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                           | pdf edition | Saturday January 21 2012                                                Sport
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Andy Murray crushes Llodra at Australian
Open as Monfils crashes out
Murray beats Llodra 6-4, 6-2, 6-0 • British No1 will face Mikhail
Kukushkin in fourth round Page 2



Andrew Strauss in search of cure to run-
drought in the desert
England’s captain had a fallow year with the bat in 2011 but his side
need him to find his form quickly Page 2



Manchester City’s Carlos Tevez highly
unlikely to join PSG
Player’s adviser Kia Joorabchian holds talks in France •
Internazionale and Milan may reignite interest in striker Page 3




Arsenal’s Arsène                            Norwich City v Chelsea                       Australian Open 2012:     Mustafa Ameen
Wenger says missing                         Page 5                                       Tsonga and Djokovic       threatens to sue Amir
out on top four would                                                                    blast into fourth round   Khan over title fight
be disaster Page 4                          Andy Murray v Michaël                        Page 7                    allegations Page 8
                                            Llodra — as it happened
Niall O’Connor kicks                        Page 5                                       Australian Open 2012:     Borussia
Connacht to famous                                                                       Kvitova advances          Mönchengladbach
victory over Harlequins                                                                  after injured Kirilenko   climb table after defeat
Page 4                                                                                   retires Page 8            of Bayern Munich Page 9




guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007                                                                             guardian.co.uk
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Page 2 G24 Sport                                                                   Saturday January 21 2012              12:09 GMT

                                                                      an hour and 49 minutes. There were just no cheap points for
                                                                      Llodra, who was reduced to clowning at the end, powerless to
Andy Murray crushes Llodra at                                         prevent Murray’s ruthless bagel. He finished with a delicious
Australian Open as Monfils crashes out                                lob, a perfect end for a match against a player of Llodra’s
                                                                      commitment to the fine skills of the game.
• Murray beats Llodra 6-4, 6-2, 6-0 • British                             “I’d give him an A-plus,” the hard-to-please John McEnroe
No1 will face Mikhail Kukushkin in fourth                             said later. Murray’s first serve was occasionally awesome, as
                                                                      he hit a high of 218kph and put seven aces past his bewildered
round
                                                                      opponent, with just two double-faults, neither of them costly.
Kevin Mitchell at Melbourne Park                                      He was rightly delighed with his performance.
                                                                          “I came through a lot of tough service games in the first set,”
Michael Llodra, an elegant relic if ever there was one, kept the
                                                                      he said, “second and third sets I moved really well. I was very
faith with his past but found Andy Murray [http://tinyurl.com/
                                                                      happy with the way I moved tonight, because I didn’t move
548xkw] every bit as proficient in the forgotten arts of close-
                                                                      that well in the earlier games. When I move well, the rest of my
quarter tennis [http://tinyurl.com/63kuyy] as he deconstructed
                                                                      game goes well.
the Frenchman’s serve and volley game to secure a place in
                                                                          “There were a lot of close games, a lot of break points in the
the last 16 of the Australian Open [http://tinyurl.com/cquuld]
                                                                      first set. I had to work hard. I served well when I really needed
against Mikhail Kukushkin.
                                                                      it, not so well in the last set. Kukushkin, I played him a couple
    The tough Kazak, ranked 92nd in the world, breaks the
                                                                      of weeks ago and it was a tough match.”
French cycle for Murray, but the Scot will not be worried about
                                                                          Murray’s muscle and aggression, his willingness to seize the
that. Having seen off the moderate challenge of Edouard Roger-
                                                                      moment, looked as if he has been listening intently to his new
Vasselin in the last round, his next French obstacle will be Jo-
                                                                      coach, Ivan Lendl. He is yet be fully stretched but he is in good
Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-finals, if Jo can get past the 24th
                                                                      shape, every bit as impressive as Tsonga and Novak Djokovic on
seed Kei Nishikori.
                                                                      day six. He will need to be so for the rest of the tournament to
    Kukushkin, who took a set off Murray in Brisbane, all but
                                                                      win his first slam title.
burgled the final serve of Gaël Monfils in bizarre circumstances
after three hours and 40 minutes of high drama on Margaret
Court Arena, just as Murray was easing a set and a break ahead
of Llodra on the Hisense Arena.
                                                                      Andrew Strauss in search of cure to run-
    Monfils, who’d battled back from an atrocious start while         drought in the desert
hobbling through the points to take it to five sets, was leading
30-15 on serve when a large tennis ball bounced on to the court;      England’s captain had a fallow year with the
although the point was replayed, the enigmatic Frenchman was
                                                                      bat in 2011 but his side need him to find his
plainly distracted and did not win another. Kukushkin looked
suitably embarrassed. Monfils double-faulted to go out.
                                                                      form quickly
    Meanwhile, Murray was quite superb, winning 6-4, 6-2, 6-0         Andy Wilson in Dubai
— nearly two hours faster than the Kukushkin-Monfils fight.
                                                                      When the top six batsmen suffered such a collective
    There were a string of moments for the highlights reel – none
                                                                      malfunction in England’s first-Test flop against Pakistan that
more spectacular than a succession of them in the eighth game
                                                                      they could muster only 143 runs for a total of 12 dismissals
of the second set. First up, Llodra hit a low forehand winner
                                                                      – Graeme Swann scoring as many, 39, in the second innings as
around the net post that brought a smile to Murray’s face – one
                                                                      Alastair Cook, Andrew Strauss [http://tinyurl.com/75z3kr],
he could afford with such a lead. Llodra had enticed Murray
                                                                      Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell managed between them in the
25 yards across the court after dragging down a defensive lob
                                                                      match – it seems a little harsh to focus on the problems of only
– then did it again next point. When Llodra tried the very same
                                                                      two. But the coach Andy Flower did not duck from the concerns
drop shot off the serve – an audacious statement, if ever there
                                                                      over Strauss and Pietersen when he reflected on the “bit of a
was one – Murray pulled off an impossible get that sent his
                                                                      shock” England had received in their first match as the top dogs
opponent clattering back, but unable to clip the return between
                                                                      of Test cricket, although he remains confident that both can
his legs. Murray held next point to take the set when, falling
                                                                      lead the uphill struggle the team are facing if they are to avoid a
backwards at the net, his check volley was soft enough to leave
                                                                      first series defeat for almost three years.
Llodra stranded at the back of the court.
                                                                          For Strauss a confusing and possibly harsh second-innings
    It was probably the single most entertaining game of the
                                                                      dismissal after inconclusive video review, caught behind off
tournament to this point and brought the fans to their feet, but
                                                                      an innocuous leg-side delivery from Umar Gul, was further
there many sumptuous passagesof play for them to enjoy on a
                                                                      evidence of cricket’s sadistic habit of sticking the boot in.
warm, still night.
                                                                          He began 2012 having been carried by his colleagues in
    In the first set, Murray broke with a gorgeous piece of
                                                                      terms of runs alone through their triumphant 2011, and it is a
athleticism, checking, turning and spinning into a perfect
                                                                      reflection on his qualities as a leader that nothing more than a
forehand down the line. Llodra tried to draw him into a chip-
                                                                      background murmur had previously surfaced about his form.
and-dink contest at the net, but Murray proved his equal in
                                                                          Yet the statistics make startlingly grim reading. He has gone
most of these circus-act exchanges.
                                                                      17 Test innings without a century and passed 50 only once in
    Again Murray broke at the start of the third, and kept his foot
                                                                      his past 12, although his comparatively lean spell stretches back
on the Frenchman’s neck until the job was done. Murray hit a
                                                                      further still – that last hundred, in the second innings against
heartbreaking 48 winners and made only 11 unforced errors in
                                                                      Australia in Brisbane in November 2010, was the only time he
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007                                                                         guardian.co.uk
Page  G24 Sport                                                                    Saturday January 21 2012            12:09 GMT

