Wednesday, November 21, 2012

VIDEO: Rafael Nadal back practicing on court after long injury lay-off

One of the happiest sights I've seen in a while is Rafael Nadal back hitting on a tennis court.

I saw a tweet the other day that listed the Spaniard's entire 2012 season in 140 characters. It almost broke my heart. But that's what you get when you don't play a single match since losing the second round at Wimbledon.

It feels like forever since we last saw him compete so watching Toni feed him some balls to serve is 36 seconds I'm so grateful to watch and repeat.

Nadal is set to play either Andy Murray or Janko Tipsarevic in Abu Dhabi on December 28. I can't wait to see him hit and make sure he's really recovered with my very own eyes.

In the meantime, enjoy that forehand racquet speed in the video below... 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

ATP WORLD TOUR FINALS: Day Six Diary - Class act Federer feels for Ferrer

Sport is sometimes cruel and tennis is no exception.

Yesterday at the O2 we witnessed a scenario where one of two players in Group B was going to move into the semi-finals and the other was not, even though there weren’t on opposite sides of the net.

Those two where Juan Martin del Potro and David Ferrer.

Advancing from a round robin group is nothing new to sport but it’s not common in tennis, which was evident in the widespread confusion over the possible scenarios for various players to qualify throughout the past few days.

Yesterday’s schedule however resulted in quite a bizarre scenario where the result of the early match between del Potro and Roger Federer made the result of the night match obsolete, and meant that whatever Ferrer did against Janko Tipsarevic at night only determined the semi-final fixtures, which both players would not be involved in.

It meant Ferrer was the subject of many people’s sympathies at the O2 yesterday especially considering how he beat del Potro in his opening match and fought hard against Federer in his second. But the Spaniard’s fate was decided before he even stepped on court last night, thanks to a determined del Potro.

It was quite a sad ending for Ferrer and even Federer said he felt for him. “I was thinking more about David Ferrer than I was thinking about Andy and Novak to be honest,” said Federer after his loss to del Potro. I really wanted to give him a chance.

“I am more disappointed for him than I am about losing today to be honest.” Classy stuff from Federer who said it was a given he would give 100 per cent in his match even though he was already guaranteed a place in the semis, but he just wanted to give Ferrer a fair chance.

Things took a lighter tone though after that when Federer asked about why Andy Murray managed to beat him quite easily in the Wimbledon finals only three weeks after the Scot had lost to him at Wimbledon. The Swiss response was: “Why not? He’s not like a country club player. He’s very good!” At least now we know that Federer’s got Murray’s back if anyone was to ever doubt his abilities.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

ATP WORLD TOUR FINALS: Day Five Diary - Djokovic has some advice for Tomic

 Photo via Andy Murray's Facebook Page

Another eventful day at the O2 as Group A wrapped up their round robin matches but there was plenty happening off-court as well.

The name Bernard Tomic came up during the Novak Djokovic press conference and the world No1 had a thing or two to say about the young Australian’s ongoing shenanigans – that include run-ins with the traffic police, court cases and tanking allegations – saying Tomic should try to focus more on his game.

“I’ve seen what he has been doing,” Djokovic said with a sarcastic smile. “It’s definitely not the right thing for him at this moment, at this stage of his career. He needs to try to find a way to focus on tennis if he wants to become one of the best players in the world. I honestly think, and he has proven, that he has the ability and quality, he has a great talent. That’s not everything that is necessary for somebody to play this game on the top level.” Advantage, Nole!

Meanwhile, Tomas Berdych directed a snide comment to the Spaniards in the build-up to their looming Davis Cup final in Prague when a journalist told him some Spaniards were concerned that the surface of the court is too fast. Berdych responded defensively saying: “Probably the Spanish don’t know there are some rules that you cannot make the surface actually as fast as you want. That’s the rule of the speed of the court. So the court is going to be (within) the rules.” Well I’m sure now they know, Tomas.

On court, retired former world No1 Juan Carlos Ferrero received a special recognition ceremony from the ATP which saw Spaniards Marc Lopez, Marcel Granollers, David Ferrer, Alex Corretja, Nicolas Almagro, along with Djokovic join him on court to honour the 2003 French Open champion. The screens all around the O2 showed tribute messages to Ferrero, saying: “Thanks for the memories”. Ferrero said becoming world No1, winning the Davis Cup and the French Open were his best memories and that Lleyton Hewitt was his toughest rival.

Meanwhile, ex-Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel made an appearance at the O2 supporting his fellow Dane Frederik Nielsen, who lost his doubles match with Jonny Marray last night. Long-time tennis fan Kevin Spacey showed up for Andy Murray’s night match with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, so did Fabrice Muamba.

Friday, November 9, 2012

ATP WORLD TOUR FINALS: Day Four Diary - Mata and Aguero make an appearance at the O2

Kun - Del Potro from SergioAgueroTV on Vimeo.

Something I love about the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 is how such a huge arena is almost packed to the brim in every session, day or night, from the very beginning of the tournament.

Having 17,000 people in attendance on a week day at 1pm is no mean feat and perhaps that’s why I’m not upset that it’s staying in London for another three years, even though that deprives other countries from hosting the event – countries who could probably use an event like this to get more of their people involved in the sport.

Today Chelsea’s Juan Mata was present at the O2 and he was sitting with David Ferrer’s team. His fellow Spaniard may have lost but Mata seemed to enjoy his time and was nice enough to give countless fans the time for autographs and photos.

 From @juanmata10 on Twitter

British adventurer and TV presenter Bear Grylls of Man vs. Wild also stopped by and he met up with Andy Murray, who wasn’t playing today but practiced on the courts in the fan zone area.

Another thing that makes this tournament interesting is it’s round robin format, which is almost unique to this event compared to others on Tour but it does get kind of complicated when it comes to figuring out which two players will get to move on to the semi-finals because the number of sets won by each player are taken into consideration.

Over the past couple of days, I’ve been in countless conversations with fellow journalists, or even players, who were trying to figure out what needs to be done for a certain player to advance.

