ATP

Verdasco falls, Garin battles through in Rio

By Sports Desk February 18, 2020

Fernando Verdasco slumped to another first-round loss, while Cristian Garin battled through at the Rio Open on Monday.

Verdasco, the ninth seed at the ATP 500 tournament, was beaten 6-3 6-3 by fellow Spaniard Pablo Andujar on the clay in Brazil.

The 36-year-old has fallen to three straight losses, the first of which was a third-round defeat at the Australian Open.

Verdasco – the 2018 runner-up – was one of three seeds tested, but Garin survived a test against Andrej Martin.

Garin, who won the title in Cordoba earlier this month, needed more than three hours to edge Martin 4-6 7-5 7-6 (7-5).

Albert Ramos-Vinolas departed, the seventh seed falling to 16-year-old Carlos Alcaraz 7-6 (7-2) 4-6 7-6 (7-2) after three hours, 36 minutes.

Federico Delbonis advanced, while wildcard Thiago Seyboth Wild needed almost four hours to get past Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 5-7 7-6 (7-3) 7-5.

There were also upsets at the Delray Beach Open, where John Millman and Adrian Mannarino were beaten in the first round.

Millman, the fifth seed, went down to Yoshihito Nishioka 3-6 6-4 6-2 and seventh seed Mannarino fell to Kwon Soon-woo 1-6 6-3 6-2.

Frances Tiafoe, the champion in 2018, came through his opener against qualifier Emilio Gomez.

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  • Hit void! Man Utd, Tiger, Serena, the Detroit Lions and others who would like to wipe seasons from history Hit void! Man Utd, Tiger, Serena, the Detroit Lions and others who would like to wipe seasons from history

    Reports in the UK this week suggested there is growing support to void the current Premier League season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    Additionally, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin admitted the 2019-20 campaign might have to be scrubbed from the records, after Euro 2020 was moved back 12 months.

    Although the likes of runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool would understandably despair at such a prospect, there are other clubs enjoying seasons to forget who might enjoy the escape clause.

    With that in mind, we took a look back at the teams and individuals who might like to expunge an ignominious season or period of time from history.

     

    MANCHESTER UNITED 2013-14

    The seven years since Alex Ferguson's retirement have not exactly gone swimmingly for United, but that ill-fated first season remains the real low point. 

    David Moyes lasted just 10 months as Ferguson's replacement as the reigning Premier League champions finished seventh in 2013-14, suffering truly humiliating defeats to top two Manchester City and Liverpool along the way. A wretched 2-0 loss at Moyes' former club Everton proved the final straw.

    At least they won the Community Shield in August 2013. 

    NOVAK DJOKOVIC 2017

    When Novak Djokovic defeated familiar foe Andy Murray to win the 2016 French Open, the modern-day legend was in possession of all of tennis' grand slams. The question was, who can stop this man? Well, the answer was actually himself.

    A round-three exit at Wimbledon followed a month later and, although he reached the US Open final that year, a barren 2017 followed. Djokovic did not go beyond the quarters at any slam that year and reached just one final at the Italian Open, which he lost. Djokovic rediscovered the winning habit in slams at Wimbledon in 2018, beginning a run of five triumphs in the past seven at tennis' big events.

    DETROIT LIONS – 2008

    The Lions secured an unwanted place in history when they became the first NFL team in the 16-game season era to go 0-16. They went 7-9 in 2007 and were then undefeated in preaseason, meaning few would have thought a historically bad campaign was on the cards.

    Detroit started three QBs over the course of the campaign - Jon Kitna, Dan Orlovsky and Daunte Culpepper - all of whom struggled with form and injuries despite the presence of star receiver Calvin Johnson, but worst of all was their woeful defense, which gave up 517 points.

    Team president and CEO Matt Millen was fired after four weeks, while head coach Rod Marinelli was shown the door at the end of the season and has not led a team since.

    TIGER WOODS - 2014-2017

    Tiger Woods' standing as one the greatest, if not the greatest, golfer of all time is in no doubt. By the end of 2013, Woods was standing again atop the world rankings after winning five times during the year, earning the prestigious PGA Tour Player of the Year award. 

    It would take five years for Woods to win again as the American great endured a horrendous time with debilitating back injuries and loss of form. At one stage it looked as though he may have to retire and his world ranking had plummeted to a scarcely credible 1,199th in December 2017. But just a year ago Woods was back in major-winning form as, at the age of 43, he became Masters champion for a fifth time.

    BARCELONA 2002-03

    Years of drift since the 1999 LaLiga title came to a head in 2002-03, as Barcelona endured a miserable season that saw Louis van Gaal sacked as coach and led to the departure of president Joan Gaspart. 