has passed three figures in 42 innings since the 2009 Ashes.               Now Flower, the batting coach, Graham Gooch, and the rest
Over that period Strauss has scored 1,365 runs at an average of        of England’s support staff have three net sessions – one in Dubai
33 and if two of his 11 half-centuries, at home to Bangladesh, are     on what would have been the last day of the Teston Saturday,
discounted, the tally falls to 1,200 at less than 30.                  the players having been given Friday off to lick their wounds,
    That is a run almost as bad as the stretch of 30 innings           and two in Abu Dhabi after relocating to the second Test venue
without a century he endured between August 2006 and March             following the arrival of the wives and families over the weekend
2008, when he was dropped for a tour of Sri Lanka before               – to prepare Strauss and Pietersen, a pair who would normally
putting his Test career back on track – and arguably saving it         seem to be a classic contrast of low and high maintenance, for
– with 177 in the second innings against New Zealand in Napier,        another trial by Pakistani guile.
having been dismissed for a duck first time around.                        “The clearer you are about your strengths and how you want
    That led to a revival and within a year the captaincy, a           to employ those strengths, the better you are,” said Flower,
response to which Flower was presumably referring when                 confirming that he would be taking a hands-on role with both.
asked directly about Strauss’s form. “He’s a very good player,         “That’s part of my job.”
he’s performed in all conditions against world-class bowlers and
I expect him to do so in the future. I expect him to have a good
tour.”                                                                 Manchester City’s Carlos Tevez highly
    He expressed sympathy with Strauss for the manner of his           unlikely to join PSG
second-innings dismissal, which he believes may reflect a new
implementation of the Decision Review System to reduce the
number of occasions on which the on-field umpire’s initial
                                                                       • Player’s adviser Kia Joorabchian holds
decision is overruled.                                                 talks in France • Internazionale and Milan
    “It’s one of those instances where the technology didn’t           may reignite interest in striker
come up with the right decision,” said Flower, who sought an
                                                                       Jamie Jackson
explanation from the match referee, Javagal Srinath, during the
lunch interval.                                                        Carlos Tevez [http://tinyurl.com/obb3he] is highly unlikely
    “I think that protocol needs to be looked at. You certainly        to move to Paris St-Germain [http://tinyurl.com/5afl73] from
shouldn’t lose a review [as England did when the decision was          Manchester City [http://tinyurl.com/4jsgmx] after his adviser
upheld] because it wasn’t proven one way or the other whether          Kia Joorabchian spent the day meeting Leonardo, the director
he hit it or missed it.”                                               of football, and other PSG executives in France. Internazionale
    But there was no doubt over Strauss’s first-innings                and Milan may now re-enter the market to sign the Argentinian
failure and here he may find some rare common ground                   forward.
with Pietersen, as his own ugly attempt to pull the last ball              Joorabchian’s talks with PSG were the first face-to-face
of Saeed Ajmal’s first over of the match was surely as crass a         meeting between the two sides and it is understood that the
misjudgment as Pietersen’s gormless hook to deep square leg            probable breaking point in the deal is that PSG’s vision of how
when England had already slumped to 25 for two in their battle         they wish to move forward differs from how Tevez wants to
to save the game.                                                      progress his career, rather than any financial differences.
    “If you look at the dismissals, some of them certainly                 The Milan clubs retain an interest in Tevez despite appearing
didn’t indicate being too patient,” said Flower in response to a       to drop out of the bidding to sign him. Until last week Inter and
suggestion that the root of England’s problems was their slow          Milan appeared to be the favourites to land the 27-year-old,
scoring rate at the start of the match, when Pietersen managed         with Massimo Moratti, the Inter president, offering City around
two singles from 28 balls before he fell leg before to Saeed. “I       £21m for Tevez, whose career has stalled since he refused to
think in any innings you’ve got to balance risk and reward,            warm up for a Champions League group game at Bayern Munich
and attack and defence, and that depends on how people are             in late September. That bid fell short of City’s valuation, which
bowling at you and the conditions.”                                    is thought to be closer to £25m, though this could drop as the
    He agreed that Pietersen’s hook looked “horrible” but added:       transfer window [http://tinyurl.com/3e8qqz] nears closing at
“We’ve all made bad decisions. I wouldn’t want to castigate            the end of the month.
him for it. He’s a good cricketer and he’s got two more Tests to           City and Tevez have only 10 days to resolve the situation,
contribute to English victories.”                                      with Roberto Mancini, the manager, confirming that there is
    Pietersen’s double failure in Dubai comes after 471 runs in        no way back for the player at Eastlands. “This is impossible.
his past five Test innings in England last summer, so there is no      Carlos doesn’t want to stay. It is important for him to start to
hint of a Strauss-style slump. But whereas Strauss managed a           play because he is a football player. It is now three months that
half-century in each of England’s warm-up games and looked             he hasn’t played and this is not good for him. I hope this will
in decent touch, Pietersen scored only 57 from four innings and        finish very quickly. I don’t know [the latest]. I hope for him
was dismissed three times by spin.                                     everything can finish very quickly.”
    A captain as thorough and resourceful as Misbah-ul-Haq was             Beyond the Milan clubs, Tottenham Hotspur’s manager,
always going to try to exploit Pietersen’s peculiar problem with       Harry Redknap, is an admirer of the forward. But he has
slow left arm, and although Abdur Rehman did not dismiss him,          stated that Tevez’s £200,000 a-week salary is unviable for
having been introduced immediately Pietersen came to the               Spurs, saying: “He is a special player, the type of player who
crease, he tied him down so effectively in the first innings that it   could make the difference, but I wouldn’t think that’s a real
could conceivably have provoked the hapless hook at Gul in the         possibility.” It is also likely that City would be reluctant to
second.                                                                consider selling Tevez to one of their main title rivals.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007                                                                        guardian.co.uk
Page  G24 Sport                                                                    Saturday January 21 2012              12:09 GMT

