Women’s Sports Column 1-7 June 2019

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome 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.

Tennis

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.

Doubles

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.

Boxing

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.

Football

World Cup

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.

Selected transfers

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

Rugby Union

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.

Mountain Biking

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.

Netball

With all due respect to squad announcements and Super League additions, there’s only one top story in netball this week:

Tracey Neville

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:

Scotland
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.

Northern Ireland
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.

Golf

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.

Rugby League

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.

Athletics

Caster Semenya

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.

Cricket

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:

Division 1
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.

Division 2
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. 

 

Women’s Sports Column 18-24 May 2019

speedometerWelcome to this week’s column.  Not for the first time, last week’s offering was full of FA frustration.  Hopefully this week’s will be a bit calmer (stranger things have happened, although I can’t think of many).

News and results this week come from netball (didn’t see that result coming), motor racing, cricket, taekwondo, tennis, basketball, hockey, rugby league and football.

Let’s crack on……

Motor Racing – on the Track

It was Round Two of the W Series last weekend.  Dutch driver Beitske Visser took the win with Jamie Chadwick and Alice Powell in second and third respectively.

Visser dominated the race, leading from start to finish.

There were two safety car periods; one when Sarah Tovy’s car got stuck on the grid at the start and one when Gosia Rdest and Esmee Hawkey collided.

Chadwick started on pole, but was overtaken by Visser at the start.  The Briton is still top of the leaderboard after this weekend’s result.

The third round is in Misano, Italy on 8 June.

Motor Racing – Off the Track

It was also confirmed this week that Jamie Chadwick has been offered a role as development driver with the Williams Formula 1 team.

Of course, Williams already have form for promoting women in motorsport.  Susie Wolff was a development driver for the team before she retired in 2015 and, of course deputy team principal is Claire Williams who said of the move,

“Promoting women in motorsport is extremely important and having a female role model as part of our driver academy will hopefully inspire young girls to take up racing at a young age.

“We hope to show that motorsport is inclusive and exciting, be that as a driver or on the engineering side. Jamie is a great talent and I look forward to working with her.”

Football

Champions League

Olympique Lyonnais 4-1 Barcelona

Yet another emphatic win for Lyon as they produced an exceptional first-half performance to mean that even in this season of ridiculous comebacks, the deficit was just too much for Barcelona to overcome after the break.

Ballon d’Or winner and now BBC Women’s Footballer of the year (see below), Ada Hegerberg, hit a hat-trick in the first-half.

If Toni Duggan had hit the target early on, rather than shooting wide, perhaps it would have been different.

Shanice Van de Sanden also starred, setting up the first two goals for Dzsenifer Marozsan and Hegerberg with excellent crosses.

Hegerberg then scored two more – a hat-trick in just 16 minutes and Lyon were four up by half-time.

Asisat Oshoala pulled one back for Barcelona late on, but it was a meagre consolation.

Nikita Parris

And it appears Lyon will only be stronger next season as it was announced this week that England’s Nikita Parris has signed for the French champions.  She will have to prove herself to make a place in such a successful side, but if anyone can, Parris can.

BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year 2019

Ada Hegerberg has been named BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year 2019.

As we already know, she has had yet another excellent season, culminating in her Champions League final hat-trick.  This season she scored 29 goals in 33 games for Lyon and the team won the French league (again) and French Cup as well as the Champions League title.

Pernille Harder was second and Sam Kerr third.  It is Hegerberg’s second title, having also won it in 2017.

It is just a shame that we won’t get to see her playing for Norway in the World Cup.

England

Talking of which, there are two warm-up matches coming up for England as they continue to prepare for the World Cup:

England v Denmark (25 May, Banks’s Stadium, Walsall, 1pm kick-off, live on the BBC)
England v New Zealand (1 June, Amex Stadium, Brighton, 1pm kick-off, live on the BBC)

Scotland

Scotland also play a warm-up:

Scotland v Jamaica (28 May, Hampden Park, Glasgow, 7.35m kick-off)

Wales

Wales play New Zealand in a friendly before they begin their 2021 Euros qualification campaign:

Wales v New Zealand (4 June, Leckwith Stadium, Cardiff, 7pm kick-off)

Netball – on the Court

Manchester Thunder 57-52 Wasps Netball

Well I can honestly say I didn’t see this result coming.  Wasps have been so dominant this year, I thought it was practically a foregone conclusion that they would win the Grand Final, but that, without hopefully sounding too sententious, is the beauty of sport.

Wasps started well and were leading throughout the first quarter. In fact, Thunder didn’t come into their own until half way through the second quarter, when they took the lead for the first time.

At the beginning of the third quarter Wasps roared back and went back into the lead, but couldn’t hold it and the lead changed hands almost with every goal.

It looked as if Wasps had regained their equilibrium towards the end of the third quarter, and going into the final period they had a lead of 45-39.

But it was the Thunder who took the initiative in the fourth and final quarter.  They achieved two turnovers in the first few minutes and from that point never looked back, scoring 19 goals in the last quarter as they secured their third Super League title.

Team Bath 62-56 Loughborough Lightning

By half-time Lightning had a five-goal lead at 30-25, but were unable to maintain their form until the final whistle.

But Bath came back in the third, scoring 18 to Loughborough’s 14 and reducing the deficit to just one.

But it was in the fourth quarter that Bath took control, scoring 19 goals to Loughborough’s 12, giving them a six point victory and a third place finish.

Netball – off the Court

England Roses Squad

Tracey Neville has named her squad of 12 for the World Cup in July.  One person who will not be there is captain Ama Agbeze who has been left out due to ongoing injury.

Unsurprisingly Agbeze is devastated to be missing out.  In an interview with the BBC she said,

“I think I’m dealing with it quite well but I’m really disappointed.

“I feel like I’m at peace with the decision, which I never thought I would say because I’m usually a wreck.

“It wouldn’t be fair for me to go not to my full capacity. I did think I had time but obviously that has been taken out of my hands.”

Agbeze has been a star for England, leading them to the historic Commonwealth gold medal last year.  Let’s hope she can come back from injury and fight her way back into the team.

