WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by tt stern-enzi 08.18.2012
Posted In: Tennis at 05:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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W&S Open: Day 5

As the tournament progresses, it challenges us to keep up with the evolving storylines — the sudden defeat of major players and the quiet emergence of those who have escaped notice, the silent assassins. My day started on Court 3, a make-up match between the ninth seed Na LI (CHN), the first Grand Slam winner from China, and qualifier Johanna Larsson of Sweden, who, on the morning of this match, was celebrating her 24th birthday and in her debut here in Cincinnati. Li has been in the spotlight, with two Slam finals last year, but at 30 years old, one has to wonder if she has peaked too late. She is six years older than her opponent, but today, it is best to focus on experience rather than age because she displays a potent blend of wisdom and execution as she forces her younger foe to work harder and harder for the points she wins on her serve, while Li cruises through her own service games. She breaks Larsson twice with surgically precise shot placement, moving Larsson around at will. When Li captures the first set 6-2, it is plain that she is firmly in command and using the match as practice because thanks to the suspension of play from the previous night, the winner here will end up playing again tonight. ••• Another holdover from the rain delay is the battle between Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS), which was called with Pavlyuchenkova already up a set (6-4) on the number six seed and former number one player in the world. By the time I settled into the stands, Wozniacki was down 4-3 in the second and Pavlyuchenkova held to take a 5-3 lead. The Russian woman looked like a pounding brawler, but a couple of points dispelled that misconception. Pavlyuchenkova tempered her obvious strength with well-placed balls that unerringly found line and corners of the court just beyond Wozniacki’s reach. A hold from the higher seed set up an opportunity for Pavlyuchenkova to serve out the match, much to the chagrin of the vocal fans on the Grandstand who possibly hoped to be able to catch a glimpse of Rory McIlroy later in the evening. Alas, it was not to be. Pavlyuchenkova slammed that book shut, earning a spot opposite Petra Kvitova to compete for a coveted semifinal match, where maybe the fans might join her cause. ••• Next up on the Grandstand, Venus Williams and the three-seed Samantha Stosur (AUS), the reigning US Open champion. Venus has had to exert a great deal of effort along the way and would probably appreciate an easier match here, but with the formidability of Stosur and her compact, punchy power that’s highly unlikely. It is apparent though that Venus wants to be the aggressor, as she stands on top of the baseline for Stosur’s first serve and a foot inside on the second. This allows her to get the jump and force Stosur off-balance. An early break and a tough hold for Venus, followed by a quick hold and a break for Stosur, and any hope for a quick two-setter are completely out the window. Even though Venus breaks right back on her opponent’s next two service games and ends up taking the first set 6-2, something in the way Stosur carries herself says, this isn’t close to being over. ••• On Center Court, Novak Djokovic and Marin Cilic (CRO) have already completed a set, which Djokovic took 6-3. Djokovic has had a fairly easy path thus far, especially his previous match, which ended when Davydenko retired after losing the first set 6-0, before last night’s rain. Today, he is a cat toying with his well-contained prey. Cilic is definitely in a tight corner with his back to the wall because before fans can blink, Djokovic is serving for the match with a 5-2 lead and just like that, it’s over. The cat has gobbled his prey up. ••• Stosur forced Venus to go back and forth with her on their way to a second set tiebreak, which she seized 7-2, but then Venus immediately broke her in the first game of the third set. As Venus reaches 3-1, most thoughts start to drift to a possible fantasy match-up of the Williams sisters in the final. Serena is set to start on Center Court and has dominated her court appearances thus far. Television coverage of the end of the Venus-Stosur match means that Serena and Angelique Kerber (GER) are forced to wait. A gritty battle for the final set goes to Venus (6-4) and we are tantalizingly closer to the dream. ••• Joe Morgan handles the coin toss to determine who serves to start the Serena-Kerber match. Serena serves and promptly gets broken, although she does seem too bothered. Her shots were either just a bit long or subject to the fickle fate of bounces off the net cord, which she will certainly adjust to as the match progresses. Kerber, a much shorter player with reasonable power, works on moving Serena around and capitalizing on her error-prone play. There are flashes of Serena’s gifts – games where her serve, one of the best in the women’s game, cannot be touched – but those moments are fleeting. Instead, we see a Serena who has trouble timing her shots, sending swinging volleys into the net that should have been clear and rousing winners. She ends points staring off at either where the winner should have fallen or confused by the absurdity of this predicament she found herself in. She seemed to be wondering where the real Serena Williams was, and she wasn’t alone. The only person not asking that question was Kerber, who took the match from whoever happened to be standing there in Serena’s lime-accented attire. Final score: 6-4, 6-4. It is time to dream another dream, it seems.
 