It seems that most of the players don’t really care how it happens and are just trying to focus on winning their next match. Tomas Berdych was the most concise: “I hate mathematics,” joked the Czech No1.

And Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who has the slimmest of chances in making it through said: “I don’t care about the different scenarios. I will just try to win my next match.” Perhaps we know that tennis players are not the brainiest of bunches so we’ll have to forgive them if they can’t figure this out on their own.

The day ended on a pleasant note when Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero stepped on court with Juan Martin del Potro for some footy tennis after the Argentine won his match against Janko Tipsarevic. Aguero was a special guest of Del Potro, who also hit with his friend Carlos Tevez on the very same court back in 2009.

Aguero’s tennis skills may have been slightly better than those of Tevez from three years ago but let’s just say it’s good those two don’t need to hold a racquet for a living.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

ATP WORLD TOUR FINALS: Djokovic's "calm mind" helps him edge past Murray in London

Novak Djokovic rallied back from a set down to defeat home favourite Andy Murray 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 in yet another thriller between the No1 and No3 players in the world in London yesterday.

Djokovic, who won the ATP World Tour Finals in 2008, remains on course for a second title at the elite top-eight event as he captured his 27th win in his last 30 matches, showcasing nerves of steel when it mattered the most. “A calm mind always wins. I guess that’s the answer,” stated the smiling Serb after his victory.

“It was important for me after dropping the first set to stay mentally tough and believe that I can get my opportunities and when they came to try to step in and use them. That’s what I’ve done.”

Murray commenced the match in fierce form, serving impeccably to win a jaw-dropping 100 per cent of the points on his first serve and dropping a mere three points on his second.

The Scot broke Djokovic in the very first game and cruised through the opening set without facing a single break point.

“I don’t think I played bad in the first set,” explained Djokovic. “It was him playing really well, serving extremely well.”

The third game of the second set, Murray got his hands on a break point when Djokovic’s shot clipped the net and sailed wide but the Serb responded to the disappointment with an inch-perfect forehand winner that barely touched the line, and the opportunity for Murray to edge ahead was gone.

“He hit a drive volley on the back edge of the line, so what am I to do with that? Not much,” lamented Murray after the match.

Djokovic found his chance in the sixth game when Murray made an ill-advised choice to serve-and-volley on break point down. The Scot’s volley went long which earned Djokovic a 4-2 lead and that break was enough for him to seal the set with a wide service winner on his first set point.

“There are decisions that you make in matches. If they come off, you get told you’re a genius, if you miss them, then you’re an idiot,” said Murray, defending his net approach on break point.

The third set was a titanic battle between the 25-year-olds and saw the momentum shift as many times as the umpire moved his head throughout the contest. Djokovic got the first break to inch ahead 3-1. The Australian Open champion then could have gone a double break up not once, but twice, in that deciding set but some incredible resolve from Murray kept him in the match. With those missed opportunities hanging in the air over Djokovic, it was Murray’s turn to attack and he outrallied his athletic opponent to get the break and level to 4-4 but it wasn’t without some hawk-eye drama.

The tension rose across the full-capacity arena as Djokovic found himself serving to stay in the match at 4-5 and went down 15-30 but a fearless volley helped him out of that hole.

The world No1 then upped the pressure on Murray, who managed to save a break point the following game with a 133mph clutch serve but faltered on the next break point to give Djokovic a 6-5 lead.

And Djokovic held his nerves to serve out the match despite some clever shot-making from Murray, who believes the match could have easily gone either way.

When asked about the key moment of the match Murray said: “In about the last two minutes of the match probably. He broke from 15-40 and then I had 15-40 next game and didn’t break. So that was the moment that decided the match.

“I need to make sure that regardless of how tough a match this one was today, I respond well in the next one on Friday.”

Djokovic, who now has two victories from his first two matches in London will face Tomas Berdych in his last round robin match on Friday, while Murray takes on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who has a very slim chance of qualifying to the semis after defeats to Djokovic and Berdych.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

AUDIO: Becker says Murray has slight edge over Djokovic in London clash

Boris Becker says we should expect another Murray-Djokovic classic on Wednesday, but it will come down to who wants it more...

ATP WORLD TOUR FINALS: Boris Becker tips Berdych over Tsonga

On paper, a match-up between Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tomas Berdych should be a tough one to predict yet leading up to this match, it appears Berdych may have the upper hand against the Frenchman.

After peaking at No5 in the rankings last summer, Tsonga has slipped to No8, retiring from his first round in Valencia with an injury and disappointing against David Ferrer in the quarters in Paris, where he lost to the Spaniard in straight sets.

The entertaining Frenchman may have made the final last year in London, before losing to Roger Federer, but this time around, Tsonga is in the group of death alongside Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Berdych, who owns a 3-1 record against him. Not to mention this is Tsonga’s sixth tournament in six weeks – a packed schedule seems to be hurting him.

So while Tsonga comes to London with several question marks around his fitness and form, Berdych seems to be hitting the ball cleanly, has won the title in Stockholm (over Tsonga) two weeks ago, and is enjoying a career-high No6 ranking.

“I liked Tomas Berdych’s style yesterday,” six-time Grand Slam champion Boris Becker told me on Tuesday. “I wasn’t really happy with Tsonga. I don’t like the way he’s been playing the last couple of weeks. He played better last year, and Djokovic did enough to win, but he didn’t play great. I think Berdych is a step up at the moment. For me Berdych is the favourite in that match.”

The one thing Tsonga has going for him, is that he beat Berdych at this very arena last year in the semi-finals of the World Tour Finals. How much will that have an effect on both of them is not exactly clear but it could help Tsonga play with more confidence.

Meanwhile Berdych could be distracted by the fact that he has the Davis Cup final against Spain in Prague next week but surely the Czech has been around long enough on Tour that he can focus on the task at hand.

“The next match will be really important for me. If I want to stay in the competition, I have to win it. I will give everything to do that,” warns Tsonga.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

VIDEO: Tomas Berdych Q&A live in Abu Dhabi

World No6 Tomas Berdych stopped by Abu Dhabi for one day of promotional duties for the Mubadala World Tennis Championships, set to take place December 27 to 29, and the Czech star was nice enough to sit down with me to answer some questions from his fans (tip: lower the volume so you can hear him properly, apologies for the bad audio).