The squad in full:

Defence
Geva Mentor, GK
Eboni Usoro-Brown, GK/GD
Fran Williams, GK/GD
Layla Guscoth, GD/WD

Centre court
Jade Clarke, WD/C
Serena Guthrie, WD/C
Natalie Panagarry, WD/C/WA
Chelsea Pitman, WA

Shooters
Natalie Haythornthwaite, WA/GA
Helen Housby, GA/GS
Jo Harten, GS/GA
Rachel Dunn, GS/GA

It is a squad combining youth and experience with Geva Mentor, Rachel Dunn and Jade Clarke, all into their mid-thirties.  Eight of the squad played in the Commonwealth Games with just two making their big tournament debuts, Layala Guscoth and Fran Williams.  There is also a well-earned place for Loughborough Lightning captain Nat Pangarry.

You realise the strength of English netball when you realise who won’t be there; Agbeze, Sasha and Kadeen Corbin and Jodie Gibson all miss out.

Hockey – FIH Pro League

Great Britain 2-0 Belgium

The first-half was goalless, but Great Britain took the lead in the third quarter through Grace Balsdon.  Lily Owsley bagged the second.

Great Britain are now sixth in the table.

Next up is Germany at the Lee Valley Centre on 6 June.

Basketball – WBBL

Sevenoaks Suns won the play-off title for the second year running on Saturday, beating Leicester Riders in the final at the 02 Arena 60-55.

It was a tight game throughout and with four minutes to go the two sides were locked at 50-50.  But Sevenoaks stretched ahead to win the tie by five.

Suns’ top scorer was Janice Monakana with 23 points, while Riders’ was Brea Elmore with 17.

Tennis

Rome Open

Jo Konta got through to the Rome final with an excellent comeback against sixth seed Kiki Bertens in her semi-final, 5-7 7-5 6-2.

In the other semi-final, fourth seed Karolina Pliskova beat Maria Sakkari 6-4 6-4.

However, Konta fell short in the final, losing to Pliskova 6-3 6-4.

Konta’s performance at the Rome Open has earned her a seeding in the French Open, which starts on 26 May.

Strasbourg Open

We are at the semi-final stage of the Strasbourg Open.  Top seed Ash Barty withdrew at the round of 32 stage with an arm injury.  Hopefully she will be fit for the French Open.

The semi-finals look like this:

Dayana Yastremska (6) v Aryna Sabalenka (2)
Chloe Paquet v Caroline Garcia (4)

We are also in the midst of qualifying for the French Open.  Katie Swan is one win away from making the main draw and will face Slovakian Kristina Kucova in the final round, but Heather Watson is out, falling to world 193 Valentini Grammatikopoulou 7-5 6-7 7-6.

In the first round proper, Katie Boulter is scheduled to play 23rd seed Donna Vekic, although Boulter may still be nursing a back injury and the match could be in doubt.  Jo Konta is scheduled to play a qualifier.

There are some fascinating first round match-ups in prospect, including Jelena Ostapenko v Victoria Azarenka (both unseeded), Aryna Sabalenka v Dominika Cibulkova, Barbora Strycova v Sam Stosur and Venus Williams v ninth seed Elina Svitolina.

Taekwondo

Great Britain’s top two, Bianca Walkden and Jade Jones, duly claimed gold in their respective categories at the World Championships in Manchester last week – but in very different circumstances.

Bianca Walkden claimed her third successive world title after a bout mired in controversy.  She was 21-10 down to Olympic champion Shuyin Zheng of China, when Walkden forced her opponent into conceding penalties, aggressively getting her off the mat.  Eventually Zheng was disqualified.

Although Walkden fought within the rules, there was booing when she was declared champion and more boos when she received her medal on the podium.  Zheng refused to acknowledge the Briton’s win and then collapsed in tears on the podium when she received her medal.

Jade Jones finally secured the world title that had eluded her, after previously winning two Olympic golds.  She beat defending champion Lee Ah-reum of South Korea in the final 14-7.

A big shout-out too, to Aaliyah Powell, who became Britain’s youngest taekwondo medallist when she won bronze in the -53kg category.

Rugby League

I managed to miss the rugby league results last week, so here they are:

Super League – 12 May
Wigan Warriors 4-12 Leeds Rhinos
Castleford Tigers 30-14 St Helens
Wakefield Trinity 8-40 Featherstone Rovers
York City Knights 4-40 Bradford Bulls

So after four rounds of fixtures, Castleford Tigers are top with four wins from four and eight points. Then follow Bradford, St Helens and Leeds all on six points, but in this order on points difference.

Cricket – County Championship

Last weekend’s County Championship results:

Division One
Kent 235/7 (47.4 overs) 16 points beat Hampshire 233/6 (50 overs) 7 points
Nottinghamshire 207/9 (50 overs) 18 points beat Warwickshire 203/9 (50 overs) 8 points
Sussex 176/7 (50 overs) 5 points lost to Surrey 177/5 (47.2 overs) 16 points
Yorkshire 160/5 (48.3 overs) 17 points beat Lancashire 158 all out (46.2 overs) 5 points

Division Two
Cricket Wales 163/8 (50 overs) 12 points TIED with Middlesex 163 all out (47.4 overs) 11 points
Devon 203/5 (48.1 overs) 9 points ABANDONED Berkshire 22/2 (5 overs) Revised target 213 from 50 overs 7 points
Durham 152 all out (47.4 overs) 17 points beat Worcestershire 121 all out (43.4 overs) 6 points
Essex 124/9 (49.3 overs) 16 points beat Somerset 123 all out (45 overs) 6 points

England v West Indies

As I’m not here next week, I’d thought I’d just remind you of the upcoming England fixtures.  Tickets are still available, so if you’re in the vicinity, get out and watch the women in action.

West Indies have suffered a blow before the series starts with the withdrawal from the squad of Deandra Dottin through injury.  Her place is taken by Britney Cooper.

West Indies squad: Stafanie Taylor (capt), Shemaine Campbelle, Britney Cooper, Afy Fletcher, Chinelle Henry, Stacy-Ann King, Kycia Knight (wk), Kyshona Knight, Natasha McLean, Hayley Matthews, Chedean Nation, Karishma Ramharack, Shakera Selman.

There are three ODIs, all of which qualify for ICC Women’s Championship points.  There are also three T20s.

ODIs
First ODI, Thursday 6 June, Grace Road Leicester, 2pm start
Second ODI, Sunday 9 June, New Road Worcester, 11am start
Third ODI, Thursday 13 June, County Ground Chelmsford, 2pm start

T20s
First T20, Tuesday 18 June, County Ground Northampton, 7pm start
Second T20, Friday 21 June, County Ground Northampton, 7pm start
Third T20, Tuesday 25 June, County Ground Derby, 7pm start

And Finally,

It’s not just the FA that sets the bar high in incompetence.  It seems that FiFA too (are we surprised) are excelling themselves once again.  There have been reports – and it is a number, not just one or two – that groups or families just receiving their World Cup tickets, have been split up and are sitting in different places.  Are these people who have ordered at the last minute and are picking up the odd one?  No, these appear to be people who have been in from the start.  Let’s just hope the problem isn’t as widespread as it first appears and that everyone has a fabulous experience in France.

