THINGS WE LEARNED IN NFL THIS WEEK: Wembley woe is no great gridiron advert

How long will Andrew Luck’s happy-go-lucky approach last at the Indianapolis Colts? (AFP)
Updated 16 October 2018

THINGS WE LEARNED IN NFL THIS WEEK: Wembley woe is no great gridiron advert

  • NFL made its annual hop across to London at the weekend
  • Arab News also assesses Colts, Vikings and Patriots-Chiefs clash

LONDON: Gridiron made its annual hop across the Atlantic to spread the message that American football is for all, not just for those who live west of New York. Here’s what we learned from that excursion and the rest of the action in Week 6.

You have to feel for the legions of British NFL fans. Sunday’s match-up at London’s Wembley Stadium between the Seahawks and the Raiders was a one-sided washout — the sixth game in a row the UK capital played host to a tedious procession for one of the teams. The last decent game in London was the Redskins-Bengals tie in 2016. Considering the whole point of the these games is to spread the game, should these match-ups not be a spectacle for the sport? Are the players taking it easy when away from the glare of scrutiny from their hometown fans and media? Whatever the reason, fans on the other side of the Atlantic
deserve better.

At last, we finally got to see what the Minnesota Vikings are capable of. We always knew they had the weapons capable of winning a game comfortably, and it was pleasing to see the Vikings finally put a team to bed. It was a strong team effort from front-to-back, with sublime performances from key players in an improving defense and an offense, led by Kirk Cousins, putting the Vikings back on track as they head into Week 7 against the New York Jets. They will need the momentum with games against the Saints, Packers and Patriots all to come.

How long will Andrew Luck’s happy-go-lucky approach last at the Indianapolis Colts? Having been ruled out of the entire 2017 season after shoulder surgery, his passion and enthusiasm for the game he loves was there for all to see at the beginning of this year. But despite his best efforts in another disappointing defeat — this week 42-34 to the Jets — you have to wonder how long that exuberance will last, forced to carry this extremely poor Colts side and as his Super Bowl dream fades yet again for another year. Or how long will Luck stick with a side that appears to be going backwards since their appearance in the Big Game back in 2010?

The Patriots-Chiefs game on Sunday — one of the best games of the season so far — was the perfect metaphor for the old sporting cliche “form is temporary, class is permanent.” The newest kid on the block, Patrick Mahomes, has had the start to a season rookies can only dream of, displaying scintillating form in the opening five weeks of the season. And yet it was Tom Brady, in his 18th season, who came out on top. While his opposite number ducked and dived out of collapsing pockets and threw the ball from side to side erratically, Brady was a model of calmness under pressure. His final drive saw New England seal the win with a field goal three seconds from time. Classy.

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal into Monte Carlo last eight

Updated 18 April 2019

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal into Monte Carlo last eight

  • Medvedev eliminates 6th seed Tsitsipas in three sets

MONTE CARLO: Top seed Novak Djokovic and 11-time champion Rafael Nadal showed no mercy in dominating wins to power into the Monte Carlo Masters quarterfinals on Thursday.

Djokovic extended his winning streak against US players with a 6-3, 6-0 defeat of Taylor Fritz.

The two-time tournament champion has now won nine in a row over Americans since losing at Wimbledon in 2016 to Sam Querrey.

“It was very challenging to play in these (windy) conditions,” Djokovic said. “Taylor just flattens the ball.

“We had five, six close games in the first set, I just managed to break his resistance midway through.

“After that, things went on my side and I felt more comfortable.

“This was one of these days where you just have to hang in there and try to put an extra ball back in the court — that was enough.”

Nadal repeated last year’s semifinal win over Grigor Dimitrov, beating the Bulgarian for the 12th time, 6-4, 6-1.

“I’m very, very happy, this is an important victory for me,” the second seed said after winning his 23rd consecutive set at the tournament.

“Grigor is a super talent and is very dangerous. It was a positive match for me.

“I had a good day, I can be happy with what I did on court.

“When you don’t play on clay for almost a year, every win is important for the confidence, especially as I’m coming back from injury.”

Spain’s 17-time Grand Slam champion started his clay season this week after missing a month with another knee problem and has title-holder points to defend here plus Barcelona, Rome and Roland Garros.

The king of clay is bidding for a 12th trophy in the principality. His record at the event is a staggering 70-4.

Nadal spent almost an hour in securing the first set but picked up the pace in the second as he ran out the winner.

He next faces Guido Pella, who defeated Italy’s Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

World No. 1 Djokovic will be playing his ninth quarterfinal here from 13 appearances at his home event.

Djokovic turned in a steady performance with a dozen winners and unforced errors, while his opponent committed nearly 30 unforced errors in 68 minutes.

Sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas earlier lost 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 as Daniil Medvedev continued his run of form.

The Russian will next line up against Djokovic after losing to him in January in the Australian Open fourth round.

Tsitsipas was caught on the back foot facing three match points as he trailed 0-40 on his serve late in the second set. After saving the first two, the Greek botched the third to seal his exit after an hour and three-quarters.

Medvedev increased his leading total of ATP season match wins to 20 as a result after he beat Tsitsipas for the fourth time in as many attempts.

“This was a great achievement for me,” Medvedev said. “Everything was perfect today.

“Some wind came up in the second set and I could not get used to it. But in the third, I just worked to put every ball in the court.

“I was pleased to fight back after going a break down in the third set.”

The player who stands a career-high 14th credits his rising form to a renewed dedication to the sport.

“I’ve been working hard for the past 18 months —  since before the start of 2018. I’ve dedicated my life to tennis, which I did not do before,” Medvedev said.

“I had my best season last year — hopefully this year will be better.”

The Russian reached his first quarterfinal at the Masters 1000 level after winning his second match against a Top 10 opponent.

Tsitsipas, runner-up last season to Nadal in Toronto, suffered his eighth defeat of the season against 18 wins and will try and lift his game next week on the clay of Barcelona. 

Italian qualifier Lorenzo Sonego defeated Britain’s Cameron Norrie 6-2, 7-5.