Radwanska soars in Sydney; Ferrer struts in Auckland

Updated 11 January 2013
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Radwanska soars in Sydney; Ferrer struts in Auckland

SYDNEY: Agnieszka Radwanska needed eight match points to finish off Li Na yesterday but confirmed her fine pre-Australian Open form by maintaining her perfect start to the year and reaching the final of the Sydney International.
The Polish top seed was well worth the 6-3, 6-4 win over her Chinese opponent and will face Dominika Cibulkova in today’s final after the Slovakian stunned German second seed Angelique Kerber 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.
“I think I was really playing good tennis the last couple of days,” said Radwanska, who also won the Auckland Classic last week and has started the year with eight straight wins. “I hope I can continue playing at this level.” David Ferrer has played six fewer matches than Radwanska this year but really hit his stride yesterday when he swept aside Lukas Lacko 6-2, 6-1 to remain on course for a fourth title at the Auckland Open.
The Spaniard, who like Radwanska will be seeded fourth at Melbourne Park next week, needed just 54 minutes to beat his Slovak opponent and set up a semifinal against France’s Gael Monfils, who later beat Tommy Haas 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.
The fifth seed in the men’s draw for the year’s first grand slam, Tomas Berdych, had a less enjoyable day down at Kooyong where he was humbled 6-3, 6-2 by Australia’s resurgent former world number one Lleyton Hewitt.
Hewitt, now 31 and ranked 82nd in the world, beat Milos Raonic in his first round robin match on Wednesday and his 88-minute victory over Czech Berdych puts him into the final of the exhibition event.
There he will meet either Argentina’s world number seven Juan Martin Del Potro or Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis, who face off at the Kooyong Classic today.
“I’m just thrilled to be able to perform like this against quality players and on back-to-back days,” Hewitt told reporters.
“I’ve had five tough sets in two days and that will hold me in good stead for next week.” Although Radwanska has had a busy schedule, Li was clearly tired after playing nine times in 10 days as well as flying from China to Australia after winning last week’s Shenzhen Open.
The Pole broke on Li’s first service game and rarely looked back before stuttering to close out the match as she had in beating Yanina Wickmayer in Auckland last week.
“It was kind of like a deja vu from Auckland final,” she said. “I’m really ready for the Australian Open. I will do of course everything to win that match tomorrow as well, and we’ll see. I hope to win 16 matches in a row.” Cibulkova added world number five Kerber to her list of top 10 victims in Sydney this week having already beaten Petra Kvitova and Sara Errani.
Like Hewitt, Australian young gun Bernard Tomic proved he was a player to be avoided in Friday’s draw for the Australian Open with a quarterfinal victory.
The 20-year-old came from a set down to beat defending champion Jarkko Nieminen 6-7, 6-4, 6-2 and extend his winning streak to five matches this year, including his stunning victory over Novak Djokovic in Perth last week.
“I’m really confident now, and I got a shot to get into the final for the first time in my career,” said Tomic, who will play Andreas Seppi in the semi-finals after the Italian third seed beat Marcel Granollers 6-4, 7-5.
Frenchman Julien Benneteau earlier cruised past American qualifier Ryan Harrison 6-4 6-2 and will play Kevin Anderson for a place in the final after the South African had an equally emphatic 6-4, 6-3 win over Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan.
Men’s top seed John Isner, who lost to Harrison on Wednesday, pulled out of the Australian Open yesterday because of a knee injury, leaving Sam Querrey as the only American men’s seed at Melbourne Park.
Querrey overcame Canada’s Jesse Levine 6-4, 7-6 in Auckland and will face Philipp Kohlschreiber in the semi-finals after the German beat Xavier Malisse 7-6, 6-4.


Why even the #WengerOut brigade should lament Arsene Wenger's exit from Arsenal

Updated 20 April 2018
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Why even the #WengerOut brigade should lament Arsene Wenger's exit from Arsenal

  • The Frenchman revolutionised the game in England across all leagues, not just the Premier League.
  • After initial success he found the going tough in the second half of his reign, but will still go down as an all-time great.

Over the past few seasons it has been fashionable to view Arsene Wenger as some sort of figure of fun — a man living in the past, left behind by the modern game, but too stubborn to realize it.
In time, though, even the most ardent, frothing-at-the-mouth #Wenger Out believer would have to agree that the Frenchman will go down not just as one of the best managers Arsenal have had, but also among the greatest in English club football.
As with any caricature, there is a hint of truth in the picture created, crude as it sometimes is. Yes, Wenger’s past few years at the Emirates have been painful to watch. Yes, he was stubborn when it came to both activity in the transfer market and belief in his methods and tactics. Yes, it is fair to say he leaves the club, on the pitch at least, in a bit of a mess. And, yes, he should have left two or three years ago.
But if there is one thing that any sane fan should remember about Wenger’s 22 years as Arsenal boss, it is this: He was a game-changer, a manager who oversaw not only a revolution of the Gunners, but also of the English game.
As soon as Wenger landed in England in 1996, he banished Arsenal’s Tuesday drinking club and munching of Mars bars — in their place came stretching sessions and broccoli. Hardly profound or radical in today’s game, but this was the era when change in English football invariably meant no pies and pints on a Friday night.
The technical, passing, possession football that is now the norm for any side with ambitions to remain in the Premier League, let alone win it, and the idea that eating vegetables rather than a tub of lard would help player performance, were brought in by Wenger alone.
He won the double in his first full season in charge, signed unheralded foreign talent such as Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Viera — who went on to become world-class players — and created teams that were a joy to watch, culminating with “The Invincibles” of 2003-04, who won the Premier League without losing a match.
The irony is that the one-time revolutionary ended up being viewed as a throwback, a stuck-in-the-mud anachronism; a manager who harked back to a time when playing with the owner’s chequebook was not seen as the only path to success and when paragraphs were favored over 140 characters.
And that perhaps explains why so many Arsenal fans seemingly wanted him gone: Wenger is not of the Twitter generation, of instant opinions for the 24-hour news agenda and of hype over humility. The man who was once seen as the future stuck to principles that were deemed as belonging to the past.
It is clear there is a lot of bad blood at the club — a ridiculous Facebook post by an Arsenal fan claimed Wenger’s announcement he was leaving made it the “greatest day in Arsenal’s history.”
But for all the bluster and nonsense, Wenger’s legacy will be that of “The Invincibles” — one of the greatest club sides of modern times; of beautiful football played at pace and with artistry; of being a decent, yet flawed, man who was never anything but articulate and courteous.
Having been in charge of Arsenal for 22 years, he is undoubtedly the last of a kind, and in the era of trigger-happy owners, short-term fixes and sensationalism over stability, that is something everyone, even the #WengerOut brigade, should lament.