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LEICESTER CITY VS SPORTING BRAGA

The foxes have impressed in the last few games and there was no letting up on Thursday night. What a pass from Tielemans in the build up the third goal from fellow Belgian Praet. Iheanacho, deputizing for the rested Vardy struck a brace to stake a claim for a starting berth but it will take some doing to depose Vardy in the form he is in. Braga on the other hand barely threatened Schmeichel’s goal. With competition for the top 4 places in the Premiership promising to be at an all time high, this competition may provide a route for Leicester into the Champions League. They need to sort out their consistency issues particularly after Christmas. Their over reliance on goals from Vardy may come back to bite them and may possibly need to dip into January market to find a player who can supplement him. No offence to Iheanacho and Slimani of course.

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PARIS MASTERS HIGHLIGHTS

Standout result on Thursday was Stan Wawrinka beating the in form Russian Andrey Rublev in 3 sets. Stan the man recovered impressively from losing the first set for just 1 game showing his younger upstart he has a lot in his 35 year old self.The key to his victory was winning his efficient conversion of break points(3/5) to Rublev’s (3/6). There was not much in it but it proved to be telling. Rafa Nadal celebrated a milestone 1000th win on the tour with a straight sets win over Australian Thompson. Thompson impressed me with my shot of the day when he was 3-2 up in the second at 0-15. Nadal is now ONLY behind Jimmy Connors(USA), Roger Federer(SUI) AND Ivan Lendl(CZE). He looked much settled after a shaky last match with Lopez.

SERIE A:JUVENTUS VS MONZA

Let’s face it, Juventus are the outlaws of the sport of soccer. They have got to be used to being punished like a delinquent school kid by now. But one thing I always got from watching the Bianconerri was results soccer. They always put in results based performances year in year out(overlooking the match fixing of course). This season they lack that consistent performance. Fine they were docked 15 points for not having their ducks(books) in a row, it’s the lack of for a lack of better word, balls and fight for that badge. Whilst in the past Juve had players like Del Piero and Buffon who were willing to sink to the depths of Serie B, you will find it hard to find such players among the class of 2023. It is time to get over the punishment and fight for a place in Europe, yes it is still possible, the side needs to string a run of victories which was supposed to start with Monza. To say Juventus has lost it’s identity is an understatement. They always had a solid backbone of a defense, now they can’t spring an offside trap to save their lives, Check out the first Monza goal. Part of the reason Max Allegri has gone for a back three was to get a more attacking Juve, unfortunately players like Danilo have been exposed by that system. So does the coach change the system to suit the player or the player to suit the system?

A player can be coached into a system it depends how much patience the fans and the new board have. Given that it looks like a lost season already they have no choice but. Monza were promoted to Serie A last year and given that a familiar and somewhat experience hand of Silvio Berlusconi owns the team, their fans can rest assured of a long stay in the top flight. Although Monza doesn’t score a lot of goals, they have a penchant of taking the little chances that come their way. That second goal came out of nothing really but guts and determination from the Carlos Augusto who created the panic in the Juve ranks with his lung busting run. A back three needs a good Defensive midfielder to protect that back three, another problem position for the Bianconerri. Bright spark for Juve? Angel Di Maria, the world cup winner has been an inspired signing and important one given the constant absence of Chiesa through injury. Like I mentioned earlier the fight for the Conference League is still on and in times of crisis we usually see who the real leaders are in a team. Let’s see.

“TRANSGENDER ATHLETES HAVE NO UNFAIR ADVANTAGE”

There is no question the hottest debate in sports for the last decade or so has been whether trans athletes should compete in male or female category sports. That is to say someone born scientifically a man or a woman and now identifies as the opposite gender now wants to compete with natural born men or women. Some say sport is actually about taking advantage of those physiological differences on your way to victory such that transgender athletes should be allowed to compete.The report states that biomedical factors such as testosterone, lung size and bone density aren’t the dominant factor in whether someone wins a race or not, but other factors like whether you have quality training facilities and nutrition. What automatically came to my mind reading this was that if this was all true why do we even have separate categories in sports in the first place. Come on, the report is saying just train hard and eat right then you can outrace Tadej Pogacar at the next Tour De France. If that was correct why have the average finishing times between men and women differ so much by as much That’s right I am questioning the motives of this report and it’s not the first time science has taken a side in political debate. Just go back to the 1930s and 1940s. Didn’t science say back then that there is no evidence that tobacco smoke has any lasting physical harm to the lungs and body? There are “Merchants of Doubt” out there. What is that old adage? Whoever pays the piper…

If I am a scientist in desperate need of funding or work and there so happens to be a pro liberal company with millions looking at trans research in sports, I am bound to make my piper happy. Everything else goes out of the window. Look, every human being has a right to choice. If you choose to identify as any gender , good for you. When it comes to sports we should draw the line. There were numerous instances of men competing with women and men crashed the women easily, no science is even needed. The report points out that some previous reports have used non athletic trans women as subjects and also not considering that hormone replacement therapy such as testosterone suppression has a way of leveling the playing field a bit. That in itself is hypocrisy at the worst. Why are we banning athletes for doping? We are banning them because having a higher than normal red blood cell count because it has advantages in the endurance races. The fact that it normalizes after a few months of taking testosterone suppression drugs doesn’t mean it applies to every single athlete. Different bodies react differently to different drugs. The last thing I have against this review is that it actually doesn’t do a trial race between a subject transgender cyclist for example and a professional cis athlete(a person assigned a gender at birth). There is no better evidence than observation. Just observe how your subject actually compete in actual competitive matches. A wrestling match between a trans and a cis man can only go one way. A football game between them usually goes a certain way most of the times. Ye, we live in an all inclusive world but the buck surely has to stop with sports.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN:KHACHANOV VS KORDA