No column next week as I’m out and about. 

 

Women’s Sports Column 11-17 May 2019

netball2Welcome to this week’s column.  Going to be a bit brief this week due to competing priorities.  But hopefully all that should be covered will be covered!

News and stories this week come from netball, golf, football, tennis, cricket and taekwondo.

Netball

The top two finishers in the league will contest the Super League Grand Final on…

Wasps Netball 74-54 Loughborough Lightning

Wasps showed why they finished the regular season so far ahead with a demolition of Loughborough at the University of Warwick Sports and Wellness Hub.

Wasps coach Mel Mansfield made no changes throughout the match and the team seemed to get stronger, possibly because of it.

Lightning actually made the better start and were one goal ahead after the first quarter.  In the second, Wasps came back and by half-time they were three ahead.

In the second-half Wasps found an extra gear and were dominant throughout.  They were soon ahead by six and then by nine at the end of quarter three.

They reinforced their dominance in the last fifteen minutes, taking the margin of victory out to an impressive 20 goals.

It was altogether tighter in the second semi-final.

Manchester Thunder 57-54 Team Bath

Bath started well, taking a four-goal lead after ten minutes, but Thunder got into their game and before the end of the first they were ahead and although Bath levelled it at various points, Thunder were never behind again in the match.

It was nip and tuck in the second and going into half-time Thunder were only one goal ahead.

Thunder started well in the third and although Bath came back, going into the last quarter Thunder were five in front.

Bath pulled it back while Thunder spent minutes just holding possession, but in the end Thunder were just too strong, maintaining their three goal lead until the final whistle.

The Grand Final is this weekend at the Copper Box in London.  The third-place play-off, between Loughborough Lightning and Team Bath starts at 3pm, with the final at 5.30pm, where Wasps will be going for their third title in a row.  I thought both games were going to be live on Sky, but it appears that they are now only showing the final, which is a shame.

England Roses

There was a blow this week for England as Beth Cobden ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament playing for Adelaide Thunderbirds on Sunday and is out of the World Cup.

She suffered the same injury during the Super League Grand Final in 2018 and had only just returned to competition.

Football

It was the final round of matches in both the Super League and Championship last weekend.  The results were as follows:

FAWSL

Yeovil Town 0-2 Birmingham City
Wellings 59’, Mason 64’ (OG)

Reading 2-3 Chelsea
Harding 50’, Williams 52’
So-yun Ji 8’, Carney 51’, England 64’

Arsenal 1-0 Manchester City
Mitchell 88’

West Ham United 0-4 Brighton & Hove Albion
Green 21’, Connolly 39’, Nilden 79’, Brazil 93’

Liverpool 3-1 Everton
Sweetman-Kirk 26’, Charles 31’, Rodgers 88’
Stringer 39’

Arsenal left it late to seal their win, but finished the season with 54 points from their 20 games, losing just two along the way.  Manchester City were second on 47 with Chelsea third on 42.

FAWC

Sheffield United 6-0 Millwall Lionesses
Gilliatt 11’, Rayner 17’, Salmon 36’ (Pen) 63’, Pennock 59’ 83’

Durham 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Filbey 60’ 90’

Manchester United 5-0 Lewes
James 11’, Sigsworth 33’, Galton 66’, Palmer 74’, Turner 78’

Charlton Athletic 4-0 Leicester City
Graham 1’ 63’ 92’, Ejupi 49’

Aston Villa 0-0 Crystal Palace

Manchester United were confirmed as Champions, ending with 55 points from 20 matches, suffering just one draw and one defeat all season.  Tottenham were promoted in second on 46 with Charlton Athletic third on 41.

That’s the domestic season wrapped up.  Now just the small matter of a World Cup to come.  Speaking of which…..

Scotland World Cup Squad

Shelley Kerr named her squad on Wednesday.  Rachel Corsie will captain the team and the squad comprises:

Goalkeepers: Lee Alexander, Jenna Fife, Shannon Lynn

Defenders: Chloe Arthur, Jennifer Beattie, Rachel Corsie, Nicola Docherty, Sophie Howard, Hayley Lauder, Joelle Murray, Kirsty Smith.

Midfielders: Elizabeth Arnot, Leanne Crichton, Kim Little, Joanne Love, Christie Murray, Caroline Weir.

Forwards: Fiona Brown, Lana Clelland, Erin Cuthbert, Claire Emslie, Lisa Evans, Jane Ross.

Transfers

Ellen White has left Birmingham City to join Manchester City on a two-year contract.  This is very disappointing for the Blues who had a good season and will be looking to build on their progress in 2019-20.  In a statement she said,

“I want to be in an environment and with a group of players that have that same winning mentality, that same professionalism, that same commitment and passion, and I think that’s a great fit at City.”

I’m not quite sure why she thinks Birmingham don’t have a “winning mentality” or “that same professionalism” – I’m hoping this is not a euphemism for having a lot of money to throw at it.  Either way, Birmingham fans probably won’t be pleased at the comment.

Millwall Lionesses

What is going on at Millwall?  After nearly going into administration in April, it was saved by nearly £17,500 raised through crowdfunding.

Now the Lionesses’ board of directors and senior management have broken away from the parent club and plan to go it alone.

The FA, in its infinite wisdom, has apparently approved “in principle” the formation of a “new” club, the London City Lionesses, which could take Millwall’s place in the Championship if it fulfils all of the qualifying criteria.

There is obviously a lot going on behind the scenes here, but one of the FA’s aims in the latest restructuring of the women’s game was to make it stable and sustainable.  With Yeovil’s administration, Sunderland’s woes and Millwall’s complicated story, I think we can safely say it has a long way to go before we reach this point.

Champions League Final

This Saturday sees the final of the Champions League in Budapest.  In our most parochial manner it is Lucy Bronze and Jess Fishlock against Toni Duggan!  Kick-off is 5pm BST and there is live text commentary on the BBC website.

Taekwondo

The World Championships are taking place from 15-19 May in Manchester.

Bianca Walkden is through to the final in the +73kg category, having won two fights before beating Briseida Acosta of Mexico in the semi-final 19-9.

