Headingley : Back To Reality !

Headingley : Back To Reality !

Yorkshire had been waiting and remembering.Not long had the flames died from the Lord’s euphoria that up North,under a  sunny sky at Leeds, Sarfraz Ahmad found himself calling the toss rightly for the first time as a skipper.His confidence in skipper hood must have for split second received a huge boost. It seemed that there was no doubt in his mind to bat ,similar to his counterpart calling at Lord’s.That confidence would have lasted for most part of an hour as the humidity at 11 am onwards and the traditional seam Headingley is famous for lit up many in the English camp who were at the back end of a lot of scrutiny the whole week.

The Greenshirts who always love to bat first regardless of the conditions, courtesy of  lacking a chasing temperament would not have been so disheartened at 49/2 in the opening session. Then with Haris Sohail nicking one to second slip and Asad giving Cook first slip practice,the visitors found themselves at 68/4 at lunch.Both looked to have discovered some form at Lord’s.Worse was to come though.

At 79/7,with another failure from the skipper, it didnt look like 100 was possible. Shadab Khan’s third fifty in as many games with Hasan Ali’s cameo helped Pakistan towards a 174.Many had called it then,the test was done. It took 48.1 overs.Stuart Broad ,Jimmy Anderson and Chris  Woakes,Wood’s replacement racked up three each.The Pakistan batting which had been dreaded pre tour for a dismal score had succumbed.Did someone mention “Mallender” ?

 

By the time England came to bat,it seemed there wasn’t much assistance left as Cook and  Keaton Jennings set off for unique kind of opening ,not seen recently by the hosts achieving a fifty stand.England ended the day at 106/2, looking set for a lead.Despite rain holding up the first session on day 2,England carried on doggedly. Dominic Bess as a night watchman enjoyed himself on a 49 as they took the lead and built on it. Jos Butler ‘s dropped chance when he was 4  was the big spill of the day as he went on to make an unbeaten 80. Pakistan’s fielding wasn’t too bad but Hasan Ali’s drop was rued for some time.The lead was set at 189. The pitch now had levelled up, playing well for the batters.

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I think that doesn’t count for the fact that this is Pakistan’s batting though.If one had slept through the second innings on day three, one would have just gone space through an action replay of what happened in a first, except running at a slightly faster pace.Imam criticised for the poor shot he played in the first innings managed 34 and the debutant Usman Salahuddin played with some caution for a 33.The rest were worth not even mentioning.Still have to see its hard seeing Azhar Ali struggling to plant that front foot post injury.Jimmy took him twice at Leeds.Pakistan scored a paltry 134 in 46 overs, just batting 92.1 in the whole game.The loss was an innings and 55 runs.They had shown no fight at all.

Broad took another three for in the second innings giving Michael Vaughan something to think about before he writes his next piece.Dominic Bess who starred with the bat outperformed Shadab as a spinner’s duel with a three-for of his own and found himself diving all around with the stunner.Even the new kid on the block,Sam Curran, the hosts’s third replacement took a wicket in each innings.England had bounced back and won a test match for the first time since early september last year at Lord’s against a weak Windies squad.A relief for Joe Root.

All that Lord’s euphoria, evaporated.Well ,Headingley has never been Pakistan’s cup of tea.Its their sixth defeat here against England.They haven’t been close to winning since their historic series winner of 1987, batting first or last.Yorkshire’s saturation of fans of Pakistani origin will have to wait another year before they find success, last seen in a ” home” test win over the Aussies eight years ago.

With the series squared, and no batsman managing  a ton, Mohammad Abbas led the bowler in wickets and picked up a maiden man of the series award.He bodes well for the future especially on English wickets.Leicestershire will cherish him this season.

Reality has bitten back, but there ‘s plenty to learn from the loss here for the Greenshirts and some bright points  will be taken from the series particularly the discipline shown at Lord’s and the young guns determination to strive.Till then,the North remembers !

 

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Sarfraz’s Shababs !

Sarfraz’s Shababs !

