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Murray wins at Queen’s Club

murray

After a poor showing at the French Open, the UK’s best tennis player, Andy Murray, beat American James Blake at the Queen’s Club to capture his first grass-court title. This victory is important to Murray who is a true contender at the upcoming Wimbledon, which is the only grass-court Grand Slam.

The top-seeded Murray became the first British player to win the tournament since Bunny Austin in 1938, who then went on to become the last Briton to reach the Wimbledon final.
Murray took an early lead Sunday with a break in the third game, but Blake immediately leveled with a forehand winner down the line. Both players then easily held serve until 5-5, when Blake missed a forehand on break point.

The second set was equally competitive until Murray broke for a decisive 4-3 lead when a fierce return forced Blake to net a backhand volley.

It seems like only yesterday that Roger Federer captured his first French Open Grand Slam, beating Robin Soderling in straight sets in the final. Nevertheless, Wimbledon is right around the corner as it kicks off June 22nd and concludes on July 5th.

Players such as Novak Djokovic, Andy Roddick, and James Blake were expected to have promising years, but all have trailed off since their performances at the Australian Open. Out of the top-ranked players, I would say Murray has the best shot against Nadal and Federer. He’s fared excellently against them in the past, but is always missing that extra something in a Grand Slam final. Maybe he’ll have his day at this year’s Wimbledon.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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Australian Open Roundup

openRound 4 of the Australian Open begins today. The first Grand Slam of the tour calendar has already seen its fair share of surprises, disappointments, scuffles, and nudity. I’ve recapped the highlights below.

The top-ranked men advance

Of the top ten-seeded men in the tournament, only David Nalbandian failed to advance, losing to unknown Yen-Hsun Lu in the second round. The others, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Jo-Wilfried Tsongo, Gilles Simon, Andy Roddick, Juan Martin del Potro, and James Blake have all made easy work of their competition. Really, things won’t get interesting until the Quarter Finals.

Venus Williams and Ana Ivanovic are eliminated

It must be said that both matches in which they lost have been the most exciting matches of the tournament. Unseeded 20 year-old Carla Suarez Navarro, in only her fourth Grand Slam main draw appearance, defeated Venus Williams in the second round. It was an amazing match and both women gave it their all. Navarro, however, was able to consistently return Venus’ 192 mph serve and never seemed to tire. Williams was on the defensive during the final set and Navarro’s fine shot placement carried her to victory. The crowd congratulated the awestruck youngster with a standing ovation. Suarez has since advanced to the Fourth Round where she will face twenty-first-seeded Anabel Medina Garrigues.

It was less than a surprise and more of a disappointment to watch Ana Ivanovic fall to twenty-ninth-seeded Alisa Kleybanova. For those who follow tennis, it’s perplexing that Ivanovic is ranked fifth in the world judging by the way she played yesterday. Strictly speaking, the Serbian lost because she couldn’t find her serve. It was painful to watch Ivanovic toss the ball five feet away from herself. She double faulted more than a few times and rarely was able to hold serve. All in all, the three-setter was intense, but undeniably sloppy. While Ivanovic made 50 unforced errors, Kleybanova committed 44, 24 of which came in the opening set alone. It’s time for Ana to take a break and try to get herself into the mindset that helped her win the French Open in 2008.

Serbian and Bosnian fans clash after Novak Djokovic/Amer Delic match

Last year at the Australian Open, Serbian and Croatian fans attacked each other with flagpoles, bottles, and boots. This year, the Balkan rivalry consisted of Serbians and Bosnians. After Serbian Novak Djokovic’s victory over Bosnian-American Amer Delic, fans from both nations pelted each other with chairs.

A streaker stalls a Williams sisters doubles match

Although this article claims the gentleman was out there for only 14 seconds, broadcaster Patrick McEnroe has him at nearly a minute. While Serena and Venus laughed bashfully during the incident, tournament officials aren’t taking this lightly. In 1993, a man stabbed Monica Seles on court during a match in Hamburg, Germany. Still, it looks like this guy was just having a good time.

Coverage of Day 7 will air at 7 PM ET and 12:30 AM ET on ESPN2.

2008 Year-End Sports Review: What We Think Might Happen

It’s time to look ahead to 2009 and play a little Nostradamus.

Last year, we predicted that God would anoint the “Devil-free” Rays World Series Champions (ding!), that Brett Favre would play another year or two (ding! – sort of), that Isiah Thomas would be canned (ding!), and that Kobe would be playing for a new team by the trade deadline…

Granted, that last one didn’t come true, but how were we supposed to know that the Grizzlies would trade Pau Gasol to the Lakers for an unproven rookie and a bag of peanuts? Our occasional inaccuracy isn’t going to keep us from rolling out another set of predictions – some serious and some farcical – for 2009 and beyond, including President Obama’s plan for a college football playoff, Donovan McNabb’s new home and the baseball club most likely to be 2009’s version of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Read on, and in a year, we guarantee* you’ll be amazed.