    Barca ended up sixth in the league – their worst finish in 15 years – as the Real Madrid Galacticos ruled. They also exited the Copa del Rey in the first round and lost in the Champions League quarter-finals. 

    After that season, in came Joan Laporta as president, Frank Rijkaard as head coach, and a certain Brazilian called Ronaldinho. And things got a bit better. 

    ENGLAND – 2013-14 ASHES

    England made it three Ashes victories in a row with a 3-0 home triumph in 2013 – the first time they had enjoyed such a run of success against old enemies Australia since 1977-1981. However, a rejig of the international cricketing schedule meant a swift return Down Under. The Mitchell Johnson-inspired hosts exacted brutal vengeance on their way to a 5-0 whitewash as a great England team fell to pieces.

    Off-spinner Graeme Swann retired mid-series and Kevin Pietersen's tempestuous exit from the international stage was set in motion, while Andy Flower – the head coach he despised – stepped down. Of the XI that started the concluding 281-run loss in Sydney, Pietersen, Michael Carberry and debutants Scott Borthwick and Boyd Rankin would never play red ball cricket for England again.

    REAL MADRID 2008-09

    In Spanish football's great rivalry, Real Madrid or Barcelona doing well is only half the deal. Success is truly sweet if the other half of El Clasico's enduring grudge are having a tough time. Madrid won LaLiga in 2007-08, with Barca a distant fourth as the Rijkaard-Ronaldinho era disintegrated under the weight of its own excess.

    However, the tables flipped spectacularly next time around – Barca stormed to an unprecedented treble under rookie coach Pep Guardiola, Lionel Messi leaped from exceptional talent to generational superstar as Madrid were walloped 6-2 by their sworn foes at the Santiago Bernabeu and a dynasty was born.

    Madrid finished a distant second, were thrashed 5-0 on aggregate by Liverpool in the Champions League last-16 and coach Juande Ramos followed predecessor Bernd Schuster out of the exit door.

    PAULA RADCLIFFE – 2004 OLYMPICS

    After setting a new world record in London in 2003 and having won the 2004 race in New York, Radcliffe was favourite for marathon gold at the 2004 Olympics. 

    However, after struggling badly to continue, Radcliffe withdrew 23 miles in and was taken for a medical check-up. She later competed in the 10,000 metres but again retired.  In a tearful appearance on British TV, Radcliffe refused to blame the heat and humidity in Athens and admitted she was "desperately trying to find a reason for what happened". 

    A year later, she was back winning and breaking the world record at the London marathon - despite a brief toilet break by the side of the road - before taking gold at the World Championships in Helsinki.

    GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS 2019-2020

    After a fifth straight NBA Finals appearance in 2019, things went rapidly downhill for the Golden State Warriors. All-Star duo Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins left in free agency, while 'Splash Brothers' Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have been out injured – the latter is yet to play this season. 

    The Warriors sit bottom of the Western Conference and have the worst overall record in the NBA at 15-50. An improved chance of getting the first pick in the 2020 draft is their only solace.

    MANNY PACQUIAO 2012

    After losing to Erik Morales in 2005, Manny Pacquiao went on sensational 15-fight winning streak that established him as an unprecedented seven-division world champion. The Morales loss was twice avenged via stoppage, with the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto similarly dispatched. A mega-fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr awaited, only for the wheels to fall off in 2012.

    Timothy Bradley halted Pacquiao's streak when he was – somewhat farcically – awarded a split-decision verdict over the Filipino great. Juan Manuel Marquez knew all about scorecard controversy from his previous three meetings with Pacquiao and duly took them out of the equation, chillingly leaving his rival face down and motionless on the Las Vegas canvas that December. The Mayweather bout had to wait until 2015, but that is one of only two losses suffered since by Pacquiao, who reigns as WBA welterweight champion at 41.

    CHELSEA 2015-16

    Chelsea won the Premier League title in 2014-15 and 2016-17. What came in between was nothing short of a complete shambles. Jose Mourinho had returned for a second spell in charge and collected a third winners' medal in England's top flight but the Portuguese's famously abrasive tendencies then appeared to wear his players down at an alarming rate.

    Beginning with the 2-2 draw against Swansea City that ignited Mourinho's sapping spat with club doctor Eva Carneiro, Chelsea won only one of their opening five Premier League fixtures. That form was far from a blip and they were 16th when Mourinho was sacked in the wake of a 2-1 December loss to would-be champions Leicester City. Caretaker boss Guus Hiddink restored a modicum of respectability with a 10th-place finish before Antonio Conte arrived and the Stamford Bridge faithful were soon wondering if it had all just been a bad dream.