 
by tt stern-enzi 08.17.2012
Posted In: Tennis at 03:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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W&S Open: Day 4

Monday was a bit of a wash, and yes, I mean that literally. Unable to journey out during the daytime session, I braved rush hour traffic in order to catch the evening match-ups.  News trickled in from loyal colleagues as the afternoon progressed. Andy Murray felled by lucky loser, the Frenchman Jeremy Chardy who had already dispatched Andy Roddick. Unfortunately for him there are no other Andys in the draw. And Roger Federer was Roger Federer, making routine work of his opponent. So I just knew the night would be worth the trip, right?  Novak Djokovic versus David Davydenko. I imagined that the Russian would force Djokovic to find his groove early. There would be no time for half-stepping against the veteran. But from the start, something was off with Davydenko. He wasn’t crisp and clean with no caffeine, although Djokovic certainly was as he fired off aces and returns. He wasn’t at the top of his game yet, but he was ready to shift into that next gear when necessary. It wasn’t necessary, not at all. He took the first set 6-0 and before I could blink — I actually had a wild hair in my eye that was bothering me — he called for a trainer. No diagnosis was announced, but Davydenko retired and the audience was quite gracious. And then the rain began. After the 45-minute delay Monday night, I was ready for a brief wait and the promise of more tennis, because really I hadn’t gotten much tennis at all thus far. But alas, it was not to be. The rain fell steadily and lightning flashed like aces in the night sky and tournament officials suspended play.  And so we all retired for the night.
 
 
by tt stern-enzi 08.15.2012
Posted In: Tennis at 10:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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W&S Open: Day Two

After the more leisurely pace of the first day, which afforded me the opportunity to settle in for whole matches at a time, the second-day schedule presented quite a change right off the bat. As always, I find myself drawn to a few select players, in the early rounds, who don’t get the same level of attention as the top seeds but who might be sleepers. Center Court launched with Venus Williams as a wild card facing the 12 seeded Maria Kirilenko (RUS). Williams, working her way back into form while recovering from illness, still seemed more than capable of handling Kirilenko and the first set, which she won 6-3, sent me off in search of other signs of life. ••• Court 9 played host to another American wild card, Sloane Stephens, who has attracted interest as a possible upstart in the Williams sisters mold. She’s a solid African-American player who has risen up through the U.S. system and has become one of the marketable role models for kids in the summer recreation center programs around the country.  Her match, against Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL), offered an up-close glimpse and she did not disappoint. Pironkova is a game competitor with second-week experience in the majors, but she lacks the power of the top players. She craftily uses finesse and movement to keep herself in points, but Stephens seized the opportunity and dispatched her handily (6-4, 6-1). What was impressive about Stephens was the fact that she went in with a game plan and executed it flawlessly. She knew Pironkova’s weaknesses and attacked with power and pinpoint accuracy. Stephens looks strong and fit, although the comparisons to the Williams sisters seem forced. She’s not as tall as Venus or as strong as Serena. Physically, she’s a step removed from each of them, yet a good blend of their strengths. It remains to be seen if she will be able to harness her talents and catapult forward, but the potential is certainly there. ••• Back on Center Court, Venus was prepared to serve out the second set against Kirilenko, but a funny thing happened on the way to that forum. A few slips at net and erratic serving led to a tiebreak, which Kirilenko won (7-5) to force a third set. The third was little more than a wake-up call for a snoozing Venus who definitely looked a bit more like an awakened giant. She took the match [6-3, 6-7 (7-5), 6-2] and enjoyed the full support and admiration of the fans on Center Court.  The fans would be on-hand to bolster the spirits of several others over the course of the day. ••• The second match on Center Court, between Andy Roddick and lucky loser Jeremy Chardy (FRA), appeared to be more red meat for the crowds. In the early going, Roddick used his booming serves to feed the frenzy, routinely registering aces in the 130-range before dropping the pace for a sneaky 110 mph kicker that completely froze his opponent. 
 
