Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Holding court with Greg Rusedski


Wimbledon 2010 has been a great Championships, the weather for the two weeks has been absolutely perfect. Sun and more sun, not a drop of rain, the first time since 1995. They should have built that 40 million pound roof sooner! There were a lot of question marks going into this Wimbledon Championships for Andy Murray but fortunately for him he had a dream draw and took advantage in the first week to play himself into form.

For me though, the match of the tournament and the first week was John Isner versus Nicolas Mahut. I asked the BBC to schedule me on a short match so I could watch the all important England vs Slovenia qualifying match for the knockout stage of the Football World Cup. They said “No problem, we’ll put you on the Isner/Mahut match, they only have one set to finish”. So off I went with a rookie tennis commentator by the name off Ronald MacIntosh to finish the match he had started the day before. I joked that the outcome would be 27/25 in the final set to Isner, 8 hours 30 minutes later, over two days; I had been part of tennis history. We broke all records; longest match, longest set, most games ever played, most aces, longest match ever commentated on etc etc. It finished 70/68 in the 5th set for John Isner. This is a record which will never be broken. So much for watching the football, England did go on to win 1-0 though.

The other story of the first week was how much Federer and Nadal were struggling, especially Federer but by the end of the week, they both seemed back to their best. On the women’s side, it was normal service pretty much, except for French Open Champion Francesca Schiavone losing in the first round. The second week and especially on the Monday, is when the real tournament started in the men’s and women’s draws. On the women’s side, Serena Williams played Maria Sharapova which to me, was the women’s match of the tournament. It was an epic first set, with both players having set points with Serena narrowly winning it 11-9 in the tie breaker. The quality and power hitting was exceptional. Serena went on to win the match 7-6, 6-4. It’s great to see two Wimbledon champions playing at their best; Sharapova will be back in the women’s top 5 playing on this form. The other interesting women’s encounter was Henin vs Clijsters which went 3 sets with neither playing their best tennis at the same time. Clijsters ended up winning in 3 sets.

On the men’s side, it was normal service for Federer, Nadal, Murray, Soderling and Djokovic. The major surprise of the day was Andy Roddick loosing to Yen-Hsun Lu from Taiwan. This is the first time that a Taiwanese player has been to a Grand Slam quarter-final, what an effort. He only created one break point in the match which ended up being match point; he went on to win 9-7 in the 5th set. Unfortunately for Andy Roddick I think that this year’s Wimbledon finals will have been his last chance to win the title. I hope I am wrong though because I know there are a lot of Roddick fans out there.

Five defining moments from a decade of sport


As the decade draws to a close, we pick five sporting moments which have defined the last 10 years.

1. Cathy Freeman lit the Olympic flame at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, a Games set in a country which embraces the outdoor life and punches well above its weight in most sports.

Murray climbs rankings despite media pressure

Andy Murray will go where no British man has ever gone before — next Monday he will become the first Briton to climb to third in the ATP rankings.

But instead of rejoicing in Murray’s achievements, sections of the British press appear hell bent on heaping more and more pressure on their number one player.

Women’s tennis is just as enthralling as men’s


“Embarrassing”, “pitiful” and “pathetic” were just some of the words used by the global press to describe last month’s Australian Open final between Serena Williams and Dinara Safina.

Some observers went even further and suggested women should give up their right to receive equal prize money after Williams walloped the Russian in just 59 minutes to claim her 10th grand slam crown.
The tennis police have extremely short memories. While everyone was quick to compare it to Rafael Nadal’s heart-stopping 4-1/2 hour epic win over Roger Federer in Melbourne, people have forgotten it was only eight months ago when the Swiss won a paltry four games in the French Open final against his Spanish nemesis.
In fact, on that occasion Federer won fewer games than Roland Garros runner-up Safina had a day earlier in the women’s showpiece match against Ana Ivanovic. Were people expecting Federer to hand back some of his prize money simply because he had failed to produce his A-game against Nadal? Of course not.
While there is no doubt that the Federer-Nadal thriller in Melbourne will live long in people’s memories, it should be noted that it was the first five-set men’s final in Melbourne for 21 years. 
In that same time, the women’s finale in Australia has gone down to the wire six times — including the 2002 classic when Jennifer Capriati saved four match points before sneaking past Martina Hingis.
Also, the men’s game has effectively become a two-horse race over the past four years. In the 16 majors that have been contested since the 2005 French Open, either Nadal or Federer have claimed the top prize 15 times. 
Over the same period, the women’s roll of honour lists champions such as Venus and Serena Williams, Justine Henin, Maria Sharapova, Amelie Mauresmo, Kim Clijsters and Ivanovic.
All four majors in 2008 were won by different women and the battle for supremacy became so intense that the top ranking changed hands six times until Serbia’s Jelena Jankovic won the final round of musical chairs to clinch the coveted year-end prize.
Proving that women’s tennis remains unpredictable, Serena has already snatched that top spot for herself this year.
As Jankovic said: “It’s irrelevant to compare men’s tennis and women’s tennis… which by the way is probably more enthralling.
“It’s a big battle between something like five players, so you never really know who is going to prevail, it’s very hard to guess who will be number one.”
The same cannot be said of men’s tennis.

Nadal and Co feel like criminals for going to the zoo…



Life’s not always easy for Rafael Nadal and other mega-rich tennis players, writes Theo Ruizenaar.

From the start of this year, those ranked in the top 50 must nominate one hour daily when they will be available for drug testing, as per World Anti-Doping Agency regulations.