Women’s Sports Column 9-15 June 2018

Swell2Welcome to this week’s column.  Something a bit different on offer this week as I’ve just read a really excellent book on women’s swimming; Swell by Jenny Landreth and I wanted to share my view of it with you.

But before I get on to that, it would be remiss of me if I didn’t get the usual stuff in, so this week sees stories from football, cricket, cycling, tennis, netball, athletics and rugby league.

Let’s crack on.

 Cricket

No prizes for guessing the performance of the week – 17-year old Amelia Kerr made history this week when she broke Belinda Clark’s record for an ODI innings of 229, scored in 1997, when she scored 232 not out against Ireland in Dublin on Wednesday.   But she didn’t leave it there – she also took 5/17 in her seven over spell.    Her 232 came from 145 balls and included 31 fours and two sixes, the second of which, on the last ball of the innings, took her to the record.  She also became the youngest double-centurion (male or female) across all cricket formats.

In fact, Ireland have been given a bit of a battering in their series against New Zealand and the White Ferns are getting into some serious form before they face England later in the summer.  In the only T20 they won by 10 wickets and in the ODIs New Zealand have won by 346, 306 and 305 runs.

England v South Africa

Well it’s been a “game of two halves” so far in this three-ODI series.  Which England team will turn up on Friday?  Who knows?  But it’s clear that England must be more consistent if they are to dominate their opponents this summer, while South Africa will take great heart at their own progress.

First ODI – Worcester
9 June

England 189/9 (50 overs)
South Africa 193/3 (45.3 overs)
South Africa win by 7 wickets with 27 balls remaining

England won the toss and elected to bat.  And what a dismal performance it was.  Amy Jones fell first for 19, but Beaumont, Taylor and Knight made only 12 between them as they slumped to 39/4.

Only Katherine Brunt, you can imagine her chuntering about having to do it all on her own, showed any fight, scoring 72 not out from 98 balls as wickets fell around her.

It was also great bowling from South Africa; Shabnim Ismail took 3/25 from 10 overs and Ayabonga Khaka 3/42 from her 10.

England’s bowlers had as poor a day as their batters.  Opener Lizelle Lee smashed 92 not out from 128 balls, Dane van Niekerk 58 and Mignon du Preez 36 not out as South Africa claimed a comprehensive victory.

Second ODI – Hove
12 June

England 331/6 (50 overs)
South Africa 262/9 (50 overs)
England win by 69 runs

England had obviously been told to up their game at Hove.  And up it they did.  Centuries for Beaumont (101 from 109 balls) and Taylor (118 from 106 balls) saw them post a competitive 331.  Only Nat Sciver failed to contribute, making just six.

But was it enough?  A blistering start from the South African openers took them to 142 off 25 overs when Wolvaardt fell for 32.  Lizelle Lee, meanwhile, was dispatching the ball with ease again and made 117 off 107 balls before she went bowled Georgia Elwiss, caught by Danni Wyatt, an innings that included 13 fours and five sixes.

Chloe Tryon came in further down the order and caused mayhem, scoring 44 off 26 balls.  But after she was out, again caught by Wyatt off the bowling of Ecclestone, South Africa couldn’t maintain the momentum and fell well short.

One-all in the series and all to play for today (Friday 15 June).

Tennis – on the Court
French Open

World number one Simona Halep broke her Grand Slam duck at the weekend as she defeated Sloane Stephens of the US, 3-6 6-4 6-1.

Stephens made a storming start, looking a class above Halep, hitting winner after winner as Halep couldn’t keep up and she took the first set 6-3.

But Halep found a reserve of strength in the second, taking four games in a row after going a break down.  Although Stephens tried hard to strike back, Halep took the set 6-4.

The third ended up quite one-sided as Halep took control and Stephens tired.  She broke the American twice to take a 4-0 lead.  There was no coming back for Stephens and Halep took the match with her first match point.

It was a fitting final between two well-matched players, even though Stephens was somewhat of a surprise finalist.  As a result of this run Stephens will rise to fourth in the world rankings.

 Nottingham Open

 On to the glories of the all too brief grass season.

We’re at the quarter-final stage of the Nottingham tournament, but there are a couple of earlier round results that bear mentioning.

In the round of 16 we had the match-up many wanted to see – Johanna Konta v Heather Watson.  In the end the tie went to the fourth seed, Konta, 6-4 7-6 and she now plays the unseeded Dalila Jakupovic in the quarters.