She faces Shuyin Zheng of China in the final on Friday 17 May – the same fighter who beat Walkden in the Rio Olympics semi-final.

Still to come over the weekend we have Jade Jones in the -57kg, Aaliyah Powell in the -53kg and Lauren Williams in the -67kg,

Tennis – on the Court

Madrid Open

Seventh seed Kiki Bertens pulled off a fine win to take the Madrid title, beating third seed Simona Halep in straight sets 6-4 6-4.

Bertens had beaten eighth seed Sloane Stephens in her semi-final 6-2 7-5, while Halep overcame the unseeded Belinda Bencic in hers, 6-2 6-7 6-0.

In the doubles, fifth seeds Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova beat sixth seeds Xu Yifan and Gabriela Dabrowski in straight sets, 6-3 6-1.

Rome Open

It’s been an incident-packed tournament in Rome this week.  Serena Williams pulled out with a knee injury before her third round tie against sister Venus.  Jo Konta is still in the running, having had to complete two matches on Thursday.  First she beat seventh seed Sloane Stephens in three sets 6-7 6-4 6-1 and then an injury-hampered Venus Williams in straight sets 6-2 6-4.

After withdrawing from the Stuttgart Open through injury, top seed Naomi Osaka has again pulled out in Rome, before the start of her quarter-final with Kiki Bertens.  Bertens now receives a bye into the semis.

There are now only two seeds left standing; Bertens (6) and Pliskova (4).

The other quarter-finals looks like this:

Marketa Vonrousova v Jo Konta
Victoria Azarenka v Karolina Pliskova (4)
Kristina Mladenovic v Maria Sakkari

Tennis – off the Court

American player and world number 117, Nicole Gibbs, has been forced to withdraw from the French

Open after being diagnosed with salivary gland cancer.

The growth on the roof of her mouth was spotted by her dentist.  A biopsy showed it to be cancerous.

Gibbs will have surgery this Friday.  In a statement Gibbs said,

“Fortunately this form of cancer has a great prognosis and my surgeon is confident that surgery alone will be sufficient treatment.

“He even okayed me to play an extra couple of tournaments these past few weeks, which served as a nice distraction.”

She hopes to make a return at Wimbledon qualifying in June.

Golf

There was good news for women’s golf this week as the organisers of the Northern Ireland Open announced that men and women will compete for equal prize money.

It will be called the World Invitational and the $500,000 prize fund will be split equally between the men’s challenger event and the women’s event.

Cricket

T20 Challenge Final
Velocity 121/6 (20 overs)
Supernovas 125/6 (20 overs)
Supernovas won by 4 wickets with 0 balls remaining

It was a bad start for Velocity, whose top five mustered 30 between them, including a five-ball duck for Dani Wyatt.  They were rescued, somewhat, by Sushma Verma who scored 40 not out from 32 balls and 36 from New Zealander Amelia Kerr.

Lea Tahuhu took 2/21 from her four overs while the other wickets were shared around.

In response, Chamari Atapattu went early for just two, but fellow opener Priya Punia scored 29, Jemima Rodrigues 22 and Harmanpreet Kaur 55 from 37.  Both Punia and Rodrigues fell when the score was 53 and although Kaur steadied the ship, Supernovas wobbled again when the overseas stars Nat Sciver and Sophie Devine fell for two and three respectively.

Kaur was out in the last over with just four balls to go of the Amelia Kerr over and seven runs still to get.  They had Radha Yadav on strike and Lea Tahuhu at the other end.  Yadav scored two from the third ball, two from the fourth ball, two from the fifth ball and then Yadav drove the last ball for four and Supernovas took the match by four wickets.

County Cricket

Results from the fixtures on 12 May in the first and second divisions of the County Championship were as follows (home side first):

Division One
Hampshire 128 all out (45.4 overs) 6 points lost to Sussex 129/9 (46.4 overs) 16 points
Lancashire 241/6 (50 overs) 18 points beat Nottinghamshire 195/9 (50 overs) 5 points
Surrey 148 all out (44.1 overs) 3 points lost to Kent 152/3 (30.1 overs) 18 points
Warwickshire 108 all out (47.1 overs) 6 points lost to Yorkshire 112 all out (42.1 overs) 16 points

After three matches, Kent are top with 53 points.  Lancashire are one point behind and Sussex are way behind in third on 39.

Division Two
Berkshire 160 all out (43.3 overs) 17 points beat Somerset 86 all out (25.4 overs) 5 points
Cricket Wales 211 all out (50 overs) 17 points beat Essex 139/8 (50 overs) 6 points
Durham 171/6 (50 overs) 4 points lost to Middlesex 173/4 (44.3 overs) 15 points
Worcestershire 69 all out (32.1 overs) 0 points lost to Devon 70/1(16.4 overs) 18 points

We’re three games down in division two also, with Devon at the top on 52 points.  Behind them are Berkshire on 51 and Wales on 39.

More news and views next week as we hurtle headlong into this mad summer of top-class women’s sport!

 

Women’s Sports Column 4-10 May 2019

golf

Welcome to this week’s column.  Plenty to get through yet again this week.  So here we go.  Stories and news this week come from football, tennis, netball, squash, cricket, golf, rugby league, motorsport and cycling.

Let’s crack on.

 

Motorsport – the W Series

History was made last weekend as the women-only W Series began in Hockenheim.

Britain’s Jamie Chadwick won the first race with compatriot Alice Powell in second with Marta Garcia of Spain in third.  Chadwick had been on form all weekend; she was fastest in both rounds of qualifying and took pole by two seconds.

Races to come:

Round 2 – Belgium
Zolder, 17-19 May

Round 3 – Italy
Misano 7-9 June

Round 4 – Germany
Norisring, 5-7 July

Round 5 – Netherlands
Assen, 19-21 July

Round 6 – UK
Brands Hatch, 10-11 August

Tennis – on the Court

Prague Open

Jil Teichmann defeated Karolina Muchova in the final of the Prague Open.  It went to a deciding set and the final score was 7-6 3-6 6-4.

Rabat Open

Meanwhile in Rabat, Jo Konta missed out on a first title of 2019, losing in the final to Maria Sakkari of Greece 2-6 6-4 6-1.  Konta was a set and a break up, but Sakkari came back and in the end was too strong for Konta in the final set.