                                                                           Wenger said he had no thoughts of revenge for the 8-2,
                                                                       even if his players consider there is a score to be settled, and
Arsenal’s Arsène Wenger says missing                                   he argued, once again, that “big scores have no meaning” due
out on top four would be disaster                                      to their intrinsic freakishness. Arsenal, he recalled, had played
                                                                       for their lives in 33C heat away to Udinese, in the Champions
• Wenger wants to ‘play with the best’ in                              League play-off, four days before facing United, and a patched-
Champions League • Thomas Vermaelen                                    up squad had been “dead” at Old Trafford.
                                                                           “When young managers ask for advice, it is always to survive
may be fit to face Manchester United
                                                                       big disappointments,” Wenger said. “Our job is up and down.
David Hytner                                                           The ups are easier but you have to go, as well, to some big hits
                                                                       and disappointments.”
Arsène Wenger [http://tinyurl.com/5kg6f5] is going mad. At
                                                                           Wenger has taken plenty of them this season and, from the
least, that was the conclusion he reached when asked how
                                                                       back foot, he hopes that his players can punch past United.
Premier League managers kept their sanity. “I don’t stay sane,”
                                                                       “I am on earth to try and win games,” Wenger said. He sorely
he said, with a smile.
                                                                       needs a tonic on Sunday.
   There is plenty to trouble Arsenal [http://tinyurl.com/
3fh47r]’s enduringly quotable manager as he prepares to face
Manchester United for the first time since the 8-2 defeat at the
start of the season and it goes beyond the terrifying image he
                                                                       Niall O’Connor kicks Connacht to
raised of Sir Alex Ferguson, aged 100, still chewing gum and           famous victory over Harlequins
pointing at his watch in the Old Trafford dug-out. “He will
manage until he dies,” Wenger said. “And I think he will be            Connacht 9-8 Harlequins
100.”
                                                                       Paul Rees
   Wenger was not looking forward to his pre-match press
conference. Never mind the inevitable and painful rewind of            Connacht [http://tinyurl.com/dy4fbp]’s first victory in four
the humbling in August, there was also the matter of the back-         months left Harlequins [http://tinyurl.com/4v4goa] on the
to-back league defeats at Fulham and Swansea City, which have          verge of being eliminated from the Heineken Cup [http://
left his team four points off the Champions League pace.               tinyurl.com/dbkg8x]. The Premiership leaders need results in
   “For me, not making the top four would be a disaster,”              two groups this weekend to go their way to qualify for the last
Wenger admitted. “Because I want to play with the best. We             eight as one of the best runners-up after failing to capitalise on
want to play in the Champions League and anything else would           Toulouse’s defeat at Gloucester and blowing the use of a gale in
not be good enough.” The thought occurred that Wenger had              the second half when they scored a mere three points.
said, last November, that he would consider his position at the           Quins opted to play into the strong wind in the first half,
end of the season if he felt he had failed to get the maximum          keeping hold of the ball rather than kicking, but the ploy
out of the team.                                                       became increasingly hazardous with the rain prompting a
   Wenger sounded embattled and, at times, paranoid as he              number of handling errors.
chronicled his gripes. He suggested he would miss 12 players for          Connacht were an attacking threat only towards the end of
United’s visit, six of them members of what may be considered          the first period, but they were handed six points in the opening
his best XI: Bacary Sagna, Thomas Vermaelen, André Santos,             12 minutes when James Johnston twice slipped his binding in
Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere and Gervinho. Vermaelen, though,           a dominant scrum and Niall O’Connor mastered the swirling
could yet feature. “We are in a worse situation than anyone on         wind to kick two penalties.
the injury front,” Wenger said, although he insisted that he              In between, Sam Smith scored a smart try for Quins. The
would not be active in the January market.                             Premiership leaders took play through eight phases before Nick
   He repeated his criticisms of the referees from the Fulham          Evans looped around Jordan Turner-Hall, and although the fly-
and Swansea games and there was another mention for the                half’s long pass forced Smith to take the ball standing still, the
Swedish academic whose report on last season concluded                 wing stepped away from Fetu’u Vainikolo and touched the ball
that Arsenal had been wronged by more bad decisions than               down an instant before being tackled into touch in goal.
any other team. “In the last six months of last season, what              Quins were dominating possession, but they wasted a scrum
happened to us was unbelievable,” Wenger said. “I think if one         five when an Evans fumble allowed Connacht to hoof the ball
team has been done badly recently, it’s Arsenal.                       upfield. Danny Care was also hustled out of possession and
   “If [Robert] Pires once dived against Portsmouth ... OK, for        Connacht, who had lost their previous 14 matches since beating
six months, it was a story in the newspapers. [Nathan] Dyer            Newport Gwent Dragons back in September, tried to make play
dived on Sunday to win a penalty for Swansea and nobody said           scrappy.
a word. If it doesn’t matter when Dyer dives, why does it matter          The home side led 9-5 at the interval when O’Connor
when Pires dives?”                                                     converted Tomas Vallejos’s indiscretion at a breakdown into
   It has taken Wenger eight years and four months to admit            three points but the fly-half missed his least difficult penalty of
Pires dived to win the penalty that earned the 1-1 home draw           the half shortly before the break after Chris Robshaw played the
with Portsmouth at the beginning of the Invincibles season.            ball in an offside position near his own line.
Only joking, Arsène. But the pesky press are getting under                Quins used the wind to peg back Connacht and opted for
his skin. “In the press,” he said, “you are educated to see            scrums after being awarded two kickable penalties on 49
everything in black. You reflect the fans’ fear but you create it as   minutes. The ploy came to nothing but for all the turnovers
well.”                                                                 the home side forced, they could not get out of their own half
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007                                                                          guardian.co.uk
Page  G24 Sport                                                                 Saturday January 21 2012              12:09 GMT

with relieving kicks held up in the wind. It took Connacht 17
minutes of the second half to get into Quins’ territory. Luke
Wallace, who had come on for the injured Maurie Fa’asavalu,
                                                                    Andy Murray v Michaël Llodra — as it
was penalised for holding on, but the raid lasted seconds before    happened
the ball was turned over and kicked downfield.
    Evans kicked a penalty on the hour after the outstanding        Andy Murray won 6-4, 6-2, 6-0 to move into
John Muldoon was caught offside, but Quins missed the chance        the fourth round of the Australian Open
to regain the lead when Evans hooked another penalty from a
scrum and they were nine minutes away from a shock defeat.          Jacob Steinberg
    “It’s hard to put into words how disappointed we are, it’s      Morning. Baddiel and Skinner said it best: we still believe. We
a very low point,” admitted captain Chris Robshaw. “We’re           have to with Andy Murray, or else there’s no point any more,
going to have to console ourselves tonight, look back on the        especially not at this hour. As each grand slam comes and goes,
video and hope that someone else slips up along the line. No        it gets harder and harder to keep the faith that he’ll finally win
one was complacent. We wanted to be in the knockout stages.         one, but we must; it’s the national identity. There are several
Obviously we’ll see where things end up on Sunday night, but        stages in an Andy Murray grand slam adventure. It starts out
in all honesty we probably will be back in the Amlin [defending     with optimism, which only grows as he trundles through the
the title we won last year].”                                       rounds, eventually reaching the semi-final or final. Once he’s
    Connacht Duffy; Vainikolo, Tonetti, Fa’afili; O’Halloran;       there, the optimism dissipates, to be replaced by a knowing
O’Connor, O’Donohoe; Wilkinson (Buckley, 68), Flavin                resignation that he will be defeated by one of three players
(Reynecke, 58), Loughney (Rogers, 77), Swift, McCarthy,             who are currently redefining what it means to be at the top
Muldoon, Ofisa, Naoupu.                                             of this sport. During that match, it’s desperation; afterwards
    Pens O’Connor 3                                                 it’s depression, before we lash out, calling Murray a bottle-job
    Harlequins Brown; Monye, Hopper, Turner-Hall (Casson,           despite being the fourth-best at what he does in the world. How
80), Smith; Evans, Care; Marler (Lambert, 72), Brooker (Gray,       many of his critics can say that without being laughed out of the
62), Johnston, Vallejos (Kohn, 48), Robson, Faasavalu (Wallace,     room?
h-t), Robshaw, Easter.                                                  We are, of course, in the first stage at the moment, optimism
    Try Smith Pen Evans                                             with a dash of doubt — or perhaps let’s just call it reality
    Referee N Owens (Wales) Attendence 5,420.                       — floating around in the background. Murray has progressed
                                                                    relatively serenely through the first two rounds, save for a first-
                                                                    set wobble against Ryan Harrison in his first match. He came
Norwich City v Chelsea                                              back to win that in four sets and afterwards admitted to being
                                                                    nervous, before seeing off Edouard Roger-Vasselin. It’s another
• Turn on our auto-refresh tool for the                             Frenchman for him today, the wacky Michael Llodra (it appears
latest updates • Email scott.murray@                                every mention of him must be prefaced by wacky). The 31-year-
                                                                    old is a serve-and-volley left-hander — awkward, but nothing
guardian.co.uk with your thoughts • Click
                                                                    that should present too much of a problem for Murray. Indeed
here to find out the latest scores • Find out                       he has won his last 12 grand slam matches against French
the latest standings in our stats centre                            opponents. Overall it is 13-3 in his favour. Allez!
Scott Murray                                                            Murray has had something of a love-hate relationship with
                                                                    the Australian Open these last few years. Along with the US
Scott will be here from 12.15pm. Until then why not read some       Open it is the closest he has come to winning a slam, the Scot
quotes from Gary Cahill?                                            having made the final in the last two years. But those have been
    Gary Cahill has accepted that his form for Bolton this season   unhappy experiences. First there were tears after a thrashing
was patchy, but insists his best years are to come following a      by Roger Federer in 2010 and then he found himself helpless
£7m transfer to Chelsea, which was completed on Monday.             against Novak Djokovic’s surgically neat hitting from the back
The 26-year-old has been included in the squad for Saturday’s       of the court. Forget about us believing; all that matters is that
Premier League match against Norwich.                               Murray does too. The players are due on court at: 8am GMT.
    The England centre-back admits he struggled in a Bolton             On court right now, Gael Monfils is two sets down to Mikhail
team locked in a battle against relegation, but has taken comfort   Kukushkin. They’re level in the third. The winner of this match
from his international performances.                                will play Murray if he goes through.
    “My form this season has been bit of a rollercoaster, but           It’s Saturday morning. So.
overall I’ve been pleased with the way I’ve been playing,” he           Kukushkin is now serving for the match at 5-4 after breaking
said. “For England I’ve been really pleased, whereas for Bolton     Monfils. The fourth round beckons. Monfils is too inconsistent,
it started dodgily before coming into my own over the last          even during isolated points.
couple of months.                                                       Monfils has broken back! Kukushkin wastes the chance to
    “By joining Chelsea from Bolton I’m jumping from one scale      seal the match. It’s 5-5.
to another scale and hopefully having fantastic players around          I hear the players are out on court. One problem: Eurosport
me will make my job easier. I’ve come from a team that is under     are showing the Monfils-Kukushkin game. There’s the potential
a lot of pressure and doesn’t have too much of the ball, and I’m    for high farce here.
not being disrespectful.                                                If they don’t change it to Murray in time, I’m going to listen
    To continue reading click here [http://tinyurl.com/6pvlxzf].    to it on the radio. It’s too early for Eurosport to be testing me
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007                                                                      guardian.co.uk
Page  G24 Sport                                                                   Saturday January 21 2012              12:09 GMT

