Novak’s Slump Looks Over

Novak Djokovic is the best player in the world right now, undoubtedly. Since his victory in Paris though the Serb has endured a slump.

His loss in the first week of Wimbledon to Sam Querrey then losing in the round of 64 in Rio de Janeiro to Juan Martin Del Potro looked to possibly turn sour what had been a wonderful year for the world number one.

His victory over France’s Jo-Wilfred Tsonga takes him into a semi-final meeting with Gael Monfils later this week.

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Djokovic is playing well.

Djokovic is by no means guaranteed to win that match as Wimbledon at the Olympic Games proved he is not the invincible player we thought we witnessed at Roland Garros as he took apart Andy Murray with ease.

This US Open has already provided us with what looks to be the end for former world number one Rafael Nadal and one of the most iconic players of a generation, one of the most exciting players of the modern era.

Djokovic will hope to not fade like the Spaniard as he pushes for his 13th Grand Slam title at Flushing Meadows.

His emphatic quarter-final win shows us just how good he can be, form is temporary, class is permanent. And Djokovic has proved just how classy he can be.

Can Murray Win Wimbledon?

The time is upon us to watch Wimbledon, the biggest tennis event of the year in this country.

World number one Djokovic goes into this tournament as the clear favourite having stormed his way to a championship in Paris and looking almost unstoppable. The Serbian is clearly playing some very impressive tennis.

Andy Murray recently won his sixth title at Queens and having been reunited with former coach Ivan Lendl it looks as though the Scottish player may be somewhere close to his best which he failed to look under Mauresmo.

Tennis - 2013 Wimbledon Championships - Day Thirteen - The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club

Andy Murray has won Wimbledon once before.

With Rafael Nadal out both Murray and Djokovic look like they could be facing off against each other again if the matches go to plan. Having said that Roger Federer is always a threat on grass.

The strides both Nishikori and Wawrinka have made over the last two to three years also make them strong contenders. Also Berdych is not to be written off, he has reached the final before. The Frenchman Tsonga has endured a tough year or two but he seems to always step up his game when Wimbledon roles around.

The question most British tennis fans will be asking is can Murray really win Wimbledon? An answer that cannot really be given until he plays. At Queens he looked powerful and fast. His shot speed was a lot higher than he had been hitting for a while and Lendl seems to have had an immediate effect.

His confidence will be high but he will be wary of the Serb having been beaten by Djokovic in Paris. Murray is undoubtedly among the frontrunners but for me Novak Djokovic is absolutely unstoppable, it seems as though only one player can rattle the Serb and that’s Wawrinka.

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Wimbledon is an iconic championship.

One thing is for sure this championship looks to be hotly contested as we hurtle towards the ATP Finals later this year.

Unstoppable Djokovic Claims French Crown

The Serbian champions has finally lifted the title that’s eluded him for so long, heartbreak against Wawrinka last year seemed to lift him this year. He has been unplayable for large parts of the year and Murray was shown this yesterday.

The British number one was sensational in the first set and pinned the world number one back with a powerful forehand defensive game. The second set was the complete reverse as Djokovic settled into his natural game.

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Djokovic after winning the French Open for the first time in his career.

The Serb has a frighteningly quick stroke speed, something which Murray found hard to contain on the clay. A sublime performance at the net whilst also driving the Brit further and further behind the baseline let Djokovic own the court.

Murray is among the quickest players in the ATP tour but no amount of pace over the court was going to stop Djokovic powering to claim his first Roland Garros title.

For the neutral it was a wonderful performance from Djokovic and although Murray won the first set there was no denying that the Serb deserved the victory.

As we head towards the grass season it poses the question, who if anyone will stop Djokovic? Wimbledon looks to be a fascinating major to end the season on and there is one clear favourite of course.

If Djokovic keeps this level of his game up there will be no stopping him when the tennis world descends on London this summer.

Manchester United Preview

Manager: Louis van Gaal
Stadium: Old Trafford
Captain: Wayne Rooney
Top Scorer: Wayne Rooney (14)

Manchester United have kept van Gaal in charge after a satisfactory season bringing the Red Devils that 4th place and a return to Europe which is what they wanted at the end of last season.