You can also read more about what Berdych had to say on the Djokovic-Federer fight for the year-end No1 ranking, how Murray's Grand Slam win kind of gives him more hope for his own chances and how he's happy to be back in Abu Dhabi.

Here are some highlights from the 27-year-old's live video chat...

What surface do you think you have the best chance of winning a Grand Slam on?
I was thinking that it would be grass after reaching the final in 2010 but then this year that changed a bit because it didn’t go well not only at Wimbledon but the Olympics as well. But I’ve made the semis in all of them except the Australian Open so it means that I’m quite able of playing on any kind of surface.

Constructing a 'dream' tennis player from the current crop whose serve, backhand, forehand, volley, return and movement would you take?
Serve: John Isner Backhand: Novak Djokovic Forehand: Can I say myself? (laughs) Ok, so yes myself. Volley: Roger Federer Return: Rafael Nadal Movement: Split between Rafa and Novak.

I follow you on Instagram and I want to ask you, what’s with the watches?
Some people collect stamps, and I collect watches. I really like watches, many of them I got as presents. Almost half of them are mine that I have chosen. I’m a big fan of watches.

If you were a footballer, who would you be?
Maybe someone like Messi?

Which player is your worst nightmare on court?
Novak Djokovic (laughs)

We all know you're a top-10 player, but I think you and your girlfriend rank as No1 as the hottest couple in tennis, do you agree?
It’s your decision, and I won’t go against it (laughs).

If you still didn’t start tennis, would you choose to be left-handed?
That’s a good question. Yes I would. If everything stays the same like it is now with me, I would like to be left-handed yes.

What's the greatest tennis match you have ever played and the greatest match you have ever watched?
The Wimbledon final I played, and watched, the match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut from Wimbledon that broke all those records. It was an incredible story and experience.

If you could choose any past or present player as your doubles partner who would it be?
Todd Woodbridge who has a huge record of winning Slams.

What’s the craziest thing a fan has ever given you?
I think this one was a good idea. The first time I went to Tokyo someone gave me an English-Japanese phrase book and dictionary so I could learn some words which was cool.

Here's another video of us discussing Davis Cup, Andy Murray's Slam success and Federer and Djokovic's battle for the year-end No1 ranking.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Twitter says goodbye to Andy Roddick

The Twittersphere said goodbye to Andy Roddick after the American former world No1 played his last ever professional tennis match, going down to Juan Martin del Potro in the US Open fourth round.

A character on the court as well as off it, Roddick will forever be remembered for many things beyond his supersonic serve. The following tributes from TV stars, pop singers and fellow athletes say it all.

If you get Tiger Woods to shed a tear for you, you must have done something right... He will be missed!
Here's his final career press conference from the 2012 US Open.

Pau Gasol ‏@paugasol
Thanks to @andyroddick for all these years of great tennis! Best of luck on whatever life brings you next!

Rafa Nadal ‏@RafaelNadal
Great career of @andyroddick! I really appreciate everything that he has done for tennis. We miss you!

Serena Williams ‏@serenawilliams
@andyroddick I miss my friend already. :(

Dirk Nowitzki ‏@swish41
Congrats to Andy roddick. What a great career. Good luck to him in his life after tennis...

Chris Evert ‏@ChrissieEvert
@andyroddick, you have a great life have good people...the world is YOUR oyster. Have fun, be passionate,be grateful!

Martina Navratilova ‏@Martina
Tearing up watching Andy on Ashe... Happy life Andy!!!

Jack Sock ‏@JackSock
Amazing career by @andyroddick. He was my idol growing up playing in the juniors and will sure be missed! #nebraskanatives

Ellen DeGeneres ‏@TheEllenShow
What an amazing career. My hat's off to @andyroddick. You done good. (Watch Roddick on the Ellen Show from a few years back)

Janko Tipsarevic ‏@TipsarevicJanko
World number 1,Davis Cup Winner,nine years in a row top 10,32 ATP tittles,Grand Slam Champion…@andyroddick So much #RESPECT..

Juan Monaco ‏@picomonaco
Congratulation @andyroddick for your great career and for the great person you've been during the tour!

Tiger Woods ‏@TigerWoods
@andyroddick I shed a tear for you. Thank you for all the years of commitment to excellence. Going to miss it.

Jürgen Melzer ‏@jojomelzer
true champion, longtime friend but most importantly one of the greatest people I have ever get to know leaves our sport!thanks @andyroddick

Zach Johnson ‏@ZachJohnsonPGA
Thank you @andyroddick for carrying American tennis so many years...with intensity, charisma, and grace. Phenomenal athlete, better person.

Abby Wambach ‏@AbbyWambach
congrats to @andyroddick for an amazing career. Class act. #respect.

Nick Lachey ‏@NickSLachey
Congrats to @andyroddick for an incredible career. It's not like he gets to retire at 30 and go home to a beautiful wife or anything......

David Cook ‏@thedavidcook
I'm welling up, watching @andyroddick speak at the US Open right now. Wow.

David Ferrer ‏@DavidFerrer87
Thank you @andyroddick for those years of tennis. He has always been a reference for me. Great player on the court and great person.

Gisela Dulko ‏@gidulko
In tears listening to @andyroddick right now...what an unbelieble careear and personality.

James van Riemsdyk ‏@JVReemer21
Congrats to @andyroddick on a great career #America #Brooklyn

Conchita Martínez ‏@conchitamartinz
I feel very fortunate to have been part on @Eurosport of this historic moment of @andyroddick retirament I wish him luck with his new life

Milos Raonic ‏@milosraonic
Congrats to @andyroddick for a great career, all he did for tennis and committing his life to tennis. I wish him all the best!!!

