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WIMBLEDON SPECIAL PREVIEW AND NIGERIA’S GROUP OF DEATH

28 Jun

The oldest and prestigious tennis tournament Wimbledon served off on Monday and both sexes have extra motivation as the men’s and the women’s single champions will pocket a cool £2m in prize money for their fortnight’s work.

However, defending champion Novak Djokovic will undoubtedly have a say in the matter, and will also fancy his chances in London. On the ladies side of the draw Serena Williams is favourite to add another another trophy to her cabinet after walking away with her 21st Grand Slam last year at Wimbledon. Some major players have advanced to the next round already such as Djokovic, Dimitrov, Nishikori, Cilic, Monfils, Federer, Raonic. However the shock result so far was Marcus Willis beating Ricardas Berankis 6-3 6-3 6-4, he faces Federer in the next round. I will  give a preview of what to expect at this year’s Wimbledon, Ladies first.

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Serena Williams is closing in on her 35th birthday and has just suffered back-to-back Grand Slam final losses for the first time, but the American superstar is not ready to be dethroned any time soon. The peak remains tantalisingly close for Serena Williams but negotiating the final incline to a record-equalling 22nd grand slam singles title is proving the trickiest of all.

She has uncharacteristically proved vulnerable when it matters most,had it not been for defeat by Germany’s Angelique Kerber in the Australian Open final and Garbine Muguruza at the same stage in Paris, 34-year-old Williams would have already passed Steffie Graf’s record of 22 grand slams and would be set to tie Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24. Despite her record and status as one of the greatest players of all time, there were, however, obvious problems in a damp and chilly Paris, hinting that her sheer power is possibly being diminished. Last year, when she collected a sixth Wimbledon, it allowed her to celebrate a second “Serena Slam” of holding all four majors at the same time.

Instead, it has all become a bit of a struggle, don’t forget to add in her U.S. Open semi-final defeat by Roberta Vinci last year when a calendar slam seemed in her pocket, there are doubts about her finishing skills  and her nerve nowadays. She may have lost the French Open final, but the pacey grass-courts of Wimbledon are far more suited to Serena Williams’ gamestyle than the damp Parisian clay was.

Amongst the key absentees are Maria Sharapova the 29-year-old, who was banned from the sport for two years after testing positive for banned heart medication.The Russian has been included in her country’s team for the Rio Olympics despite the ruling. She claims the suspension is “unfairly harsh” and is appealing against it. Also,Victoria Azarenka withdrew with injury.

Of the challengers, they come in two distinct categories.The power hitters such as Spain’s Muguruza, two time champion Petra Kvitova (former world number two) and rising American Madison Keys. Then there are the scramblers like world number three Agnieszka Radwanska, Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep.

World number two Muguruza pushed her hard in last year’s final and overpowered her in the French Open final with a fearless display of attacking tennis. Whether or not the 22-year-old can make the quick switch from clay to grass and deal with the new-found expectation is questionable though. On her day Kvitova can be unplayable, especially on grass, although the Czech, winner in 2011 and 2014, is still prone to puzzling off-days and she played down her chances after losing to Johanna Konta at the Eastbourne open. We can expect a Serena and Muguruza final based on form. The question on everyone’s lips though will be whether Serena Williams will finally get hold of Grand Slam title no. 22?

On the gentlemen’s side of things we have the usual suspects such as defending champion and favorite Novak Djokovic Andy Murray,Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka,Kei Nishikori, fast rising talents like Dominic Thiem, Nick Krygios, Bernard Tomic, David Goffin,big-serving Milos Raonic.

Novak Djokovic has won the Australian and French Opens already in 2016, but how hard is it to complete a calendar Grand Slam? Only Don Budge and Rod Laver have won all four Grand Slams inside a calendar year meaning every great player since the late 70s has failed to replicate their feat.

Novak Djokovic will aim for his third straight Wimbledon men’s singles crown and his fifth straight Grand Slam victory when he hits the court. The 29-year-old Serbian continued his dominance of the ATP circuit with victories at this year’s Australian Open and French Open, lifting his career total of Grand Slam tournament wins to 12 heading into the first round of Wimbledon. The Serb has been peerless since lifting the men’s title last year.

He has won the three other Grand Slam titlesUS Open, the Australian Open and the French Open and lost just six of 84 matches since he departed Centre Court last year. He has won an eye-popping 24 tournaments since 2014, including six of the past eight Grand Slam events, cementing his position atop the ATP Rankings.

