This time, Asashōryū caught Hakuhō
Let the pictures tell you the story. This time the Blue Dragon has swallowed up the White Bird. Bravo ! Asashōryū is making a come back and this is the type of sumo we are all waiting for. Hail the revival of the Blue Dragon !
Top two Yokozuna, Hakuhō vs Asashōryū
In probably the most important bout of his short but illustrious sumo career, yokozuna Hakuho beat Asashoryu on Sunday to win the first Emperor’s Cup of 2008.
It was Hakuho’s third straight makuuchi division championship, but those victories had taken place with Asashoryu absent, suspended for playing hooky from a regional tour in the summer.
Throughout the second week of the New Year Tournament, the 22-year-old Hakuho had faced questions about how he would match up against his fellow Mongolian, a 21-time Emperor’s Cup winner who had beaten him 10 times in 15 career meetings.
Hakuho’s response on Sunday was to throw Asashoryu to the dirt to win the sixth Emperor’s Cup of his career.
“Since the summer tour, I’ve been working really hard for this bout,” Hakuho said ringside after he had received the cup from Japan Sumo Association chairman Kitanoumi.
“I didn’t want to lose to a yokozuna who was coming back [from an absence]. I didn’t want to let down my supporters–their expectations were very high.
“Of course, now I want to go for four in a row.”
There is no reason Hakuho can’t, although the smart money is on Asashoryu coming back strong after he was bested in a contest of two immensely proud men.
The two yokozuna refused to back down as they prepared for the bout, and once it started, lived up to their rank.
Hakuho was always on the attack but as with everyone who faces Asashoryu, had trouble turning that into victory.
A double-handed belt grip gave Hakuho a chance to force Asa to the bales, but Asa had the same grip on Hakuho’s belt and fought back, returning the contest to the middle of the ring.
Hakuho attacked again, forcing both into Asa’s side of the ring. Asa’s response was to lift his younger compatriot into the air, but it was an empty gesture. When Hakuho touched down, he started a left-hand, overarm throw that seemed to happen in slow motion before Asashoryu somersaulted to defeat.
Asashoryu’s performance over 15 days confirmed his recovery from the stress-related illness that left him a shadow of his former self in the summer. Sunday’s loss and a Day 2 reversal to No. 1 maegashira Kisenosato aside, the yokozuna swept aside every wrestler he met in the ring.
Sharapova’s comeback continues with Australian Open title
MELBOURNE: Nothing could stop Maria Sharapova at the Australian Open this year. Not her usual nemesis, Serena Williams, who was beaten by someone else in the quarterfinals. Not her fragile right shoulder, which remained loose and pain free. Not the summer heat during Saturday’s final, and not her opponent, Ana Ivanovic, who pushed the powerful, deeply motivated Sharapova harder than anyone else in this Grand Slam tournament, but still could not manage to win a set.
Sharapova’s 7-5, 6-3 victory gave her a third Grand Slam singles title to go with those she won at Wimbledon in 2004 and the U.S. Open in 2006. But this victory had a different flavor for Sharapova than the others, largely because it came after a frustrating period in her career in which her shoulder problems and self-doubt knocked her out of the No. 1 spot.
She failed to advance past the fourth round at either Wimbledon or the U.S. Open and finished the year ranked fifth, great news for some young tennis players but not for a diva who despite all the millions she makes off the court remains, at heart, a ferocious competitor.
She was beaten in the semifinals here in 2005 by Williams after holding three match points. She was overwhelmed by Williams in the final last year. But Sharapova’s appetite for the title was palpable from start to finish at this Grand Slam, which required her to hit and think her way through a difficult draw that included two former Australian Open champions in Lindsay Davenport and Justine Henin and two other opponents who had reached Grand Slam singles finals.
Serving well and moving very well, she was never even pushed to a tiebreaker, and though Sharapova will remain No. 5 in the world in Monday’s new rankings, nobody who saw her performance here would put much stock in that number.
“If somebody had told me in the middle of last year, I’d be standing on this stage in front of all you guys with the big one, I’d probably say, ‘Forget it,’ ” Sharapova said in her poised, wide-ranging speech to the crowd in Rod Laver Arena.
Sharapova, 20, dedicated her victory to the mother of her coach Michael Joyce, Jane Joyce, who died last year of cancer. “Every single day, every time when we went on the court, Jane was the word that came into our minds,” she said. “I just gained a whole new perspective on life and my injuries and how to treat life with respect.”
“This morning I got a text from Billie Jean King saying, ‘Champions take chances’ and ‘Pressure is a privilege,’ ” Sharapova said. “And I think as an athlete that’s what Ana and I and everyone who plays wants to achieve. We all want to take our chances, and I’m just so fortunate I took mine today.”
Ivanovic, who is the same age as Sharapova, is still waiting for her first major trophy. Although she delivered a more poised performance than the one she produced in last year’s lopsided defeat in the French Open final by Henin, she was still too erratic to mount a serious challenge to Sharapova. Ivanovic finished with 33 unforced errors and only 14 winners and later broke down in tears as she spoke to the crowd, which had tilted her way during the match.
Sharapova, seeded fifth, and Ivanovic, seeded fourth, had split their previous four matches, but had never faced each other in a final, much less a Grand Slam final. Each player, as she normally does, came out swinging with gusto. For Ivanovic, who has often looked tight on big occasions in the past, it looked like a tactical move to help her work through her nerves. But Sharapova did a better job of controlling her power in the early stages.
She broke Ivanovic in the fifth game and swept through her own first three service games without losing a point. At that stage, it was easy to imagine this match accelerating toward a finish that had the resurgent Sharapova holding up the trophy after little more than an hour.