Gerard Piqué ‏@3gerardpique
Watching Roddick - Del Potro! Could be the last game in Roddick's career! I hope it's not! #legend #USOpen

Anastasia Rodionova ‏@arodionova
It was Roddick's last match...Great player and great personality.. I think men's tennis lost big time today!

rennae stubbs ‏@rennaestubbs
Thank U @andyroddick for always being u! An entertainer, champion, hard worker and friend! Love u! Enjoy your first 18 holes! #socialnet

Marsel Ilhan® ‏@Marsel_Ilhan
We wont forget u Andy. Good luck. @andyroddick

Justin Gimelstob ‏@justingimelstob
Congrats @andyroddick on an amazing career. You've done the sport proud. Good luck on next stage of your life. See you on the golf course!

Ons Jabeur ‏@OnsJabeur
@andyroddick Thank you :) you will always be my favorite player <3

Fabio Fognini ‏@Fabio_Fogna
Thanks @andyroddick !!! Great Champion and great person ... All the best.

Aleksandra Wozniak ‏@alekswoz
Sending much love and best wishes to Andy Roddick for having a wonderful Career and wishing him the best for a new beginning in life!!

Bobby Reynolds ‏@bobbyreynolds82
My 1 and only title was with @andyroddick...very lucky to have that memory. Great career and even better person.

Ryan Harrison ‏@ryanharrison92
Congratulations Andy. It's been an honor to play with you and learn from you.

Monday, August 13, 2012

LONDON 2012: Day 16: Olympic heroes of the day - Stephen Kiprotich and Kevin Durant

Before I forget.. one last Olympic hero of the day: Uganda's Stephen Kiprotich got his moment on the grandest stage of all. He won the marathon earlier today beating out Ethiopian and Kenyan favorites to win his country their second ever gold medal and first in 40 years. His time of 2:08:11 was 26 seconds clear of Abel Kirui in second, with Wilson Kipsang a further 70 seconds back. Can't imagine how Kiprotich felt when he listened to the Ugandan national anthem at the closing ceremony, where he received his medal. A well-deserved recognition!

After he won he said: "If I die now, I die an Olympic champion; I'm so happy!"

Special mention to the Dream Team 2.0 - USA who put to bed an inspired assault from Spain to win 107-100 and take the gold in basketball for a second straight Olympics. Kevin Durant deserves an honorable mention.. He sunk down 30 points today and in the process scored more points in an Olympics than anyone else in US history. He set a Summer Games record with 34 three-pointers, shooting 52% from beyond the arc in London. It was an awesome final, Spain tried their hardest and Kobe Bryant's moment consoling his fellow Laker Pau Gasol was the cherry on the top.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

LONDON 2012: Five things I learned from tennis at the Olympics

1. The 4 hour 26 minute semi-final between Roger Federer and Juan Martin del Potro seemed to have had opposite effects on them. Federer, who came out victorious 19-17 in the decider, was emotionally spent and couldn’t give Andy Murray a run for his money while del Potro, who said he cried till 3:00am after his loss, pulled himself together and beat Novak Djokovic for the bronze medal. I couldn’t be happier for the tall and friendly Tower of Tandil, who is ever so close to recovering his brutal pre-wrist-surgery form that saw him win the 2009 US Open.

2. I think it’s time we really believe Andy Murray when he says he feels no pressure when playing at Wimbledon and that the crowd actually helps him. For those who didn’t find his very consistent Wimbledon results as proof enough (3 semis and a final in his last 4 appearances), his gold medal showing at the All England Club should suffice. What a tremendous week for the Scot, who was finally officially declared 99% British by the very accurate AndyMurrayometer. It took the rare feat of winning the gold and silver (in mixed doubles) at a home Olympics but I believe the Brits have fully embraced Andy Murray. As Boris Becker suggested, should we expect to call him "Sir Andy Murray" soon?

3. Malek Jaziri and Ons Jabeur’s Olympic debuts were historic for Tunisia and more importantly showcased the kind of talent they both have. Jaziri became the first Tunisian to win a match at the Olympics, while the feisty 17-year-old Jabeur pushed two-time Wimbledon semi-finalist Sabine Lisicki to three sets, 7-5 in the third. One thing that would’ve made their bow at the Games sweeter would have been a mixed doubles entry for them but sadly they didn’t make it into the ridiculously tiny draw.

4. Serena Williams made a mockery of the entire women’s field when she dropped only 17 games in six matches en route to her first gold in Olympic singles. She beat the last three women who occupied the No1 spot in the WTA 6-0, 6-3 (against Caroline Wozniacki), 6-1, 6-2 (against Victoria Azarenka) and 6-1, 6-0 (against Maria Sharapova in the final). It’s like the WTA got Punk’d and I was half-expecting Ashton Kutcher to appear from the Royal Box. Of course she got the gold in doubles too with her sister Venus so that the Williams family now have eight Olympic gold medals in their vault. I say vault because no cabinet can hold the trophies and medals won by those two phenoms.

5. Roger Federer finally got his medal in singles. The Swiss said it best himself. “For me, it's been a great month. I won Wimbledon, became world number one again, and I got silver. Don't feel too bad for me.” It would’ve been weird had Federer finished his career without a medal in Olympic singles especially after competing in four of them. But the silver he won will stop us from going there and I’m glad it’s one more thing the 31-year-old can check off his list, right under the entry: become the greatest of all time.

Completely random, but did you know that:

- Morocco’s Karim Alami (pictured) made it to the quarterfinals of the Sydney 2000 Olympics before losing to Roger Federer 7-6, 6-1.
- In Athens 2004, there were three Arabs in the men’s singles draw – Morocco’s Hicham Arazi and Younes El Aynaoui as well as Algeria’s Lamine Ouahab.
- After all the drama from the Indian tennis federation and all the fighting over the doubles pairings, the Indians left the tennis in London empty-handed.
- GB's Heather Watson was upset she didn't get picked to play with Andy Murray in mixed doubles even though she is a higher-ranked doubles player than Laura Robson and had won a doubles title recently. It appears the choice wasn't that bad after all since Murray/Robson won a silver medal. You think Watson would've made it gold? I'm sure she's wondered about that herself.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

LONDON 2012: Day 15: Olympic heroes of the day - Mo Farah, Team Jamaica & Tom Daley

Mohammed Farah... I've never heard a crowd roar this loud at an Athletics meet. But what Mo Farah has done on back-to-back Saturdays at the Olympic Stadium is SO WORTHY OF IT. The Somali-born Brit has pulled off the impressive double winning gold in the 5k today and the 10k last week to become only the sixth athlete to achieve that double (in the same Games) in the history of the Olympics. 