*This is not an actual guarantee, mind you.

Don’t miss the other two parts of our 2008 Year-End Sports Review: “What We Learned” and “What We Already Knew.”

Michael Vick will play for the Oakland Raiders next season.

Once NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell allows suspended quarterback Michael Vick to re-enter the league, let’s be honest, there’s really only one team that will take a shot on the convict: the Oakland Raiders. Sure, the Raiders would have to possibly give up a draft pick because Vick will still technically be property of the Falcons, but with Matt Ryan on board, Atlanta would probably be willing to give Mikey up for a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos…snack size. With Vick on board, JaMarcus Russell could shift to tight end or full back or offensive tackle or something. Or, Vick could play wide receiver! Or running back! Think of the possibilities! The Oakland Raiders will be the most unstoppable team in the league! That is, of course, until Vick gets the itch for his old hobby. – Anthony Stalter

The Nationals and Pirates become the official AAAA teams of their respective divisions.

After finishing at or near the bottom of the division since the franchise’s move from Montreal, Major League Baseball executives analyze the entire Washington Nationals player system and conclude that they have no chance of fielding a competitive team in the near future. In the boldest decision of his tenure, Commissioner Bud Selig demotes the team’s Major League roster to AAAA status, a phrase long used by baseball personnel to describe players that are too good for the minors but not good enough for the majors. In an added twist, Selig designates that the team’s assets are fair game for all four remaining teams in the National League East, as a means of creating parity. In order to keep the number of teams even in each league, Selig also downgrades the Pittsburgh Pirates, losers of 94 or more games since 2005, to AAAA status as well. It will be six weeks into the regular season before an NL East team claims any of these former Pirates or Nationals. – David Medsker

Barack Obama will have a plan in place for a college football playoff by 2016.

He has already spoken out twice in favor of an eight-team playoff format for college football. Granted, there are more pressing concerns for the President-elect – the economy, the war in Iraq and a forward-thinking energy policy, just to name a few – but there’s no reason that Obama can’t appoint a “Playoff Czar” to get the conference presidents and the bowl organizers together to hash out a system that works for everyone. Are the bowls worried about losing money? Rotate the semifinals and the final amongst the four bowl cities. Are the conferences worried about losing money? They shouldn’t be – the ratings for an eight-team playoff would dwarf the ratings the current system is getting. And better ratings means more money. This is something that 85%-90% of the population can agree on, and that doesn’t happen often. Mark our words – President Obama will make it happen, especially if he gets a second term. – John Paulsen


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Will James Blake ever win a Grand Slam?

A recent Deuce Magazine article takes a close look at the career of James Blake. He’s been America’s second-ranked male tennis player for the past seven years. However, he’s yet to win a Grand Slam. In the piece, Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal critique Blake’s game, as well as offer insight as to why he hasn’t taken it to the next level.

James BlakeWhat’s always been tricky in that department is Blake’s playing style. Blake’s A-game is a sizzling set of big forehands, aggressive returns, extraordinary movement and enough shotmaking for tons of highlight reels. Few players in the past 20 years have better personified the notion of a dangerous player. Watch Blake versus the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and you’ll see a man extremely capable of going toe-to-toe with giants. As Nadal said earlier this year after earning his first win over Blake in four tries at the ATP Masters Series event in Indian Wells, “He’s a very difficult player for me to play against… very aggressive player all the time.”

Though Blake is pleased with the consistency of his play in 2008 – he’s maintained a Top 10 ranking all year – there have also been some beguiling losses, including a five-setter in the second round of Wimbledon versus Rainer Schuettler and defeats in finals to first-time winners Kei Nishikori and Marcel Granollers. “This year’s been a little strange,” says Blake. “I’ve had some ups and downs.”

It’s astonishing that Blake used to dominate Nadal a few years back. He also beat Federer in Beijing before a heart-breaking loss to Fernando Gonzalez, which would have at least guaranteed him a bronze medal. At 29 years-old, Blake’s years are numbered on the ATP Tour. Hopefully both he and Andy Roddick will be prepared for the Australian Open in January. As another year goes by without a dominant male American player, one begins to wonder if legends such as Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, and Pete Sampras were just Europeans with really good Yankee accents.

James Blake offers hope

Roger Federer is losing some very big matches. The #1 player in the world lost to #2-ranked Nadal at Wimbledon and today he lost to #7-ranked James Blake in the Beijing Olympics; it was a bad day for Federer and a great day for Blake and the Americans. But Federer’s loss of momentum is not as important as Blake’s win.

The sport of tennis already has tournaments that are much larger than the Olympics – so predicting what players will make it to the finals and earn medals isn’t too hard. Blake’s victory was surprising, as is any upset of Federer. Historically, Blake hasn’t had much of an impact in Grand Slam events, but with this victory, he has won the hearts of a worldwide audience. More importantly, he has offered hope for an American medal in Beijing.

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