Literally just one game of football to note on Thursday, as Oxford United beat Swindon Town 1-0. Substitute Alfie Potter scored a late 88th minute goal to take Oxford into the second round of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Southern draw.
Although Andy Murray may be the only Brit left in the US Open, it’s been an encouraging tournament of tennis for our tiny country. Sure, Wimbledon doubles champion Jonathan Marray failed in both of his events and perennial underachievers Ross Hutchins and Colin Fleming fell under the radar once more, but hope is not lost. I was slightly critical of Laura Robson following her mixed doubles Olympic final alongside Murray, where she often appeared to be the sole provider of silly unforced errors, but she seems to have stormed ahead since then.
Impatient talk of her threatening the winners at this grand slam was far too early for the teenager, but by defeating a top seed in Li Na as well as Kim Clijsters, she has proved she has enormous potential with the right coaching. For too long, women’s tennis in this country has looked at the likes of Heather Watson, Anne Keothavong, Elena Baltacha and Robson and congratulated them for reaching the second round, or even for being handed a wildcard to Wimbledon in the first place. We should be encouraging them to realise their potential so we can truly pay attention to a strong female game. Robson is the first one in years likely to join Murray somewhere up the ladder.
Back to last night and Murray nearly joined the ladies in an early defeat, coming back from a set and 5-1 down to make it into the semi-final, beating a confident Marin Cilic. Andy showed his former petulant self by slamming down his racket and avoiding eye contact with coach Ivan Lendl. It was less of an improvement from Murray, more of a collapse from his opponent. The players swapped the unforced error rate and Cilic’s strong persona waned in the face of constant pressure.
Murray’s mood will have been lifted by the idea that he gets to face Tomas Berdych in the semi-final, rather than Roger Federer. Then again, he may have relished beating again the man he defeated to grab the Olympic gold medal. He can also be heartened by confirmation that he has qualified for the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 by reaching the last eight. Surely it’s only a matter of time before Murray adds to his joys by claiming his first Grand Slam – no matter the lack of people attending this feat.
A disappointing summer for England’s cricket team continued yesterday as England lost the final One Day International against South Africa and levelled the series at 2-2. Alastair Cook top-scored with 51 but it paled in comparison to AB de Villiers’ 75 and the amazing Amla’s 97 not out. James Anderson played his part early on, knocking the tourists down to 14-3, but England always had a test to defend a poor innings of 182 all out. In the end, the Amla/de Villiers partnership allowed South Africa to win 186-3 but England hold on to the top ranking.
The women have had a better time of things against Pakistan. They completely trounced the visitors 162-7 to 81-5 in the Twenty20 International match, ideal preparation for the five-match series against the West Indies.
The first round of any UK Players Tour Championship event is never likely to conjure any feelings of excitement, but there were plenty of British qualifiers, so heeeeere they are!
Darren Bond 4-1 Rees Carter
Fraser Patrick 4-1 Kishan Hirani
Ben Harrison 4-1 Hans Blanckaert (BEL)
Jordan Winbourne w/o-w/d Marc Robertson (AUS)
Brandon Sargeant 1-4 Eden Sharav
Marc Davis 2-4 Oliver Lines
Christopher Keogan 4-1 Wayne Townsend
Sydney Wilson 3-4 Darrell Whitworth
Kyren Wilson 4-0 David Singh (IND)
Joe O’Connor 4-2 Franky McGovern
George Marter 0-4 Shane Castle
Liam Monk 4-2 Gary Steele
Itaro Santos (BRA) 4-1 Williams Lemons
Dessie Sheehan (IRE) 4-3 Robert Thickner
Ricky Norris 4-0 Greg Davis
Gareth Greene 4-0 Craig Barber
Scott Bell 4-1 Anthony Harris
Edward Topharn 1-4 Andrew Marriott
Oliver Brown 4-0 Lewis Frampton
Joe Steele 0-4 Stuart Carrington
Jake Nicholson 1-4 Ian Glover
Henry Roper 3-4 Jamie Gibson
Jack Bradford 0-4 Rhys Clark
Gareth Allen 4-0 Elliot Slessor
Marc Harman 4-3 Adam Edge
Hassan Miah 3-4 Callum Downing
Know any of those names? No? Well half of them are in the next round too, so time to get excited!
Chris Froome continued to suffer in this year’s Vuelta a Espana, finishing 32nd on Stage 17, 4’58” behind the leader to all but end his general classification hopes. He now stands fourth in the table, but is nearly ten minutes off the pace of Spaniard Alberto Contador. He remains ahead of teammate Ben Swift in all other classifications; Froome is 5th in the points classification with 93 and fourth in the allround, but has fallen to 16th on the climbs. SKY Procycling continue to bounce around, lying fifth in the team classification with 34:43 away from Movistar.
The boys on the piste in the South American Cup in Chile swapped the regular alpine downhill for a slice of “Super G” in yesterday’s winter sports. Max Baggio was again the fastest, finishing with a total time of 1:22.46. Paul Henderson, Euan MacFie and Kieran Norris all trailed in towards the bottom of the 46 finishers, although they did well to even do that in an event that stopped 25 others from attaining a score. Once again, Darcie Mead did not finish her first run.
The Speedway Elite League fixtures saw Poole beat Eastbourne 54-38. It was a lot closer between King’s Lynn and Birmingham but the visitors took it 48-42.
Now for a sporting occasion you may not have been expecting. Wednesday morning saw the beginning of the Canoe Polo World Championships! Yes! A sport that involves two teams of canoes aiming to get a ball into a goal. Why this doesn’t get into the Olympic Games when the borefest of water polo does is beyond me.
These World Canoe Polo Championships have told me one thing – Great Britain are pretty good at it. Unlike many of our Olympic team events, GB got off to a great start, beating Russia 7-3 on “Pitch” A. Unfortunately, this didn’t last as we lost the second game an hour or so later, capitulating completely to a 5-0 defeat against France. The women had a much better day of it; they only had to get into one match, but they also decimated Russia, winning 15-1!
Hopefully I’ll be able to find out more information about these championships, because I’m completely intrigued about this event and there may be a full blog on it in the future.
Whilst much of the horse headlines are being made in the Paralympics dressage, the relatively more exciting sport of showjumping continues in the Canadian hub of Calgary.
The attention was on the International Ring, with Britain’s Tina Fletcher riding Ursula XII to claim 11th place. She managed to avoid knocking over any obstacles, but her time of 74.43 wasn’t the quickest. With so many riders not faulting, Fletcher entered a jump-off but finished six points off the pace with 34.46 seconds. Michael Whitaker joined in, riding Antello to 19th place. He narrowly missed out on the jump-off love-in with one fault. Olympic gold medallist Chris Brash could only manage 40th with Intertoy Z, faulting seven times with a time of 84.30 seconds. Robert Whitaker completed the Akita Drilling Cup and finished 50th on Catwalk IV.
Later in the Filling Cup, Whitaker did much better on USA Today by finishing 7th with only one fault. On Hello Sailor, Tina Fletcher also claimed just one fault, Scott Brash and Hello Sanctos stumbled again to a 5 fault 22nd and Michael Whitaker fell to the bottom with Viking, also gaining five faults in 23rd.
After a bit of a wait for others to complete their fixtures, England got their World Cup of Pool campaign to an awesome start, trouncing Belgium 8-2.