Usain Bolt ended his London 2012 Olympics anchoring Team Jamaica to a sensational gold in the 4x100m relay where they broke the world record to go sub-37 seconds clocking a stunning 36.84s, proving once again that the Jamaicans are the coolest people on the planet. Bolt has now won the 100m, 200m & 4x100m golds in Beijing and in London.. what do you call that?? A triple-double?!? double-triple?!?! Whatever it is.. he's a legend!! Big shout-out to his teammates Nesta Carter, Michael Frater and Yohan Blake. Mabrook Jamaica!

At 14 years old, Tom Daley came 7th in Beijing in the individual 10m platform. In 2009, he became a world champion in that event. And since then, the Brits have been piling expectation on him like mad. He was also heavily criticized for allegedly giving too much time to the media rather than training.

Over the past year, his father died of cancer, he aced his A-Levels and has now managed to win an Olympic bronze medal. This medal is particularly awesome because he came a disappointing 4th in the synchro 10m platform with Waterfield last week to miss out on the podium. After the synchro, he had received a vicious tweet from a random stranger telling him "You let your dad down i hope you know that." (seriously this world is full of sick heartless pieces of ****).

After five dives tonight, he was leading America's David Boudia and China's incredible Qiu Bo by less than a point. The sixth dive was like a round of sudden death and the American ended up with the gold but Daley did what he needed to, to get on that podium. The whole Aquatic Centre went ballistic, David Beckham was on his feet high-fiving his kids and Daley's friends carried him and they all jumped together in the pool. It was the sight of one of the happiest bronze medalist I've ever seen and I couldn't be happier for him.

LONDON 2012: Day 14: Olympic hero of the day - Oussama El Mellouli

Tunisian Ous Mellouli becomes the first swimmer to win an Olympic gold in the pool (1500m in Beijing) and in open water. In fact he was the first to even qualify to the Games in both disciplines, let alone win. He's been struggling with shoulder and back problems but he's managed to win a bronze (1500m) and a gold (10km marathon swim) in London. All I can say is WOW!

A shoutout to Bahrain's former double world champion Maryam Jamal who won the 1500m on the track clocking 4:10.74.

Friday, August 10, 2012

LONDON 2012: Day 13: Olympic hero of the day - David Rudisha

Without a doubt it's Kenya's David Rudisha who shattered the world record with a lightning fast run in the 800m to win by such a big margin that most of the other runners were outside the camera frame when he was c
rossing the finish line. And those other runners ran REALLY fast times, all clocking personal or seasonal bests, or national records. The time run by Britain's Andrew Osagie, who was last to cross the line, would have been good enough for gold at the last three Games.

Rudisha ran 1:40.91 to break the record he had set two years ago which was 1:41.01. The 23-year-old has set the three fastest 800m times of all time. The 800m world record is the first record in the track to be broken in the London Games.

Oh and did I mention that was his Olympic final debut? He's unbelievable!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

LONDON 2012: Day 11: Olympic heroes of the day - Taoufik Makhloufi, Mutaz Barshim, Abdalaati Iguider

The best way to respond to the controversy of getting disqualified then reinstated to the Olympic Games is to go on and win the Gold in your signature event. That's exactly what Algerian Taoufik Makhloufi did in the 1500m which he won in 3:34.08 in dominating fashion. The 24-year-old Makhloufi was disqualified yesterday for "not trying hard enough" in the 800m heats but was reinstated after he provided medical evidence to a knee injury which he says he managed with massages to get ready for the 1500m.

Even if he "missed the withdrawal" deadline like they speculated on BBC, his error in judgement in the 800m does not take away from the months of training he has put in, and his achievement in the 1500m. People make mistakes and the officials decided to reinstate him, so people should really give the guy a break and not rain on his parade.

Some articles about his win are so annoying - implying that his surge this year (which saw him shave 2.5s off his time) is due to doping but I am so sick of the constant cynicism from the media. Unless someone fails a doping test, the media should not be allowed to speculate, like they did to the poor 16 year old swimmer Ye Shiwen. Anyways, mabrook Algeria, the first Arab country to win gold in London 2012.

Makhloufi was joined on the podium by Abdalaati Iguider of Morocco who won the bronze. Iguider won the gold in this year's World Indoor Championships in Istanbul and following that up with a bronze in the Olympics is a great effort from the 25-year-old.

(PS I understand that 2 Moroccans have failed doping tests in these few weeks but that doesn't mean that every North African runner is a cheat!)

Qatar's Mutaz Barshim won the bronze (tied with 2 other athletes) after clearing 2.29m in the high jump competition. He's 21 and guess what?!?! He's actually Qatari, born in Doha. He's a product of the Aspire Academy and clearly they know what they're doing over there. No surprise! Mabrook Barshim, Mabrook Qatar!

Also a quick shoutout to Iran who are picking up golds left, right & center. They have 8 medals in total, 4 golds (3 wrestling & 1 weightlifting), 3 silvers (2 weightlifting, 1 discus) and a bronze in weightlifting. They know their niche, are playing to their strengths & are delivering. Bravo!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

LONDON 2012: Day 10: Olympic heroes of the day - Karam Gaber, Habiba Ghribi, Fehaid Al Deehani, Saudi equestrian team

Egyptian wrestler Karam Gaber proved Egyptians are no one-hit wonders when he fought his way to the silver medal in the 84kg Greco-Roman to become the third Egyptian and first since 1948 to win multiple medals at the Olympics. Since he won the gold in Athens 2004 Gaber had faced many problems, some were of his doing and some were not. He finished a disappointing 12th in Beijing and he wanted to retire saying "El reyada fi masr w khosoosan fel al3ab el fardeya mabet2akilsh 3eish". He said he was neglected from our Wrestling Federation and he says after his family and friends pressured him to compete in London he realized it's the best way to silence his critics. And indeed he came back, 12 kg lighter but just as powerful, to earn Egypt its second silver medal of London 2012. You could tell from his reaction on the podium that he really wanted gold and that the silver is not enough for him. He really has the heart of a champion.