Seba Korda is one of five Americans in the last 16 of the opening slam of the year. Other than the surprise that that many US players have made it that far, the surprise that Russia has two players there and none of them is Daniil Medvedev. This shows that the days of three players sharing the majord every single year like barbeque grill meat is all but over. Seba the son of Czech great Petr,other than that he is a righty and his dad was a lefty, there isn’t much difference in the way that they play. They both like to build on a solid service game foundation. First set 5-4 Karen Kachanov first set, what a time to get the ace, serving to stay in the set. Aiming for the service line gives your opponent little time to react to the serve. Like all young players on Tour, Seba is still learning the tricks of the trade. One of those, is how to judge the ball condition, the flight of the ball, how it behaves on the court and when it is struck by the racquet. That feel of the game unfortunately can’t be taught. Check out tie break 1-1 ending up rather looking sheepish there the young American.

Karen isn’t a one time Masters Champ for nothing, great hard court game. What a way to seal the tie break at 6-5 but before that Seba’s best point of the match .The deep return of serve from Khachanov, Seba recovering well in the rally to outpunch the Russian from the back court. Karen a little hasty there to come to the net giving Korda the chance at the pass. Korda’s patient game should be a threat in the clay season should he stay fit. Korda’s coach Radek Stepanek had a strong clay court game too. You wouldn’t have seen the ending of the match coming like it did if you watched the second set. Both traded excellent ground stroke winner earlier on but the end of the set was dominated by Karen. Korda called for a trainer at 3-2. First hint of something being wrong with his fitness. Korda had pain in his wrist which greatly impacts his shot making. Watching 5-3(40-15( Karen) one can see the discomfort on the American’s face. A wrist injury in tennis is mostly caused tension which translates to tightening up the racquet grip. Easing up mentally is the tonic and not letting the pressure get to you. Not a great way to end a quarterfinal, but Kachanov will take it, his second since reaching US Open last eight last year. At least the US is guaranteed of at least one player in last 4, Tommy Paul will battle Ben Shelton tomorrow in the unlikeliest of quarterfinals.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN:ZVEREV VS MMOH

Are you surprised as I am that the American contingent is turning up in Melbourne? It’s not a surprise in terms of how good this generation of tennis players are, but in terms of how many are in such top form at the same time. Guys like Michael Mmoh and Brandon Nakashima have been bubbling in the junior circuit before they came to the pros, so US tennis deserves it’s flowers. Mike is a second generation athlete whose dad was an Olympian for Nigeria.Sascha Zverev is no stranger to the Olympics being a gold medalist in Tokyo 2020 but had a forgettable end to 2022 with a major injury. Always a great server mostly because of his stature, he had a strong first set on the back of a strong first serve. As the match went on however his double fault count ratcheted up to cost him dearly. Watch vintage Zverev at 3-2(40-15) to consolidate break of serve. Another advantage of his height, ability to reach out for those corner placed balls. Mmoh came into his own in the second set. What I observed on his serve is that he likes to go wide and flat.

Watch second set 4-3 Mmoh 40-30 on his racquet. Mike didn’t put the wide enough. Not complaining, it gave us the chance to see a brilliant rally. His somewhat languid style may not be everyone’s cup of tea but he stayed in the point long enough to find the opening. That drop slice was majestic. Deserved second set win. So poor on second set was Sascha , he won just 37% on the second try. Watch third set 5-3 Mmoh (40-15) set point, that cross court forehand “had desperately need to get in the set” all over it. Understandable, he is way overdue a grand slam but patience is a virtue. It is so true in tennis that if you lose a big rally , the following one is likely to go that way because of the mental damage inflicted by the first. Check out 2-1 fourth and ultimately final set first point and 4-2 Mmoh (40-30). You just know it’s your day when you get those net cords , those tight net plays. Mmoh deserves this victory and now plays fellow American Jeff Wolf in Round 3.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN:NADAL VS MACDONALD

Nadal is out of the first slam of the year and I don’t think it’s such a bad thing. Come what may Rafa’s status in the tennis HOF is secure. Sometimes one needs that defeat that signals your time is up. This is one such for the Spaniard. Rafa looked a step slower and immobile compared to last season. Watch 4-3 MacDonald 30-15. The normally great footwork on the baseline was so poorly executed the normally good forehand followed suit. Normally he allows himself a step back to get the angle right. Mackenzie MacDonald is an American player who is a late bloomer for me, having had his best singles season last year aged 27.The only thing left on his CV is that title, any title. Nifty mover on court, check out 5-4 set point on deuce with a great defensive game to boot, check out first game of second set 0-15 on the Nadal racquet. First of all when you defense lob, it is unusual and also risky to not go center court. The payoff was the overhead smash error from Rafa of which the Spaniard wasn’t at all comfortable executing.

This was the best game of the entire match and Rafa losing his serve so early in the set was the point of no return. How on earth did Mackie get the ball back from the Rafa serve at 0-40? Not all doom and gloom for the 22 time times Grand Slam champ. Check out 2-0 Mackie first point, turning back the years with that serve and volley play that won him Wimbledon all those years back. Too bad it didn’t happen often in this match. Not to be hard on Rafa be looked to be carrying an injury. Having gone back on serve he pulled up during the eighth game. It’s a testament to his sportsmanship that he continued even though he could have easily forfeited. Thus the odds were heavily staked against him going into the third set two love down. So going to an twelfth game of the last set was an achievement worth its flowers. The key to prolonging the match for Rafa was to shorten the point by going to the net more. Check out 3-3 (15-0). The emotion on the Nadal team after the match may signal the end is nigh. Time will tell.