like this.                                                           he was trying to do there. Llodra recovers to take a 40-30 lead
    Right! They’re starting! And I’m listening to it on the radio.   though, and then sends a serve out wide which Murray can only
Thank you, my Eurosport! Llodra’s serving first apparently.          put it into the net.
    First set: Murray 0-1 Llodra* (*denotes server): I don’t             First set: Murray* 5-3 Llodra: Llodra races into the net to put
deserve this on a Saturday morning. I was up at 6am. For those       pressure on Murray, who sends two backhands well wide at the
of you telling me it’s on Eurosport 2, we don’t have that in here.   start of the game. Murray’s in a spot of bother at 0-30 down,
Five Live it is for the time being. Murray quickly earns two         and though he wins the next point, more wayward hitting gives
break points, but Llodra saves them both, the second with an         Llodra yet another opportunity to break. This is really sloppy.
ace. Llodra then has to salvage another break point — it sounds      Excellent serving from Murray brings it back to deuce however.
like a good start from Murray here, though that’s an educated        The pair then engage in some shenanigans at the net and
guess. A lob from Murray then lands long, and Llodra holds.          remarkably Llodra, who can’t resist the cute drop-shots, comes
    First set: Murray* 1-1 Llodra: If you spot a mushroom cloud      out on top to earn a third break point. Maybe this time? Maybe?
in the Kings Cross area, that’s just from the smoke coming out       No. Ace. Llodra then sends two returns into the net, and now
of my ears. Eurosport have offered a quick split-screen glimpse      has to serve to stay in the set. “This Eurosport fiasco looks like it
of the Murray game, but they’re just teasing, the wretches.          could be driving you to a Scott Murray Moment [http://tinyurl.
Murray holds to love.                                                com/b99dpf],” says Ben Monk.
    First set: Murray 2-1 Llodra*: A terrific passing shot from          First set: Murray 5-4 Llodra*: Llodra has a good eye for the
Murray, I hear. Probably the best one he’s ever hit WHY WON’T        challenge it seems. He’s already won two. He’s not too bad
YOU PUT THE GAME ON EUROSPORT and Llodra is struggling               at the net either, and somehow manages to volley a Murray
on his serve. Murray’s quickly 0-30 up PUT THE GAME ON               backhand that looked certain to be a winner back into the
EUROSPORT and then Llodra puts a volley into the net to give         open court to take a 30-15 lead. Encouraged by that, he wins
the Scot three break points DON’T MAKE ME COME DOWN                  the next two points — and with it, the game — by coming into
THERE EUROSPORT I DON’T CARE IF IT’S ON EUROSPORT                    net, wrapping it up with a smash after Murray had looped
2 WE DON’T HAVE EUROSPORT 2 AS FAR AS I CAN SEE AND                  a defensive shot back at him. Llodra’s hanging in there, but
I WAS UP AT 6AM FOR THIS, NEED I REMIND YOU. Ahem.                   now he has to break Murray. “’Llodra tries a tweener...he’s so
Murray fires the second break point down the line, and Llodra        wacky’?” Mac Millings quotes back at me. “I don’t get it. He
has no reply.                                                        tried hitting the ball with a 10-12 year old instead of a raquet?
    First set: Murray* 3-1 Llodra: Llodra tries a tweener, but       That IS pretty strange.”
it’s into the net. He’s so wacky. Murray offers up a chance              Murray wins the first set 6-4: A pinpoint backhand and an
for Llodra to break back with a double fault, but a timely ace       ace from Murray bring up three set points, but what follows
rescues the situation. An ace from Murray closes out the game        is in keeping with this mixed first set. He wastes the first two
– this one doesn’t look to be a testing examination for him.         opportunities, and then, when he should seal it, cracks an
I say look. I mean sound. “I share your pain, watching on            overhead backhand volley into the net. That’s a bad miss. He
Swedish Eurosport who are also showing Monfils the diva fool         recovers quickly though, earning another set point, and strong
everyone,” says Simon Thorley.                                       hitting from Murray gives him the chance to pick Llodra off with
    First set: Murray 3-2 Llodra*: I’m now watching the match,       a trademark backhand into the left corner.
but not on Eurosport. Here we go. All is well in the world. I’m          Second set: Murray 6-4, 1-0 Llodra*: What a way to start the
there in time to see Murray, scampering across the baseline,         second set from Murray. At 15-30, he casually whips a two-
whip a backhand into the net. Llodra then gets away with one,        handed backhand from left to right, Llodra nowhere near it.
as Murray cracks a forehand past him, only for it to drop inches     Two break points, and Murray only needs one, sealing the game
wide.                                                                with his ninth backhand winner. Now relax.
    First set: Murray* 4-2 Llodra: Murray opens up with a                Second set: Murray* 6-4, 2-0 Llodra: Murray’s really settling
double-fault. That’s his third already; it probably won’t matter     into his groove now, taking a 30-0 lead with a beautifully
today, but he can’t afford too many of those as the tournament       disguised drop-shot. Llodra tries to hit back with one of his
progresses. As Llodra demonstrates with a neat volley to             own, but Murray’s speed wins him the point. He gets to the net,
open up a 0-30 lead. Murray gets it back to 30-all, but then         and then just dinks a forehand from right to left past Llodra for
slices a backhand into the net to hand Llodra his second break       40-0. He consolidates the break with an ace. It’s looking like a
point. Murray pounds down a strong serve though, Llodra,             forlorn task for Llodra now.
stretching, dropping his return weakly into the net. What                Second set: Murray 6-4, 2-1 Llodra*: Murray’s now showing
follows is absolutely magnificent. Llodra slices a flukey shot       why he’s the world No4. At 30-0, Llodra drops a serve too
down the line, and it loops past Murray, who has to race back        short, so Murray steps in and clips a backhand winner into the
to the baseline to retrieve the ball. When he gets there, he just    left corner. Still, Llodra can still do damage at the net and goes
turns and whacks a forehand straight past Llodra. Brilliant, and     40-15 up with a lovely volley. Murray brings it back to 40-30,
it’s enough for Murray to wrap up the game. “Is there any tv         but a fierce serve from Llodra is enough for him to get on the
coverage of this match?” parps Iain Hurst. “Perhaps Eurosport        scoreboard. With that, he sprints off and calls for the trainer. It
are showing it.”                                                     looks like he’s having trouble with his knee.
    First set: Murray 4-3 Llodra*: Absolutely dreadful from              Llodra will take a medical time-out. He gets three minutes
Llodra at 15-15. He brings Murray to net with a so-so drop-shot,     for it.
but having got him there, he then produces a bizarre shot,               Second set: Murray* 6-4, 3-1 Llodra: Llodra returns with
tentatively prodding at it from the back of the court and just       his knee taped up. But it may need more than that to stem the
stabbing the ball miles wide. I don’t think even he knew what        tide. Murray stoops low, and goes cross-court with a backhand,