 

W&S Open is (Almost) as Big as Tennis Gets

0 Comments · Wednesday, August 15, 2012
As he sat at a podium in Mason, Andy Murray wasn’t quite sure where his gold medal was. Murray, a week removed from winning the Olympic gold medal for singles in men’s tennis, was in Cincinnati while his prize was far away.  
by tt stern-enzi 08.14.2012
Posted In: Tennis at 01:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
w&s day 1

W&S Open: Day One

All of the qualifying matches, on both the men and women’s sides, have been played and today marks the official start of the main draws. There are preliminary press conferences scheduled with a select group of top players and while the interviews may have star power and a hint of intrigue – especially in light of the impact of inserting a grass court Olympics event into the already crowded summer schedule – I am drawn more to a few first round match-ups.  Veteran Nikolay Davydenko (RUS) dispatched the 13th seed Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR) with such ease and efficiency [6-1, 6-1] that I never even made it out of the press box above Center Court down to watch the match from inside the stadium. Dolgopolov fumed a bit, but was clearly not ready for the steely Davydenko who is never unprepared. I was able to march over to the Grandstand though for the second match of the day on that court, featuring two Americans – the qualifier Jesse Levine and young upstart Donald Young who has cracked the mid-to-upper ranks (world top 30) thanks to strong recent Grand Slam showings. He’s got natural athleticism and solid command of his shots, but the knock on him has been that he’s not as disciplined mentally as he needs to be to truly make a sustained run. And, unfortunately, today’s match offered proof to support these claims. The duel between the two American lefties kicked off with loose play from Young as he was broken easily in his first service game and then sloppily dropped enough points for Levine to hold. Watching Young, it felt like he started out in a much lower gear, so low, in fact, that I would argue it’s a gear that the top players don’t even have anymore at this stage. The guys in the Top Five start in third and shift up from there, but Young was definitely in first and seemingly stuck, although Levine wasn’t ready to jump on the opportunity. He played down to Young’s level and I found myself pondering how quickly the winner here would exit in the next round. In a fit of frustration after a listless point, Young muttered to himself that his shot “was the worst ever” and sadly, it would have been hard to disagree with him. That attitude though, without a corresponding rise in the level of play, is going to knock the wind out of his sails and those of his fans. Buck up, Young man!The next match on the Grandstand, I was sure, would be better. In another battle of countrymen, Francesca Schiavone (ITA) faced off against wild card Camila Giorgi and I was hyped for a passionate display from Schiavone who impressed me during last year’s W&S Open with her never say die approach and gritty shot making. She has won a Grand Slam on clay, which lines up with her skills (and robs the larger, stronger players of their strengths), but the shots have to fall and alas that was not the case against Giorgi. Schiavone struggled to withstand the power of Giorgi, a player who certainly looked equal to her in stature. There was discipline and poise in every move Giorgi made, while Schiavone settled into a surprising degree of resignation over the shots she was spraying all over (and beyond) the boundaries of the court. She quickly transitioned from frustration to acceptance that today, in this match, Giorgi was simply better, but she fought to the last point, as we would expect. In this case, as opposed to the Levine-Young match, I give Giorgi solid odds to possibly advance further, mainly because she didn’t simply let Schiavone give her the match; she earned it by seizing control of points and making shots. My final match of the day, the first of the evening on Center Court featured the 13th seed and former Number One Jelena Jankovic (SRB) against Shuai Peng from China. Jankovic won the women’s W&S title back in 2009, but has been struggling to rebound back into the top ranks of late. Rather than watch from the sheltered remove of the press box, I ventured down to the photographer’s pit on court and by chance ended up next to Peng’s coach. While I offered little more than a nod of greeting when he initially sat down, I found myself alternating between my own study of the match and a sneak bit of observation, focusing on his reactions to his player’s efforts. Much is made of the idea that players should not receive coaching during a match, but a simple clap of encouragement or a reminder to keep your head in the game or to watch a stroke seems perfectly acceptable. Peng’s coach did these things, sparingly, and often, it was little more than confirming something Peng (and many of the observant fans in the stands) already knew. It was intriguing interplay that never crossed the line, but also wouldn’t intrude upon the player’s ability to think and strategize for herself. She is the one out there in the match and any adjustments, whether large or small, must come from her and their arrangement certainly gave her the control she needed. Peng is a crafty and solid player who primarily uses a two-handed swing on both sides. I’m not much of a fan of the two-handed backhand because I believe that it limits the full range of the player’s stroke and forces them to get into position faster to reach and make certain shots, but watching Peng’s form, I must admit that she nearly won me over. When she was set and on top of the ball, the two-hand swing allows her to generate a great deal of power, which she can control and direct to either side. The best facet of her game though is her discipline and mental toughness. Peng never once succumbed to rushing either a shot or the pace of her play. There was always a sense of an inner calm and this match certainly ended up pushing her to the limit. Peng and Jankovic slugged it out for three long sets, the final going to a tiebreak, alternating between brilliant shot making and loose points. In addition, they suffered through a 45-minute rain delay, but in the end, Peng stood triumphant, as Jankovic seemed ready for the match to be over. After nearly 3 hours, it was hard to blame her.
 
