by tt stern-enzi
Posted In: Tennis
at 01:12 PM | Permalink
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
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
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
by Pete Mentrek
Posted In: football
at 11:45 AM | Permalink
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
Some other new faces worth checking out are former
Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis and rookie tight end Orson
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.
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.
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
Posted In: Boxing
at 12:37 PM | Permalink
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
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
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 . We're not going up two weight classes because we don't
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.
Fast cars, sketchy women, Cuban lawsuits and sleazy agents. What will it take to slow down Aroldis Chapman?
2 Comments · Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Two months into the 2012 baseball season,
the Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher was flying high. In the Reds’ front office, though,
worries about Chapman persisted. Not about his choice or location of
pitches. About other stuff, like his compliance with traffic laws and
his choice of companionship. Some insiders fear that the 24-year-old
Cuban’s personal life is approaching, well, the velocity of his
by Paul Smyth
Posted In: Boxing
at 10:01 AM | Permalink
Westwood resident will defend Junior Lightweight World Champion title at U.S. Bank Arena
Cincinnati resident and elite boxing prospect Adrien "The
Problem" Broner will make his second WBO Junior Lightweight World
Champion title defense at the U.S. Bank Arena Saturday.
The Cincinnati pugilist (23-0, 19 knockouts), who lives in
Westwood, faces Vicente Escobedo (26-3, 15 knockouts). The fight will
be broadcast on HBO's Boxing After Dark and represents the next step in a
career that may propel Broner into the highest levels of the sport.
This will be Broner's fifth appearance on HBO.
Broner is the youngest current U.S. title holder after
winning the WBO Junior Lightweight belt with a third-round knockout of
Vicente Rodriguez last November. His first title defense came in
February of this year, also in Cincinnati. He easily defeated Eloy
Perez, prompting additional fan, cable and promoter attention. His
second title defense this Saturday may be a turning point, leading to
the next tier of exposure and reward — and perhaps much tougher fights.
Escobedo is a 2004 US Olympian, though he did not medal.
He's fighting at 130 pounds, having tasted defeat as a pro at 135 pounds
in a split-decision title fight loss versus Michael Katsidis in 2009.
After four victories in the new weight class, the 30-year-old Escobedo
now faces one of the most highly touted prospects in boxing today in
In the ring, Broner's athleticism, speed, power and
preparation, as well as his side-on fighting style and
offense-from-defense positioning, have led to comparisons with current
pound-for-pound great Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Broner says he doesn't watch
tape of opponents but prefers to adapt in the ring.
Outside the ring, he's known for a flamboyant style that
also has brought comparisons to Mayweather's flashy persona, but Broner
shows adaptability in the arena of life as well. Broner describes strong
and apparently nourishing interests, including recording his own music.
So far, when it's time to focus — in the ring or answering serious
questions about his claims to elite status — the 22-year-old can be
frank, direct and thoughtful.
But he's also being called over-the-top. A rare talent. And, of course, undefeated.
Cincinnati sports fans are on notice that maybe, just
maybe, they have a new, hometown, world-class athlete worth following on
the international stage.
Broner-Escobedo headlines an extensive undercard on Saturday, July 21. U.S. Bank Arena doors open at 5 pm. HBO Boxing After Dark coverage begins at 10 pm. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 11, 2012
A hundred stolen
bases? That’s so 2011. Today, Vince Coleman’s minor-league record of 145
stolen is the goal for Cincinnati minor-leaguer Billy Hamilton.
0 Comments · Tuesday, July 3, 2012
It took all the way until the first day
of July, nearly a week from the All-Star break, to figure out just what
was off about this baseball season. We’ve had plenty of exciting games still
there was something missing, and I couldn’t put my finger on it until
the National League All-Star rosters were announced. Tony La Russa, we missed you.