Madrid

This week the tennis world moves to Madrid.  Sam Stosur went out in the qualifiers.  Caroline Wozniacki retired during her first round match.  Fourteenth seed, Anett Kontaveit, went out Aliaksandra Sasnovich in three sets after taking the first set 6-0.  Thirteenth seed Madison Keys was also defeated in the round of 64, losing to Sorana Cirstea 3-6 6-4 6-1.

We are now at the semi-final stage.  Number one seed and world number one Naomi Osaka crashed out at the quarter-final stage, losing out to Belinda Bencic in three sets 3-6 6-2 7-5.

Bencic faces third seed Simona Halep, while in the other semi, Sloane Stephens (8) plays Kiki Bertens (7).  More news on how it all panned out next week.

Tennis – off the Court

Britain’s number two, Katie Boulter, has withdrawn from the French Open.  She will miss the rest of the clay court season with a back injury.

Football – World Cup

Phil Neville has named his squad for the World Cup which begins on 7 June.

Goalkeepers: Karen Bardsley (Man City), Mary Earps (Wolfsburg), Carly Telford (Chelsea)

Defenders: Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Lyon), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), Alex Greenwood (Man Utd), Steph Houghton (captain, Man City), Abbie McManus (Man City), Demi Stokes (Man City) Leah Williamson (Arsenal)

Midfielders: Karen Carney (Chelsea), Jade Moore (Reading), Jill Scott (Man City), Lucy Staniforth (Birmingham City), Georgia Stanway (Man City), Keira Walsh (Man City)

Forwards: Toni Duggan (Barcelona) Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Beth Mead (Arsenal), Nikita Parris (Man City), Jodie Taylor (Seattle Reign), Ellen White (Birmingham City)

No sign of the Scotland squad announcement as yet.

FA Cup Final

Manchester City 3-0 West Ham United

In the end West Ham were well beaten, but they gave Manchester City a few scares along the way, fighting with every breath until the final whistle.

The first-half was tight with the underdogs matching City in every department.

But the pace and pressure told in the second-half as West Ham tired and Manchester City took advantage.

Keira Walsh hit City’s first from outside the penalty area on 52 minutes.  Georgia Stanway doubled the lead on 81 and Lauren Hemp hit the third two minutes from time.

With their win, City completed the domestic cup double, having won the Continental Cup final against Arsenal on penalties in February.

West Ham can certainly take great heart from their performance.  They competed well for the majority of the match and they have come a long way from those uncertain days when then manager Julian Dicks had to plead for every scrap of kit, every resource and any recognition at all.

One disappointment was that the crowd, although a good one at 43,264, was nearly two thousand down on that at last season’s final.  Not quite sure what went on there – I had heard 52k being bandied about in the days leading up to the match.

Nikita Parris

One player Manchester City will not have next season it seems is Nikita Parris.  She is out of contract at the end of the season, and the word is she is looking to follow England stars such as Lucy Bronze and Izzy Christiansen in a move abroad.  Both Lyon and Bayern Munich are thought to be interested in signing her.

FAWSL

Just one result to report and what a score!

Yeovil Town 0-8 Chelsea
England 4’ 27’ 47’, Cuthbert 16’ 51’, Engman 28’, Kirby 84’ 87’

Chelsea are now up to third in the table.  Bristol City have played their 20 games, everyone else has one game left to play, which takes place this Saturday, 11 May at 12.30pm.

FAWC

The final round of Championship matches also take place on Saturday, 11 May and start at 5.30pm.

Netball

After the eighteenth and final round of the regular season we now know the final four teams contesting the semi-finals this Saturday, 11 May.

Final round results:
Loughborough Lightning 67-56 Celtic Dragons
Saracens Mavericks 50-45 Strathclyde Sirens
Team Bath 72-50 London Pulse
Severn Stars 45-60 Wasps Netball
Surrey Storm 55-60 Manchester Thunder

Wasps finished six points ahead of the field with 45 points from 18 games.  Manchester Thunder, Team Bath and Loughborough Lightning all finished with 39 in second, third and fourth respectively on points difference.

As I said, the semi-finals are this Saturday and both are live on Sky Sports

Wasps Netball v Loughborough Lightning (5pm, Warwick University Sport & Wellness Hub)
Manchester Thunder v Team Bath (7pm, Wright Robinson College)

The third-place play-off and grand final are on Saturday 18 May, at the Copper Box.  Both Games live on Sky Sports from 3pm.

I know it’s a bit redundant to say this to you knowledgeable sports-lovers out there, but don’t forget this is not the end of the netball for this year.  The World Cup is coming!  It all begins in Liverpool on Friday 12 July.

Cycling

Tour de Yorkshire

Marianne Vos ended the two-stage Tour de Yorkshire as overall victor as she won the second stage from Bridlington to Scarborough.

Lorena Wibes, also of the Netherlands, had won the first stage.  Christine Majerus of Luxembourg was second, with Alison Jackson (Can), Roxane Fournier (Fra) and Lisa Brennauer (Ger) third, fourth and fifth respectively.

Vos led a three-rider break with Mavi Garcia and Soraya Paladin during the second stage.  She eventually outsprinted them to take the stage and the overall title.

Second stage result: 1. Marianne Vos (Ned) 3hrs 59mins 16secs, 2. Mavi Garcia (Spa) Same time, 3. Soraya Paladin (Ita), 4. Christine Majerus (Lux), 5. Amanda Spratt (Aus).

This led to a final classification of:

  1. Marianne Vos (Ned) 7hrs 34mins 27secs
  2. Mavi Garcia (Spa) +7secs
  3. Soraya Paladin (Ita) +9secs
  4. Christine Majerus (Lux) +1min 28secs
  5. Amanda Spratt (Aus) +1min 35sec

Of the British riders, the top three finishers were Hannah Barnes in eighth, Elizabeth Banks ninth, and Georgi Pfeiffer eighteenth.  Lizzie Deignan, in her first competition since giving birth in September, finished twenty-ninth.

Rugby League

Coral Challenge Cup

It was the first round of the Challenge Cup at the weekend, with the big sides yet to enter the competition.  The results from Sunday were:

Rochdale Hornets 12-56 Barrow
Halifax 24-14 Hull KR
Featherstone Lionesses 18-48 Stanningley
Widnes Vikings 16-14 Oulton Raidettes
Keighley Albion 26-22 Hull FC
Army RL 34-12 Huddersfield Giants
RAF Ladies 28-18 Leigh Miners Rangers Ladies

The next round is on Sunday 26 May and we are back to league action this weekend.