However, Djokovic could face a serious challenge from Scotland’s Andy Murray, the 2013 Wimbledon men’s singles champion who has tallied two titles in 2016, including a victory over Djokovic at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, but came up short against the world’s No. 1 in the finals at the Australian Open, French Open and Madrid Open. The Scot famously beat Djokovic in straight sets in 2013 to end Great Britain’s 77-year wait for a men’s champion. Murray also won their Olympic singles semi-final at London 2012, the pair’s only other meeting on grass. And Ivan Lendl  who helped guide Murray to those victories is back on his coaching team after two years apart.

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Murray employs the mind games on court. He gets such a buzz from the challenge of pitting his intelligence against Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer that lesser contests sometimes drain him of his focus and, in a twinkling, he can be flirting with defeat by someone he should be beating in straight sets. He has also has the benefit of a good draw as he avoids Roger Federer and  can only face Djokovic in the final. Potential players that may halt his journey to the final could be Nick Krygios, Richard Gasquet and  Stan Wawrinka. Murray won his fifth Queen’s Club title last week in the first tournament since his reunion with Lendl surging back to beat big-serving Milos Raonic in the final.

Seven-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer cannot be understimated despite his persistent back injuries, he even had this to say; “Look this back has won me 88 titles, so I’m Ok with that back.” His rivalry with Novak Djokovic will continue as both players could meet in the semifinals supposing they beat all who stand in front of them. He would have to turn around a record of six defeats in their past eight meetings to Novak Djokovic in order to get to the final.

The key absentee will be Spanish great Rafael Nadal who has withdrawn with a wrist injury. There will be a presence of super coaches in the tournament such as Lendl for Andy Murray  and Boris Becker who coaches Djokovic are two of a slew of famous names from the past in prominent coaching roles. Lendl has eight Grand Slam titles and Becker six, including three Wimbledon wins. McEnroe started work with Raonic in May. The original Wimbledon hell-raiser John McEnroe is in Milos Raonic’s corner, Centre Court darling Goran Ivanisevic works with Marin Cilic, seven-time Grand Slam champion Justine Henin is guiding Elina Svitolina, American Michael Chang is part of Kei Nishikori’s team and 1996 champion Richard Krajicek is passing on his know-how to Stan Wawrinka.

We are sure to have dress code clashes because of Wimbledon’s all-white dress code which was tightened in 2014 to include the soles of players’ shoes, stripes on their collars and the brims of their caps. Also watch out for the beautiful dresses that the ladies are expected to wear from various manufacturers.

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Last five Wimbledon men’s singles finals;
2011 – Novak Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal 6-4 6-1 1-6 6-3
2012 – Roger Federer beat Andy Murray 4-6 7-5 6-3 6-4
2013 – Andy Murray beat Novak Djokovic 6-4 7-5 6-4
2014 – Novak Djokovic beat Roger Federer 6-7 6-4 7-6 (7-4) 5-7 6-4
2015 – Novak Djokovic beat Roger Federer 7-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-3
If all of the above goes to plan and it rarely doesn’t, of course then as at the Australian and the French Open (not to mention the Masters of Madrid and Rome), we’ll have a final between Murray and Djokovic. The key question remains whether anyone can stop Novak Djokovic?

On Thursday 23rd June, the African World Cup qualifying draw was held and it brought up some exciting groups amongst them is Group B which  has  Africa’s no 1 ranked team Algeria, Cameroon, Zambia and Nigeria. This is definitely the group of death as only one team can qualify out of each group. Being a patriotic Nigeria, I would love to see Nigeria qualify for the Russia World Cup in 2018,

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but first of all the issue of a new coach has to be resolved immediately seeing as Algeria has employed ex Ghana Coach Milovan Rajevac. We would need a determined and motivated coach that can make use of the current players we have. The football house has to put itself in order  and avoid the incessant squabbles to avoid derailing our chances of making it to the World Cup having missed out on two consecutive African nations cup.

And while we are at it, once again Lionel Messi failed to win a major trophy for his country, as they lost the Copa Centenario final against Chile 4-2 on penalties. The beards didn’t seem to help him at all, it seems there is a mental block whenever they face Chile in a final as this is the second consecutive loss to them in a final. The Argentine has already done more than enough for many to consider him better than apple and Diego Maradona, but the lack of an international trophy stills counts against him.

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The big shock was Messi announcing his international retirement, which I think in my opinion is just wrong. You have to keep working at it till you achieve the goal. He is a big inspiration to several people from all walks of life around the world so it passes a wrong message for him to just quit like that. He is just 29 years for crying out loud.

Meanwhile Alexis Sanchez was named the Best player of the tournament and  won his second Copa america title whatever way the CONMEBOL decides to put whether as a one-off tournament or as title that was defended. Hopes he comes back buzzing for Arsenal next season.

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That’s all I have for today…Adios.
#TheGamesAreComing
#CivilWar
#Resurgence
#AbiolaOjo’16

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2016 in Sports Yarn

 

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