Monday, August 12, 2013

The Sports Medley Vol. 2

The second edition of the Sports Medley, as I gather my thoughts around recent events in the world of sport.

Nadal signals his intent to win the US Open

Any lingering doubts about Nadal's level of play after his disappointment at Wimbledon were dispelled with an exceptional week at Montreal where he won the Rogers Cup. His pounding of Milos Raonic in the final was a clinic for the young Canadian, and yet again demonstrated the big gap between the very best and the second tier in men's tennis.

Of more significance to Nadal was his victory over Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals. The match really was worthy of a final, and it featured the intense tennis that has become the hallmark of their rivalry. Especially encouraging for the Spaniard was his comfort at returning Djokovic's serve on a fast court, suggesting that Nadal has come into the US Open series armed with tactical adjustments.

Serena remains the one to beat on the WTA Tour

Like Nadal, Serena Williams is the ultimate competitor on the court, and it was always likely that the rest of the WTA tour were bound to suffer the repercussions of her Wimbledon upset to Sabine Lisicki. Serena was absolutely dominant in Toronto, her thrashing of the plucky Sorana Cirstea in the final similar to the one-sided nature of the men's final.

If Serena is to be somehow derailed, Agnieszka Radwańksa looks like the player best equipped to challenge her especially as Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka are going through a rough patch. What is most disconcerting for the world no. 4 though, is that she played a near perfect match against Serena in the semis, but the world no.1 simply stepped up another level to come through.

Dufner's PGA win is a true feel-good story

Jason Dufner suffered heartbreak two years ago when he lost the PGA Championship to Keegan Bradley in a playoff after leading throughout most of the final round. It's not easy to come back from such difficult losses for a golfer, especially if you haven't won a major before.

However, Dufner played four rounds of immaculate golf at Oak Hill Golf Club to win the 2013 PGA Championship over the weekend. His striking off the tee was almost perfect, and his putting was spot under intense pressure from Jim Furyk in the last round. Usually, I don't enjoy high scoring majors, but Dufner is one of the true salt of the earth personalities on tour, and nobody can begrudge him his moment in the spotlight. His nonplussed celebration after the 18th hole only served to further endear to him to golf fans around the world.

Guardiola vs. Klopp should be cherished

Pep Guardiola won his first competitive game in charge of Bayern Munich with a 3-1 win over Borussia Monchengladbach to open the 2013-14 Bundesliga season. Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben continued from where they left off last season, terrorizing Monchengladbach's defence. They were some defensive wobbles from Bayern, but the errors will surely be ironed out by Guardiola in due time.

Their closest challengers, Borussia Dortmund romped to a 4-0 victory at Augsburg, with new signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang announcing his arrival in the Bundesliga with a splendid hat-trick. Contrary to what many in the footballing world perceived after their fantastic Champions League campaign last season, Jurgen Klopp has actually strengthened Dortmund with some astute signings who blend in perfectly with the current players to add depth to the squad. The battle between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund will fascinating to watch domestically and on the continent, but perhaps the most enticing prospect of the rivalry is watching Guardiola and Klopp pitting their managerial wits against each other.

Monaco win the first round in the battle of billionaires

The most spectacular new signings this summer have arrived in Ligue 1, thanks to the newly acquired spending power of PSG and Monaco. The ethics and morals have been debated by more informed people, but for most football fans it is easy to get excited by this rivalry of teams filled with superstars.

PSG spent a fortune on acquiring Edinson Cavani to play alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but only managed a 1-1 draw away to 2012 champions Montpellier in the first game of the new season. Laurent Blanc didn't start any of the new signings, and only brought on Cavani in the 72nd minute and the Uruguayan almost instantly scored the winner. Monaco also struggled for large parts of their first game away to Bordeaux, but the lethal finishing prowess of Radamel Falcao came to their rescue late in the game to help them on to a 2-0 victory. There will plenty of twists and turns to come in a long campaign, but round one goes to Monaco.
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