May 24,2018, Lord’s.The start of another long international season which sees three international sides touring in the English summer.The first of  those sides, Pakistan had only four survivors of their 2016 touring party.They had squared that one winning both London tests.Long gone were the days they had Misbah and Younis (MisYou) in their ranks.

After England were comprehensively beaten in last winter’s ashes and then further embarrassed at 58 in the Auckland test against Kiwis,there were many who would have brushed aside those “away” losses in favour of an easy 2-0 win over a young inexperienced Greenshirts’ side to tour the British Isles for ages.The visitors set foot nearly a month ago after a preparatory camp in Lahore.They had already beaten Ireland in the country’s inaugural test a fortnight ago,albeit a characteristic stutter in the chase.

Misbah’s successor Sarfraz had tasted success on English soil last year as an Odi skipper after a historic Champions trophy campaign that rewarded him with the test captaincy amidst much pomp and ceremony. His first assignment though had ended in humiliation against a similar transitional Sri Lankan side  in UAE last October.

Though much criticised by the local media at home, the side selected for the twin series had eight players under 30 and five  awaiting test debuts.A notable exclusion was Fawad Alam who was excluded in favour of the highest domestic run scorer,Saad Ali.Faheem Ashraf and Imam ul Haq, handed debuts in the Ireland test had returned performances which temporarily numbed their critics.

England, though is a different setting altogether.They haven’t lost a home series  since 2014.May,typically is England’s month.At the home of cricket,with the world’s media watching in a packed house, performance here resonates globally. The opening morning was ideal. Saifi didnt have to decide the toss.Pakistan’s bowling, their stronghold,was in play. They had England at 43/3 following Abbas and Hasan Ali striking early.Then after lunch Faheem broke though with  Johnny Bairstow  bowled.Cook in ominous form got taken by Amir for 70 and only Stoke with 38 led any resistance as the hosts had collapsed to 184, a 5/19 demise post tea.Mohammad Abbas and Hasan Ali  claimed 4 each.

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Now came the hard part. Pakistan had to bat post tea and survive nearly 90 minutes of play.Azhar Ali and Haris coped and ended with 50/1 at stumps.Jitteringly,as is the case with their willows, they had survived.The next  morning they slowly raised the score to 87 before Haris departed.Azhar milked a fifty and in the process had provided a platform taking the shine away.Asad Shafiq and Babar Azam scored fifties as well but sufferred different fates to Ben Stokes’ deliveries.Asad was out to a lifting delivery while at 68, Babar succumbed to a ball which broke his wrist and he retired out of the game as well as the series.The skipper added little with a rash stroke before tea which saw them 5 down at less than 250.

Faheem Ashraf and Shadab Khan dashed opportunistically for a 72 run late blast which swung momentum towards the Greenshirts.It was a timely stand.They had posted 363 by the third morning, which was astonishing by their batting standards.They had enough fuel in the tank to give the hosts a good go at it. Cook had gone early to Abbas  who was on song straigtht away and Stoneman was bowled to low leg break  close to lunch from the leggie, Shadab. 32/2 meant the writing was on the wall.

Post lunch, Joe Root answered some critics with a 68. Pakistan though chipped away with wickets through the pacers.Amir had 2 in 3 balls. Malan out to Skipper’s scorching take and Johnny Bairstow lost his off stump to the inswinger.When Root was  dismissed for 68 with the score at 110, it had  left England six down with 69 to save an innings defeat.All over,right ?

In came Jos Butler and the debutant Dominic Bess. Jos banking his place on recent IPL performances played a mobile knock of 66 with his Somerset colleague managing a debut 50.Fatigue was setting for the Greenshirts.England had taken a weary lead at stumps of 56,still having four second innings wkts  and all of a sudden another low unachievable  chase looked on the cards.The fourth morning produced  no such issues. Within 25 balls they had cleaned up the last four with Abbas and Amir sharing four each for the innings. The A A’s were too good.