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007                                                                         guardian.co.uk
Page  G24 Sport                                                                   Saturday January 21 2012             12:09 GMT

flicking it past Llodra for 30-0. He rarely misses those. A           his drop-shots over the net any more, a sign of his increasing
powerful forehand is then too much for Llodra to reach, and           fatigue. As much as Llodra tries to turn this into an exhibition,
then Murray slams a forehand down the line to hold to love.           Murray has his game face on and isn’t about to humour him.
    Second set: Murray 6-4, 3-2 Llodra*: “Andy!” cries Andy as he        Third set: Murray 6-4, 6-2, 5-0 Llodra*: Murray begins with
relinquishes a 0-30 lead, hitting a backhand into the net. Llodra     a superbly struck forehand past Llodra, his tactics at the net no
then takes a 40-30 lead, but is once again given a demonstration      longer bringing him any joy whatsoever. He gifts Murray three
of the Murray speed as he tries another drop-shot and then            break points with a horrible forehand volley that goes dismally
sees the ball fly straight back past him. It’s going to take more     wide. He saves the first two, but on the third his drop-shot isn’t
than that. Something like this then, a super backhand volley          good enough. Murray lobs him, Llodra ambles back, takes a
that even Murray has to applaud. There’s then a very amusing          swipe at the ball, misses it, tries again, sends the ball through
moment at the net, as Murray races forward and slaps a                his legs — and into the net. Murray will serve for the match.
backhand straight into Llodra’s back, albeit unintentionally.            Murray wins 6-4, 6-2, 6-0: Llodra’s main tactic now appears
Murray apologises, the pair chuckle. It’s not the Frenchman’s         to be to wave his hands about at the net in a bid to put Murray
day, though he does at least cling on to hold as Murray’s             off. HE’S SO WACKY LOL! If the game was any closer, Murray
backhand goes wide.                                                   would be bothered, but it’s not, so he isn’t. It doesn’t take long
    Second set: Murray* 6-4, 4-2 Llodra: If Murray wins this          for Murray to earn two match points, and he takes the first with
match, he will play Kazakhstan’s Kukushkin in the fourth              an effortless lob — a perfect response after Llodra had mimicked
round. The Kazakh has beaten Gael Monfils in five sets. That          him during the point. The pair embrace at the net — that’s the
sounded like a real thriller and is also something of an upset.       closest they’ve been.
    Second set: Murray 6-4, 5-2 Llodra*: At long last, this match        Murray will now face Kukushkin in the fourth round. He has
is on Eurosport UK. New channel, same old story though,               to be confident about winning that game. He got better as the
Murray pushing Llodra to the very limit. A volley from                match went on after a mixed first set. He was never in any real
Llodra goes long to give Murray a break point, and when the           trouble at all and wasn’t broken once. He’s going to face tougher
Frenchman comes into the net with little conviction, it’s little      opponents than Llodra though. Thanks for reading. Bye.
surprise that the cross-court backhand flashes past him. Murray
will now serve for the second set.
    Murray wins the second set 6-2 and leads 2-0 in sets: This        Australian Open 2012: Tsonga and
has been really entertaining stuff. At 30-0, Llodra pulls out         Djokovic blast into fourth round
the drop-shot again. It drops dead almost right at the net, but
Murray somehow pushes it back over, forcing Llodra to go
round the net and win the point. More exhibition tennis follows
                                                                      Jo-Wilfried Tsonga makes short work of
and again Llodra comes out on top to bring it back to 30-all. An      Frederico Gil, while Novak Djokovic drops
ace from Murray then brings up set point, which he is unable to       only two games to injured Nicolas Mahut
take. Which is the cue for more ridiculous tennis — and this time
                                                                      Press Association in Melbourne
it’s Murray who wins the battle at the net after a preposterous
rally. And it just keeps on coming! Murray lobs Llodra at the net,    Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has continued to make untroubled progress
and the Frenchman races back — isn’t he meant to be injured           at the Australian Open [http://tinyurl.com/cquuld], cruising
— and fires the ball through his legs and straight at Murray who      into the fourth round at the expense of Frederico Gil.
pushes a forehand volley back over the net, tumbling over as he           The sixth seed has dropped just one set in three matches in
does so. It’s enough to seal the set. Murray allows himself the       Melbourne after proving too strong for Gil, who was making
briefest of smiles, and well he might.                                history as the first Portuguese man to reach the third round in
    Third set: Murray 6-4, 6-2, 1-0 Llodra*: Llodra knows the         a grand slam. He never looked like going any further, though,
game is up, and has decided to amuse the crowd with an array          with Tsonga displaying too much power and guile to complete
of drop-shots. A dangerous ploy at 15-30, but it works here. He       a routine 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 victory in 91 minutes. The Frenchman
might as well, because he can’t outhit Murray and an error from       broke twice in each set to set up a potential last-16 clash with
the baseline gives the Scot a break point. A double-fault hands       countryman Gael Monfils, who meets Kazakhstan’s Mikhail
Murray the game and that should be decisive.                          Kukushkin later on Saturday.
    Third set: Murray* 6-4, 6-2, 2-0 Llodra: I now have company           “Today I played well and felt good on court,” Tsonga said.
in the office, with Paolo Bandini and Ian McCourt arriving at         “Match after match I play better here and I hope it will continue
last. I feel like a real human being again. The main talk is about    and I go far in the tournament.”
how hot it is in here: maybe the idea is to recreate the Australian       Novak Djokovic [http://tinyurl.com/6xnbjky] barely broke
Open experience for us. It’s shorts weather. Llodra drifts a sliced   sweat as he overcame Nicolas Mahut for the loss of just two
backhand long, and Murray holds to 30.                                games.
    Third set: Murray 6-4, 6-2, 3-0 Llodra*: Llodra has never             Mahut’s heavily bandaged left leg was clearly a hindrance
come back from two sets down. He’s 31. It’s not going to change       and world number one Djokovic was in no mood to show
here. His spirit has been sapped by the quality of Murray’s play      any mercy, cantering home 6-0 6-1 6-1 in just an hour and 14
now. Murray’s cruising and sends a forehand down the line to          minutes.
earn two more break points. Llodra responds with a double-                Djokovic, the defending champion in Melbourne and also
fault. Oh dear.                                                       the title holder at Wimbledon and the US Open following a
    Third set: Murray* 6-4, 6-2, 4-0 Llodra: Suffice to say, Murray   remarkable 2011, has not dropped a set in his three matches so
is going to face tougher tests than this. Llodra can’t even get       far.
                                                                          Indeed, he has conceded just 10 games in advancing to a
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007                                                                        guardian.co.uk
Page  G24 Sport                                                                  Saturday January 21 2012             12:09 GMT