But with Sharapova serving at 4-3, the momentum abruptly shifted. Sharapova played her worst service game of the tournament, serving three double faults, two of them on the final two points of the game. It was Ivanovic’s turn to ride the wave, but with a 5-4 lead and with Sharapova down, 15-30, on her serve, Ivanovic decided to hit a backhand drop shot instead of capitalizing on her fine court position to slug a ground stroke. The ball never came close to clearing the net, and Sharapova evened the score at 5-5 before breaking Ivanovic’s serve in the next game as her forehand kept breaking down under Sharapova’s shriek-infused pressure.
“That was a tough moment, two points from losing the first set, but I just kept going,” Sharapova said.
Ivanovic held firm early in the second set, but she still had to fight much harder to hold her serve than Sharapova did to hold hers. Sharapova finally broke her again in the seventh game, getting some help from an Ivanovic double fault at 30-30. It would not be long before she dropped to her knees in delight as her father, Yuri Sharapov, and Joyce embraced in the stands.
Another surprise as Federer falls
MELBOURNE: A surprising Australian Open took its latest unexpected turn Friday when Roger Federer, of all people, failed to reach the final after failing to win a set against Novak Djokovic in the semifinal.The loss was not quite the press-stopper it might have been had Federer been at the peak of his powers here, but there had been enough visible cracks in his beautifully designed fortress over the past week for Djokovic’s 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (5) victory to feel more like an upset than an earthquake.And yet, even with Federer looking intermittently flat and off rhythm, this was still quite a psychological hurdle to clear for Djokovic, a 20-year-old Serb who will face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, an unseeded Frenchman, in Sunday’s final.
Federer had reached a record 10 consecutive Grand Slam finals. He had won the last two Australian Opens, and he has won 12 major singles titles in all.
He also had beaten Djokovic in straight sets in the final of last year’s U.S. Open, a match in which Djokovic had often looked jumpy and had squandered multiple early opportunities. But young tennis players with extraordinary gifts have a way of maturing quickly, and with the pressure mounting on Friday night, Djokovic held very firm in the final two sets, particularly in his own service games.
It’s an “indescribable feeling to beat No. 1 in the world, probably one of the best players this sport has ever had,” Djokovic told the crowd. “I’m very, very proud of myself.”
The Australian crowd, used to more self-deprecation from its champions, reacted ambivalently to that comment, but perhaps Djokovic’s tendency to wear his confidence on his short sleeves is what is required to stop a juggernaut like Federer.
He has been saying he intends to be No. 1 in the world since he was a boy growing up in a war-ravaged country who was trying to find a way to do justice to his talent. He has not stopped saying it since he joined the professional ranks, and matches like this one make it seem more a prediction than a boast.
“It was a tough match, I thought,” Federer said. “You know, a lot of ups and downs, like the usual matches we have against each other. It always comes and goes. But I think he made the more important points today. It was a bit unfortunate for me, but he did play well and served really well when he had to.”
Federer, in contrast, did not. With both players clearly fighting through nerves in the early going, he served for the first set at 5-4 and made three unforced errors in the final four points to allow Djokovic to get back to 5-5.
Serving to stay in the set at 5-6, Federer was broken again, missing a backhand pass he would usually make and then making another unforced error off the same wing.
In all, he would be broken four times in the match, as Djokovic jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the second set and then held on the rest of the way as Federer’s level began to rise to a more familiar level. But the pilot light of his game, his whipping forehand, kept flickering under pressure, and Djokovic kept taking his time – bouncing, bouncing, bouncing the ball – and then pounding down big serves.
He saved two set points in the third set at 5-6 and then got to match point in the tiebreaker with two more serves that Federer could not handle. The next and last rally ended with Federer smacking a forehand hard into the tape, with the sound dropping Djokovic to his knees.
When questioned, Federer agreed that the case of food poisoning that cut into his preparation for this tournament might have played a role in his defeat. “Perhaps,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s because of that, but I don’t think I moved as well as I usually do where I’m in a position to hit passing shots as I like to hit them, even with my eyes closed. That wasn’t the case here, except perhaps in the first two rounds.”
The last man to beat Federer here was Marat Safin of Russia in the semifinals of the 2005 tournament. Safin then went on to beat Lleyton Hewitt of Australia in the final, which was the last major final that did not involve either Federer or Rafael Nadal.
But there will be new talent on the new, blue court in Melbourne on Sunday: Djokovic and the 22-year-old Tsonga, who stunned, truly stunned Nadal in straight sets in his semifinal.
Giants do fall
No.1 Federer and No.2 Nadal got defeated ? What the … ? Well, who doesn’t get puzzled when they hear that these two tennis giants had fallen, being beaten down by young talents, unseeded Tsonga (22) from France and No. 3 Djokovic (20) from Serbia. The new young talents will meet up in the blue court in Melbourne and well, it will definitely be a fresh scene without the top two in the finals. Yeah, giants do fall. Since I am currently job hunting, it is surprising to see the big GE Money board behind the picture above. After doing a simple search at Google, I came to know that GE Money Australia is currently partnering with the Australian Open in the second of its three-year sponsorship agreement. Click here for details.
As of today, Mr. Ryo Ishikawa, better known as the “Hanikami Ouji”, has announced himself as the current youngest pro golfer after just making the world record being the youngest winner ever of a men’s regular tournament on the Japan Golf Tour by winning the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup at the age 15 years and 8 months on 20th May 2007. Being asked of what his biggest dream at the moment, he simply replied, “To win the Masters.” As usual, this highly ambitious new-born pro golfer simply wants to say that, “I want to play with ‘Tiger’.” He has repetitively mentioned this during interviews and we can see that it is no longer something that impossible. Shall we see his name making headlines on sports news all over the world ? Will he be the next world golf icon ? We shall see but one thing’s for sure, Japan is very proud of their young golf samurai.