 

Yonder Alonso Recalls Time with Reds

0 Comments · Wednesday, August 8, 2012
It’s tough enough to make it to the big leagues — but when an MVP blocks your way, the road to the majors is even tougher.   
by Pete Mentrek 08.02.2012
Posted In: football at 11:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Free Who Dey This Weekend!

Bengals scrimmages at Paul Brown Stadium are free and open to the public

Well, it’s August and to sports fans — real sports fans — that means one thing: preseason football.  The Bengals preseason training camp, for the first time ever, is being held at Paul Brown Stadium and all practices and scrimmages are free and open to the public. Capacity shouldn’t be an issue this year, unlike their former Georgetown, Ky., location which, let’s face it, sat less people than most middle school lacrosse games.  If you’re really jonesing for a Bengals fix, check out the Intrasquad Scrimmage 3 p.m. Saturday, which features the most full contact of camp.   Sunday at 6 is the Black/White mock game (take it easy Kathy Wilson, it’s not what you think), where they split the team into two squads who play a minimal-contact game against one another. They keep score in that one, which, depending on what side A.J. Green is on, could be a good thing.   Speaking of wide receivers, Jordan Shipley’s back from that pesky ACL tear that sidelined him for all of last season. The talented Mr. Shipley will be running routes alongside Brandon Tate, Antonio Bryant (yes, that Antonio Bryant) and third-round-pick Mohamed Sanu.  Some other new faces worth checking out are former Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis and rookie tight end Orson Charles.  Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait on buying tickets to Kirkpatrick Island (wow, that really doesn’t have a ring to it) as the new cornerback, and first-overall draft pick, is missing most of camp due to an undisclosed leg injury.  So check out the 2012 Bengals while it’s still free. It’s the best chance you’ll have to dip your toe in the water before deciding if you want to sell a kidney to afford those Party Deck tickets. For the complete preseason schedule, click here. 
 
