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Archive for May 2008

Ponting reaches 10,000

Australian captain Ricky Ponting reached the 10,000 run mark in the second Test against West Indies to become only the seventh player to do so.

It looks like a good Test for Ponting so far after getting his 35th century in the first Test and now he has become the third Australian player to reach 10,000 runs.

The other Australians to reach that mark are Allan Border and Steve Waugh. Border finished with 11,174 Test runs whilst Waugh amassed 10,927 Test runs.

I think Ponting could be the first player to get 40 Test centuries if he maintains his form. The only player who could beat him to that is Sachin Thendulkar who seems to have injury concerns at the moment.

Williams out of French Open

The Williams sisters were both knocked out of the French Open in straight sets in the third round and I think this is the biggest upset so far at Roland Grass.

Serena Williams was the first one to go out after losing to Katarina Srebotnik in a match she started slowly and never picked up momentum. She just wasn't as sharp as she normally is and it is now Srebotnik who goes to the fourth round.

Venus Williams then later lost to Flavia Penetta and with went a chance to win the French Open. Venue could have lost in the first round to Tzipora Obziler but somehow she managed to make a dramatic comeback in the third set to win that match.

With current holder Justine Henin having retired I had thought the Williams sisters had a good chance of at least reaching the final but that will now have to wait for another year.

Also out in the first week was home favourite Amelie Mauresmo who lost to Carla Suarez-Navarro in the second round.

Serena's exit means the there will be a new winner for this year's French Open because she was the only one in the draw who had won the French Open before. This is hardly surprising given that the last three titles were all won by Henin.

I think Maria Sharapova should be sensing another opportunity to add another grand slam win after winning the Australian Open earlier in the year. She doesn't that much convincing though and I think Ana Ivanovic could win this year.

Not many surprises though in the men's draw. Rafael Nadal is cruising with easy so far and so is the world number one Roger Federer. The second week should be more testing and I think it will be easier to have a better gauge then

SBS, Setanta to show Euro 2008

The Euro 2008 tournament starts next week and in Australia SBS and Setanta will be showing the matches live.

SBS are going to show just eight live matches and that includes the opening match and the final.

On the other hand Setanta Sports will show every match but to subscribe you need first to subscribe to Foxtel and then you need to subscribe to Setanta.

Whilst I have Foxtel and I would have subscribed to Setanta in order to get more all the matches games, I understand Setanta is not available to me because my Foxtel is through Optus.

For Euro 2004 FoxSports televised all the matches and did a good job out of it but this time it looks like we will have to go with what SBS selects as their six live matches outside the opening match and final. This is just a third of the matches.

If you think that they will show the semis then that will leave just four matches and I am beginning to wonder why they could not get more than 8 matches.

Hamilton triumphs in Monaco

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton got his second win of the season when he won the dramatic Monaco Grand prix.

It was even better for Hamilton with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen failing to score any points after finishing ninth and therefore Hamilton now leads the drivers’ championship by three points.

When Hamilton collided with the barriers and punctured his tyre I thought that was the end of his hopes of finishing on the podium but the crash allowed his team to change his strategy to come up with a strategy which handed Hamilton maximum points.

BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica got second place ahead of Ferrari’s Felipe Massa who has now established some consistency after a troubled start to the season.

I think Massa must be disappointed by third especially having started on pole in Monaco where pole position gives you a huge advantage because of the difficulty in overtaking. Massa now trails Hamilton by four points.

Red Bull’s Mark Webber got his best finish of the season so far when he got fourth place. But fourth place could easily have gone to Force India’s Adrian Sutil because he was in the fourth position when he crashed with Raikkonen with less than 10 laps. It would have been a massive result for him.

In fifth place came Toro Rosso-Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel but Rubens Barrichello who finished sixth had his best race so far this season. Barrichello has been struggling to finish races let alone get points and I think he must be pleased with his first points of the season.

I have been following William’s progress this season and once again they scored points in this race. Williams have managed to score points in every race so far and this time Kazuki Nakajima got two points for his team.

Getting one point for McLaren was Heikki Kovalainen who got eighth denying fellow countryman Raikkonen a chance to score a point.

The next race will be in North America as Montreal takes host and its interesting to see whether Raikkonen will bounce back to close the gap with Hamilton or possibly overtake him.

