Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A week(ish) of sport – Mimitig

There is so much going on at the moment that it is getting very very difficult to keep track.

The weekend just passed saw Roger Federer – the nice, Swiss man – equal Pete Sampras’s (not so nice and definitely not Swiss) record of 14 Grand Slam wins in tennis. Federer now joins a pretty exclusive club of gents who have won each of the Grand Slams – Wimbledon, US Open, Australia and the French Open (I think when I was young that there was also something important in Italy – at the Foro Italico, but we don’t hear of that these days). Swiss Rog received his trophy at Roland Garros from Andre Agassi – the last gent to have done the same. Apparently it was all rather emotional but beautifully done and very nice. So that’s tennis.

On Sunday there was some motorsport. Noticeably none in the Isle of Man – despite this being the first weekend of the TT races, the maverick/predictable weather on the island precluded any racing. Sadly, although the racing will go ahead as soon as conditions allow, last year’s Superbike winner Cameron Donald won’t be competing. A very nasty, and unlucky (hole in field), crash in practice resulted in a dislocated shoulder. Cameron said post-crash that he’d easily do a track race, but admitted that the TT roads are too tough.

Guy Martin, the TT racer and repairer of vans in his working life, has little time for the prima donnas of Formula One: “as for Formula One, Jesus!” See his take on things here

I’ll be following his progress over the next few days and also interested to see what MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi makes of his first (and non-competitive) visit to the island.

I understand Martin’s views on Formula One, but on Sunday there was a race, in Turkey, and the F1 circus pitched up with all it’s public washing of dirty laundry. It is a circus.

However, politics and dirty underwear aside, it remains a globally popular and mightily watched sport and while the race was not hugely exciting – a mistake by pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel on the first lap allowed Jenson Button through. Button then drove magnificently to take an almost lights to flag victory and make it six from seven wins.

He now joins the same sort of exclusive club as Federer. Taking six out of the first seven wins in a season puts Button in the company of Fangio, Jim Clark and some German – what’s his name?

Brawn GP come home in a fortnight to compete at Silverstone – the home of motor racing – probably for the last time. Next year, finance and court-rulings permitting, Donington will take on the job of hosting F1.

In the meantime, after a dream start in the season for Button and Brawn GP, Silverstone will welcome a British hero home. Not the one they thought they would. Last year it was Lewis Hamilton getting the wins and headlines. This year the championship has been turned on it’s head. Button, long written-off by nay-sayers has been proved to be the race-winner many of us had always thought him capable of being, and Hamilton, last year’s media darling has struggled in a dog of a McLaren.

BBC pundit and former Jordan team boss Eddie Jordan has described this season’s McLaren as the worst car they’ve ever designed. While experts and historians might argue that there have been worse, I think Hamilton would agree. He is having the season from hell – perhaps gaining some insight into the seasons from hell that Button has had before the almighty engineering guru who is Ross Brawn hoved into sight for first Honda and now with his own namesake team.

In the wake of British triumph in Turkey, interest, in some homes, has turned to another summer sport.

Cricket. And this is an important summer of cricket for fans. A feeble start for England with a poorly timed and abbreviated series against the West Indies didn’t give much indication of how we would go in the following weeks leading up to the Ashes.

Winning a two Test series and some one-dayers taught us nothing. What is starting to show something now is the World Twenty20.

England lost the opener. Against minnows – the Netherlands. Chaps who have to work for their livings not just play cricket. But after that humiliating defeat, England roared back against Pakistan. Won their way to the Super Eights. As did Ireland. As did NOT the powerhouse of cricket that is Australia.

While England, Ireland and other nations get to hone their skills at the very short version of the game, Australia will be spending the next fortnight in Leicester. No doubt a lovely city, and one that has a very fine cricket ground for the Aussies to get to know very well. One can only hope that the groundsmen will not be open to an Australian dollar and prepare a wicket any way similar to the ones Australia will be playing on during the Ashes.