 

Atkins Is Bengals' Lesser-Known Star

0 Comments · Wednesday, August 1, 2012
If you want to buy the jersey of the Bengals’ best player, you can’t just head down to Dick’s and pick up his jersey off of a rack.   

Bengals Preseason: Many Questions, Many Options

0 Comments · Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Looking for their first back-to-back winning seasons and consecutive playoff appearances in 20 years, the Bengals enter the 2012 season with the swagger of a Pro Bowl quarterback-receiver tandem that could be the backbone of a winning foundation for years to come (haven’t we heard that before?).   
by Paul Smyth 07.23.2012
Posted In: Boxing at 12:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
broner photo

Cincinnati's Broner Scores Fifth Round TKO, Loses Title

Cincinnati's Adrien "The Problem" Broner won the fight Saturday night, but he lost the title. Broner, contracted to defend his WBO Junior Lightweight title (130 pounds) against Vicente Escobedo on Saturday in a fight broadcast nationally on HBO, failed to make weight, coming in more than three pounds heavy. The undefeated Broner automatically lost his title, while Escobedo, who faced more risk fighting the heavier Broner, had the option to cancel the fight. After negotiating substantial additions to his share of the purse, Escobedo agreed to proceed.   No longer a title fight, the 12-round bout began with a pattern Broner continued throughout the night:  jabbing low to the body early each round, then mixing his punches — crosses, hooks and uppercuts with both hands — with jabs higher up. Broner struck at first in single or a few shots, but increasingly unleashed torrents of hard shots with speed and power in both hands throughout the first four rounds.      Both men landed punches, but Broner landed significantly more jabs and the more telling power shots. For four rounds Escobedo stayed in the center of the ring with Broner, though faring worse in the exchanges.   At the end of the fourth round, both men headed back to their corners. Broner gave Escobedo a long look then told his trainer, "I'm going to walk him down." Calm in his corner, Broner remained sitting until the final moment when the bell signaled the beginning of the round.   Broner's pace and intensity ratcheted up. The battered Escobedo barely forced his way off the ropes through a barrage of punches, circling not Broner but the whole ring, his back to the ropes.   The final, measured attack saw Escobedo bent double, nose bloodied, unable to respond to Broner's attack. The referee halted the bout in the fifth round as Escobedo's corner threw in the towel.  "It was time to open up," Broner said after the fight. "I was opening up every round, getting closer and closer. He's a world class fighter who has a chance win a world title one day, but today was not his day." "I felt his power. He's fast and hard to hit," Escobedo said. "I did my job and came in here like a professional and he didn't. That's the past, and he was the better man tonight."  For Broner, the TKO victory means he can explore bigger possibilities in higher weight classes as an unbeaten, phenomenally skilled, yet only modestly, tested pound-for-pound candidate.   Broner's trainer Mike Stafford said Broner "can be comfortable at 135; he can be comfortable at 140. But right now, we're going to [135]. We're not going up two weight classes because we don't have to."  Broner, who previously has said he might go as high as 154, said, "The task only gets bigger from here, going to lighweight. We'll give them all hell: [Antonio] DeMarco can be next, after that, [Juan Manuel] Marquez, [Brandon] Rios ... anybody." Broner's failure to make weight on Friday has been criticized by many and interpreted to reflect his attitude toward life both in and outside the ring. It's too soon and the situation too complex — networks, promoters, pundits, the fighters and camps are all in play — to reach definitive conclusions about how Broner will continue to develop as a person and a fighter. In the meantime, the measured approach of Broner and his team gives him the best chance to demonstrate possibly elite skills against more challenging competition.  Three other Cincinnati-area fighters on the undercard won their bouts Saturday night, including middlewight Chris Pearson, junior lightweight Brandon Bennett and heavyweight Danny Calhoun.                                              
 
 

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