Chelsea, Grant part company

Chelsea over the weekend parted company with their manager Avram Grant after Grant failed to get any silverware during his eight months in charge.

I actually think that Grant did a good job overall although I think he should at least have got the Carling Cup in the bag. I think he made a few selection errors in that match but that is expected of anybody.

Chelsea finished second in league and I have said before that they would have won the league had they not had a string of last minute draws at Stamford Bridge. The drawn matches against Spurs, Aston Villa, Everton, Wigan Athletic and Bolton all with goals scored in injury time made sure that Grant's team finished second in the league.

Had Chelsea just held on to win just two of those drawn matches they would have pipped Manchester United to the title.

As for the Champions League, it was down to penalty kicks and I don't think Grant could have done anything about it. Once it comes to penalty kicks its anybody's game and some key players can miss them like what Cristiano Ronaldo did.

Back to Grant, one thing against him was that he wasn't a high profile manager and high profile managers makes it easier to get top players.

Grant was always going to be compared with Jose Mourinho and I think in that respect he did very well in reaching the Champions League final and finishing a close second compared to Chelsea's finishing the previous season under Mourinho.

I think whoever takes over from Grant will have to be a high profile manager and I think that one thing that Chelsea has to do is to make sure that their manager stays for a longer time. You only have to look at Old Trafford and then at the Emirates to see how long Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger respectively have been in their roles and the success that they they have had over the seasons and not judged in a mere eight months.

I think Frank Rijkaard is the likely man to take over and he has Henk ten Cate, his former assistant manager at Barcelona already there at the Bridge.

Man Utd wins Champions League

Manchester United won the UEFA Champions league final this morning after beating Chelsea in a dramatic penalty shoot-out.

I thought that the match was going to be very cagey but it turned out to be an interesting contest between the top two English premiership sides and just like United triumphed over Chelsea in the league they repeated it again in Moscow.

I think overall Chelsea were the better team in the final with Sir Alex Ferguson's side controlling most of the first half where they could have scored three goals but Chelsea controlling the rest of the match.

I think just like Barcelona in the semis the Stamford Bridge outfit failed to take their chances and in football its goals that count and once its a penalty shoot out its anybody's game.

Over the whole season I feel that Manchester United have been very consistent and have capped their season with a league and Champions League double.

This was Manchester United's third European title and I think if the present team is strengthened a little bit more then they could easily add to that number because their biggest competitors are from the premier league with teams like AC Milan not even featuring in the champions league season.

For Avram Grant, I think they came so close and it was a matter of John Terry converting his penalty kick but even then Nicolas Anelka had a chance to at least force another round of penalty kicks.

So I will looking forward to next season's Champions League competition and I will not be surprised to see the same two teams once again in the final.

Nadal finally nets Hamburg

Rafael Nadal finally won the Hamburg Masters title when he beat world number one Roger Federer in the final over the weekend.

This was the only clay Masters title Nadal had not won and now after winning this he has won all of them.

After losing to Federer last year in the final Nadal made amends this time but I think Federer could have won the first set had he defended his 5-1 lead but Nadal just proved how good he was.

I was also keen on the semi-final match when Nadal beat Novak Djokovic in what I think was a big test for Nadal but he managed to push aside the world number three to give himself a psychological edge ahead of the French Open which starts next week.

But I also think that Federer even though he lost was encouraged his performance but winning over five sets could prove to be too hard for him.

Henin calls it a day

I was surprised to read that world number one Justine Henin has decided to retire from tennis especially just a few weeks before defending the French Open in Paris.

Last year Henin was by far the best player in women's tennis as she won the French and US Open to add to her seven grand slam titles.

She hasn't been playing well recently as evidenced by her loss to Dinara Safina last week but if you put that loss into context Safina also beat Serena Williams on her route to securing the the German Open title.

Henin won four French Open titles and she will be missed at this year's event. I was also thinking that this year she could try and win the only grand slam she has failed to win which is Wimbledon but it is finished now with her retirement and I wish her all the best.

Half way to a billion

Last week I wrote about the new $250 million note that was introduced by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe but now a week later a $500 million dollar note has been introduced.

That was a quick doubling of the highest note and now it seems the the billion dollar note will be around the corner and this shows how bad inflation is in Zimbabwe.

And as these new notes are introduced I don't see any signs of anything being done to curb the rampant inflation and so I am now beginning to wonder whether the RBZ will soon have to remove three zeroes or better still six zeroes because the numbers are getting bigger and bigger by the day.

