Monday, January 19, 2009

Sports Commentary - Times Online - WBLG: Should Chris Hoy have been the only Olympian Sir?

Sports Commentary - Times Online - WBLG: Should Chris Hoy have been the only Olympian Sir?
Jan 19 (Reuters) -

Wales manager Warren Gatland named onMonday the following 28-man squad for the Six Nations. Squad:

Forwards: Gethin Jenkins, John Yapp, Adam Jones, Rhys
Thomas, Matthew Rees, Huw Bennett, Ian Gough, Alun-Wyn Jones,
Luke Charteris, Bradley Davies, Ryan Jones (Captain), Jonathan
Thomas, Daffyd Jones, Andy Powell, Martyn Williams, Robin

Backs: Mike Phillips, Gareth Cooper, Stephen Jones, James
Hook, Gavin Henson, Andrew Bishop, Jamie Roberts, Tom Shanklin,
Shane Williams, Leigh Halfpenny, Mark Jones, Lee Byrne

Federer ~ Don't count him out just yet.......

Don’t count out Federer just yet
By DALE ROBERTSON Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle
Jan. 17, 2009, 10:56PM
Federer in recent Australian Opens• 2004 – Won title, beating Marat Safin in the final. • 2005 – Reached the semifinals, losing to Safin. • 2006 – Won title, beating Marcos Baghdaditis in the final. • 2007 – Won title, beating Fernando Gonzalez in the final. • 2008 – Reached the semifinals, losing to Novak Djokovic.
Everybody thinks this will be Andy Murray’s year and, if it’s not, it will be Rafael Nadal’s year again. Or perhaps Novak Djokovic’s.
Almost nobody seems to believe Roger Federer has much gas left in his tank after he surrendered the No. 1 ranking to Nadal in 2008. Never mind that he did take the season’s last Grand Slam, claiming a modern-record fifth consecutive U.S. Open. Or that he did thump Murray, practically a consensus favorite to claim his first major at the Australian Open, in straight sets in the Flushing Meadow final.
But Federer himself is one guy who insists reports of his demise are absurdly premature. He asserted recently — before Murray beat him in an exhibition in Abu Dhabi and again last week in the Doha semis — that “I have been dominating for several years and obviously I think I can do it again. I expect 2009 to be a very good year.”
A bout of mononucleosis got him off to a slow start last year, and Nadal’s continued evolution from being a good player into an all-time-great candidate formally spelled the end of the Swiss’ 4½-year run on top when the Spaniard emerged victorious in their for-the-ages Wimbledon final.

Ranking not priority

History and the computer-point differential between Federer and Nadal weigh against his bid to return to No. 1. In the 36 years of the ATP computer system, only Ivan Lendl in 1989 reclaimed the top spot the year after he lost it. But that’s not Federer’s front-and-center priority anymore. Rather, he’ll pick his spots carefully as he attempts to surpass Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Slam titles.
Federer, 27, remains one behind Sampras with 13. Given that Sampras won three of his after turning 27 — and Andre Agassi won five of his eight — the odds favor him accomplishing the feat, even if Murray’s for-real emergence as an elite adds a layer of complication.
The Scotsman’s entry into the who’s-the-king-of-the-hill conversation has balanced the halves of the men’s draw in the major championships. The two semifinals are now equally challenging matchups if the seeding holds up. The Big Three have become the Big Four and the likelihood that any one of them can hog three of the four Slams, as Federer did in 2004, 2006 and 2007, appears minuscule.

It’s far more probable that each of them will claim one, the democratic norm before Federer took over the ATP Tour in 2004.
Nonetheless, it would be foolish to count out Federer anywhere except at Roland Garros, where all appears hopeless for him.

Different at Wimbledon

But Wimbledon’s lawns remain a level playing field. The five sets and five hours he and Nadal battled it out there in July only spoke to their respective greatness, not to any dramatic paradigm shift or changing of the guard. Healthy, Federer remains the Wimbledon favorite. For the near term, Murray will find the pressure crushing — no Brit has won since Fred Perry in 1936 and he will be reminded of this fact hourly for the fortnight — and Djokovic lacks the right grass-court stuff.

The Serb is the defending champion in Melbourne, though, and Murray is playing the best tennis of the four right now, having defeated each of the others in ’09. (He’s also 6-1 vs. Federer of late.)
That’s why everyone has fallen in love with him.
A reasonable response. But falling completely out of love with Federer is dumb.
Sure, he could lose Down Under, even early. Still, should he seize that fourth Aussie title two weeks hence, it won’t be an upset. Not yet, not this year.