Manchester United seemed to have recruited well spending a lot of money on players like former Real Madrid Di Maria being the record signing for the Barclays Premier League he arrived with Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo all of whom played a part albeit some bigger than others over the course of the season. Di Maria went from being the saviour of souls at Old Trafford to the pantomime villain. From 22nd November van Gaal’s team didn’t fall lower than 4th a very consistent performance from the most successful English team of all time.

After Manchester United’s assault on the leaders of the league in March including impressive victories over their 2 biggest rivals Manchester City and Liverpool came unstuck in April as they suffered 3 straight defeats to Chelsea, Everton and West Bromwich Albion which saw Manchester United concede 5 goals and fail to score. These 3 games saw Manchester United fall to 4th behind London club Arsenal a deficit they would fail to recover. Rooney’s leadership over the course of the season has been sensational not just in his leadership but he has also scored a number of sensational goals. The England striker did seem to go off the boil in front of goal towards the end of the season but he still led his club to 4th and the fans have their faith restored in the world class squad.

Di Maria celebrates scoring a goal with captain Wayne Rooney.

Di Maria celebrates scoring a goal with captain Wayne Rooney.

Despite the money spent of Luke Shaw and Angel Di Maria they couldn’t be consistently brilliant, pre-Christmas Di Maria was the hero after Christmas the devil. Shaw the young English fullback was not given nearly enough game time to build on last season where he had a wonderful season for Southampton who suddenly burst into life last season despite the raids on the young riches available on the south coast. The question was would van Gaal spend the money more wisely come this summer and be able to build on the 4th placed finish they achieved last time out.

Manchester United needed a player to step up last season, there was a lot of fanfare for David de Gea who did a wonderful job despite the poor excuse of a defence that he plays behind. Only God knows why van Gaal insists on buying midfielders rather than a solid centre half. My player of the season for Manchester United though has to be Fellaini, the midfielder became a monstrous presence for United in the midfield, directing play aerially or otherwise. A long ball style was adapted by Manchester United mid-season and that really helped the Belgian achieve what he set out to when he was signed by former boss David Moyes. Fellaini is now rightly regarded as one of the best midfielders in the Premier League, his excellent displays of power and aerial ability did seem to fall a little limp as fatigue set in but we are sure to see these displays come to the fore once again most probably over the winter months.

Marouane Fellaini on the ball for Manchester United.

Marouane Fellaini on the ball for Manchester United.

Recruitment of expensive players a theme of van Gaal’s tenure at the helm so far bringing in players like Di Maria and Shaw for inflated prices and the Dutch manager has brought in a fair few players again. Bastain Schweinsteiger, Germany World Cup Winner and former Bayern Munich captain is amont the new names on the United roster. The midfielder brings both experience and a wealth of class, his passing game and organisation are outstanding, his success could breed a new generation of success and achievement at the club. Another midfielder is French maestro Schneiderlin who has been outstanding at Southampton over the past few seasons, key to the success at St Mary’s. The French midfielder made 230 appearances for the Saints and became a club hero, he will hope to repeat that feat in the north west. Dutch youngster Memphis Depay also arrived over the summer, the talented forward is likely to be deployed alongside former England whizzkid Rooney in what is shaping up to be a very deadly attacking force that could rival Manchester City and Chelsea. Matteo Darmian finally a player United actually need came in the defender will provide a solid choice to play in defence to help out the mediocre centre backs at Old Trafford. All their signings at profile as they also add Argentina international Romero to the ranks and after his World Cup in Brazil you can understand why, the shot stopper had been brought in because they feared the departure of De Gea but he’s staying so now van Gaal has 3 international keepers to choose from.

Schweinsteiger lifting the World Cup for Germany.

Schweinsteiger lifting the World Cup for Germany.

The saga of De Gea staying or going took a long time to sort itself out which depended on the future of defender Ramos at Real Madrid. Di Maria is on his way out it would seem as every day he edges towards a move to the French capital to link up with stars like Ibrahimovic and Silva. This is yet to be confirmed but I doubt the Argentine player will be staying in England. Colombian striker Falcao has gone on another loan this time to Chelsea another high profile flop for Manchester United. Van Persie heads abroad after failing to make an impact this season and with the signing of Depay the writing was on the wall for the Dutch international. He heads to Fenerbahçe along with Nani who never really won over the crowd in Manchester. Tom Cleverley has also left heading for Everton in another move for a United flop.

