January 18th, 2010
10:36 AM ET

Belgians leading the way for Australian Open

So the new tennis season is underway and on the eve of the Australian Open there is so much to be excited about! Unlike last year, the women’s game has a chance to take centre stage thanks to the returning Belgians. Kim Clijsters is a delight to watch and her unbelievable US Open victory helped bring back Justine Henin too.

Justine Henin has looked strong but has much to prove before she wins another Grand Slam.
Justine Henin has looked strong but has much to prove before she wins another Grand Slam.

Henin’s coach, Carlos Rodriguez, recently told us that Justine would take more time than Kim to experience success. I think he’s right. Justine has a lot more to her game than her compatriot – therefore there’s more that can go wrong. Henin is also a lot smaller and much less powerful so hitting hard from the baseline is not something she can fall back on.

On the other hand, there’s an awful lot that can go very, very right, and so, with more matches under her belt, perhaps the French Open is a more realistic target.

Justine’s goal though is Wimbledon, the one Slam missing from her impressive C.V. For her it’s winnable – she has all the tools, especially in the head department, which is arguably the most important department in tennis!

On the men’s side, every Major win for Roger Federer is a bonus from now on but he won’t see it that way, he cherishes each Grand Slam. Every time he steps on court he aims to win – only when Roger is no longer competing for Grand Slam victories will he quit and happily I don’t see that happening for quite a few years.

The problem for the Swiss maestro is that a few pretenders are now contenders. I now see the Aussie Open men’s winner coming from a pool of eight – Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, del Porto, Murray, Davydenko, Soderling and Tsonga.

The main thing that amazes me about Federer (quite a lot amazes me, but I don’t have time to write them all down) is how calm he is about everything.

Saturday was media day at the Australian Open, it is always a complete frenzy, and though I’m not there I can imagine he’s taking it all in his stride.

From my experience, despite the fact he has traveled with his wife and twin girls, he’ll answer every question thrown at him, no matter how stupid, and do it all in a very nice way with very little sarcasm.

That’s why (the calmness, not the sarcasm!) I think he’ll win at least another two Slams this year and for us, the fans, it will never get old. The question is: will he beat the pack to win in Melbourne?

I say yes!

Women’s winner: Kim Clijsters
Men’s winner: Roger Federer

What do you think?

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Filed under:  Tennis
January 18th, 2010
09:06 AM ET

Hot for the Winter Games, but left cold by ice hockey

In the second week of February I'll be flying out to cover my first Winter Olympics and you probably will not be surprised to hear that I am excited about attending. However, as a British sports fan and, let's be honest, all sports journalists are fans too, that is not an easy thing to admit.

Can the Canada Olympic ice hockey team, seen here playing Russia (in red) in 2006, triumph as hosts and recruit a new fan in the process?.
Can the Canada Olympic ice hockey team, seen here playing Russia (in red) in 2006, triumph as hosts and recruit a new fan in the process?.

Though as a European there were the skiing greats such as Franz Klammer, Petra Kronberger and Alberto Tomba to celebrate, Britain's medal hopes in cold competition often melted faster than a snowman on a sunbed.

Britain produced Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, who struck gold and revolutionized figure skating in the 1980s, but also ski jumper Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards, who did not soar into the sky as much as hold his nose, close his eyes and step off the end of the ramp.

That was at Calgary in 1988 – an unbelievable Olympics. Why unbelievable? Because it was the first time Canada had staged the games, 64 years after they began. And because the host nation did not win a single gold medal. I hope the so-called commentator's curse will not affect things here, but I can't see that happening again this year.

And I don't think I am going out on a limb to say the one sport Canada is most keen to triumph in is ice hockey. The men's team missed out on a medal four years ago and it caused a stir, but here is where I need your help dear readers.

I've been a sports broadcaster for nearly two decades and reported on nearly all mainstream events – as well as some weird and wacky ones – but ice hockey is one sport I just don't "get." It's clearly fast and skillful and the players are even allowed to have punch-ups, a bit like rugby union which I enjoy. However, I just can't get excited about it.

Maybe it's as simple as not growing up watching it or that I don't know most of the rules. Icing seems as indecipherable to me as football's offside rule does to my wife. Horse racing used to leave me cold too but a former sports editor loved it, made me learn about it and then I started to appreciate it.

Although ice hockey doesn't float my boat right now it's still the event I'm most looking forward to watching in Vancouver. Why? Well, I'm guessing if the Canadians can't convert me into a fan no-one can.

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Filed under:  2010 Winter Games