Cricket

County Cricket

I hope you all took advantage of the Bank Holiday to get out and see some women’s county cricket.  Last weekend’s divisions one and two were as follows:

Division One
Hampshire 131 all out (6 pts) lost to Yorkshire 190 all out (17 pts)
Kent 233/3 (18 pts) beat Warwickshire 232 all out (5 pts)
Surrey 241/7 (8 pts) lost to Lancashire 242/9 (17 pts)
Sussex 127 all out (6 pts) lost to Nottinghamshire 150 all out (17 pts)

Division Two
Berkshire 296/4 (18 pts) beat Worcestershire 77 all out (2 pts)
Devon 136/7 (17 pts) beat Cricket Wales 132 all out (5 pts)
Somerset 269/6 (18 pts) beat Durham Cricket Board 103 all out (4 pts)

For all fixtures please check out here.

T20 Challenge

Three from four of the matches in Jaipur have been played with the results so far:

Trailblazers 140/5 (20 overs)
Supernovas 138/6 (20 overs)
Trailblazers won by two runs

Trailblazers lost Suzie Bates for just one but Smriti Mandhana showed her class to put on 90 from just 67 balls, ably supported by Harleen Deol, who scored 36 from 44.  Deol fell in the nineteenth over and Trailblazers suffered a mini-collapse, suffering the loss of three wickets in the last over.

Radha Yadav took 2/26 from her four overs.

Supernovas started equally poorly with Priya Punia falling for one in the second over.  Chamari Atapatthu and Jemima Rodrigues steadied the ship and the lower order all contributed except Nat Sciver who was out for just one.   Sophie Devine scored 32 from 22 balls.

Supernovas needed 19 from the last over and Harmanpreet Kaur was not going down without a fight.  She hit the first four balls, off Jhulan Goswami no less, for four.  They needed three from the last ball but Tahuhu was run out attempting a bye and Trailblazers had won by two runs.  Sophie Ecclestone contributed with a fine 2/11 from her four overs.

Trailblazers 112/6 (20 overs)
Velocity 113/7 (18/20 overs)
Velocity won by three wickets with 12 balls remaining

Although Bates this time got a start, it was Mandhana who failed on this occasion, falling for 10 in the third over.  Deol batted well again, top-scoring with 43, but there was little contribution from anyone else in the lower order and Trailblazers subsided to just 112 off their 20 overs.

Ekta Bisht and Amelia Kerr took two wickets each.

In response, Velocity lost Hayley Matthews early, for just five.  Shafali Verma (34) and Dani Wyatt (46) took it on before, I’d love to say it, the curse of Nelson struck and they lost no less than 5 wickets on 111.  Somehow they managed to sneak over the line though with two overs to spare.  Deepti Sharma took 4/14 off her four overs, including three in the eighteenth.

Supernovas 142/3 (20 overs)
Velocity 130/3 (20 overs)
Supernovas won by 12 runs

Rodrigues top-scored with 77 not out for Supernovas as they put a good score together against Velocity.  She was supported by Atapatthu who scored 31 and Punia 16.

Velocity fell well short.  Matthews went early for 11 and Shafali Verma for 2.  Despite Wyatt (43), Raj (40) and Krishnamurthy (30) scoring well, they could not overhauls the Supernovas’ total.  However, it has been suggested that Velocity played to up their net run rate to get themselves into the final, rather than aiming to win the match.

This they achieved and so the final will be between Velocity and Supernovas on Saturday 11 May.  News of how this went in next week’s column.

Golf

 Sei Young Kim of South Korea won the LPGA Mediheal Championship after a play-off with England’s Bronte Law.  Law came from 10 shots back to get herself into a three-way play-off with Kim and Jeongeun Lee, also of South Korea.

Final round leaderboard:
-7 S Y Kim (Kor), J Lee (Kor), B Law (Eng); -5 C Hull (Eng), L Thompson (US), EH Ji (Kor), A Yang (Kor)

Kim won the tournament with a par on the first play-off hole, while Law and Lee made bogeys.

Squash

Former world champion Laura Massaro will retire from squash at the end of this season.

In her distinguished career, Massaro became World Champion in 2014.  She won three Commonwealth Games silvers, two in doubles and one in singles and was world number one in January 2016.

She won the World Series Finals in 2016 and 2017, the US Open twice and the British Open twice.

More news and views next week. 

 

Women’s Sports Column 6-12 October 2018

boxing_gloves-2Welcome to this week’s column. Hopefully a bit shorter (and sweeter) this week.  Lots of positive news around, which we all like to see. Stories this week come from boxing, football, rugby union, rugby league, tennis, netball, hockey, cricket, winter sports and motor racing.

So let’s crack on.

Boxing

Nicola Adams’ next bout could be a shot at the WBO world flyweight title.  On Saturday she beat Isabel Millan of Mexico on points (unanimous) at the Morningside Arena in Leicester.

She is now five from five since turning professional in 2017.

It was a test for Adams – the first time she had been taken beyond four rounds.  Two judges scored it 97-93 and one 96-94.

Her promoter, Frank Warren, is keen to see Adams get a shot at the title.  It could be as soon as December and he is eyeing up the undercard of the Josh Warrington v Carl Frampton fight, which takes place at the Manchester Arena on the 22nd.

The current champion is Arely Mucino of Mexico, who has been professional since 2008.  She has won 16 of her 20 bouts, nine within the distance.

Tennis

China Open

Second seed Caroline Wozniacki took the China Open title with a straight sets win over Anastasija Sevastova 6-3 6-3.

Wozniacki beat home favourite Wang Qiang 6-1 6-3 in the semi-final, while Sevastova defeated US Open champion Naomi Osaka 6-4 6-4.

The doubles final was an altogether closer affair, eventually won in three sets by second seeds Andrea Sestini Hlavackova and Barbora Strycova 4-6 6-4 10-8 over third seeds Xu Yifan and Gabriela Dabrowski.

This week sees tournaments in both Hong Kong and Tianjin.

Hong Kong Open

Naomi Osaka withdrew before the tournament started with a back injury.

Third seed Jelena Ostapenko suffered a shock exit in the round of 32, 5-7 3-6 2-6 to the unseeded Kristina Kucova of Slovakia.

At time of publication we are at the quarter-final stage; two have been completed and two are yet to take place:

Zhang Shuai beat Daria Gavrilova (7) 6-1 6-3
Dayana Yastremka beat Kristina Kucova 7-6 6-2
Garbine Muguruza (4) v Luksika Kumkhum
Elina Svitolina (1) v Wang Qiang (6)

Tianjin Open

Meanwhile in Tianjin Britain’s Katie Boulter has had a storming week.  She reached the quarter-finals of the Tinajin Open, eventually falling to world number six, Karolina Pliskova 5-7 6-0 6-3.