fourth-round meeting with either Milos Raonic or Lleyton             and then extended her lead to 5-2 as Kerber wilted.
Hewitt.                                                                 Sharapova served it out to advance to a meeting with either
   It took Mahut, who famously lost 70-68 in the fifth set to        Svetlana Kuznetsova or Sabine Lisicki.
John Isner at Wimbledon in 2010, until the eighth game to get           “It was a really good first set and she stepped it up in the
on the scoreboard.                                                   second,” Sharapova said.
   The Frenchman smiled in acknowledging the cheers of the              “She was in the semis at the US Open and she has been on
crowd, but it did not spark an improvement in his fortunes           this stage before so I knew she could produce some good tennis.
as Djokovic continued to move him around, exposing his                  “The second set was certainly closer than the scoreline
condition.                                                           suggests.”
   Mahut, 30 on Saturday, kept plugging away but Djokovic
eased over the line to keep his challenge firmly on track.
   “Credit to him, we saw some taping around his knee and I          Mustafa Ameen threatens to sue Amir
felt sorry for him,” Djokovic said.                                  Khan over title fight allegations
   “Evidently he was not playing his best or moving too well
but he did not want to retire from the match.”
                                                                     • ‘Mystery man’ Ameen demands apology
                                                                     from British boxer • ‘I am in discussions
Australian Open 2012: Kvitova advances                               with successful legal firms in Britain’
after injured Kirilenko retires                                      Reuters

                                                                     Mustafa Ameen has vowed to sue Amir Khan [http://tinyurl.
Russian Maria Kirilenko pulls out with left                          com/6lg4w8] unless Britain’s former light-welterweight world
leg injury having lost seven straight games,                         champion apologises for comments relating to the American’s
while Sharapova defeats Kerber                                       role in last month’s fight against Lamont Peterson.
                                                                         Khan lost his World Boxing [http://tinyurl.com/5ra7ax]
Press Association in Melbourne
                                                                     Association and International Boxing Federation belts to
Second seed Petra Kvitova [http://tinyurl.com/6b4qq7h] has           Peterson in Washington DC on 10 December in a disputed split-
advanced with ease at the Australian Open [http://tinyurl.           decision defeat.
com/cquuld] after third-round opponent Maria Kirilenko had to            Since then he has raised a number of grievances, the most
retire following just seven games.                                   recent of which was asking what Ameen – at that point an
    Wimbledon champion Kvitova had looked in ominous form            unidentified “mystery man” – was doing at ringside interacting
in the early stages, but it soon became apparent Kirilenko’s         with the WBA supervisor, Michael Welsh.
movement was impaired by an injury to her upper left leg.                It has since come to light that Ameen is loosely affiliated
    After breaking three times and displaying her best tennis        to the IBF but had no official business on the night, with the
[http://tinyurl.com/63kuyy] in the tournament to date, Kvitova       body stating that “he is not an employee or an official of the
romped to a 5-0 lead, at which point Kirilenko had to leave Rod      organisation” and that he “was not assigned by the IBF to
Laver Arena for a medical timeout.                                   officiate this bout”.
    The Russian returned with heavy strapping on her leg and             Khan and his team have talked and tweeted tirelessly about
despite her best efforts to make it a contest, Kvitova clinched      Ameen’s role in the saga and after Wednesday’s IBF hearing – at
the opening set and the first game of the second before              which Ameen was due to speak – was cancelled at Khan’s team’s
Kirilenko called it a day at 6-0 1-0 down.                           behest, the American has spoken out.
    Kvitova will meet the winner of the clash between Ana                “Amir Khan is going to have to apologise because I am in the
Ivanovic and Vania King in round four.                               process … I will litigate this,” Ameen said.
    Maria Sharapova also advanced with a 6-1 6-2 defeat of               “I am already in discussions with some of the most
German Angelique Kerber.                                             successful legal firms in Britain regarding the slander, the
    Kerber, a semi-finalist at the US Open last year, was expected   libellous statements that have been made against me by Amir
to provide the fourth seed with her first serious test of the        Khan and other individuals in the press and I intend to fully
tournament, but it never really materialised.                        seek a remedy in a court of law.
    Sharapova outlined her intention by breaking in the first            “I will give Mr Khan an opportunity prior to me reaching the
game and when Kerber double-faulted to make it 4-1 the signs         point of no return of filing a lawsuit – he has an opportunity [to
were ominous for the 30th seed.                                      apologise].
    Another break secured the first set and the momentum                 “I understand maybe in the heat of the moment in his
remained with the Russian when she established a 2-0 lead in         disappointment there were things that he tweeted.
the second.                                                              “But if you look back at all of the things that have changed
    Kerber finally displayed the all-action style which took her     about the ‘mystery man’ and ‘the man in the hat’, then it comes
to the last four at Flushing Meadows, hitting back to win a          out that I’m a charitable guy that works with distressed fighters
marathon game which featured nine deuces and then holding            on behalf of the IBF. I receive no remuneration. I actually spend
off a break point to level it at 2-2.                                my own money. I don’t even ask them for reimbursement for
    It was the first time in the tournament Sharapova had lost       expenses. I fly, I talk with them, there are no financial ties.”
two games in a set and it seemed to push her on to greater               Ameen, speaking to Sky Sports News, added: “My life is
heights.                                                             clean. For Mr Khan to accuse me of the things that he has
    The three-time grand slam winner broke for a 3-2 advantage       accused me of, and to have all of the sheep – the British sheep,
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007                                                                       guardian.co.uk
Page 9 G24 Sport                                                                     Saturday January 21 2012          12:09 GMT