Knocking in the last 64 runs in the chase, the Greenshirts achieved what only once in 1921,had been done.England losing a test that had begun and ended in May. The young guns had delivered.Mohammad Abbas, a leather factory worker from Sialkot, and the highest wicket taker for Pakistan in his seventh test was named man of the match. Mohammad Amir became the highest Greenshirt wicket taker at Lord’s with his 18th scalp.

Too inexperienced they might be, but they did what few Pakistan teams have done in the past. They maintained discipline in all areas session after session and fielded well, a testimony that they were fit for the job.Its been a few  tests only and a much dangerous prospect up North in Headingley awaits.But for now Misbah’s Men of yesterday are sounding more like Sarfraz’s Shababs*.

 

(Shababs- arabic for youth )

Lords cup

Sijag PyeongChang !

Sijag PyeongChang !

The Winter Olympics always have had a concealed identity. The Games of snow and ice changed to an alternate even year in 1994 to gain a degree of spotlight from it summer counterpart.It seems half the nations don’t compete most of the times due to the nature of the sports.Sochi had a record 88 with 2873 attending.Nevertheless, its occupied an integral part of the sporting calendar and these year’s games have been rated as the event of the year.

With 92 associations competing and a record 2920 athletes,Pyeongchang, in the province of Gangwan-do,becomes the third Asian city to host the winter games.Ecuador,Eritrea,Singapore,Kosovo, Malysia and Nigeria are the newest entries to the fold.The hosts of the last olympics though Russia competed under OAR flag after their association was banned under state sponsored doping issues.

 

Its build up was never going to be easy being 40 miles from the border with North Korea and tensions on the rise.However as Sport has always proved in the past, it s the best uniter whereas Politics is the great divider.On February 9, The two Koreas marched together under one flag last as the hosts in a spectacle seen globally.They were competing as one team as well in the women’s ice hockey.

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With Soohorang and Bandabi watching as mascots,a colourful ceremony took ot the olympic stadium outdoors in tundra like conditions.Following the parade of teams,the Olympic torch lit in Athens and brought from its global voyage to Korean shores before finally arriving to Pyeongchang where as expected the South Korean queen of figure skating from Vancouver 2010, Yuna Kim who set it alight following her mini routine .The Games had begun.The Koreans would have plenty of cheer in the first week.Even though its at 700 metre elevation, most of the venues had artificial ice and snow.

Not surprisingly their women’s ice hockey team struggled but the  North Korean cheerleaders contingent  set the stadium alight with plenty of  K pop pumping and jumping.The home crowd cheers were responded to as Lim Ho-Jun first and then Choi Min Jeong took the 1500 metres short track double. They also captured the skeleton gold with Yun Sung Bin.

Norway and Germany have a good tradition in the games and Korea was no different. Norwegians’ strength was evident in week 1 in the cross country skiing scooping 5 golds.Germans had the luge sealed taking three with three more in the Biathlon in the first week.Sean White and Chloe Kim in the half pipe were convincing winners as Americans ran the snowboarding golds at a canter, picking four.The Dutch had skating glory with six golds.

Britain had a bronze in the Skeleton that Yun won through Dom Parsons, but its crown jewel event was the women’s version where the defending champion from Sochi Lizzy Yarnold took the nation’s first gold of Pyangchang.Laura Deas took bronze in the same event to double the overall medal tally.Lizzy’s 4 heat run was impressive and at times when Jacqueline Loelling of Germany and Janine Flack of Austria threatened to take the top medal away, she stormed back to line up clutch runs down the slide to take the title.

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Though the perennial heavyweights are ruling, there’s plenty of cheer wherever you go.From the Jamaicans to the Swiss, the Argentines to Ghanaians.Yes, Korea has welcomed with open arms.The world is present in Pyangchang witnessing some great feats, thrills and spills, glory and defeat but all in the honour of healthy competition. Its only week 1, but some of fireworks are set ablaze and more surely are to come. Bring it on! Let the magic enchant you on the ice and snow!