After taking the tight first set, Pliskova asserted her authority in the second, taking it 6-0.  But Boulter rallied in the third and was 2-0 up before Pliskova re-asserted herself and took the set and the match.

Quarter-finals:

Caroline Garcia (2) beat Petra Martic (6) 6-2 1-0 (Martic retired with an injury)
Aryna Sabalenka (4) beat Timea Bacsinsczky 7-6 7-6
Karlina Pliskova (1) beat Katie Boulter 5-7 6-0 6-3

Pliskova meets Bacsinsczky in the semi-final

Still to play:

Hsieh Su-wei (5) v Elise Mertens (3)

Tennis – off the Court

British number one Jo Konta has split with her coach Michael Joyce after less than a year.  She has struggled this year, particularly in the Grand Slams and has slipped to 45 in the world.

There is clearly something wrong in Konta’s world and it is not my job to speculate in this column.  Her rise over the last couple of seasons has been wonderful to watch and I really hope that she finds a coach who will restore the self-confidence she really should have, but shows so little.

More news as it happens.

Football

The shortlist for the first Women’s Ballon d’Or award has been announced.  There are two English players, Lucy Bronze and Fran Kirby, on the list.

It’s a lot more representative of the current state of things than the Best Fifa Awards that took place last month.

Shortlist:
Lucy Bronze (Lyon and England)
Pernille Harder (Wolfsburg and Denmark)
Ada Hegerberg (Lyon and Norway)
Amandine Henry (Lyon and France)
Lindsey Horan (Portland and USA)
Sam Kerr (Chicago and Australia)
Fran Kirby (Chelsea and England)
Saki Kumagai (Lyon and Japan)
Dzenifer Marozsan (Lyon and Germany)
Amel Majri (Lyon and France)
Marta (Orlando and Brazil)
Lieke Martens (Barcelona and Netherlands)
Megan Rapinoe (Seattle and USA)
Wendie Renard (Lyon and France)
Christine Sinclair (Portland and Canada)

Lionesses

There were two somewhat contrasting friendlies for the Lionesses this week.  The first, a dull affair played in rotten conditions against Brazil and the second, a much tighter effort enlivened by some incomprehensible refereeing decisions.

England 1-0

Brazil were clearly uncomfortable in the driving rain and wind at Meadow Lane.  England used it to their advantage and scored after just two minutes, an exquisitely placed header from Fran Kirby.

Nikita Parris caused mayhem down the wing, but was, perhaps, guilty of shooting selfishly on occasion when a cross or pass would have done a better job.

Marta went off with an injury in the first-half which didn’t help their cause.

England had several chances to increase their lead, but were profligate in front of goal.  But their attacking style was pleasing to the eye (23 shots, 8 on target), even if the quality of the end product was frustrating.

Brazil had a ten-minute period towards the end of the second-half when they seemed to finally come alive, but it would have been most unjust if they had scored the equaliser.

In the end England held out and were on the front foot at the final whistle.  It was a good performance under the circumstances, even though the opposition were disappointing.

England 1-1 Australia

The Matildas, by contrast, were up for the fight from the off.  And although the Lionesses were not made to pay for their carelessness in front of goal by Brazil, the Australians were not so forgiving,

Fran Kirby was on target again as England took the lead midway through the first-half.  Lucy Staniforth had a goal disallowed as she was (wrongly) adjudged offside.

But it was the two penalties turned down by the referee that had both Head Coach Phil Neville and the rest us scratching our heads.

Both Beth Mead and Nikita Parris were clearly brought down in the box with neither penalty being given.

Even so, England had plenty of chances to score again, particularly through Mead, but the Matildas kept on with a tenacity that we didn’t see from Brazil and were impressive on the break.

Six minutes from the end, Australia equalised as Clare Polkinghorne headed in from a corner.

World Cup Play-offs

The last European place for next year’s World Cup in France will go to either European Champions Netherlands or Switzerland.

First leg – 5 October:

Netherlands 2-0 Denmark
Beerensteyn 21’, Van de Sanden 42’

Belgium 2-2 Switzerland
Cayman 5’, De Neve 60’
Lehmann 55’, 87’

Second leg – 9 October

Denmark 1-2 Netherlands
Nadim 5’ (Pen)
Beerensteyn 7’ 90+2’

Switzerland 1-1 Belgium
Reuteler 23’
De Caigny 77’

So, Netherlands win 4-1 on aggregate and although the other tie finished 3-3, Switzerland go through on away goals.

The final is also a two-legged affair.  The first leg is on 5 November and the second on 13 November.  Netherlands are at home in the first leg.

Doncaster Rovers Belles

Breaking news is that Doncaster Rovers Belles are in talks with Club Doncaster about a possible takeover.

Club Doncaster runs Doncaster Rovers men’s side, the rugby league side and several projects in the community.

Belles Chair, Faye Lygo told the BBC,

“We believe matters are moving forward positively,” Lygo told BBC Sport.

“We have had to take measures to stabilise the club at a time of change in the women’s game and believe the future of the Belles lies in Doncaster, with the Rovers.”

Let’s hope that the discussions go well as a fully integrated club will hopefully ensure the Belles’ survival and progress.

Rugby League

Woman of Steel

Georgia Roche of Castleford is the Rugby Football League’s first ever Woman of Steel.

Roche, who is just 17, is part of the Castleford team that got to the Challenge Cup final this year and the Super League play-off semi-finals.

Talking of which….

Super League Play-offs

Leeds 24-10 Castleford Tigers

The first-half was a tight affair with Castleford going in 6-0 up at the break.  But Rhiannon Marshall, player of the match, had other ideas.  She went in for a try and set up two more for Chloe Kerrigan and Frankie Townend.  Charlotte Booth scored a fourth.  Suze Hill added another and Castleford could only come back with a consolation try from Kelsey Gentles.  Courtney Hill hit a penalty to round off the scoring and see Leeds safely through.

Wigan Warriors 10-6 St Helens

Wigan led 10-2 at half-time.  St Helens took the lead through a Faye Gaskin penalty, but Wigan hit back through tries from Alison Burrows and Rachel Thompson with Michelle Davis converting the latter.

The second-half was intense as both sides tried to make the decisive breakthrough.  In the end, the only score was a try from Saints’ Katie-May Williams with just four minutes to go.  It made for an exciting end, but Wigan managed to hold out to get through to the final.

