Sports Round-Up: Wimbledon, Tour de France, British GP, Lions, Confeds Cup Final!


Wow what a weekend of sport! The summer is here, football has (almost) disappeared, and the ‘minority’ sports are taking to the stage, to show Great Britain, that there’s more to the sporting world than just football. It begins with the highlight of the tennis season, at least in this country, the grass court season and Wimbledon…

Wimbledon

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Unusually, Britain are enjoying a renaissance in both the men and women’s sections of the game. With the surprise early exits of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in rounds two and one respectively, it seems Andy Murray has never had a better chance of winning his home tournament, and over in the women’s section, the promising Heather Watson may have exited in round one, but our other big prospect, teenager Laura Robson, has made the fourth round for the first time. With someone else to take the admiration and support from the home crowd, could this allow Murray to preserve himself for an inevitable final against the imperious Novak Djokovic? He’s certainly not won the thing just yet, and defeating Djokovic will not be easy, but the fact that Robson, who as I write is close to being knocked, has reached the second week along with him means that not ALL eyes are on him. Infact, due to late finishing times, it was Robson and not Murray, who was splashed on all the front pages (for the right reasons), pictures of her fist pumping celebrations, becoming the image of this year’s championships.

Away from all things GB, and with the aforementioned exits of Federer and Nadal, the men’s section has been thrown wide open. Along with two of the top player’s departing, saw ‘Wacky Wednesday’, with the likes of Tsonga, Azarenka and Stepanek exiting due to retirement. The likes of seeded Pole, Jerzy Janowicz, Aussie Bernard Tomic and former Grand Slam winner Juan Martin Del Potro, are capitalizing and look to advance far deeper into the tournament than they would’ve previously expected. It’s refreshing to see a change from the so-called ‘Big Four’, and perhaps a sign that male tennis’ future is bright. The women’s game has also seen an influx of new talent, alongside the likes of Watson and Robson, the American’s are back! Teens Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens have had good runs in the tournament, and look set to take over the Williams’ sisters mantle in the next few years, but not right yet. No, whilst Venus is injured this time around, Serena is looking to be in incredible form, blasting opponents around left, right and centre, and with rival Sharapova out of the way, many are suggesting she be handed the title now (although, interestingly enough, at the time of writing German starlet has taken her to a 3rd set in the 4th round match). A great start then, and this time next week it’ll all be over, a shame given the excitement conjured up by week 1 of Wimbledon 2013.

Tour de France Start

Radioshack-Leopard team rider Jan Bakelants of Belgium sprints to win the 156 km second stage of the centenary Tour de France cycling race from Bastia to Ajaccio

Starting with a blaze of sunshine on the island of Corsica, the 2013 Tour kicked off with the sort of controversy the sport almost invites upon itself. After a big crash that saw the likes of Alberto Contador and Brit sprint champ, Mark Cavendish get compromised, the organizers decided to shorten the length of the opening stage. Then, a couple of kilometres later, they decided to reverse their decision, after, unbelievably, a bus got wedged under the finishing line?! You couldn’t make it up!

Unfortunately, Cav didn’t win the stage, to achieve a dream of holding the yellow jersey, but the big GB hope for the yellow jersey, Team Sky’s Chris Froome, the man who essentially won the Tour for teammate Sir Bradley Wiggins last year, was unharmed and escaped the crash. Could we see a second consecutive British winner? It’d be crazy, but crazier things have happened still! We’ll all know on July 21st in Paris for sure, but this Tour got off to a weird and wonderful start, something that the county of Yorkshire, which stages the opening of next year’s Tour, will be hoping for!

British Grand Prix

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Over to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, where the drama continued, on this weekend of surprise. Home crowd favourite Lewis Hamilton began on pole position, as his Mercedes team dominated the Saturday once again, and they even extended their lead in the early laps of the race itself. Then disaster struck. Hamilton’s left rear tyre looked to have been punctured, seeing him drop from first to last place, and his race was in tatters. Then, not long afterwards the Ferrari of Felipe Massa suffered the SAME problem, causing suspicions over whether it was driver error or tyre error. The teams got onto the radios of the drivers telling them to avoid the kerbs, which were thought to have caused the issue, but still the same thing happened again, this time to Toro Rosso’s French driver Jean-Eric Vergne. By this point, the Safety Car came out, to allow the marshalls to clear up the various bits of discarded tyre carcasses from the track, and it looked like the race may even stop due to driver’s safety. But eventually, we continued racing, with the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel inevitably at the front, keeping a comfortable distance from Nico Rosberg in the sister Mercedes.

THEN further drama, as Vettel suffered a transmission error on the main straight, leading to his retirement amidst wild cheering from the delirious British crowd. Rosberg inherited the lead and the Safety Car, as Vettel’s car was being cleared. Raikonen and Alonso, Vettel’s title challengers looked to capitalize in varying situations, Kimi in 2nd but on old tyres, Alonso back in 8th but with brand new tyres on. Chuck in Mark Webber on a resurgent Hamilton, both on new tyres, and the last 10 laps looked like they’d lead to a grandstand finish.

And they did! Alonso and Hamilton scythed through the field, going onto finish in 3rd and 4th respectively, Kimi dropped back, after questioning his team’s tyre choices, whilst Webber shot through, to capitalize, pushing Rosberg all the way, and eventually finishing just 0.7 seconds behind the German driver. Throw in yet another tyre malfunction, this time on Sergio Perez of McLaren, and the culmination was a fantastic British GP that had it all. An unhappy Hamilton called on Pirelli to sort it out though, and whilst it may well be dangerous, it creates golden racing. With the Nurburgring to come in a week’s time, there’s a lot to look forward to for F1 fans.

Lions Tour

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Now admittedly, I’ve not been following the collaboration of the best British & Irish players on their Aussie tour. I’d seen them blitz third-rate opponents in warm-up games,and that they scored a win in the opening test match, but I wasn’t avidly into it. However, with the loss of the second test match on Saturday, the series is wide open as the third and final match takes place this coming weekend. I will tune in, to see the, hopeful, glory of the team, as they attempt to create history Down Under.

and finally, you knew there had to be some, the climax to the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil

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Perhaps the most strange and bewildering result of the weekend though, came in boring old football. The much maligned, by their own supporters let it be said, Brazilian national team entered the final of the Confeds Cup as outsiders, the underdog. Sure Spain hadn’t been up to their normal huge standards, but they’d not lost a competitive game for 3 years, keeper Iker Casillas had NEVER conceded a goal in a final in his career and…well, they’re Spain, best team in the world! Enter the 2nd minute, and it’s 1-0 Brazil…

From then onwards, Spain were unsettled, be it the tiredness setting in, the loud Brazilian crowd or the shock of conceding the early Fred goal. Brazil capitalized, superstar Neymar adding a second before half-time, bewildering his future Barcelona teammates in the process. Spain’s defending was non-existent, the passing there but ultimately ineffective, eerily reminiscent of the Barca team of this past season. A third was slotted home by that man, Fred again, before a Sergio Ramos MISSED penalty and a Gerard Pique sending-off completed a thoroughly awful evening for the Spaniards. It was like watching England!

Brazil lifted the trophy in scenes they hope to replicate come next summer for the real deal, with more than just hope. They can now BELIEVE they can win the World Cup, given they’ve just defeated the best team in the world.

And that brought the best weekend (week) of sport in a while to the end, well done guys!


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