paris triumph that he was genuinely concerned over whether his knees would hold up at Wimbledon.
Darcis, who has never gone beyond the third round of a grand slam, capitalised on the Spaniard’s crippling uncertainties by sweeping through the first set tie-breaker.
Nadal broke to lead 6-5 in the second set but Darcis hit back in the 12th game before holding his nerve for a two-set lead.
Darcis broke again for 2-0 in the third set. The Belgian went to 5-3 in the decider and claimed his famous win with his 13th ace of the match.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.
Can’t catch me: Ben Youngs fends off a desperate lunge from Jarrod Saffy on his way to scoring a try. Photo: Sebastian CostanzoThe British and Irish Lions showed they had learnt from their surprise loss to the Brumbies by proving too strong for the Melbourne Rebels on Tuesday night. The tourists beat Australia’s youngest Super Rugby team 35-0 at AAMI Park.
Both teams were weakened by the absence of Test players, and looked for lessons from the Brumbies’ 14-12 win earlier this month.
The Rebels believed they could take advantage of any lack of cohesion among the mid-weekers, while the Lions players were keen to boost their chances of selection for the two remaining Test matches against Australia.
The Rebels stayed within reach of the Lions on the scoreboard, even though the tourists dominated throughout, until midway through the second half. Despite keeping the Lions’ lead to 14-0 at half-time, Melbourne remained scoreless as it gave up five tries, which included a penalty try.
The Lions dominated from the outset, their forwards putting together impressive short-passing movements that stretched the Rebels defence, while their rock-soild defence snuffed out any semblance of attack from the Rebels.
The Lions’ pressure proved too much in the fifth minute when they won a scrum five metres from the tryline. The Rebels did well to initially hold out the scrum and then an attempted barge over by Toby Faletau before a mistake by Rebels openside breakaway Scott Fuglistaller when he rushed up on Conor Murray. The Lions half-back spun out of the tackle and dove over to score. Owen Farrell made the conversion to give the Lions a 7-0 lead.
The Lions continued to starve the Rebels of any possession – and stymie any attempt at an attacking move by the Rebels through rock-solid defence – and it seemed only a matter of time for the Lions to score again. They did so in impressive fashion that began with a bust by Manu Tuilagi.
Tuilagi’s tour has been ruined by a shoulder injury suffered against Queensland two weeks ago but the big outside centre gave Warren Gatland plenty to consider with his contribution to the second try, palming off Rebels captain Gareth Delve before sending a brilliant left-handed round-the-corner pass that sent a wave of support players flooding into the Rebels half.
Faletau, who had an impressive game, again came close to scoring, this time slipping over when he attempted to sidestep the last man in defence Bryce Hegarty.
But the Lions continued to spread it to the right, with Sean Maitland crossing in the corner. Farrell again converted to give the Lions a 14-0 lead after 26 minutes.
The Rebels’ best chance to score in the first 40 minutes – apart from a missed penalty attempt by Jason Woodward mid-way through the half – came in the final minutes when the Lions were penalised for being off-side and Delve chose to go for the lineout rather than opting for an easy penalty attempt for Woodward.
The decision pleased the crowd but backfired on the Rebels who lost the next two lineouts and when they had a final chance for points after the half-time siren young five-eighth Hegarty wasted the chance with a poorly directed cross-field kick.
Lions 35 (1 penalty try) (Sean Maitland, Conor Murray, Sean O’Brien, Ben Youngs tries Owen Farrell 3, Stuart Hogg 2 cons) b Melbourne Rebels 0 at AAMI Park. Referee: Glen Jackson. Crowd: 28,658.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.
Australia’s Ashes campaign will receive a much-needed boost when captain Michael Clarke plays his first game of cricket in more than three months against Somerset from Wednesday.
Veteran batsman Chris Rogers won’t play in the first of two warm-up matches, which suggests the selectors are happy with his form leading into the first Test at Trent Bridge from July 10. Instead, Phillip Hughes and Usman Khawaja will have a chance to plump for Ashes spots in Darren Lehmann’s first game as coach.
Rogers is coming off a county season in which he has churned out 790 runs and is well-placed to open in the first Test.
Haddin did not know the batting order for the county game but the match also gives Shane Watson a chance to shore up his position after a lean two years with the bat.
Clarke hasn’t played competitive cricket since the third Test of Australia’s rotten India tour in March.
“Michael is playing. It’s great news, it’s the first game on tour and the Australian captain is pretty excited to play. He is in a good spot, he had a good catch and a bit of a hit,” said vice-captain Brad Haddin after training in Taunton.
“We’ve got another game just before the Test so it was important that we wanted to give this group a hit. It makes sense that Chris has been playing a lot of cricket over the last couple of months so he is in pretty good touch.”
Suspended batsman David Warner and recent squad addition Steve Smith will miss the tour match.