 

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Super Bowl 52- The Bell has rung !

Super Bowl 52- The Bell has rung !

In the state they call as having 10,000 lakes,February would have turned it more into frozen ocean so that Ice fishing would be the normal state of affairs in the week leading upto the “big game”.Its not common that TV’s biggest game gets played in cold area territories but US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis provided a popular setting nevertheless. No need to search for gophers here these nights.

 

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The road to Super Bowl is always laborious. However, New England Patriots the “only” prevalent dynasty in a game that produces parity like no other north american sport does, hardly breaks a sweat coming here on a regular basis.Since 2000, they have won their division 15 out of 17 years and  won five Super Bowls(tied second with Cowboys and 49er’s). They have unleashed a 21 game unbeaten playoff streak in 2003-04 bowl wins  and an active nine straight division title run. Is it even worth being a team in AFC east these days?

The challenger to their throne could have been NFC’s  who’s who.Carolina had Cam but they came across a rejuvenated New Orleans team in Louisiana led by  Drew Brees who put an electric finish in place to knock them out and then a week later were nudged out themselves over a Stefan Diggs  catch by the Super Bowl hosts. The hosts of the Super bowl would have been salivating  themselves in getting to the finale had it not been for Nick Foles led Eagles attack that pulled out all the stops in a one sided conference final in Philly.Nick Foles himself was replacing almost a certain MVP nominee Carson  Wentz  whose season ended weeks before the playoffs began.Another perennial candidate Aaron Rodgers also broke down early which killed Green Bay Packers remote hopes of a berth.

Eventually, after all the deliberations, Tom Brady the lynchpin quarterback of the Patriots took the MVP and was on his way to break the jinx of the trophy holder winning the Bowl.They had the division nailed quite early and though missed some of their key performers to injury in the build up but Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan bailed them out with a somewhat come back win against Jacksonville. Their defence was a question mark at times.Even Tom at 40 though, it never looked that they could cease to amaze.

 

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Nick Foles had stellar run as backup to Carson Wentz in the playoffs which carried in to the big event itself. Philly hadn’t won any trophies in the Super Bowl era and the city’s last major ring was the  2008 world series.They started their third straight being underdogs , ill conceived for a team who had a 13-3 record label. Like why,I dont know. They would give up 613 yards in Super Bowl to New England so it would justify the pundits that come Patriots offense, Brady would fire.

The Eagles receiving core were a strong unit.With Alshon Jeffrey and Nelson Aglahor performing in the season, it was apparent in the Super Bowl , one will have to fire.Jeffrey’s 34 yarder early in the game led Eagles to a 9-3 lead.LaGarette Blount made it 15-3 with his run in the second quarter. New England cut the deficit back to three with 12 points of their own courtesy James White’s run before the halftime. Then came a dazzler from Foles’ playbook. He received a touch down pass from Trey Burton’s pass with a minute to go in the half and Philly restored the advantage.It was 22-12 at halftime.

It was to and fro in the next 30 minutes. The Gronk making his mark alongside Chris Hogan’s TD  catch sandwiched by a Corey Clement reception.Eagles at 29-26 headed with a field goal lead into the final quarter.This had all the chances of being a classic now. But no defence still.Despite a field goal put in, Brady and Gronk came back to manipulate New England’s next touchdown and take the lead 33-32. It was here that Nick Foles’ resolve was tested.Over the next seven minutes he would orchestrate a charge that ended with Zach Ertz catch and Philly had responded. Defences had clearly slept in this Super Bowl.

It was still an eternity of a time  left on the clock for Brady to come back.With 2:21 left ,Brady tried to unleash the winning drive as so often he has in the past. This time the Philly defence hung on and stopped the Brady bunch. Philly retook the ball and converted another three which made it 41-33. It left Brady 65 seconds to come back still with potential eight pointer.He went for it on Hail Mary time as well but Philly had done enough. He had 505 yards and three touchdowns in the loss.They had  stopped the “Mighty” one twice in the clutch and won their first Super Bowl !