Tunisia's Habiba Ghribi made history for her country and proved her silver medal in the World Championships in Daegu was no fluke when she won the silver in the 3000m steeplechase to become the first female Olympian to win a medal for Tunisia. She ran a great race, pushing the Russian winner Yuliya Zaripova as much as she could and ended up recording a national record of 9:08.37.

Kuwait's Fehaid Al Deehani got over his bronze shootoff heartbreak in the double trap shooting competition a few days ago by prevailing in his shootoff with two-time Olympic champion Michael Diamond to win the bronze medal in the trap competition. Instead of being discouraged from his near-miss in double trap, he stepped up and insisted on winning a medal in London. This is his second Olympic medal having won the double trap bronze in Sydney 2000.

Saudi Arabia's equestrian team clinched the bronze in the team jumping competition headlined by HRH Prince Abdullah Al Saoud, Kamal Bahamdan, Abdullah Al Sharbatli & Ramzy Al Duhami. The Saudis were ranked No1 after the first day of qualifying but even though they slipped to third, they were still ahead of heavyweights like US and Switzerland. The Saudi team had several setbacks before the Olympics first when Sharbatli & Khaled Al Eid got a suspension that was later overturned by the Court of Arbitration and then when Al Eid's horse got ill which ruled out the former bronze medalist from competing. But still they managed to win their first medal as a team to justify the multi-million investment done by the country in the sport.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Bolt, Phelps and Federer... How did we ever question them?

Usain Bolt needed only 9.63s to remind the world how staggeringly superior he is.

Michael Phelps needed 1min54.27s to claim victory over Ryan Lochte in the 200m IM to silence his doubters and sign off his Olympic career in a profound manner.

Roger Federer had to go through two weeks, seven matches and 26 sets to return to the summit of men's tennis and win that one Wimbledon that took him to the record-equaling magic number 7.

It had been two and a half years since Federer had won a Grand Slam and he was one week shy of Pete Sampras' record of total weeks at the world No1 spot. So when he beat Andy Murray in four sets a few weeks ago to claim his seventh Wimbledon and achieve all of the above, people retraced their steps back to Federer-praising land and have gone from writing him off with speculative retirement talk to discussing his next Olympics in Rio 2016.

It's funny how harsh we tend to be on the greatest athletes of our time and it seems that the greater they are, the harsher we get!

Federer did not need a 17th Grand Slam to shut anyone up, just like Phelps did not need four more gold medals to his original 14 to prove he was a legendary swimmer. Nor did Bolt need to shatter his own ludicrously fast Olympic record in the 100m to claim he is once again the fastest man on the planet.

While I'm absolutely glad that they have gone those extra lengths to magnify their supremacy, since it only means we've witnessed some of the most astounding moments in sports history, I wonder how long it will take us to doubt them once again?

I'm not sure if it is the fact that our memory fails us, or if it's just a matter of asking too much of our own heroes but I find it shocking that we ever put such characters like Bolt, Phelps and Federer into question.

Just when I thought the Federer speculation would die down I encountered numerous tweets on my timeline today saying things like: 'But Federer still doesn't have a golden career slam and Nadal does'. My initial reaction was 'what exactly is wrong with those people?' and my second thought was 'will it ever be enough?'

If only we held ourselves to such high standards, the world would probably be infinitely classier.

If we just open our eyes and look at one of those guys' exceptional performances we'd see that their legend speaks for itself. Who am I kidding? The human race lives to judge and as I type these words, millions of people are probably waiting to see if Bolt will win the 200m so he can "REALLY" prove that he's faster than superman.  

Bolt said it best after his 100m win Sunday night:

"I said it on the track... People can talk, all they can do is talk. When it comes to championships I bring it."

LONDON 2012: Day 9: Olympic heroes of the day - Usain Bolt and Andy Murray

Usain Bolt proved once again that he is the fastest man on the planet by shutting up the doubters and the naysayers to defend his 100m title clocking a new Olympic record (which was also set by him in Beijing) of

9.63s. In doing so, he joined Carl Lewis (1988) as the only men to win back-to-back 100m Olympic titles. If he wins the 200m he'll be the first to win four gold medals in the 100m & 200m combined.

"I said it on the track, people can talk, all they can do is talk. When it comes to championships I bring it." -- Usain Bolt after winning his second 100m gold medal.

Andy Murray cruised past Roger Federer 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 to avenge his loss to the Swiss in the Wimbledon final a few weeks ago. It was Federer's first straight sets loss on Centre Court at Wimbledon in 10 years (to Mario Ancic in 2002). Murray leaves the Olympics with two medals, a gold in singles and a silver in mixed doubles (with Laura Robson). Meanwhile Serena and Venus Williams won a record third gold medal in doubles to take the Williams family's total Olympic medal tally to 8 golds.

Honorable mention to: the Saudi Arabian showjumping team who are currently ranked #1 after the first team qualification round. In the individual rankings (after 2 days of qualifying), HRH Prince Abdullah bin Meteb bin Saud is ranked 1st with no penalties, Kamal Bahamdan and Ramzy Al Duhami are ranked 15th with only 2 time penalties. Only one more day of qualifying before Wednesday's final rounds. (photo via @SaudiEquestrian)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

LONDON 2012: Day 8: Olympic heroes of the day - Ennis, Farah, Mellouli, Williams, Murray

Too many heroes today. First of all British athletes Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah both delivered under the pressure of a home crowd to bring home the gold in the heptathlon and 10,000m race (respectively).

Ous Mellouli won the bronze in the 1500m freestyle race to give Tunisia their first medal of London 2012. He's been battling a nagging shoulder injury but still managed to get on that podium four years after he own the gold in Beijing. He's got the 10km marathon open water race on Friday. Double up, Ous!

