Welcome to this week’s column. Some interesting stuff this week, both on and off the pitch/track/court. And, of course, the football World Cup is imminent and I must confess I am excited! Looking forward to seeing some great action – bad punditry to follow.
But there’s so much more than football going on. News and results this week come from tennis, boxing, football, rugby union, rugby league, golf, netball, athletics and mountain biking.
French Open – On the Court
How close for Jo Konta, but it was not to be. The French Open final will between the 19-year old unseeded Marketa Vondrousova and Ash Barty (8) as they overcame 26th seed Jo Konta and Anisimova respectively. Both will be playing in their first Grand Slam finals.
To be honest, Konta peaked in the quarter-final, where she played the game of her life, overcoming seventh seed Sloane Stephens 6-1 6-4. She was strong, adventurous and determined and everything she tried seemed to succeed.
In the other quarters, Vondrousova beat 31st seed Petra Martic 7-6 7-5, Amanda Anisimova beat third seed Simona Halep 6-2 6-4 and Barty beat Madison Keys (14) 6-3 7-5.
And so to the semis.
Not ideal to be playing on the third court quite early in the morning – a decision that has been rightly criticised by some of the top players and commentators on the game.
Jo Konta (26) lost to Marketa Vondrousova 7-5-7-6.
In contrast to the quarter-final, Konta looked lacklustre and nervous. Vondrousova also made mistakes in the first set and Konta was a break up but Vondrousova broke back to take the first set 7-5.
The second set was a tight affair with each player making errors. But in the end it went the way of the first. Konta was up with a break, but couldn’t maintain it and as the set went into a tie-break there looked to be only one winner. This proved to be the case and Vondrousova was through the final.
Ash Barty (8) beat Amanda Anisimova 6-7 6-3 6-3
At first it was one-way traffic in this match as Barty raced to a 5-0 lead in the first set. But Anisimova showed great resilience to not only recover her game but take the first set on the tie-break.
Barty could have been crushed by this comeback, but she wasn’t, taking the next two sets 6-3 6-3 to set up the final clash with Vondrousova, and in so doing becoming the first Australian into a Roland Garros final since 2010.
We are at the semi-final stage of the women’s doubles with the following ties taking place today (Friday 7 June):
Elise Mertens/Aryna Sabalenka (6) v Kristina Mladenovic/Timea Babos (2)
Johanna Larsson/Kirsten Flipkens (15) v Zheng Saisai/Duan Yingying
French Open – off the Court
American tennis player Anna Tatishvili has been fined her whole first-round fee, around £41,000 for failing to perform to a professional standard in a Grand Slam.
Tatishvili has been out of the game for 18 months with an ankle injury and used her protected ranking to enter the French Open.
The world number 50 lost 6-0 6-1 to 29th seed Maria Sakkari of Greece.
The match referee is allowed to impose the fine if they feel that the protected ranking has been used to play when they are not really fit enough.
Katie Taylor won in controversial circumstances at Madison Square Garden at the weekend. She beat Delfine Persoon on points to become undisputed lightweight world champion.
But there are some who though Persoon had done enough to win it. The judges scored it 95-95 96-94 96-94.
It is thought that Persoon will ask for a quick rematch. More news on this as it happens.
Taylor now holds the WBC, WBA, WBO and ITF titles.
Are you ready? Have you got your wall-chart up?
The Lionesses had a disappointing end to their warm-up matches as they lost 1-0 to New Zealand. For those many so, so, so ridiculous men out there who say that female goalkeepers are “all crap” or words to that effect, perhaps they should take a look at the player of the match winning performance of the New Zealand goalkeeper, Erin Nayler.
The only goal of the game came on 50 minutes through Sarah Gregorius and was largely down to some poor England defending.
Hopefully that’s the blip over.
It all begins tonight (Friday) with France v South Korea (8pm). It is live on BBC1.
England and Scotland begin against each other on Sunday 9 June at 5pm, also live on the BBC – both TV and radio.
My prediction? It’s not coming home, I’m afraid. England to get to the quarters. Winners USA, France or Netherlands, with a sneaky eye on Japan – not that I’m hedging my bets or anything….
Other Football News
Former England defender Laura Bassett has announced her retirement from football.
