Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Roddick Re-emerges

For many tennis can be quite a monotonous game. A great deal of people just cannot understand the appeal of watching two players hitting a ball as hard as they can at each other over a net for at least two hours at a time. I, however, have always enjoyed the game. When I was growing up the great rivalry was between Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi who played some epic matches over the years. Following that there was the dominance of Roger Federer before the emergence of the player who will possibly emerge as the greatest of all time Rafael Nadal.

However what I have felt that the sport always lacked was real personalities, which is why I have been delighted to see the re-emergence this year of American Andy Roddick as a real force to be reckoned with on the Tour. Roddick is undoubtedly an outstanding player and would surely have added to his solitary Grand Slam had he not come across Roger Federer on the three other occasions that he has battled his way to a Grand Slam final.

However since 2006 and his last Grand Slam final appearance Andy Roddick has been written off by many with 2008 being one of the worst seasons of his career. In the Grand Slam events he only managed a quarter final place in the US Open, missed the French through injury, progressed to the third round at the Australian and gave one of his worst ever performances at Wimbledon, being knocked out in the second round.

It would have been a mistake, though, to write him off completely, and Roddick has come roaring back this year. He progressed to the final of the Qatar Open where he was defeated by Andy Murray before progressing to the semi finals of the Australian Open, beating defending champion Novak Djokovic along the way.

He will no doubt depart the French Open in the early rounds like he always does, but will be a genuine threat on the grass and hard courts of Wimbledon and the US Open. Andy Roddick is back.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Big year for Poulter

2009 is undoubtedly a big year for many sport stars but none more so than Ian Poulter. If he ever wants to win a major in golf this is his chance.
Poulter is in the form of his life. In 2008 he came of age, and finally started fulfilling some of the promise that he always said that he had. He came extremely close to winning The Open only to be edged out by a truly inspired Padraig Harrington, which was enough to see him granted a somewhat controversial wild card pick by Captain Nick Faldo.
However despite many people’s misgivings about his selection he was undoubtedly the star performer on both sides and announced to the world that he was capable of taking on the best players in the world and winning.
It was about time that he started to justify the hype. Poulter is a one man self promotion machine with his most famous comment being that when he fulfils his potential he will be the equal of Tiger Woods.
At 32 years of age it is now make or break for Ian Poulter. He is in the prime years of his career and with Tiger still feeling his way back into the game after his terrible knee injuries it is now or never for the Arsenal fan.
If he doesn’t win a major title in 2009, he never will.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Chambers deserves second chance

As Dwain Chambers opened his latest can of worms this week with some damning allegations with the serialisation of his autobiography Race Against Me many people will have missed the fact that Chambers stormed to gold in the final of the European Indoor Championship in Turin. Perhaps even better than his victory in the final was his sensational performance in the semi final, which was the third fastest run over that distance of all time.

However despite his performances Chambers continues to polarise opinions. This was no more evident than in the BBC’s coverage of the event. Steve Cram, Jonathan Edwards, and Colin Jackson could barely hide their contempt for the British runner. Considering the BBC’s commitment to impartiality their behaviour was nothing short of a disgrace.

The plain facts are is that Chambers, sadly, is a victim of his own honesty. Had he feigned innocence, like most convicted drug cheats with the normal party line of ‘I have never knowingly taken a banned substance’ he would have been welcomed back into the sport with open arms. Which in 2006 he was. Take for example this quote from Kelly Holmes just after Chambers made his first comeback into the sport before the European Championships in 2006. Talking to Five Live’s sportsweek our double Olympic champion said, “ It was right that he was out of the sport for the time he was, but he’s come back. He’s a great athlete, and we probably need him back in the sport.”

Fast forward two years, however, and Holmes has seemingly had a vast change of heart. “We believed him when he said it was a mistake. That was before it came out that he had taken this drug knowingly. I believed there was a big mistake but then he admitted he had taken drugs. That changes your views about a person.”

But the righteous one didn’t stop there.

“He is being treated in the way he deserves to be treated. He needs to start looking at himself and realise why people don’t believe he should be in the sport.”

It is impossible to understand where Holmes is coming from on this. What she is basically saying is that if Chambers had denied all knowledge of how the drugs had got into his system he would have been welcomed back with open arms. However, because he was honest and brave enough to own up to the mistakes that he made he has been ostracised.

He has been spurned from all the top European meetings and his competitive running opportunities are now extremely limited. Some have said he should have been banned from the sport full stop. This is wrong. Chambers committed the crime and served his time. Everybody deserves a second chance.

Dwain Chambers is no different.