    SERENA WILLIAMS 2006

    Williams started the year by losing her Australian Open crown with a third-round exit to Daniele Hantuchova, before injuries forced her to miss tournaments in Tokyo and Dubai. Come April, she had dropped out of the WTA top 100 for the first time since November 1997, and it came as little surprise that she competed at neither the French Open nor Wimbledon. 

    After a fourth-round exit at the US Open, Williams ended a title-less year 95th in the world. It meant she returned to the Australian Open in January 2007 as an unseeded player. She won it. 

  • Opinion: Why I don’t miss sports Opinion: Why I don’t miss sports

    The world of sport has ground to a halt thanks to the coronavirus pandemic that been holding the world hostage for the past few weeks. Some of my favourites – the English Premier League, tennis, track and field – have all been hamstrung.

    My Liverpool faces the real possibility that their record-breaking Premier League season could be wiped from the record books and I will not get to see Shelly-Ann go for a record third Olympic 100m gold until next year, yet, somehow, I am not as perturbed as I expected to be.

    Sports have been a part of my life from as far back as I can remember.  Ever since my days in prep school, I looked forward to listening to the sports news on radio and later on catching sports programmes like ‘ABC Wide World of Sports’ on television -“the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” rang truer for me than most.

    I represented my high school at track and field, cricket, football, table tennis and badminton and I faced the agony of defeat more than I did the thrill of victory. Through it all, my love for sport has grown rather than diminished.

    I cried when Donald Quarrie lost the 100m finals in Montreal in ’76 and cheered when he won the 200m. That was my first year in high school when I played book cricket and lined Quarrie up against Houston McTear, Steve Williams, Silvio Leonard, and Hasely Crawford in the 100m in book track.

    Meanwhile, Kevin Keegan, Steve Heighway, Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush were my football heroes, alongside Pele, of course.

    West Indies cricket also became a big part of my life during those early high-school years and I became addicted. When the West Indies were not playing, no matter what else was going on, it was never enough to sate my desire to hear Tony Cozier and Henry Blofeld describe the majesty of Richards, Haynes, Greenidge and company and the carnage wrought by the likes of Holding, Roberts, Croft, Garner and Marshall.

    Sports consumed my life more than anything else and looking back, I wonder why I even attended CAST to study Chemical Technology when sports was all I cared about.

    Long story short, sports was my life and sometimes that can be a bad thing.

    There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

    For the past decade or so, sports consumed my life more than usual. Research, watching events, analysing performances, television appearances, radio interviews across the region took their toll.

    The thing about these things is that you don’t even realise what is happening until something like this pandemic comes along. Suddenly when all the sports stop, you realise the relief.

    That is why I don’t miss sports.

    I have been using the opportunity to play catch up with other parts of my life like bonding with my boys, reading books that I started but have been unable to finish and taking a break from live sports until they finally start again.

    In time, I will miss sports but for now, I’m good.

  • Coronavirus: Wimbledon will be cancelled – German tennis chief Coronavirus: Wimbledon will be cancelled – German tennis chief

    Wimbledon will be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to German Tennis Federation (DTB) vice-president Dirk Hordorff.

    The grand slam is scheduled to begin in London on June 29 but may not be held for the first time since 1945, when there was no event due to World War II.

    A decision on the tournament is expected in the coming week and Hordorff said Wimbledon officials would cancel the event.

    "Wimbledon has stated that they will have a board meeting next Wednesday and will make the final decision there," he told Sky Sport on Sunday.

    "I am also involved in the bodies of the ATP and WTA. The necessary decisions have already been made there and Wimbledon will decide to cancel next Wednesday. There is no doubt about it. This is necessary in the current situation.

    "It is completely unrealistic to imagine that with the travel restrictions that we currently have an international tennis tournament, where hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world would travel. That is unthinkable."

    The French Open, which was due to start in May, has already been postponed until later in the year and it remains uncertain when the ATP and WTA Tour seasons will resume.

    Hordorff said it was difficult to push back Wimbledon, while adding the financial impact of a cancellation should not be too greatly felt.

    "Wimbledon has its own laws due to the lawn and the special lighting conditions. Wimbledon was probably the only grand slam tournament many years ago predictive enough to insure itself against a worldwide pandemic, so that the financial damage should be minimised there," he said.

    "Of course, Wimbledon also has enough reserves to last for several years. Wimbledon in the period September, October, when no-one knows whether you can play, would be unthinkable due to the lawn situation."

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