September 7th, 2009
09:48 AM ET

Clijsters's class remains

Since Kim Clijsters made a terrific and much needed return to competitive tennis last month, I’m often asked about the depth of the women’s game. The question is: how is it, that she’s able to compete with the top players having taken over two years off?

Clijsters has shown that form maybe temporary, but class remains permanent.
Clijsters has shown that form maybe temporary, but class remains permanent.

Does her success highlight how the standard has declined?

I don’t think the level has gone down at all, it is just that Kim has adapted to life on tour again, very well indeed.

Let us not forget too, that she has been training since January and it's not as if she had to start from scratch.

If you stopped using a computer and started again in two years time, you’d still remember how to turn it on, how to type etc, wouldn’t you?

For Kim, it’s been a matter of getting fit again – and we’re talking professional athlete fit, and getting in some match-practice. She hits the ball as well as ever, knows where to put it, and is mentally very strong judging by the way she’s been winning the "big" points.

And now, she’s married, has a baby, and has plenty of money in the bank; the pressure is off. She can play for fun – and stop any time she wants to.

Enjoy every minute of her “second career”, as she calls it. I can’t see her staying around for long. She’s already said she wants another baby and when that happens, I very much doubt there will be a “third career.”

By the way, Belgian media are reporting that Justin Henin is close to a comeback. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

Also, isn’t it interesting that it’s no longer the women’s game which is easy to predict, but the men’s!

We have 14 of the top seeds for the tournament making the last 16. Until Friday afternoon at the US Open none of the top 10 had even lost a set!

Austrian player Jurgen Melzer, who lost to 6th seed Juan Martin del Potro, admitted there is a big gap between the top players and the rest.

In the women's game only seven of the top seeds made the last 16.

It’s a transition time with the emergence of some new, fresh faces and the decline of some old ones. Elena Dementieva’s conqueror, Melanie Oudin is a future top 10 player no question, while the ultra-talented Amelie Mauresmo seems to have had her time and is no longer in love with the game.

Speaking of Mauresmo, she’d been included in my current perfect player:

Women's –
1st Serve: Venus Williams
2nd Serve: Serena Williams
Forehand: Kim Clijsters
Backhand: Serena Williams
Volley: Amelie Mauresmo
Overhead: Venus Williams

Men’s –
1st Serve: Andy Roddick
2nd Serve: Roger Federer
Forehand: Roger Federer
Backhand: Rafael Nadal
Volley: Roger Federer
Overhead: Roger Federer

Which players would make up your perfect competitor?

Posted by ,
Filed under:  Tennis
September 7th, 2009
09:18 AM ET

Where have all the F1 heroes gone?

Wanted, a bona fide sporting icon. Job requirements; talent; integrity; passion; glamor; ruthlessness. Must be able to drive. As the Formula One season limps towards its conclusion after another scandal-tinged campaign the question needs to be asked - where have all the heroes gone?

Legendary Formula One star Ayrton Senna sparked worldwide interest in the sport
Legendary Formula One star Ayrton Senna sparked worldwide interest in the sport

In each generation of Formula One there’s been at least one driver whose success and/or charisma has not only put him on top of the podium, but has acted as a beacon for the sport.

As in the heyday of professional boxing, when everybody knew who the world heavyweight champion was, the heavyweights of F-1 once needed no introduction.

Multiple title-winners like Fangio, Stewart, Fittipaldi, Piquet, Lauda, Senna, and Schumacher, were an indelible part of the culture, attracting as many casual fans as serious followers of the sport.

What’s more, they often weren’t alone, as mavericks like Graham Hill, James Hunt, Eddie Irvine, and others provided a fascinating sideshow with a marriage of driving talent and glamorous playboy excess.

We admired them all, envied a few, and maybe disapproved of others, but at least we noticed them, which is more than can be said for today’s amorphous bunch.

That’s not to say there aren’t any good drivers out there. There are. But there is no stand-out talent. No personality.

That’s why the eventually aborted return of Michael Schumacher was so over-hyped. Yes, he was unique a champion, and it certainly would have been good to see him pit his wits against today’s field.

However, it was still kind of embarrassing that his return would have been the main event, because it signified that the championship race and the personalities involved in it are just not that compelling.

So who among the current crop has the capacity to step up? And by step up I don’t mean win the championship, but actually put together a string of performances that make us give a damn in general.

Current title leader Jenson Button hardly gets the juices flowing. But for the controversial rear-diffuser advantage his Brawn GP team had at the beginning of the season, I feel he probably wouldn’t be in the position he is, which also goes for his teammate, Rubens Barrichello.

At 22, Red Bull’s Sebastien Vettel has shown the potential to be a serious player. But, with the best will in the world, his season has been a touch erratic, and his ultimate success is surely in the more distant future, and perhaps with a different team.

Lewis Hamilton? Well, we all know the trials and tribulations the defending champion went through, which is why he’s looked so dejected and demoralized for much of the campaign.

Granted, he’s promising a late season surge, but he has an awful lot of ground to make up to regain the credibility he once had as the bright young thing and face of the future in the sport.

I could go on, but you’re surely getting my drift. Tennis has Federer, Nadal, Murray, and the Williams sisters.

Golf has Tiger Woods. Football has Brazil, Man. United, Barca and Real Madrid. Formula One has...... no-one!

And never mind tinkering with the rules and finances, the lack of a hero is Formula One’s greatest problem at the moment. Because if you don’t care WHO wins, surely HOW they win is irrelevant.

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Filed under:  Motorsport