A broken Melbourne cycle

I have been watching the Melbourne fuel cycle over the last three weeks and I have observed that the cycle seems to be no more.

What normally happens is that sometime on Wednesday morning the price goes up by at least 10 to 15 cents and then gradually come down to the lowest price on Wednesday morning the following week before shooting up again but over the last few weeks this hasn't happened.

What has happened instead is that the price has just stayed around the $1.40 mark all the time and I am now wondering what has happened to the fuel cycle.

I think this is now the FuelWatch in action as recommended by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission(ACCC). What I fear though is that when the price shoots up it will shoot up so high and stay there. Now that wont be good.

Djokovic nets third win

There were no retirements in the final of the Rome Masters tournament as Novak Djokovic beat Stanislas Wawrinka in three sets.

When Wawrinka called the trainer I thought we were going to see yet another retirement and that would have meant Djokovic having an opponent retire injured for the third time in a row but Wawrinka managed to soldier on to the end .

In the end I think Djokovic used his experience after losing the first set as he came back to win the last two sets and win his third tournament this year.

I am keen to see Djokovic play Rafael Nadal on clay and that could happen in the Hamburg Masters.

Massa maintains Turkey grip

Ferrari's Felipe Massa maintained his grip on the Turkish F1 grand prix at Istanbul Park after winning his third race in a row from pole.

Massa never let off after starting the race from pole and I think McLaren's Lewis Hamilton gave him a close check throughout the race as he came second.

It was good to see Hamilton near the level he was last year and he must be thinking a win must be around the corner for him after coming second in the previous race in Barcelona.

I thought Kimi Raikkonen did well to finish on the podium after the bad start he had and it was good that he avoided collision with Heikki Kovalainen on the first corner.

Massa has now cut Raikkonen's lead at the top to just seven points and I think Raikkonen knows that he now has a lot of work to do if he is to move away from his team mate and also Hamilton.

BMW Sauber's drivers Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld took fourth and fifth place respectively, positions that they are now quite familiar with. I don't think Kubica did threaten Raikkonen's third place that much and that must be a worry for BMW but on the other hand their cars are very consistent.

Former champion Fernando Alonso had to settle for sixth place just ahead of Mark Webber who dropped to seventh by the end after what I thought was a good start.

Alonso's lack of pace in his Renault was so evident when Raikkonen easily overtook him in the early stages of the race.

Williams once again continued to score points in every race this season and this time it was the chance for Nico Rosberg who finished in the last points position.

His team mate Kazuki Nakajima retired after just one lap after an accident on the first corner with Force India's Giancarlo Fisichella.

Whilst Massa was winning for the third time in a row Fisichella was having an accident on the first corner for the third time in a row. I hope he will fare better next season.

Injuries rock Rome semis

The two finalists for the Rome Masters final Novak Djokovic and Stanislas Wawrinka got there after their opponents both retired hurt.

Radek Stepanek retired hurt in the second set in his match aganst Djokovic. Stepanek had sent Roger Federer packing in the quarter finals to reach the semis.

For Djokovic, for the second consecutive match his opponent did not finish the match because of injury because in the quarters Nicolas Almagro also retired injured.

Wawrinka was playing Andy Roddick when he retired injured after just three games.

I thought Roddick had done so well to reach the semis especially in a clay court tournament but back problems made sure he did not go any further.

I hope noone will retire injured in the final itself. In a tournament in Portugal last month Federer won the final after Nikolay Davydenko retired hurt.

What could be the cause of all these injuries? I think I agree with Rafael Nadal that the heavy schedule for the players is giving them no rest at all with tournament week after week leading to the French Open.

I think something must be done or else we will end up with many players retired injured.

Ferrero stops Nadal in Rome

Rafael Nadal lost for the first time at the Rome Masters when he lost in straight sets to Juan Carlos Ferrero in the second round.

Nadal was on a good run having won the last two clay tournaments he has played and he was set for a fourth consecutive title in Rome when he lost to Ferrero.

In fact this is the first time he has lost in this tournament and for Ferrero the omens could be good if he goes and wins this tournament because last time he won this tournament he went on to win to the French Open.

I think his loss has more to do with blisters in his right foot than anything else but there is still the Hamburg tournament next week and so we will see.