The two fast bowlers who have just returned from injury, Ryan Harris and Jackson Bird, will sit out the Somerset game but a team spokesman said they were not hurt. At team spokesman said Harris had pulled up well from his comeback from injury against Gloucestershire and the decision rest him for this game was part of his plan to be ready for the Ashes.
James Faulkner, the left-arm quick who can bat at No.7, rounds out a five-man bowling attack.
Australian team v Somerset, batting order to be determined: Ed Cowan, Shane Watson, Usman Khawaja, Phillip Hughes, Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin, James Faulkner, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson, Nathan Lyon.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.
AUSTRALIAN marathon champion Scott Westcott said he was putting the needs of his young family before a swansong international run by withdrawing from the world championships team.
The Aberglasslyn father of three, who works as a development officer for Athletics NSW, qualified for August’s world titles in Moscow when he won the national championship last October.
But the 37-year-old has pulled out after failing to secure permission from Athletics Australia to join the national team halfway through their pre-tournament camp in England.
Westcott was due to run on August 17 in the marathon, which would probably have been his last on the world stage, but under AA policy he had to be in the Australian team camp from August 1.
He said the additional time away from his wife Jessica, their four-month-old daughter Frankie and sons Finn, 3, and Noah, 5, was too much.
“I’ve had my time and I’ve had my opportunities,” Westcott said.
“I would give my right arm to represent my country, but I’d lay down my life for my family. My priority now is three little ones and they are at an age now where they need me every day.”
Westcott asked to join the team nine days before his event. After that was rejected, his proposal to train at high altitude close to home before travelling to the event was also knocked back.
AA compromised by offering to pay for Westcott’s family to stay in camp at Tonbridge in Kent for six days, but the runner did not want to burden his family with the travel.
Westcott was disappointed with the outcome but said he understood AA’s stance.
“I’m gutted, but with my administrator’s hat on, I understand why it is the case,” he said.
Westcott was never selected to compete at an Olympics, despite running qualifying times for three Games, but has been to two world championships. He finished 27th in 2005 at Helsinki and 56th in 2009 at Berlin.
AA chief executive Dallas O’Brien was disappointed with Westcott’s decision but said high-performance director Simon Nathan and head coach Eric Hollingsworth believed the camp was the best way to get results against the world’s best.
“Scott is part of the athletics family,” O’Brien said.
“He works for Athletics NSW, he does a great job up there running the Hunter Track Classic, and we feel for him and understand his family comes first.
“We tried every which way to solve the problem for him, but it’s about achieving high performance at the world level and building team culture and morale.”
BACK IN BUSINESS: Michael Bridges, third from left, trains with the Jets at Ray Watt Oval yesterday. Picture: Darren PatemanJETS veteran Michael Bridges spent the off-season playing exhibition games in south-east Asia alongside former English Premier League stars Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman, Dennis Wise and Andy Cole.
Tonight it is back to reality for the 34-year-old striker as the Jets open their pre-season campaign with a low-key trial against “park” team Plattsburg-Maryland at Ulinga Park.
“It was an EPL legends tour, so I’m not sure what I was doing there, but it was great to catch up with the lads and play a few games as well,” Bridges said.
“We had a six-a-side tournament in Malaysia and then flew to Jakarta for an exhibition game.
“I was over there for a week and then went back with my family and did some stuff on television for 14 days.
“I had a good time, but that was in May. It’s back to business now. The body is feeling good, but it is my 17th or 18th pre-season now.”
The Jets will field a bare-bones outfit. Andrew Hoole, Adam Taggart, Connor Chapman and Josh Brillante are in Turkey with the Young Socceroos, Emile Heskey is not due back until August 1, Ruben Zadkovich has a tight hamstring, James Brown had ankle surgery yesterday and Ben Kennedy and Josh Mitchell are on the comeback from surgery.
Bridges will play in between Joey Gibbs and Craig Goodwin at the pointy end of a 3-4-3 formation.
Plattsburg-Maryland are in sixth place in Zone Premier League, the third tier of Newcastle football, and should provide little more than a training run for the Jets, despite the absentees.
“We are not kidding ourselves; they are so much better than us,” said Plattsburg player-coach Mal Hinchliffe, who spent a decade playing in Germany.
“We will field our strongest team and try to hold the fort as long as we can.”
Hinchliffe said he would be happy to keep the Jets’ score to single figures.
“I don’t have a defensive frame of mind, but I’d like to keep a zero against our name as long as possible, stay compact, stay behind the ball and try and catch them on the break.”
The match, which kicks off at 6.30pm, is the first the Jets have played against a team in a division lower than the State League.
“You read a lot of negative things in the forums, saying, ‘What are Plattsburg going to do against the Jets. They are no chance,”‘ Hinchliffe said.