England fans will no doubt be gloating over Australia’s drubbing by Sri Lanka, but should be minded to remember that there is nothing as dangerous as an angry Aussie with his back against the wall.

It would be so easy to think back to 2005 and see the similarities – Andrew Symonds sent home in disgrace after an “alcohol-related incident” (tick, Cardiff 2005), Australia humiliated in Twenty20 (tick Hampshire 2005), but that was then.

Now England does not have the pace attack we had in 2005, we don’t have a captain with the devious cunning of Michael Vaughan, and we don’t have the devastating weapon and talisman that is Andrew Flintoff.

What we do have is a team that has a wee bit of self-belief (getting through to the Super Eights), a solid captain in Strauss, a fielding demon (Collingwood) and a devious spinner (Swann).

This is enough for England fans to go hopefully into contest against Australia but as a betting woman (which I’m not), I’d put more money on Button winning the World Championship that I would on England winning back the Ashes.

There’s a fest of sport to come this summer. Not just the rest of the World Cup and the Ashes for the cricket.

We have all this week of the TT, We have the rest of the season for MotoGP – all to play for. F1 – go Jense. Wimbledon – can Murray challenge? Will he be a Scot in failure or British when he wins?

The Tour de France starts in a wee bit more than a month – there is real British interest. Cav is going for the Green Jersey, Wiggo will be going for Time Trial wins and stages and there will be a media circus to rival F1 because of Lance Armstrong.

And while I’m thinking about my love of the leather on willow and rubber on tarmac, our boys are in South Africa being lions.

I haven’t given a line to the exploits of our rugby boys – how is Shane holding up against those rhinos of Saffers? I simply don’t know. There is a limit to the number of sports I can keep track of.

Please god someone else here will do the rugby, and will keep us abreast of the transfer window.

All I’ll be doing for the next few weeks is keeping my eye on cricket, cycling, F1, MotoGP and out of the very corner of my eye, tennis.


Rooto said...

Wow mimi, so much to comment on, so little time...
It reminds me of when I was a kid and people didn't talk about football in odd-numbered summers.
One question I can't help asking: although I'm a big Rog fan (making him an exception to my usual policy of supporting underdogs), why is Pistol Pete not nice? Was there some criminal origin to his nickname that I didn't know about?

Don't forget this week's Dauphiné Libéré. I'm off to search for live coverage now.

mimi said...

Rooto: it's a personal view on Sampras - I always found him rather sullen and ungracious in press interviews. He's probably a very kind and sensitive soul in real life. But as a player he had none of charm and appeal of Swiss Rog.

Indeed I have not forgotten the Dauphine. Cadel Evans won the time trial - but yesterday I could find very little coverage on the interweb.

Ebren said...

My cousin shared a dressing room with Sampras at the French Open, he sat there with a towel over his head and said nothing. I have since assumed that is his default setting.

Rooto said...

mimi- It's true that Rog is special. I've just had to defend him on GU. I've been worried about Sampras ever since someone said that I looked like him. Since then I've lost my hair and grown a Rafa - then lo and behold I see Pete on TV and he's done the same! Spooky...
I got time-trial pictures from france3.fr yesterday, but that's because I live in France.
will hopefully give some viewing options, and even if you have to go for a foreign-language version, the images from Ventoux this afternoon should speak for themselves [noise of salivating].

Wooley said...

I'm personally entirely in approval of Murray's refusal to pander to the BBC's increasingly asinine Wimbledon coverage - the much needed revival in sports broadcasting standards might rely heavily on increased levels of grumpiness from the 'stars'.

After Nadal's mixed year, and Federer's enegy sapping French open, Wimbledon this year is wide open. But, my gut feeling says Murray won't win.