But its still a shock loss for Nadal especially losing in the early rounds as he has done. He had a bye in the first round.

There is the Hamburg Masters tournament next week and now he has lots of time and prepare for that.

Meanwhile other seeds also fell on the day with Andrew Murray, David Nalbandian, David Ferrer and Juan Monaco all exiting the tournament.

Super Aguri exits F1

After just four races this season the Super Aguri team has now left the F1 championship after negotiations with the potential sponsors did not work out.

This means that drivers Anthony Davidson and Takuma Sato will now have to look for other teams possibly next season unless they become test drivers for one of the remaining ten teams.

This would have been the team's third season and they follow the likes of small teams like Arrow and F1 who found the going hard in F1.

Last season Super Aguri scored four points all through Sato and they were still to get some points this season.

The folding shows that its increasingly getting harder for the smaller teams to survive in F1 despite changes that have been made to lower down the costs of running a team

I always thought having 22 cars on the grid was good because there would be lots of action areas but then 20 is still not that bad if they are all competitive and I hppe the remaining 20 will go all the way to the end.

Notes getting closer to billion

Today the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe introduced a new $250 million dollar note and just last month a new $50 million dollar note was introduced.

I think this is biggest jump so far and nobody can now argue that a new $1 billion dollar note is far off.

In December the highest note was $750,000 and then January saw the introduction of the $10 million dollar note which stayed on top until after the elections when the $50 million note was introduced.

Also this week the Zimbabwe currency was floated in an effort to counter the thriving black market and its early days to tell whether its having any success.

So its anybody's guess now whether in June or maybe July we will see the new $1 billion note.

Elections result point to run-off

At last after nearly five weeks and more than a month after polls closed in the Zimbabwe presidential election, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced the presidential results which point out to a run-off because nobody got more than 50% of the vote.

According to the released results Morgan Tsvangirai got 47.9 %, Robert Mugabe 43.2 % and Simba Makoni a distant third with 8.3 %.

So a run-off is required to decide the winner and I think that Morgan Tsvangirai stands a very good chance of winning if the elections can be held in a free and fair environment which looks unlikely after the recent reports of widespread violence and intimidation of opposition supporters.

I was surprised to see that Makoni actually got just over 8 % of the vote but that vote will now be crucial in the run-off and I am sure most of the people who voted Makoni are likely going to vote for Tsvangirai.

I also think that there is a going to be an even higher turn up in this election because with MDC having parliamentary majority people will know that their vote will count a lot this time.

I think the recent violence will not help Mugabe in any way and if anything it will make people more determined to vote against him. Its going to be interesting also to see what he will promise if he wins because the economy has become worse over the past month.

I read last week that the MDC were not keen on the run-off saying that Tsvangirai won outright but I think what they should do is contest the run-off and make sure there are many election observers for this election on the ground and that they should stay until the announcement of the result.

The ZEC also should promise people that it will not take another month to announce the results of the run-off. The wait for the results has been far too long and the run-off results should be announced as soon as possible after all this is just one election.

I will be keeping an eye on the events in Zimbabwe and I hope the conditions will improve greatly over the next few days to make sure that as many people as possible are able to freely cast their votes.

All English final at Luzhniki

Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, host of this year's UEFA Champions league final will host an all English final after Manchester United brushed aside Barcelona and Chelsea beat Liverpool in the semis.

Barcelona could have stopped an all English final but they could not find the back of the net over the two legs despite dominating possession in both matches and Paul Scholes first half goal was enough to take his team to the final at the Luzhniki Stadium.

If the match at Old Trafford was a boring encounter then the one at Stamford Bridge compensated for that because I think it was a very entertaining match in which a determined Chelsea outfit finally managed to beat Liverpool in a champions League semi final after three attempts and I think they deserved to win.

As I said in an earlier post the difference this time was that the second leg was not at Anfield and Chelsea took advantage of home advantage to dominate most of the match.

Chelsea started the match with a mission to score rather than dwell on a goalless draw which would have been enough to take them through but five goals in total made for an exciting semi final and a tense one for that especially in the last three minutes after Liverpool scored their second goal.

Its interesting to see that Avram Grant has managed to take Chelsea to a Champions League final at first attempt after Jose Mourinho failed on three occasions of which two were in the semis.

On TipsChallenge I will be tipping Chelsea to win their first European crown because I think they are the better team at the moment.