Serena Williams played a monster final against Maria Sharapova. She completely thrashed the Russian four-time Grand Slam champion 6-0, 6-1 to win the gold in singles, the only accolade in women's tennis she had not won. Serena now has a golden career slam in singles and doubles. She played with her sister Venus the doubles semis after that and made the final. She could make it 2 golds on Sunday.

Andy Murray made the mixed doubles final with Laura Robson and is guaranteed 2 medals. They could be two golds but he'll have to beat Roger Federer in Sunday's final and I don't really see him doing that.

Tunisia's Habiba Ghribi (silver medalist in World Champs in Daegu last year) qualified to the 3000m steeplechase final, Egypt's Karim El Zoghby dropped one rail and had 1 time penalty in showjumping but advanced to the next round.

The photo above is not from London 2012 but from the 200m heats in Beijing 2008

Honorable mention: Egypt's Amr Seoud, the fastest man in Africa, was extremely unlucky in not being able to make it to the 100m semifinals. He raced in the same heat as Usain Bolt. He came fourth clocking 10.22s. Unfortunately only the top 3 advance automatically, and the best three losers are chosen to move on as well. His timing is amongst the top three losers but Antoine Adams was picked instead (he also clocked 10.22s) but based on his faster reaction time. SO UNLUCKY especially that Amr had a very good run.He still has a chance to do better in the 200m on Tuesday.

Friday, August 3, 2012

LONDON 2012: Day 7: Olympic hero of the day - Tirunesh Dibaba

Ethiopia's Tirunesh Dibaba defended her gold medal in the 10,000m race with a stunning last lap where she blew away her competition. It was a no contest really in the end and the 27-year-old has captured the first running medal of London 2012.

Honorable mention: Egypt's Tarek Abdelazim who was one lift away from the bronze but had to settle for 4th place after lifting a total of 380kg. He came agonizingly close to lifting 216kg in his final try to eclipse the Iranian in third place but it wasn't meant to be. He did us proud though with his amazing fighting spirit.

Special mention to Michael Phelps who ended his individual Olympic career with a gold medal in the 100m fly, beating Chad le Clos who had beaten in him in the 200m fly. It was Phelp's second threepeat of London 2012. What a way to end a monster career!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

LONDON 2012: Day 6: Olympic heroes of the day - Michael Phelps and Rebecca Soni

Michael Phelps showed everyone who's boss by winning gold in the 200m IM relegating world champion Ryan Lochte to silver. In doing so, he became the first male swimmer to win the same event in three consecutive Olympics. It was also his record 20th career Olympic medal and 16th gold. The term "legend" is not suffice, I must say. Oh and he also jumped into the pool a few minutes later for his 100m butterfly semi-final and qualified to the final with the fastest time of the night.

Rebecca Soni smashed her own world record which she had set in the semifinals to win gold in the 200m breaststroke and retain her title from Beijing 2008. She won it in a stunning 2:19.59 to become the first woman to go under 2:20.00 in this event. She says her coach used to always tell her, 'You're going to be the first woman to go under 2:20' and he was right. It was her dream since she was a girl she says to break the 2:20 barrier and now she's done it.

LONDON 2012: Day 5: Olympic hero of the day - Bradley Wiggins

British cyclist Bradley Wiggins became only the second man in history to win the Tour de France as well as the Olympics time trial gold. Credit to Wiggins though for handling the pressure like the pro that he is. GB were waiting for their first gold and no one piles pressure the way the Brits do on their own athletes. Oh and did I mention he won by 42 seconds beating the reigning champion Tony Martin? And doing that only weeks after becoming Britain's first ever Tour de France champion is incredible! Massive props to him.

Honorable mention: Egyptian weightlifter Ibrahim Ramadan who missed out on the bronze medal in the 77 kg class in the very last lift to settle for 5th. Good effort from the 24-year-old Fayoumi :)

Special mention to: Egypt's Olympic football team forward Mohamed Salah who gave yet another great performance to help book our team a quarter-final spot against Japan. For the record, Egypt is in the Olympics quarter-finals for the first time in 28 years. It was Salah's third goal in as many games. Let's hope we can keep this up with a win on Saturday. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

LONDON 2012: Day 4: Olympics Heroes of the Day - Alaa El Din El Sayed, Nasser Al Attiyah, Chad Le Clos

Alaa El Din El Sayed: 21-year-old Egyptian silver medalist in foil fencing. He beat the world champion en route to the final where he narrowly lost 15-13 after suffering an elbow injury in the first period. It's Egypt's first medal of the 2012 Games, highest Olympic medal in eight years and first in fencing in 100 years.

Nasser Al Attiyah: Qatari bronze medalist in skeet shooting who held his cool in a nail-biting shoot-off with Russian Valeriy Shomin to win it 6-5. It was Qatar's third medal in their Olympic history and their first in shooting.

Chad Le Clos: 20-year-old South African who won the 200m butterfly gold taking down the biggest scalp in the history of swimming - Michael Phelps... What a day!

Special mention to Phelps who became the most decorated Olympian ever after winning a record 19th medal on Tuesday. His 18th was the silver in the 200m fly and his 19th was the 4x200m freestyle relay.

Monday, July 30, 2012

LONDON 2012: Day 3: Olympics Hero of the Day - Ruta Meilutyte

15 year old Lithuanian Ruta Meilutyte wins the gold in the 100m breaststroke. Becomes first ever Lithuanian to win gold in the pool. She fought off Rebecca Soni with nerves of steel! UNREAL! She is also the youngest gold medalist (15-133) in any Olympic swimming event since Beth Botsford in 1996 (15-062).

Honorable mention to: Qatar's Nasser Al Attiyah. He won the Dakar Rally last year but is also a five-time Olympian in shooting. The versatile Qatari placed fourth in the Skeet qualification today shooting 72 of 75 targets. Still 2 more qualification rounds to go tomorrow so he's not a shoo-in for the final but great stuff from him so far. Rally and shooting... who does that?!?! Respect!!