the fans, the media, his team – for them to add on, they all piled       But Tillakaratne Dilshan’s run-a-ball 87 at the top of the
on Mustafa Ameen, but I’m still standing, I’m going to fight         order set Sri Lanka on their way to their first win in the five-
back. And Mr Khan needs to apologise – if not we will litigate       match series, with Dinesh Chandimal’s 59 continuing the
this in court.”                                                      momentum and man-of-the-match Perera’s 69 seeing them
                                                                     home with eight balls to spare.
                                                                         Smith and his opening partner, Alviro Petersen, had raced
Borussia Mönchengladbach climb table                                 out of the blocks, posting 84 runs in just 79 balls before the
after defeat of Bayern Munich                                        latter tried to charge Rangana Herath’s first ball but found the
                                                                     hands of Upul Tharanga and fell for 37.
                                                                         De Villiers then joined Smith and the pair put on 87 in a
• Gladbach within point of top spot after                            shade over 10 overs that ended when the former skipper looked
3-1 victory • Bayern hit by two goals from                           to work Lasith Malinga on the leg-side but popped a catch up to
Patrick Herrmann                                                     Dilshan at short mid-wicket.
                                                                         Chasing 300 for victory, the tourists suffered an early
Reuters
                                                                     blow with the loss of Tharanga in the fourth over for six. That
Borussia Mönchengladbach defeated the Bundesliga [http://            brought Sangakkara out to join his skipper in the middle and
tinyurl.com/5oy3f3] leaders, Bayern Munich [http://tinyurl.          the pair shared an 83-run partnership to get Sri Lanka back on
com/4t8va7], 3-1 with two goals from Patrick Herrmann and            track before the former’s innings came to an end in spectacular
one from Marco Reus to move within a point of top spot as the        style.
league resumed after a one-month winter break.                           Having advanced to 32 from 31 balls, Sangakkara smashed
   The result lifted Gladbach, who punished lacklustre Bayern        Peterson towards deep mid-wicket only for a leaping Petersen
with a string of lightning-quick breaks, into second place on 36     to claim a brilliant catch above his head and then land inside the
points from 18 games after a league double over the visitors.        boundary rope.
   Bayern, who had hoped to avenge a 1-0 season-opening loss             Chandimal provided a steady presence alongside Dilshan
and kick off the year in style, lacked any spark with creative       and the pair took the total to 168 before the captain — 13 runs
winger Franck Ribéry suspended, and their defence was                short of his century — became Tsotsobe’s second victim in the
overrun by Gladbach’s pace.                                          29th over, Duminy jumping to his left to cling on to a neat catch
   The hosts needed a rare yet spectacular Manuel Neuer              at short extra cover.
blunder to take the lead in the 11th minute when the Bayern              With nine overs left and five wickets in hand, the result was
goalkeeper’s pass found Reus, who had little trouble firing into     up in the air, but Perera in particular showed no sign of nerves
an empty net from 30 metres for his 11th goal of the season.         as he linked up with Angelo Mathews to get the tourists over
   Reus, Gladbach’s top scorer, decided this month to join           the line. Perera finished things off in style by plundering a six
Borussia Dortmund at the end of the season instead of Bayern         straight down the pitch and out of the ground off Duminy to
for a reported €17m (£14.1m).                                        round off his 69 from 44 balls, with Mathews ending on 21 not
   The hosts then struck on the break in the 41st minute, with       out.
Mike Hanke sending Herrmann through with a long pass for the
20-year-old to beat Neuer with a low drive.
   Herrmann combined with Reus in another quick break after          Harry Redknapp prepares for true test
72 minutes to coolly round Neuer and tap in his second goal of       of Tottenham’s title credentials
the night. Bastian Schweinsteiger cut the deficit with a close-
range shot five minutes later but it was too late for Bayern.
   Dortmund, the champions, who have 34 points, travel to            ‘Good players give you a chance and
Hamburg on Sunday. Schalke, also on 34, host Stuttgart on            we have good players,’ says Tottenham
Saturday.                                                            manager ready to go toe-to-toe with the best
                                                                     Daniel Taylor

Sri Lanka fend off whitewash with five-                              It all boils down to one thing for Tottenham Hotspur [http://
wicket ODI win in South Africa                                       tinyurl.com/5nwt7b] now and it is whether they can go that
                                                                     next, decisive step. Can they turn all that forward momentum
                                                                     and vibrant, often thrilling football into something more
• South Africa 299 for seven; Sri Lanka 304                          serious and memorable or will we will discover it was nice
for five • Sri Lanka win by five wickets                             while it lasted but all just a sideshow to the real story of
Press Association                                                    two Manchester clubs rubbing up against one another like
                                                                     sandpaper?
Sri Lanka restored some pride against South Africa with a                Are their ambitions restricted simply to the Champions
superb five-wicket victory in the fourth one-day international       League places and finishing above Arsenal for the time in the
in Kimberley.                                                        Arsène Wenger era, or do the Premier League’s third-placed
    AB de Villiers’s composed knock of 96 and Graeme Smith’s         team have the wit and gumption to catch and overhaul
68 helped the hosts post 299 for seven after opting to bat first.    Manchester City [http://tinyurl.com/4jsgmx], the world’s most
De Villiers had looked set for a 12th limited-overs hundred until    financially endowed football club, and actually win the damn
he moved across one from Thisara Perera and lost his middle          thing?
stump.                                                                   The answer, whenever this is put to Harry Redknapp
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007                                                                      guardian.co.uk
Page 10 G24 Sport                                                                  Saturday January 21 2012             12:09 GMT

[http://tinyurl.com/5ly3kl], is that of course they can, while        not rocket science. Good players give you a chance and we have
never straying from the fact that this is a team dramatically         good players – Modric, Parker, Van der Vaart, Lennon, Bale;
playing above expectation. Others will struggle to get past           good attacking players. [Kyle] Walker has emerged as a fantastic
the scepticism that has clung to Spurs down the years and             prospect. The left-back [Benoît Assou-Ekotto] is a good player.
wonder how long the title race can go before they politely show       [Younès] Kaboul is now the player I thought that he could have
themselves to the door. Redknapp himself seems surprised              been when I took him to Portsmouth. And I might be knocking
sometimes. “People keep saying that Manchester United                 my own job here – but if I haven’t got Bale, I am not half as
haven’t played well. They have 48 points [from 21 games]. God         clever, am I?”
knows what’s going to happen when they start playing well. It’s           All of this has been done, as Redknapp is fond of pointing
frightening.”                                                         out, with a clear disparity between his own net spend, £18.4m,
    The trajectory has been so steep it is easy sometimes to          and Mancini’s, £190.5m. “It’s a different game when you buy
forget that when Redknapp began this job, in October 2008,            players and pay them £250,000 a week,” he says, tongue in
the team he inherited were at the bottom of the league, with          cheek. “To be honest, I’d fancy you [journalists] to manage
two points from their first eight league fixtures. They have 46       [them]. You’d have a chance, wouldn’t you? You’d win the
from 21 games, which is more than the champions, United,              league.”
had managed at the corresponding stage last year. Sir Alex                If that sounds slightly derisory of Mancini and City it is not
Ferguson has been talking about them as title challengers since       the first time Redknapp has taken this line. “We have not done
last summer and, though he has not always been convinced,             it the easy way,” he said last week. “Spurs are not third in the
Roberto Mancini is also now acknowledging the threat may              Premier League because someone has walked through the
be real and sustained. “They can win the title,” Mancini said         door at White Hart Lane and slapped a bundle of money on my
before Sunday’s first-versus-third encounter at the Etihad            desk.”
Stadium. It was the first time he had uttered those words this            Sergio Agüero was used as an example in his latest offerings.
season.                                                               “Anyone could have looked at him when he was in Spain and
    But it is not straightforward. The backdrop to all this is that   said: ‘I would like him in my team.’ It wasn’t difficult to do,
on Monday Redknapp will stand trial with Milan Mandaric               really. It was just whether you had £40m and could pay him
over charges of cheating the public revenue, which he denies,         £250,000 to £300,000 a week. That was the only stumbling
relating to tax payments when they worked together as                 block.”
manager and chairman at Portsmouth. For two weeks Joe                     Mancini applied some gentle humour when he was notified
Jordan will take over training, just as he did in November when       of Redknapp’s claims. “He can borrow money from us if he
Redknapp had surgery to unblock coronary arteries. Beyond             doesn’t have any,” the Italian said. There is, however, a degree
that, it rests on the verdict of a jury at Southwark crown court.     of indignation. Spurs, in truth, have spent £238m over the
    These are the best of times for Spurs otherwise. Press            past five years, or a net £76.2m, higher than every club bar
conferences are full of levity and banter. White Hart Lane, once      City, Chelsea and Liverpool. “They have bought good players,”
again, is a happy place to be. In August they lost 5-1 to City but,   Mancini says. “Maybe not like us in the last two years but over a
since then, it does not need a forensic examination of their          longer amount of time.”
recovery to understand why Redknapp is so prominently in                  At Arsenal, one of the more revealing moments came at one
the Football Association’s thoughts when it comes to replacing        of Wenger’s recent press conferences when he was asked one
Fabio Capello after this summer’s European Championship.              too many questions about their north- London rivals. Wenger
    “I didn’t go home that night despondent,” Redknapp recalls.       did not take kindly to being drilled for his thoughts about the
“I was disappointed to get beaten like that but it wasn’t as          title chances at White Hart Lane. His voice picked up speed, as it
though I thought: ‘This is my team for the season, we are in          always does when something has got under his skin. “We are in
trouble here.’ I knew we had reinforcements coming in that            an Arsenal press conference,” he pointed out tersely.
would make the difference.”                                               Spurs have not finished ahead of their rivals since 1995,
    Scott Parker arrived from West Ham and slipped seamlessly         when the clubs were seventh and 12th. They currently have a
alongside Aaron Lennon, Rafael van der Vaart, Gareth Bale and         10-point lead and a goal difference that is superior by 11. The
Luka Modric into a midfield revered as the best in the country.       question for Redknapp and everyone at Tottenham is whether
Emmanuel Adebayor, ostracised under Mancini, has been                 this should be the limit of their ambitions and very soon we will
reinvigorated since joining on loan from City. Maybe above all        have the answer.
else, the transfer window clanked shut without Modric leaving
for Chelsea. Spurs had been regarded as a selling club for longer
than their supporters would care to remember but here was the         Roger Federer glides towards milestone
evidence that they were no longer willing to undermine their          with easy win over Ivo Karlovic
own ambitions.
    If there is a weakness, it may be that they are a team who
need a little bit more knowhow. Spurs have only one player,
                                                                      • Roger Federer beats Ivo Karlovic 7-6, 7-5,
William Gallas, with a Premier League winner’s medal, from his        6-3 • Swiss sets up 1,000th tour match of
time at Chelsea. City have four, although two of them are Carlos      career
Tevez and Wayne Bridge. United, in contrast, have 21 players
                                                                      Kevin Mitchell at Melbourne Park
with a collective 71 league medals, including 10 who have won it
four times or more.                                                   Roger Federer could not take on board the notion that he might
    Yet Redknapp has assembled a squad with few flaws. “It’s          be feeling tired as he approaches his 1,000th match on Tour.
                                                                      Exhaustion and decay are alien concepts to a man who would
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007                                                                       guardian.co.uk
Page 11 G24 Sport                                                                    Saturday January 21 2012              12:09 GMT