The teams combined for  1154 total yards and 874 in passing, both records for post season.Amendola,Hogan and Gronk and Clement had 100 yard games. For his part, Nick Foles passed for 373 and three touchdowns and rightfully took the Super Bowl MVP trophy home as well.Philly’ s dream run ends with the most prized ring of all.Call it unlikely and against the odds. Maybe.They won’t be resenting that one bit of that for the off season.The wait is over.Philly is liberated.

 

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A Swiss storm in Melbourne !

A Swiss storm in Melbourne !

Five sets of tennis.It happens in a tennis grand slam tourney only in the men’s game. There are only 4 of them in a  year and in very unique venues.Even though each Open occurs once annually,one can never get enough of it, it seems. Melbourne in mid to late January signals 2018 has truly begun.

In an Ashes year with BBL as well rising,would an Australian Open coming in the heart of the summer capture the same audience particularly in a commercially competitive climate ?Why not? Not only the crowds would flock into record admissions at the Melbourne Park in the heat of the day but would be departing late into the night sessions as some of the matches ended at 1 am.

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One of the factors for that renewed interest has been the ongoing second wind of someone called Roger.Since he last won the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup in the epic final last year against Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer has had  superb 2017.His “Sunshine double” and Wimbledon trophies were hallmarks of his success initiated from the Melbourne win.

This year,even though Rafa was No. 1 heading into the Open,he was making a comeback from the  knee  injury which ended his season last year.Roger was seeded and ranked world no. 2 for the event and his draw was somewhat supportive.Novak Djokovic was himself coming back after a long time himself and Sascha Zverev departed to an unheralded Korean by the name of  Chung Hyeon who himself resembled Novak in style of play.That might helped as Chung knocked off the six time champion.

Seeded no 5, Dominic Thiem who was also in Roger’s half was ousted to conveniently named Tennys Sandgren, opening the door for an all unseeded quarter between Chung.Roger,meanwhile had no issues getting to the second week in Melbourne as is usual for him.He didn’t even drop a set.Looking relaxed as ever,he had all the time for post match press conferences which sparked their own by line.

Rafa had reached quarters with mild difficulties. Only Diego Schwartzman in round four pressured him but by the time he faced Marin Cilic in  the last eight, his injury woes became apparent.A thigh tear in the fourth set led Cilic to enforce a deciding fifth but it was clear that Rafa would not be  the same.He retired 0-2 down.Cilic advanced rather easily to the final ending Kyle Edmund’s dream run in the semi.

Chung was determined to reach his first semi and beat Sandgren in straight sets.Was he really the new Novak? Roger was resolute in his focus and after he steamed through with a  6-1,5-2 lead,Chung could not manage any more. A foot blister caused him to withdraw and Roger was through to his  seventh Aussie open final.It would be a repeat of the 2017 Wimbledon Final.

A smooth first serve,effective and timely winners and cashing up on the break points had been his forte throughout the fortnight.This didn’t change in the final.He rolled again the first set just like last year in just 26 minutes,6-2.Marin came back in the second set and played a surreal tie break to level the match.Roger unscathed by this broke in the sixth game of the third set to reinforce the advantage.

Marin had to dig deep again.He was broken early in the fourth but fought valiantly twice breaking Roger to force the decider.Another 5 setter.Unreal.Oh,don’t they love that at the Rod Laver Arena? However as much as it was an epic last year,Marin just didn’t have much left in his tank. Roger broke in the second game and led 4-1. His next break of serve in game six set him clear and effectively killed the final.He won his last six points on serve that included 24 aces on the night.Roger nailed his sixth Australian Open with a service winner which equalled Novak’s record.

Roger Federer, Marin Cilic

For what its worth,Roger Federer defined the meaning G.O.A.T. in tennis last season.If there were any remnants left for those meticulous statisticians,one could go find no better place than Melbourne.He has 20 grand slam singles now and on pace for more,with Steffi and Serena’s 22 in sight.Jimmy Connors record of 109 singles titles is 13 away.At 36,he is looking fresher than ever.