The standout British performance, though, came from Katie Boulter.  She is through to her first WTA quarter-final after she defeated Sam Stosur of Australia 7-6 6-1.  She plays number one seed and another Australian, Ash Barty, later on today (Friday 15 June).

The other two quarter-finals are Donna Vekic (6) v Mona Barthel and Naomi Osaka (3) of Japan v Mihaela Buzărnescu (5) of Romania.

Heather Watson is still in action in the doubles and is through to the semi-finals with partner Mihaela Buzărnescu, where they face Lizette Cabrera and Irina Falconi for a place in the final.

Tennis- off the Court
 Sara Errani

 Sara Errani’s doping ban has been increased from two to ten months.  She tested positive for banned drug letrozole – a cancer drug taken by her mother which somehow got into the family’s food.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted that the medicated had got into the food, but said that Errani was guilty of a “light degree of fault”, and dished out a 10-month ban.

She was initially banned for two months but the Italia anti-doping agency asked for a longer ban.

Errani, unsurprisingly, is unhappy with the decision,

“I am really disgusted by this matter. I don’t think anything similar has ever happened or been managed – in my humble opinion – in such a shameful manner,” she said.

Maria Bueno

Brazilian tennis star, Maria Bueno, has died at the age of 78.

Bueno, Latin America’s most successful female tennis player won 19 major titles during her career in the 1950s and 60s.  This included three Wimbledon singles titles (1959, 1960, 1964) and four US titles.

She also won the Wimbledon women’s doubles title twice, first with althea Gibson in 1958 and then again with Billie Jean King in 1965.

Cycling

The Women’s Tour

Apologies for being so slow but the Women’s Tour of Britain is upon us and this year the prize fund has been doubled – matching that awarded in the men’s race.  For the first time it also has its own broadcast coverage, instead of being tacked on to that of the men’s race.

ITV4 are screening highlights of each of the five stages, as follows:

Stage One: Framlingham to Southwold
Wednesday 13 June, 21:00

Stage Two: Rushden to Daventry
Thursday 14 June, 20:00

Stage Three: Atherstone to Royal Leamington Spa
Friday 15 June, 20:00

Stage Four: Evesham to Worcester
Saturday 16 June, 20:00

Stage Five: Dolgellau to Colwyn Bay
Sunday 17 June, 21:00

Check out the website: http://www.womenstour.co.uk/

Stage One

Jolien D’hoore  (Mitchelton-Scott)won stage one, ending up on Southwold seafront (one of the loveliest places on Earth), finishing ahead of former World Champion Marta Bastianelli (Alé Cipollini) and Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb).

Dani Rowe (King) was the highest finishing Briton in fifth.

Stage Two

The Green Jersey passed to Coryn Rivera after stage two when she won the stage in a sprint finish with Marianne Vos (Waowdeals Team) in Daventry.    Christine Majerus (Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam) was third.

Rivera now has a 15-second lead over the field.  Dani Rowe (King) lies in second with Vos in third.

Para-cycling

Sarah Storey will make her return the Great Britain Para-cycling team at the Road World Championships in Italy from 2-5 August.

The women’s team: Karen Darke, Hannah Dines, Lora Fachie (piloted by Corrine Hall), Megan Giglia, Crystal Lane-Wright, Mel Nicholls, Liz Saul, Sarah Storey, Katie Toft.

Mountain Biking

After Tahnee Seagrave’s triumph last week at Fort William, Rachel Atherton has won gold at the next Mountain Bike World Cup leg in Leogang, Austria.

Miriam Nicole of France took silver and Australian Tracey Hannah, bronze.  Seagrave had finished third, but was disqualified being adjudged to re-enter the course on the wrong side of a marker.

Football

 Plenty of football news this week:  home nations qualifiers, just what is going on a Liverpool? and the worst kept secret in football is finally confirmed.

Friday 8 June
Russia 1-3 England

It was a good performance from England against a poor Russian side that saw them go back to the top of Group A.

Nikita Parris opened the scoring with a header after 22 minutes.  Jill Scott then got two (27 and 36 minutes) to put the visitors into a three-nil lead.

After the break the Lionesses took their foot off the gas and will be disappointed that they allowed the home side to score, Elena Danilova taking her chance to make the final score 3-1.

Sunday 10 June
Northern Ireland 0-5 Netherlands

The European champions looked a class apart as they demolished Northern Ireland at home.

