Over the past week sport has offered up a gamut of emotions, with overwhelming highs and deflating lows.
In a week when the 2014 FIFA World Cup finally got underway in Brazil, international cricket graced Lord’s for the first summer Test and the England rugby team continued their tour of New Zealand, sports fan across the globe have enjoyed a bumper week of sporting action.
Saturday saw England’s football, cricket and rugby teams all playing on the same day, with heartache for two while the hosts require 10 wickets on the final day to clinch the first Test against Sri Lanka in London.
On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, Martin Kaymer recorded one of most emphatic victories in US Open history, while Andy Murray’s preparations for his Wimbledon title defence got off to a shaky start at Queen’s club.
It has been a long wait for a second major trophy for Martin Kaymer after his 2010 US PGA Championship success, but the manner of his triumph at Pinehurst No 2 will eclipse any sense of joy experience by the former world No 1 and Ryder Cup winner. Following his peak, Kaymer slipped as low as 63rd in the world rankings, but it’s fair to say the comeback is complete after he obliterating the US Open field to claim an eight-shot victory.
Seldom are major championships dominated from start to finish by one man. This, the 114th edition of the competition, was however as the German carded back-to-back 65s to record the lowest 36-hole start in US Open history.
A classy final round of 69 to finish saw him finish nine-under par, leaving the star-studded field in his wake as he lifted his second major crown. It was a polished display which proved Kaymer is back at his proficient, world-class best and ready to inflict more misery on the United States later on this year with the Ryder Cup arriving at Gleneagles in September.
Heading into the final day of their first Test against Sri Lanka at the ‘Home of Cricket’, England had scored 842 runs, 389 of which coming from Yorkshiremen. Joe Root’s maiden double century and a second innings ton from Gary Ballance have allowed England to building commanding totals, offering their bowlers plenty to work with in pursuit of victory.
With England 74-3 on the first day hopes of a successful start to the international summer were thin, but the maturity and stability brought to the fore by 23-year-old Root led the hosts to an authoritative first innings total of 575. Batting at No 5, Root steered the England to respectability and beyond, batting into day two and reaching 200 not out from 298 balls before Alastair Cook waved his side back to the pavilion.
Kumar Sangakarra and Angelo Matthews both struck centuries for Sri Lanka on their way to 453 all out, before England returned to the crease with another triple figure contribution from a Yorkshire batsman. This time, it was Ballance getting his named etched on the famed Lord’s honours board as he reached stumps on day four unbeaten on 104, giving England a 389 lead ahead of the final day’s play.
Nobody would question New Zealand’s supremacy in world rugby and their dominance was again underlined by a display of class and power as they completed a series victory over England with a match to spare. Although the victory margin was reduced to a solitary point by full-time, a devastating 20-minute spell saw England’s challenge thoroughly crushed.
Steve Hansen’s side went into the break 10-6 down after a fine first-half performance from England, who looked in control having dominated for large period. The All Blacks riposte was emphatic however, as they punished England’s lack of concentration and discipline by hammering home 22 points in 20 minutes.
Momentum has become a buzz-word around the rugby fraternity and the All Blacks are now unbeaten in their last 20 outings, proving preparation for their World Cup title defence in Britain next year are going swimmingly. Baring in mind Saturday’s showdown at the Forsyth Barr Stadium was only their second international of the year, the potent powerhouses of world rugby have taken little time in racing through the gears.
San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs defied the odds on Sunday night as they outshot two-time defending champions Miami Heat on their way to a 104-87 victory in the NBA final. It resulted in a fifth NBA Championship for the Spurs, who exacted revenge and cauterised the wounds from 12 months ago.
It was far from plain sailing for the Spurs, though, as they were made to recover from a patchy start to dethrone the reigning champions and prevent them from claiming a third title in as many years. It was billed as a tight encounter that would to-and-fro between the sides, but the Heat were forced to put their celebrations on ice this year as the Spurs raced to a 4-1 final series victory.
The triumph is a fifth for the San Antonio franchise; all of which coming since 1999 and many have suggested their remarkable success story would draw more frequent comparisons with the great sporting champions if they had more high-profile players in their ranks. Gregg Popovich, the Spurs head coach, will not be worried about the amount of publicity his side receives as they bask in glory after coming agonisingly close a year ago.
Only Italy and Brazil have successfully defended the Jules Rimet trophy and Spain’s attempt to emulate such feat got off to the worst possible start in Salvador. The 2010 winners were hammered 5-1 by Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands in their World Cup opener, raising doubts of curtain call on Spain’s golden era.
Vincente del Bosque’s side arrived on the streets of Brazil as defending world and European champions, with the majority of their triumphant squad remaining intact. The additions of rising stars such as Diego Costa were only meant to inflate their hopes of regaining the world crown and extending their period of dominance.
Based on their first offering, that prospect looks highly unlikely after Dutch duo Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben lit up the tournament. It is not all doom and gloom, though. Cast your mind back just four years ago to Iker Casillas’ goalkeeping howler which allowed Switzerland to claim victory in their group opener before the Spaniards recovered to win the tournament.
Nathan Brown, the St Helens coach, refused to make any excuses on Saturday after watching his side roasted 42-0 by Catalan Dragons in the blistering heat of Perpignan. The Super League leaders were put the sword at the Stade Gilbert Brutus, although the scoreline was not reflective of their efforts.
Regardless of their first-half display the result does their standing at the league summit no favours, with Leeds Rhinos, Wigan Warriors and Castleford Tigers all within two points. It is the first time the Saints have been shut out this season, but Brown will have a number of concerns with testing fixtures against the Warriors and Tigers to come.
The Saints simply lacked the staying power in the south of France as the Dragons raced home 34 points in the closing 36 minutes. Michael Oldfield racked up a hat-trick of tries, while Vincent Duport crossed twice and Ian Henderson and Daryl Millard each touched down one apiece.
The traditional precursor to Wimbledon did not go as planned British No 1 Andy Murray, or the first and second seeds in the tournament. Stan Wawrinka was entered a top seed and Tomas Berdych second, though none of the top three made the final at Queen’s club.
It was an especially disappointing week for Murray, who suffered a straight-sets defeat at the hands of Radek Stepanek as he was dumped out in the third round. It was far from an idyllic start to the grasscourt season for Murray, who looks set to enter his home Grand Slam as second seed behind Serb Novak Djokovic.
Meanwhile, Berdych bowed at the quarter-final stage in Kensington and Wawrinka made the semi-finals before losing to eventual winner Grigor Dimitrov. The Bulgarian, seeded fourth, saved a championship point before overcoming Feliciano Lopez to lift the Aegon Championship trophy.
Brian Rose’s bid to take the WBO light-middleweight title from Demetrius Andrade came to crashing halt in New York this weekend. The Briton suffered a seventh-round stoppage defeat at the Barclays Center after 11 straight successes.
The Englishman was immediately aware of the challenge before him as he was dropped by a straight left in the first round. Although he successfully overcame the setback, Andrade had him down again in the third, this time courtesy of a counter right hook.
Once again the Blackpool boxer climbed off the canvas to continue, though the rounds were clearly not going his way as his American opponent built up a healthy advantage on the scorecards. In the end, though, the judges were not required. By the seventh referee Michael Griffin decided he had seen enough, calling a halt to the fight to make sure a bloodied Rose didn’t have to take any further punishment.