“I think people are forgetting the big picture. It is about the Jets getting out in the community, promoting the team and getting membership numbers up.
“We are just stoked to have the opportunity to play them, as I’m sure the State League clubs are.”
LUCKLESS Jets midfielder James Brown aims to be fit and firing for the start of the A-League season after surgery yesterday to remove bone spurs from his troublesome right ankle.
In his second year at the Jets, the 23-year-old faces another pre-season interrupted by injury.
He will spend a fortnight in a CAM Boot and if all goes to plan should be back in full training in early September.
That will leave the playmaker a month to force his way into the Jets starting line-up for the season opener against Sydney FC at Allianz Stadium on October 11.
“The ankle is not 100 per cent and after consultation with the medical staff we decided that it would be best to go in for a clean-up now,” coach Gary van Egmond said.
“He should be able to do some light running in two to four weeks and be back in full training about six weeks out from the start of the season.
“Time is on our side at the moment, and we just want to make sure he gets it right.”
Brown had a similar procedure on the same ankle in September.
He was one of the Jets’ major off-season buys last year, but the injury delayed his A-League debut for the club until round five.
Although going on to make 16 appearances, Brown struggled to recapture confidence and was a shadow of the player who set the A-League alight for the Gold Coast.
Apart from Brown’s setback, the Jets have had a relatively smooth off-season.
Defender Josh Mitchell and goalkeeper Ben Kennedy are back running after knee surgery late last season and are expected to return to the main group in the next fortnight.
Captain Ruben Zadkovich has tight hamstrings and will sit out tonight’s opening trial against Plattsburg-Maryland as a precaution.
The match at Ulinga Oval is part of the Jets’ efforts to build broader community ties and coincides with the launch of their 2013-14 membership program.
The Jets, with just over 11,000, boasted the second largest A-League membership, behind Melbourne Victory last season.
Chief executive Robbie Middleby hopes to at least match that figure but acknowledged the Jets’ failure to make the finals for a third straight season could affect numbers.
“It is difficult to predict,” he said. “We would like the same amount of members or more, but we understand last season, not to make the top six, was disappointing for the fans.
“This season everyone knows Emile Heskey will be here, the young players are a year older and we’re very keen to make amends and feature in the finals.”
The Jets have an extra home game this season, which has resulted in a slight rise in membership fees.
Junior members start at $60 and family passes open at $255.
NEWCASTLE’S five public swimming pools could be handed to private operators, after city councillors voted to investigate outsourcing options last night.
The surprise move came after Labor councillors had unsuccessfully attempted to exclude Stockton Pool from any future discussions about closure.
The Labor motion was voted down six to four.
Cr Andrea Rufo (independent) then moved the council review the operations of all its pools – at Stockton, Lambton, Wallsend, Mayfield and Beresfield – to see whether they could be managed by a third party.
“I don’t want to see Stockton pool close, nor do I want to see any pool close,” Cr Rufo said.
He specifically mentioned Port Stephens Council, which outsources the operation of its three public pools by tender. The Port Stephens pools are all run by the Young Men’s Christian Association.
His motion was passed by the same six votes to four.
Council general manager Ken Gouldthorp said last week there was “no intent to close any pools at this time”.
Cr Stephanie Posniak, who moved the Labor-backed motion, said Stockton Pool “may not be at risk at the moment, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not at risk in the future”. Cr Posniak tendered petitions with 1500 signatures supporting retention.
“Before the pool was built, the people of Stockton went around and physically collected money which contributed towards the building of the pool,” she said.
Liberal councillor Lisa Tierney said the motion amounted to “scaremongering”.
“To offer one pool immunity [is] very unfair,” Cr Tierney said.
Cr Sharon Waterhouse (Liberal) said it was “difficult when we’re considering the strategy across the whole city to focus on one particular asset”.
Internally, the council discussed the possible closure of Stockton and Beresfield pools earlier this year but watered these proposals down when documents were made public.
A report given to councillors last week said attendances were declining and subsidies increasing at Stockton.
HIS face may be hard to miss at the State of Origin game two clash at Suncorp Stadium tonight, but Queensland coach Mal Meninga has slammed an attempt to target his prized forward Nate Myles.
In a cheeky promotion, a betting agency has provided a picture of Myles’s prominent forehead and asked NSW punters to print it out and wear it as a mask at Origin II.
In game one, NSW captain Paul Gallen infamously punched Myles in Queensland’s 14-6 loss in what he claimed was retaliation to the Maroons forward’s alleged dirty tactics, including leading with the head in tackles.
It sparked a war of words between both camps in the lead-up to a game Queensland must win to keep alive hopes of an eighth straight series win.
Meninga was dirty enough that Myles had come under the post-game one spotlight but was absolutely filthy over the betting agency’s “dread the head” campaign.