In the season of Grammy’s, BAFTA’s and Oscars,tennis has probably resigned all of these accolades and more to the eternal great from Basel who has conquered the Plexicushion Prestige “down under” yet again.He is still the biggest draw of Melbourne Park and for that matter all the tourneys he takes part in for another year.Take a bow and wipe the tears,Roger… for the Swiss storm is here and is in full force.

TENNIS-AUS-OPEN-PODIUM

Banjaras No More !

Banjaras No More !

       In May 2015, when Zimbabwe came to Pakistan in a hastily arranged visit unsanctioned by the ICC and having considerable security concerns, it felt that it would still be a one off event and lot still needed to be desired from the hosts to regain confidence in hosting international sport let alone cricket. Amidst tight security, the five limited overs games were managed in sweltering conditions as many still took to stadiums to fill up Gaddafi waiting for long hours.After it was done,the wait continued. It looked like an eternity.

        So when the PSL Cup final was held despite concerns to call it off earlier in the year considering Lahore’s recent winter’s threats and incidents ,it came to many as a surprise. It was a lacklustre final with Quetta Gladiators severely impaired by its contingent lacking their first tier foreigners. It was well attended and without any glitch and set the ball rolling for further strengthening of measures.PSL 3 was the 1st target for more games, with a possible Lahore /Karachi weekend of double headers.

   With the Greenshirts winning the champions trophy against the odds, it also enhanced the need to be associated with more cricket in the western half of the subcontinent.It was a bold move by the iCC to send a group of current international players something PCB had stubbornly put its foot down on . The South Africans led the way with 5.Led by Faf du Plessis, Morne Morkel, Hashim Amla,David Miller and Imran Tahir paved the way for others to join in. A 14 man squad landed in Lahore in the early hours of Monday morning to a rousing reception albeit tight security.The battle was already half won.

    What transpired in that week were three interesting T20 games featuring the current champions of ODI cricket and a group of talented t20 World individuals. The cricket was again well attended despite ticket issues, long queues and the constant fear of the unknown.The whole city was in shutdown mode as transport was suspended. It caused great problems and inconvenience for the everyday lives of many,but it was accepted and acknowledged for the rebirth of the game.Sports triumphed in the end but the public were its crown jewels.

  More than the Greenshirts display of cricketing skills, it was their amicable hosting of the event that was on display.It was going to be a classic Gaddafi pitch with the batsmen scoring huge totals.Babar Azam the hometown hero starred in the series with all round range of strokes.His 86 in the opener set the tone for the first win by the hosts .A resident of Gulberg, where Gaddafi is situated,he produced the knocks that would be pleasing for any crowd.

    The World 11 were no pushovers though.In the second game,Thisara Perera knocked a huge cameo which set the chase alive alongside a famous Protean who shall long be remembered in Gaddafi folklore even though he was playing in the opposition.Hashim Amla was scintillating in his knock of 72 not out. The series had some spice at 1-1. It was a first t20 loss for Pakistan at the Gaddafi.Ahmad Shahzad starred in the final game regaining some form with an 89 to his credit as the hosts took the series with a much comfortable winning margin having restricted the World 11 to 150/8, chasing 184.Babar took the man of the series award however the men of the series were those World 11 players who came and presented their skills finally to a cricket thirsty nation.Faf and his men left just like they came, as heroes fully entertained in their short Pakistani stay.

    Politics divides.Sports Unite.It’s become an acceptable theme universally.The NFL players in their responses to a divide are a recent example.Faf and co. have paved the way for many to join PSL 3,for other teams to tour later in the year or some to re consider their future engagements.When all is said and done,the World took Pakistan by storm and its just the start of something much more comfortable and breezier than an Abu Dhabi sand storm.

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The Fall Slam !

The Fall Slam !