As for the T20, its been brilliant. However, I think what we're learning is that the the 05 Ashes won't be repeated. Whatever the outcome, we won't be watching two sides that are clearly a cut above the rest of world cricket, as we were lucky enough to do then. I will watch it like a madman, naturally, but I think the Ashes hype is now dramatically overheated.

Margin said...

I'm still loving Brawn's complete dominance of Forumla 1 this season - though I fear even his most vociferous fan would not yet list Button amongst the true greats of years gone by.

And Murray did well at Queens this past week. But Wimbledon is an Open and so the big guns like Federer will probably outshine him again.

As for the T20 - Wow! What a weekend it has been. The number of India shirts milling around St John's Wood yesterday made for quite an atmosphere in the bars there.

mimi said...

Wooley: I totally agree with you about Wimbledon coverage on the BBC and found Murray refreshing when interviewed post Queen's win. I would be surprised if he gets to the semis. At which point the headlines will start referring to him as "Scottish Murray crashes out". If he gets further, even wins, it will all be "British Andy triumphs".

England have crashed out of the T20, but it has been fun and who even thought we'd last longer than the Aussies? It means nothing for the Ashes, but of course that is hyped.

Margin: I think what is most interesting about Brawn's continuing success is that all the pros thought they would have run out of steam by now. Congrats to Ross that they haven't and Jenson is driving sublimely. He maybe not a true great, but his stats will go down in the annals along with those who are/were.

Margin said...

Button's stats this year are phenomenal, and it is perhaps a little premature of me to talk down his status as a possible "great". If he followed up a good season this year, with another next year, I'd probably have to rethink.

But can I point out about Murray that he declared himself Scottish rather than British. He revised that later as he realised it was lucrative to have lots english people rooting for him. But when he loses he can hardly complain that he is Scottish when some of us point that out in tongue in cheek fashion.

And lets not forget it works both ways.

When Alain Baxter earned Bronze at the Winter Olympics he was vehment that it was a Scottish victory and he'd done it for Scotland not Britain.

Yet his vehmence faded to nothing as reports came through that the British medalist had failed a drug test.

mimi said...

Margin: I guess you're right. It's not all media stuff that stokes up the Scottish/British thing. The athletes play their own part.

I'm not altogether pleased to see that Valverde won the Dauphine and having just seen a Reuters breaking news about Boonen being banned from Le Tour, wonder whether Valverde will be riding this year. Think not.

Pleased to see Cav continuing his winning ways with a stage in the Tour of Switzerland.

By the by, Pakistan are going quite well in the semi against the Saffers.

Pinkerbell said...

You know I thought all this talk of the game of cricket needing to be livened up, be brought into this century etc etc with the 20-20 world cup being played here, I had some hope that modernising also might mean supporting the women. But I've not seen much of it. I had to get all the way to the Cricket pages in the sports section of the BBC and then it wasn't the first story, that England women WON the WORLD CUP. The mention was made first about the men's winners and it was even after a story about how Vaughan being left out of the Ashes warm-up. So basically the selection for a future match is more important than a world-wide win, just because it was the women!


Anywhere else England winning against the Australians would be front page news...

mimi said...

Wait til friday.

Cycling excellence.

munni said...

Complete change of subject, but I'm angry: the Indian' women's football team has just essentially been dissolved because, according to federation suits, "they're never going to win anything anyway." They've also been dropped from the Fifa world rankings for not playing any competitive fixtures for the last 18 months.

mimi said...

No idea why munni, but the GOAT has just clocked up 100 wins!

Senile Greengrass said...

I just remembered that I have forgotten to send you something.
I am a very bad boy (100 times).

munni said...

ah thanks, gg. not to worry, I'm very forgiving.

Jorrocks said...

Great player, dull man, Pistol Pete. And a Republican as well. Alas.
Could someone explain the low standard of tennis writing in Britain? S Bierley, in particular, makes me retch. But perhaps this is a minority opinion.
Martin Amis, in his salad days, wrote the occasional good essay on the subject.

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