refuse to sweat in hell in the unlikely event he ever ended up          words about the Swiss’s seeming indifference to the demands
there.                                                                  of his peers for a less hectic schedule and more money for
    The weather has been closer to paradise this week, and the          players outside the millionaires’ club, he will not have radically
opposition has been similarly benign as Federer has progressed          changed his mind on the subject. Federer still makes it look
serenely to the fourth round. “I don’t know how it feels to play        easy, gliding and placing rather than thumping his way through
1,000 matches,” he said after seeing off the dangerous Croat            his work. Both know their toughest foe is no longer each other.
Ivo Karlovic who, depending on the interpretation of statistics,        It is Novak Djokovic.
might have been opponent No999 or 998. The ATP says the                     When they speak about their own rivalry, the discourse has
latter (as it is not counting Federer’s walkover this week); the        a nostalgic ring to it, and they know that, whoever wins their
man himself says: “I’m only at 999, right?                              predicted semi-final, it will be the next match in which their
    “Yeah, it’s a lot of matches. I feel healthy. I don’t know if I     pedigree will be stretched even further.
can play another 1,000, but I feel like it’s a lot of tennis. I would       Andy Murray might have something to say about that, of
like to play a lot more.”                                               course. He is in decent form going into his third-round match
    Federer, feigning indifference but unable to disguise his           against the eccentric Frenchman Michaël Llodra and is dining
pride, could not pick out one match as special above the others.        lately almost exclusively on French cuisine. Gaël Monfils and
“I’ve had my share of tough losses and also my great wins,” he          Jo-Wilfried Tsonga currently block his way to a semi-final
said.                                                                   against Djokovic.
    Karlovic, ultimately, was just another number, his power                Players from past eras now earning a living in front of a
serving nullified by the artistry of a champion still infused with      microphone are intrigued by Murray’s choice of coach, Ivan
enough ego and ambition to drive himself hard into his 32nd             Lendl. The Australian Darren Cahill, who coached Murray
year. He won 7-6, 7-5, 6-3 in two hours and 17 minutes, routine         part-time over the past year, told ESPN viewers: “They share a
brilliance of the understated variety.                                  lot of similarities. Ivan lost his first four grand slam finals and
    Having been spared a visit to the Hisense Arena in the              then went 8-7 in his next 15. During the tournament in Brisbane
previous round when Andreas Beck withdrew through injury,               [which Murray won en route to Melbourne], I sent him a text
Federer was making his 53rd consecutive appearance on Rod               saying: ‘Well done but your new job looked easy.’ He sent me
Laver, and could not have looked more at home. He will face             one back saying: ‘It is not my fault that you don’t know how to
Bernard Tomic in the landmark match, the home favourite                 prepare your guy for the early rounds!’ It is typical of his sense
having beaten the 13th seed Alexandr Dolgopolov in a five-set           of humour.”
thriller.                                                                   Brad Gilbert, who also coached Murray and went 0-16 against
    So the Swiss and Rafael Nadal – neither of whom is No1, both        Lendl on court, said: “Ivan was always the villain. He was a little
of whom crave it still – remain locked in to meet in the semi-          bit misunderstood. But he is a very bright guy with a little bit of
finals. Having avoided each other before semi-finals for seven          a twisted sense of humour.
years, they not only played on the same day and consecutively               “He will be looking to make him more offensive from the
on the same court, but they won with similar, if not identical,         centre of the court. He will work on the second serve as well.
ease against opponents who gave the impression they were                He should be winning close to 60% of points off his second
lucky to be there. They were.                                           serve, close to 140mph. What he is missing is just that one
    Nadal won a typically muscular encounter to put away the            notch against the other top guys, his main rivals. If Ivan can add
Slovakian qualifier Lukas Lacko in five minutes under two               something, that is the biggest difference he can make.”
hours, 6-2, 6-4. 6-2. He was rarely inconvenienced. Lacko, who
has talent, showed some of it early in the match, even breaking
the world No2, but could not maintain his level. It is a familiar
story. Nadal’s body is creaking again, although he declared
himself happy with the mysterious knee injury that cut him
down while sitting in a chair in his hotel room earlier in the
week. “The knee is fine,” he said. “That’s the important thing.
The match was a really solid one. [I am] very happy about my
game.”
    Of course neither Nadal nor Federer is as intimidating as
when elegantly bullying the rest of tennis. The Spaniard’s
physical game exposes him to the harshest comparison,
because inevitably his body has had to bend to the demands
of his calling, while Federer’s engine hums low and sweet as a
Rolls Royce.
    But the fire has not dimmed in Nadal. When he spoke
in London at the ATP World Tour Finals about having no
“passion”, he deserved the benefit of the doubt as to what that
really meant. It is impossible to imagine tennis losing Nadal
through lack of interest; he still loves the game. But he is not
enamoured of the grind, as his comments here earlier in the
week illustrated.
    Although he has made up with Federer for some sharp

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007                                                                          guardian.co.uk

				
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