IN: Memphis Depay (PSV Eindhoven, £24.6 million)
Bastain Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich, Undisclosed)
Morgan Schneiderlin (Southampton, Undisclosed)
Matteo Darmian (Torino, Undisclosed)
Sergio Romero (Unattached, Free)

OUT: Robin van Persie (Fenerbahçe, Undisclosed)
Nani (Fenerbahçe, £4.25 million)
Tom Cleverley (Everton, Free)
Angelo Henríquez (Dinamo Zagreb, Undisclosed)
Reece James (Wigan Athletic, Undisclosed)
Saidy Janko (Celtic, Free)
Ben Amos (Free Agents, Free)
Callum Evans (Free Agents, Free)
Tom Thorpe (Free Agents, Free)
Ryan McConnell (Free Agents, Free)

So Manchester United have recruited well and add to a fairly strong squad already. If van Gaal can get United on the right path building on last season is possible however with the way Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea are looking I strongly suspect Manchester United fans will be left disappointed.

My Manchester United XI (4-2-3-1): 1 D.de Gea; NA M.Darmian 12 C.Smalling 5 M.Rojo 3 L.Shaw; 31 M.Fellaini NA B.Schweinsteiger; NA M.Depay 8 J.Mata 11 A.Januzaj; 10 W.Rooney (C)

Bench: NA S.Romero 2 Rafael 42 T.Blackett 17 D.Blind 18 A.Young NA M.Schneiderlin 14 J.Hernández

Last Season: 4th
Prediction: 4th

Why Wawrinka Can Win Wimbledon

We have broken the Wimbledon men’s singles into the final 8, in that final 8 are the top 4 players with Djokovic, Murray, Federer and Wawrinka all playing tomorrow.

Wawrinka may be 4th in the world but with a French Open victory under his belt and that ability to rattle the best tennis player over the last 3 years which is undoubtedly the Serb, Novak Djokovic he has a real chance of winning his 1st Wimbledon title. Yes, grass is very different to the hard courts and clay that Wawrinka has won major titles on before but the grass doesn’t seem to be bothering the Swiss player so far this year. Djokovic and Murray both have been put under huge amounts of pressure.

Novak Djokovic after winning Wimbledon last year.

Novak Djokovic after winning Wimbledon last year.

Murray’s game against Italian Seppi was looking a very different game before the medical break taken by Murray after he lost 6 games in a row following Seppi’s earlier time-out. Djokovic was rattled by Kevin Anderson in his 4th round tie and looks like he could face some stiff competition if he does come up against Wawrinka in the semi-final.

The only other top player that hasn’t been rattled is his countryman and the greatest tennis player of his generation Roger Federer whose grace and air of authority make him a pleasure to watch every time he takes to the courts especially at Wimbledon a place that he loves and the crowds paying him back with a huge amount of support. John McEnroe said that wherever Federer goes it must be “like he’s in front of a home crowd.” Not a surprise when you see the mild mannered, polite gentleman talk to the media.

Federer practising during the 2012 Olympics.

Federer practising during the 2012 Olympics.

Wawrinka will fancy his chances and back himself to beat Djokovic again if he gets the chance, who’s to say they will both make the semi-finals. Nothing is guaranteed that is something we’ve certainly seen so far this year with the women’s draw as Jelena Jankovic knocked out holder Kvitova and Nadal being beaten in the second round.

Wawrinka is destined for greatness his win in Melbourne last year was the start of a surge from the Swiss player who has forced himself into the top 4 and is sure to be a contender at the US Open later this year and of course the ATP Finals at the O2 Arena in London in November. His victory in Paris showed his ability to beat players that would have been well fancied pre-match which saw him make history at Roland Garros. It wouldn’t be wise to bet against him now, in the form of his life and closing in on Federer as the Swiss number 1.

Wawrinka after his French Open win.

Wawrinka after his French Open win.

Wawrinka’s route to the final isn’t an easy having to face Gasquet and then either Djokovic or Cilic depending in that other quarter-final. However I am certain Wawrinka would rather face Djokovic than Federer or Murray who are in the other side of the draw. Wawrinka knows how to manipulate the Serb and really make him feel uncomfortable on court.