15 years ago in 2002,when Pete Sampras won at Flushing Meadows, he took his 14th grand slam in what was his career ending tourney.Roy Emerson’s  singles slams record stood for about 29 years.Who knew Pistol Pete’s record was not going to last one decade even as by 2009 Wimbledon,Roger Federer had eclipsed this taking his 15th slam.Roger had taken this current record to 19 by taking two slams earlier this season.

If Roger’s record can be claimed to be insurmountable,US open provided the perfect scene to cap a possible 20th slam, something of an enigma.Tennis was rejuvenated this year with the return of the Swiss icon alongside his long time rival and tennis legend, Rafael Nadal who claimed his 15th slam earlier this year at Roland Garros, a slam Roger missed intentionally to concentrate on Wimbledon’s grass.With Rafa claiming the world no 1 ranking heading into Tennis’ Fall classic,the scenario was set for the 1st ever clash between the two veterans at Flushing Meadows.

However the organisers had other procedures to run.Andy Murray’s late withdrawal added to Kei Nishikori,Milos Raonic,Novak Djokovic meant only six of the top eleven players competed.In a decision that probably influenced a significant blow to the tourney,both Nadal and Federer ended up in the same half of the draw, which handicapped the bottom half.On top of that the bottom half seeds fell quickly including Sascha Zverev (No.4 seed) and Gregor Dimitrov(No. 7 seed)as well as former US open champion Marin Cilic (No.5 seed).

With the new roof in its second year and another one en route,the action was non stop on Arthur Ashe and saw the return of a former champion.Juan Martin Del Potro won a classic final in 2009 and he produced one of the comebacks of this tournament if not his career,with match point down against Dominic Thiem in the fourth round.Del Po rolled against the scoreboard and his fever to mark a five set return and generate a much needed life into the tourney.His reward was another match up on the famed centre stadium against Roger.

The bottom half minus all its stars whether through injury or knockouts was largely subdued.Amidst this,Denis Shapovalov appeared as a possible star until Pablo Carreno-Busta matched him three tie break sets win in the fourth round. Pablo had a dream run that took him to the semis where he met his match against a long time grand slam struggler,Kenneth Anderson.Anderson played some of the best tennis of his career to overcome Sam Querrey in the quarters which the home favourite was destined to win.Obviously there will be a huge question mark considering the absences but credit to Anderson still making it through to his first ever grand slam final.

Del Po lived a new life in his quarterfinal.Facing Roger under the wednesday night lights of a packed Ashe,the first two sets were split.Roger had a huge chance to take the third set but foiled on four set points in the tie breaker to give advantage to the Argentine.Del Po couldn’t be stopped after that.He had undergone four wrist surgeries in the time between that last famous 2009 duel at the US Open final.

 

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Rafa on the other hand drifted well in the top half squeezing the life out of the Deco turf and playing it as if it was a cousin of the red clay he shines on in June.He blitzed the 19 yr old Andrey Rublev in a one sided quarter that saved quite a bit of time.The semi final against Del Po was hyped to be the match of the tourney.Del Po was in immense form taking the first set matching Rafa with aggression.However what came after was if  all the gas had leaked out of his tank.Rafa in no time was level with a 6-0 comeback in second set. On a roll of nine straight games, he took the third set as well, 6-3.Del Po had nothing left it seemed. Rafa took the fourth set 6-2 to sail into his fourth US open final.

 

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The final was a  foregone conclusion.Rafa had too much power, experience and an all round game to nail it in straight sets.Anderson had almost no chance. It was Uncle Toni’s last match as Rafa’s coach.Rafa didn’t let him down.His 16th grand slam and third in New York ended a lean hard court run which stretched since January 2014.He retained his no.1 ranking and this completed a clean sweep of 2017 slams by the two leading grand slam winners ever in men’s tennis.Once again the deficit is reduced to two.

The US Open is a usually the grand slam climax of the year.We were denied a possible a first ever Nadal- Federer match up again at Flushing Meadows but more of that in  2018 will wet appetite of many heading into Melbourne in January.”Pistol” Pete and Roy Emerson will hopefully be watching.

 

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