“Those things they are going to hold up, the big foreheads, I think that is disrespectful to be honest,” he said yesterday.
“He is a great bloke, a great player and a great Queenslander. He will play to the best of his ability tomorrow night.”
The NSW camp said Myles not only used knee twists in tackles and repeatedly used his head in tackles but branded Gallen a cheat before the NSW skipper retaliated with a flurry of punches.
But asked if Myles would be scrutinised by referees in game two, Meninga said: “Not really.
“I think he’s been unfairly picked on since game one.
“I think it has been disrespectful what has happened to him.”
Meninga said he had been proud of how Myles had carried himself in the game one fallout, refusing to bite back at NSW’s claims.
KNIGHTS coach Wayne Bennett has stuck solid with halfback Tyrone Roberts for Newcastle’s must-win game against Gold Coast Titans at Hunter Stadium on Sunday.
Bennett named Roberts to partner captain Jarrod Mullen in the halves, experienced mid-year recruit Craig Gower to come off the bench as he did in his Knights debut in Melbourne 10 days ago, and Danny Buderus to return at hooker after back surgery almost three months ago.
One of only four Knights to play every game this season, 22-year-old Roberts has started 10 games at halfback and come off the bench in four.
There has been speculation Bennett could start Gower alongside Mullen and push Roberts to the bench, and that remains an option he could consider later in the week, but it is understood Roberts will be given another chance as the Knights try to end a four-game losing streak.
After coming off the bench in consecutive home wins against the Cowboys and Raiders in late March, Buderus has been sidelined since aggravating a bulging disc in his lower back on the morning of Newcastle’s 19-16 loss to the Dragons at Kogarah on April 7.
The 35-year-old veteran missed that game and nine more while recovering from his second back operation this year. Bennett has the option of using Gower or Roberts to share the dummy-half duties against the Titans, who are fifth after their 18-12 victory over Melbourne on Monday.
Cook Islands international Zane Tetevano was named on the bench alongside Gower, Chris Houston and Neville Costigan. It will be Tetevano’s first NRL appearance this season after the 22-year-old front-rower finished last season by playing the last 11 games in first grade.
Timana Tahu, Kevin Naiqama, Matt Hilder, Korbin Sims and Adam Cuthbertson were named in a star-studded NSW Cup team to play Wests Tigers.
NSW State of Origin training in Queensland. Picture: Getty ImagesNSW Origin skipper Paul Gallen is happy for Queensland to put a target on his head, particularly if the extra attention helps return the State of Origin shield south of the border.
Tagged Public Enemy No. 1 after unleashing a flurry of punches on Nate Myles in the Blues’ series-opening win, Gallen says he would welcome the Maroons playing the man rather than the ball in seeking retribution.
Gallen admitted to being surprised at the lack of hostility from fans in the lead-up to the game, and believes the Maroons could play into the Blues’ hands if they make him the focus tonight.
“That’s fine. If they want to target me, I’ve got 16 other blokes behind me that are going to be right there with me,” Gallen said at yesterday’s match-eve press conference.
“If they want to concentrate on me, there’s a lot more strike power on the field than me. If they just want to worry about me, I’ll be happy with that.”
The opportunity for Myles to exact some personal revenge has been negated by the NRL’s new crackdown on fighting, with any playing throwing a punch facing the prospect of a stint in the sin-bin.
While admitting “nobody likes not being liked”, Gallen has been surprised by the lack of abuse he has received since arriving in Brisbane late Sunday night.
Local radio station Nova unveiled a light-hearted Paul Gallen Punch water bottle which carried the slogan: “It’ll let you go for Myles”, while the Courier Mail newspaper published photographs from game one depicting Gallen committing illegal plays.
The report said Gallen was guilty of hypocrisy, given he stated the reason he unloaded with a series of punches on Myles was because the Maroons enforcer had been guilty of niggling tactics.
Gallen did not shy away from his no-holds-barred approach.
“I’ve never said I’m an angel,” Gallen said. “I just go out there and play the game.
“I don’t think I was penalised for any tackles in game one besides the fight.”
Gallen knows he has to be a focal point of an inexperienced Blues front row if NSW are to win their first series since 2005.
Starting front-rower Aaron Woods is making his Origin debut, while Andrew Fifita is playing just his second game in the sky blue and Trent Merrin his sixth.
“I’ll be doing my best to play with a lot of energy and to get good line speed and some good touches early,” Gallen said.
Meanwhile, Blues players were forced to scramble for taxis after their team bus became wedged on a kerb outside Suncorp Stadium as they left yesterday’s captain’s run at the Origin venue.
The Blues were reportedly more impressed with the stadium surface, which has been the subject of much scrutiny after cutting up badly in Saturday night’s rugby union Test.
“We’re fortunate that it’s been fine since Saturday,” stadium general manager Alan Graham said.