Wawrinka has a massive opportunity and this week could define his career over the next decade and which players dominate the majors over the coming years. It is a vital week not just for Wawrinka but the sport in general.

The ‘French’ Way

France, a nation that prides themselves on having that little bit of class, a certain ‘je ne sais quoi.’ A nation that in sport brings the flair, the dazzling beauty, the spectacular piece of skill that oozes not just class but astounding physical beauty and makes any other wondrous moment seem so insignificant. Players from both rugby and football have shown us this outrageous talent for coming up with the showstopping brilliance when it matters.

In rugby France have always been the unpredictable yet brilliant to watch team. They bring an air of confidence that if they play well they can beat any challengers. This was shown at it’s best in the 2007 World Cup, a warm night in Cardiff, the hosts France having been close to their best for most of the tournament come up against the overwhelming favourites a team that had blown away all comers in their pool and blessed by the boot of the mercurial Dan Carter.. and all of a sudden that’s it Carter limps off. France win.

New Zealand fly-half, Dan Carter.

New Zealand fly-half, Dan Carter.

They have a knack for producing the big moments when it matters most, this happened 4 years later. It’s 2011, New Zealand are on home soil, but this time France meet England once again at the quarter-final stage. The Auckland air is humid and France having scraped through the pool after a horrific display against Tonga face an England team that have failed to dazzle yet have scored tries. And from nowhere France produce a stunning product, that is high on power and pace with that little electricity that courses through the veins of a Frenchman, that French way, that touch of Parisian class, that hint of French devil, that one thing that makes France French. France win.

England look dejected after losing to France in World Cup quarter-final.

England look dejected after losing to France in World Cup quarter-final.

France are without doubt one of the most talented teams in the world, they have players that make you stop and take a breath, they make your heart skip that beat, they make you fall in love with the game. Gaël Fickou showed this exact moment that player took charge in the 2014 Six Nations. England come into the game with every hope of snatching a win in France. France are low on confidence after a bruising autumn and there a huge question marks over the suitability of former Sale coach Saint-André. England lead going into the final minute, Saint-André’s last roll of the dice is to throw on the young Toulouse centre. Fickou gets the ball and then it comes as if divine intervention has sparked inside the young back, he skips past defenders leaving the English grasping at air. He glides through the defence with an aura of self belief and the glamour that you see on a fashion runway. He turns past the last defender then comes the roar of the Parisian crowd as the centre ends the game with a flourish of French ability and with such French swagger as all England do is watch the jaw dropping, mindblowing talent. France win.

Gaël Fickou scores match winning try against England.

Gaël Fickou scores match winning try against England.

This year France have had a torrid time after beating Australia things were looking up that was until a week later where Argentina bludgeoned them to win 18-14. France came into the Six Nations and can only manage wins against an ageing Italy and a very weak Scotland. France have always performed in World Cups and that showed 4 years ago in Auckland when they beat England and in the final when they lost 8-7 to hosts New Zealand in a game that they should have really won. The chips are well and truly down for France as they travel to England in September, their backs are up against the wall and once again Saint-André has failed to select the 3 Maxime’s (Machenaud, Mermoz, Médard.) France though have a chance, we know that, we know what they can produce, that fantasy land of daring, that paradise of beauty, that state of untouchable glory. If the French can play like France then they have every chance of winning the 2015 World Cup.

France head coach Phillipe Saint-André has come in for criticism over his selection.

France head coach Phillipe Saint-André has come in for criticism over his selection.

My France XV (assuming all are fit and selected):
1 Vincent Debaty (Clermont Auvergne) 2 Guilhem Guirado (Toulon) 3 Eddy Ben Arous (Racing Metro) 4 Yoann Maestri (Toulouse) 5 Alexandre Flanquart (Stade Français) 6 Thierry Dusuatoir (Captain, Toulouse) 7 Fulgence Ourdraogo (Montpellier) 8 Louis Picamoles (Toulouse)

9 Morgan Parra (Clermont Auvergne) 10 François Trinh-Duc (Montpellier) 11 Teddy Thomas (Racing Metro) 12 Wesley Fofana (Clermont Auvergne) 13 Gaël Fickou (Toulouse) 14 Yoann Huget (Toulouse) 15 Maxime Médard (Toulouse)