The Irish managed to keep the score down to just 1-0 by half –time, the goal coming through Lineth Beerensteyn.

But the second-half saw four more through Danielle van de Donk, Shanice van de Sanden, Sherida Spitse and Jackie Groenen and the Netherlands are four points clear of Norway at top of Group C.

Tuesday 12 June
Wales 3-0 Russia

England weren’t on top of the table for long.  Wales put in an excellent performance to beat Russia in Newport on Tuesday and take them one point back ahead of their English rivals.

After a goalless first-half, Wales upped their game and Kayleigh Green bagged a brace (48 and 62 minutes) before Tash Harding sealed it with 22 minutes to go.

Russia had nothing in response.

Poland 2-3 Scotland

Performance of the week, however, must go to Scotland who came from two goals down to beat Poland in Kielce on Tuesday.

The Poles took an early lead through Dzesika Jaszek, which they held until half-time.  On 66 minutes they were two-up when Sophie Howard turned the ball into her own net.

But Scotland fought back.  Kim Little bagged the first from a free-kick and Jane Ross brought it level with nine minutes to go.

Lisa Evans got the winner in the 90th minute to take the Scots to just three points behind Switzerland, who are top with six wins from six and 18 points.

Casey Stoney

It was announced this week that former England captain Casey Stoney will be the manager of the new Manchester United women’s team.

In an interview with the BBC she said,

“This the biggest club in the world.

“The fact we are going to have a women’s team and I’m going to be able to introduce that from scratch, to build a team, build a philosophy, with the biggest club in the world, means that, for me, there is no more exciting opportunity.

“I truly believe Manchester United has the ability to change the face of women’s football forever.”

Let’s face it, expectation will be incredibly high; having attracted such a high-profile manager, it will also attract some equally high-profile players.  If they don’t win the Championship at the first attempt, questions will be bound to be asked.  Stoney is never one to shirk a challenge though, and for us neutrals it promises to be quite something to behold.

Liverpool

What on earth is going on?   This week they’ve lost a manager, gained a manager and dispensed with the services of three more players.

England defender Alex Greenwood, Martha Harris and Amy Turner have all reached the end of their contracts and have been released.

Wales captain Sophie Ingle has left to re-sign for Chelsea.

Not long after, manager Scott Rogers also left the club after three years in charge.  He had been number two to Matt Beard from 2014 until Beard left for the States in 2015.

But that was not the end of the story this week.  Chief executive Peter Moore said,

“The search for a new manager is underway and we hope to make an appointment in a decisive and timely manner.”

An understatement: just four days later, Liverpool revealed their new manager to be Neil Redfearn.

Redfearn had been manager of Doncaster Rovers Belles since December 2017.

 “It is a massive privilege and real honour for me to have been appointed as manager of Liverpool Ladies. It is a team with big potential which should be challenging for trophies on a regular basis.

“Liverpool Football Club is a huge club and I have every confidence that we will be competing at the top end of the Women’s Super League this season. I am over the moon to have been given this opportunity and cannot wait to get started,” he said.

It’s certainly been a turbulent couple of weeks for the Reds and Redfearn will have to have a clear plan of action – surely he has a number of signings in his sights and will need to bolster the squad after all the departures.  He needs to show his own and the club’s commitment to the women’s game as a response to some of the recent questions raised about the owners’ motivation and support for the women’s side.

Yeovil Town

The Lady Glovers have announced Lee Burch as their new boss.  Burch was formerly at Millwall Lionesses and won the League Managers Association’s WSL2 manager of the year this season.

He will have the task of seeing Yeovil through their first season as a full-time professional side in the new Women’s Super League.

Athletics

Dina Asher-Smith backed up her British record run in Oslo last week with victory in the Stockholm Diamond league event.  She won in a time of 10.93, just 0.01 seconds outside her new British record.  Murielle Ahoure of Ivory Coast was second.

At the same meet, Lorraine Ugen won the long jump with 6.85m, while Laura Muir finished second in the 1500m behind Gudaf Tsegay of Ethiopia and Beth Dobbin was second in the 200m.

Netball

Last weekend’s Superleague results:

Friday 8 June
Team Bath 42-43 Loughborough Lightning

Saturday 9 June
Celtic Dragons 42-83 Wasps Netball
Surrey Storm 52-51 Team Northumbria
Benecos Mavericks 47-52 Manchester Thunder

Monday 11 June
Manchester Thunder 68-48 Celtic Dragons
Severn Stars 55-36 UWS Sirens

Leaders Wasps bounced back (and how) this week with a thumping win over Celtic Dragons, while second-placed Lightning played out a thrilling game, winning by a single point over Team Bath.