She made 61 appearances for England, but unfortunately she will probably be remembered for the own goal that gave Japan the win in the semi-final of the 2015 World Cup.
However, she was much more than that one goal. She was a gifted, dependable player, making significant contributions to all the clubs she played for, especially Notts County, Birmingham City and Chelsea.
The transfer window is hotting up. Here are a few of the transfers that have happened in the last week. Birmingham City seem to be suffering a bit of an exodus, which is worrying:
Matilde Fidalgo: SC Braga to Manchester City
Meaghan Sargeant: Birmingham City to Bristol City
Charlie Wellings: Birmingham City to Bristol City
Laura Coombs: Liverpool to Manchester City
Claudia Walker: Everton to Birmingham City
Mel Lawley: Manchester City to ??
Jen Beattie: Back to Arsenal from Manchester City
The England v Barbarians double-header on Saturday saw wins for both England teams, beginning with the Red Roses:
England 40-14 Barbarians
The Roses scored six tries, including a hat-trick for Lark Davies, as they demolished the Barbarians in their first ever meeting at Twickenham on Saturday.
A crowd of 17,902 saw England take the lead after just two minutes when hooker Davies went over with Zoe Harrison converting.
Hannah Botterman went in for the second and Poppy Cleall England’s third, before Davies picked up her second. Harrison converted all four tries and the Red Roses went in 28-0 up at half-time.
In the second-half England seemed to have gone over again through Kelly Smith, but the try was disallowed due to a forward pass in the build-up.
The Barbarians finally got on the board when Sene Naoupu made the break and passed to Millie Wood who went over. Fiao’o Fa’amausili scored a second, both tries converted by Elinor Snowsill.
But England weren’t finished. Davies grabbed her third and Smith finally went in for their sixth, with one conversion by Amber Reed, making the final score 40-14.
England’s next test will be in the Women’s Rugby Super Series, which takes place later on in June in San Diego, where they will take on the best five sides in the world; New Zealand, France, Canada and USA.
Rachel Atherton won the UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup in Fort William at the weekend. She completed the course in a time of five minutes 15.560 seconds, with Tracey Hannah of Australia in second in a tie of 5:17.171.
Atherton is now top of the overall standings after two rounds with another six to go.
With all due respect to squad announcements and Super League additions, there’s only one top story in netball this week:
It was announced this week that Tracey Neville is to leave her post as England Netball head coach after the World Cup in July.
She has been in post for four years, a period of unprecedented change and development in the sport, as well as a huge increase in its profile.
During this time, England have beaten the best in the world and are now a serious threat to the Southern Hemisphere dominance of the sport. This improvement, of course, culminated in England’s breathtaking triumph at the Commonwealth Games in 2018.
Who will succeed Neville as head coach? Well, Tamsin Greenway has to be the firm favourite having won back-to back titles with both Surrey Storm and Wasps Netball.
But for now, let’s concentrate on the upcoming World Cup in Liverpool. As you will all know by now, it begins on 12 July, and the first day includes England v Uganda at 7pm.
Other Netball news:
Leeds Rhinos Netball will join the Vitality Netball Super league from the 2021 season.
The club was only launched two years ago, but its aim was always to gain a super league spot. The team will play its home games at various venues including Leeds Beckett University, the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield and the First Direct Arena.
Kadeen and Sasha Corbin are to present a new BBC 5 Live podcast entitled “Netballers”.
It begins on Tuesday 11 June with weekly editions and during the World Cup will be even more regular. Check it out via the BBC Sounds app or other podcast providers.
Scotland and Northern Ireland have named their squads for July’s World Cup:
Emma Barrie, Kelly Boyle, Lynsey Gallagher, Ella Gibbons, Bethan Goodwin, Sarah MacPhail, Claire Maxwell (Capt), Niamh McCall, Nicola McCleery, Hayley Mulheron, Emily Nicholl), Lauren Tait.
Caroline O’Hanlon (Capt), Fionnuala Toner, Lisa Bowman, Shaunagh Craig, Niamh Cooper, Ciara Crosbie, Michelle Drayne, Gemma Lawlor, Emma Magee, Michelle Magee, Lisa McCaffrey, Neamh Woods.