LONDON 2012: Jaziri and Jabeur go down fighting

Arab tennis received a double blow on Monday when both Malek Jaziri and Ons Jabeur crashed out of the Olympics but they can both find pride in how they fought hard against much higher-ranked opponents.

Who would've though that Jabeur would go down 5-7 in the third against Germany's Sabine Lisicki, or that Jaziri would save six set points against the No10 seed? Well not many people out there, especially with some tweets I've seen today wondering where the country Tunisia was...

It's safe to say they're putting Tunisia on the map with their exploits on the lawns of Wimbledon.

Jabeur may have lost 6-4, 0-6, 5-7 to No15 seed Lisicki, but the 17-year-old Tunisian has sent out a strong signal of her true potential and I can honestly say I can see her as a top-20 WTA player next year.

Ranked 297 and playing her first ever match main draw match at Wimbledon, Jabeur handled the rain delays, the big Lisicki serve, and the unfamiliar grass surface like a pro.

She even held her own after getting bageled in the second set and went up a break in the third set against Lisicki - a semi-finalist in Wimbledon last year and a quarter-finalist in 2009 and 2012 - but ultimately experience had the upper hand and Jabeur will have to wait for her real breakthrough moment on the senior stage.

Jaziri also had a mountain to climb in his second round clash against No10 seed John Isner, who won the contest 7-6, 6-2. The 6'9" American is yet to drop his serve at the London Olympics so it was imperative that Jaziri be prepared to snag that first-set tiebreak.

What really impressed me is how the 28-year-old Tunisian saved all six break points he faced in the first set, especially those on set points when serving at 4-5 and 5-6. His forehand was fierce on some of those breakpoints also displaying the same kind of fearlessness Jabeur has shown.

The second set was a bit of a no contest but there's best-of-three on grass for you. The format is suiting Isner quite well and commentators are already talking medals for the American!

Jaziri ended up with the same fate as Jabeur, but even though the upsets were not meant to be today, I believe they've shown what they're made of  and that they're no pushovers.

They're still a chance the Tunisian pair get into the mixed doubles draw, which comes out Tuesday. Their Olympic dream may not be over yet!

LONDON 2012: Jaziri and Jabeur add Arab flavor to Wimbledon on day three

Tunisian duo Malek Jaziri and Ons Jabeur both feature in Monday's line-up at Wimbledon as the Olympic tennis tournament enters its third day of action.

Jabeur's opening round against No15 seed Sabine Lisicki was pushed many times on Sunday due to the rain and was eventually postponed to the following day as the 17-year-old Tunisian was serving on game point to lead 5-3 in the first set.

When she first drew Lisicki, a former Wimbledon semi-finalist who has one of the women's game biggest serves, I was initially worried about Jabeur before I remembered how fearless she is. When I asked her how she felt about the draw, this is what she said:

"It's a good draw , first experience in the Olympics , it will be good I hope. I will try my best and give more then a 100%."

Their match is rescheduled to Monday, second match from an 11:30 (UK time) start on Court 12, following Angelique Kerber and Petra Cetkovska's match.

Meanwhile Jaziri will get the Court 1 treatment as he takes on No10 seed John Isner of the United States (third match from noon start) for a place in the third round.

The 28-year-old has risen to the world's top-70 and after making his Wimbledon debut a few weeks ago, where he won his first round match, he returns to the All England Club with another win in the opening round against Yen-Hsun Lu.

Jaziri may not be the most experienced on grass (he has one grass Futures title), and Isner has won the title in Newport twice on the surface - one of them only three weeks ago - but  the 6'9" American has not been very successful at Wimbledon, winning only two out of six matches in four trips to the Championships.

Still Olympic tennis with its best-of-three matches are a different story and Jaziri needs to make sure he makes no mistakes on his own serve because breaking the big-serving Isner is going to be a mighty challenge.

Regardless of results, the fact that two Tunisians are present in the Olympics tennis draw, in both men's and women's singles deserves its own celebration.

11 years may separate Jabeur and Jaziri but their breakthroughs have beautifully coincided as he made his first Grand Slam main draw only a couple of months after she won the Roland Garros Junior title last year.

It's a coincidence that has spurred massive interest in tennis across Tunisia, who have only had the now-retired Selima Sfar to look up to in the past.

Jabeur is thrilled to have a fellow Tunisian making his way up the tennis ladder. She says: "It's a good thing because Malek can push me with him to the top and maybe I can help him too."

LONDON 2012: Day 2: Olympics Hero of the Day - Oksana Chusovitina

37-year-old German Oksana Chusovitina (born in Uzbekistan) is staggeringly competing in her SIXTH Olympics in ARTISTIC GYMNASTICS - a discipline dominated by 16 and 17 year olds. She was competing for the German team today (they placed 9th just outside the qualification cut-off for the final) but she individually placed 4th on the Vault and will be contesting the final on August 5.

Honorable mention to 15-year-old swimmer Ruta Meilutyte from Lithuania. She was competing in youth events just a year ago, now she's in her first Olympics and she swam the fastest time in the 100m breaststroke heats. She cried in disbelief after her race. In the semifinals at night, she set a European record by swimming an even faster time and qualifies to the final with a 1:05.21.
Special mention to today's Gold medal-winning skeet shooter Kim Rhode who became the first American (5th in the world) to win an individual medal in 5 consecutive Olympics

LONDON 2012: Day 1: Olympics Hero of the Day - Ye Shiwen

Ye Shiwen, 16 year old Chinese girl who won the gold in the 400m Individual Medley AND broke the world record.

Honorable mention to Tunisian fencer Ines Boubakri who fought her way to the quarter-finals before falling to three-time gold medalist (and the most successful Olympic fencer in history) Valentina Vezzali of Italy.

Egypt's table tennis trio Dina Meshref, Omar Assar and El Sayed Lashin did us proud by moving to the second round, while Tunisian Malek Jaziri won his first round in tennis at Wimbledon.

Not to mention the explosive start from Ryan Lochte who won the 400m IM. No podium for Michael Phelps!