So it will be Leeds v Wigan in the Super League Grand Final which takes place this Saturday, 13 October at the Manchester Regional Arena.  1pm kick-off.  Admission is £5 with under-16s getting in for free.

Rugby Union – Off the Pitch

Liza Burgess

Liza Burgess has become the 142nd member (and first Welsh woman) to be inducted into World Rugby’s Hall of Fame.

She won 93 caps for Wales and Great Britain, captaining Wales 62 times.  She also played in four World Cups and

Domestically, she started at Loughborough University and Wasps and then co-founded Saracens in 1989, spending ten years at the club.

She ended her playing career at Clifton (now Bristol) and played her last game for Wales in the 2007 Six Nations against England at the age of 42.

Since her on-field retirement, she has coached extensively both domestically and with the Welsh national side and was Giselle Mather’s assistant coach of the inaugural Women’s Barbarians team in 2017.

Rugby Union – On the Pitch

The Premier 15s are back in action this weekend:

13 October
Firwood Waterloo v Gloucester-Hartpury (12.30pm, Firwood Waterloo Rugby Club)
Worcester Valkyries v Harlequins (2pm, Sixways Stadiium)
Loughborough v Bristol Bears (3pm, Loughborough University)
Saracens v Wasps (3.45pm, Allianz Park)
DMP Sharks v Richmond (5pm, Northern Echo Arena)

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

Results from 6 October were as follows:

Clifton Robinsons 1-3 Holcombe
University of Birmingham 2-2 Buckingham
Bowdon 1-1 Beeston
East Grinstead 1-1 Surbiton
Canterbury 1-1 Slough

Surbiton dropped their first points of the season in their draw with East Grinstead.  Holcombe were the beneficiaries as they beat Clifton Robinsons to go level with Surbiton at the top of the table.  Both lie on seven points, with Surbiton top on goal difference.  University of Birmingham are third on five points.  At the bottom Slough gained their first point of the season, but are still at the foot of the table, with Bowdon second from bottom on two points.

This weekend’s fixtures:

13 October
Buckingham v Bowdon (12 noon, Stowe School, P1)
Slough v East Grinstead (12.30pm, Slough HC)
Surbiton v University of Birmingham (1pm, Surbiton HC)
Beeston v Clifton Robinsons (2pm, Nottingham Hockey, P1)
Holcombe v Canterbury (6pm. Holcombe HC, P1)

Netball

This Saturday sees the second Fast5 All-Stars tournament at the Copper Box Arena in London.

Loughborough Lightning are the defending champions.  The eight teams taking part are Lightning, Surrey Storm, Team Bath, Wasps Netball, Manchester Thunder, Strathclyde Sirens, Severn Stars and benecosMavericks.

It will be a fast and furious five-hour session.  All eight teams play in a double elimination format; two wins and a team goes through to the semi finals.  Two losses and you’re out.  Teams winning one and losing one of their opening matches will play a deciding match for a place in the semis.

Matches are 12 minutes long.  There is a five-point line and a two-minute Power Play where points count double.

It’s the netball equivalent of T20 (not commenting either way).  But it will be fun, so if you’re in the vicinity of the Copper Box on Saturday, check it out – the tournament starts at 1pm and goes on until 6pm.   It is also live on Sky.

The winning team takes away £25k, so it’s not to be sniffed at.

One player who will be there – and it’s probably worth going just to see her – is Sharni Layton.  Somehow I missed the startling fact that Layton, who retired from international netball earlier on this year, will be one of the “All Stars” playing for Surrey Storm.  Layton (and I don’t doubt it for a moment) has also indicated that she will play AFLW for Collingwood in the new season. Top of Form

Cricket

No cricket reports this week, but just to let you know that Australia will playing a three-match ODI series against Pakistan in Kuala Lumpur in the coming weeks.  The dates are 18, 20 and 22 October and I will have news and reports on their completion.

Winter Sports

Lindsey Vonn has announced she will retire at the end of the upcoming season.

She currently has 82 World Cup victories and is still aiming to break Ingemar Stenmark’s record of 86.

There is no doubt that the sport has taken a physical toll on her and it is mainly for this reason that she has decided that this season will be her last:

“Physically, I’ve gotten to the point where it doesn’t make sense,” she said.

“I really would like to be active when I’m older, so I have to look to the future and not just be so focused on what’s in front of me.”

And Finally – motor racing W Series

Is it a chance to “show what women are really capable of” (Catherine Bond-Muir, Chief Executive of the new W Series) or is it “a sad day for motorsport” and an “historic step backwards (Pippa Mann, British IndyCar driver)?  Is it “an important means to an end – a stepping stone for female drivers” (Alice Powell, sportscar driver) or is it “founded on segregation” (Charlie Martin, racing driver)?

The news that there is to be a new women-only motor racing competition, the “W Series”, has certainly divided opinion.  It is backed by some big names, both male and female, including former F1 driver David Coulthard, former Williams test driver Susie Wolff and Red Bull chief designer Adrian Newey.

It’s a tricky one and I can see both sides.  What we want to avoid is creating yet another opportunity for men to cry “inferior sport” when actually, the premise is that motor racing is a sport in which men and women can compete alongside each other.

There will be up to 20 drivers competing for a prize fund of $1.5m.  There will be six races around Europe, including one in the UK.   The cars will be identical and will be run by the W Series.

Competitors will be chosen by assessment of their capabilities.

So why do we need a women-only competition?  Newey states that brute strength is not a factor in the success of racing drivers and so, he says,

“That being the case, I believe the reason why so few women have so far raced successfully at the highest levels against men is a lack of opportunity rather than a lack of capability.”

And surely that’s the issue.  It was the issue when all-women shortlists for parliamentary seats were introduced, and it’s the issue now.  I was a long-time opponent of so-called “positive discrimination” and of all-women shortlists.  But I came to see that they are a means to an end.  We want women in all areas of life to have equality of opportunity.  But it doesn’t happen.

It’s slightly different in motorsport as there is the karting route to come through.  But are women getting the opportunity in karting?   If, by the introduction of the W series, seeing women in motorsport becomes the norm, then hopefully the competition will do itself out of a job.  But until that happens, let’s give them the chance to compete and provide them with a different possible route into major motorsport and formula 1.

I’m against “ghettoising” women’s sport, but I’m all for extending opportunity, particularly in sports where, traditionally, the opportunities have been few.  Let me know what you think.

More news and views next week.