Never one to gloss over my ignorance, I have to confess I was somewhat nonplussed by the winner of the US Open, when her name appeared as Jeong-eun Lee6. Six, I thought? Well, yes, it is, sort of. Apparently, there have been another five Jeong-eun Lees in the Korean LPGA and so Lee has added the “6” to her name to differentiate herself!
Anyway, she claimed the US Open in Charleston at the weekend. She finished on -6. Angel Lin (US), Lexi Thompson (US) and Ryu So-yeon (Kor) tied for second on -4.
Top British finisher was Charley Hull who ended on level par.
Last weekend’s Super League results were as follows:
York City Knights 0-50 Leeds Rhinos
Wakefield Trinity 0-66 St Helens
Wigan Warriors 42-4 Featherstone Rovers
With most teams having played five matches, Castleford Tigers are top with eight points. They have played only four games, but have a better points difference than St Helens and Leeds Rhinos, both of whom also have eight points but from five matches.
As I warned, this story is far from over. This week a Swiss court temporarily suspended the new IAAF ruling that will require Semenya to take testosterone-reducing medication.
However, the suspension only applies until 25 June and the governing body has been quick to say it will seek a “swift reversal” of the decision.
The IAAF has defended its ruling (thank you to BBC for this):
- It is “convinced there are some contexts, sport being one of them, where biology has to trump identity”.
- It “believes the right to participate in sport does not translate to a right to self-identify into a competition category or an event”.
- “To define the category based on something other than biology would be category-defeating and would deter many girls around the world from choosing competitive and elite sport after puberty.”
- “Regulations [on athletes with differences of sexual development] are a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of protecting fair and meaningful competition in elite female athletics, and Cas agreed.”
It also says:
“The challenge that the IAAF faces is how to accommodate individuals who identify as female (and are legally recognised as female) but who – because of a difference of sex development – have XY chromosomes that lead to testes that produce high levels of testosterone, and therefore have all the same physical advantages over women for the purposes of athletics as men have over women.”
So there’s some serious to-ing and fro-ing here and it is likely to continue for some time. Hats off to Semenya for fighting her corner. Let’s hope that she doesn’t ever feel that it is not worth the fight.
It feels ridiculous to be saying this in early June, but the County Championship is over already – and sadly it is the last of its kind, before the ECB’s restructure.
In the final round of fixtures, the results were as follows:
Hampshire 273/9 (50 overs) 18 points beat Surrey 81 all out (21.4 overs) 5 points
Kent 108 all out (31.2 overs) 4points lost to Sussex 268/6 (50 overs) 18 points
Nottinghamshire 198/7 (47 overs) 7 points lost to Yorkshire 209/8 (47 overs) revised target 206 from 47 overs, 17 points
Warwickshire 148/4 (39 overs) 3 points lost to Lancashire 58/1 (5.4 overs) revised target 58 from 10 overs, 15 points
Kent finish top and are the last County Champions with 106 points from seven games. Yorkshire finish second on 93.
Durham 175 all out (47.5 overs) 4 points lost to Cricket Wales 179/4 (28.5 overs) 18 points
Middlesex 166 all out (48.3 overs) 17 points beat Berkshire 146 all out (47.3 overs) 6 points
Worcestershire 138/7 (43 overs) revised target 194 from 43 overs, 6 points lost to Essex 197/8 (43 overs) 17 points
Middlesex finish top with 102 points from 7 games. Berkshire finish second on 92. There was one game abandoned between Devon and Somerset. They are due to try to play it again, but whatever the result, it will not affect the top of the table.
After 23 years, the County Championship ends here. From 2020 the set-up will be radically different. County cricket will be cut from 34 teams to 8-10 – negotiations are still ongoing.
According to the ECB, the thinking behind the restructure is to encourage professionalism and the chance for women to make a living in the sport they love. They aim to see around 90 women making a living in cricket within four years.
The locations of the teams have not yet been decided, but they will play both 50 overs and T20 cricket. There will also be a Women’s Hundred (yippee) with the same team names as the men’s tournament.
I don’t think it’s too dramatic to say that the future of women’s cricket in England is at stake here and we must trust (but do we?) that the ECB has its wellbeing at heart.
More to follow as the details are revealed.
That’s all for this week. More news and views next week.