Thunder are also making a late run and there are now three teams on 39, stretching ahead of the field.  Wasps play their game in hand this weekend so all should become much clearer by the end of this round of games.

This weekend’s fixtures are:

Friday 15 June
Team Bath v Wasps (7.30pm)

Saturday 16 June
Celtic Dragons v UWS Sirens (4pm)
Severn Stars v Team Northumbria (6pm)
Surrey Storm v Manchester Thunder (6pm)
Benecos Mavericks v Loughborough Lightning (6pm)

Monday 18 June
Wasps Netball v Benecos Mavericks (7pm Live on Sky Sports)

Rugby League

Just one result from the Super League this week:

Sunday 10 June
Wigan Warriors 50-0 York City Knights

And finally,

When you read a good book about women’s sport or even a general sports book written by a woman, and it’s a fabulous read, you should just shout about it.  So here I am, SHOUTING.

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with swimming and it appears from this book that I’m not alone.  I love swimming in the sea, but living in landlocked Leicestershire means I don’t get much opportunity.  I hate swimming in indoor pools – too self-conscious, too slow, too much chlorine.  It’s quite a while since I’ve actually been swimming and this book has encouraged me to try again.  Hence I will not be here next week, because hopefully I will be swimming in the sea!

Anyway, the book I’m talking about is Swell, by Jenny Landreth.  It was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2017 (somewhat of a miracle in itself).  And what a great read it is.

It’s a mixture of autobiography (or Waterbiography as Landreth calls it), and a history of women’s swimming in Britain.  I learnt so much.  As in most aspects of women’s history, women had to fight for every minute of allowed swimming time in Britain.  From being able to go in the sea (via ridiculous bathing machines) to being allowed a couple of hours a week in a public baths, each right has had to be negotiated and battled for by bands of determined women and girls who could not stand by and let the inequalities and injustices of women’s swimming go unchallenged.

There is a wealth of detail in this book; how and where women were first allowed to swim, what they were allowed to wear (no change there, then) and with whom they were allowed to swim.  How could they learn to swim when men were the only teachers and they weren’t allowed to be at the pool at the same time?

Landreth talks about the real heroes of women’s swimming – those who pioneered; in the sport itself, in its organisation and in its coaching.  She raises a glass (or two) to those who broke through the boundaries and are still doing it today; those who swim long distance, elite swimmers and the every day woman who still has to fight to do her 10 lengths of the baths of a morning before the rest of the world claims her time.

It’s a marvellous, incredibly funny book that will make you laugh out loud (I guarantee).  I laughed out loud and punched the air in equal measure.

Go out and buy or borrow it folks.  It should definitely be on everyone’s sporting bookshelf.

Swell is published by Bloomsbury with a retail price of £9.99.

As I said, there will be no column next week, as I will hopefully be swimming somewhere in the North Sea next week , emerging blue no doubt and cursing Jenny Landreth soundly for encouraging me to get out there.  Back with you all in a fortnight.  

 

 

Women’s Sports Column 13-19 May 2017

wembleyWelcome to this week’s column.  There’s plenty to get through to again this week so let’s go straight into stories from football, tennis, rugby, cricket, netball and boxing.

Netball

The Final Four extravaganza is nigh.  And Loughborough Lightning are still top of the pile.  After round 15, they have 42 points, six points ahead of Wasps in second with Thunder back on third with 33 and Storm six points further back on 27.  But just behind are Bath on 27 and it seems to be between these two for the last place.

Monday 15 May

Team Northumbria 44-56 Team Bath
Celtic Dragons 57-69 Surrey Storm
Sirens 59-45 Severn Stars
Manchester Thunder 44-58 Wasps Netball
Loughborough Lightning 72-51 Hertfordshire Mavericks

There are three rounds to go.  It’s round 16 this weekend and the Sky televised match is on Monday 22 May when Wasps Netball take on Surrey Storm at 8pm.

Football – On the Pitch

FA Cup Final

Birmingham City Ladies 1-4 Manchester City Women

After securing an encouraging draw the previous week, Birmingham City should have been in with a chance on Saturday, but truth be told they never looked as if they believed they could win the FA Cup Final at Wembley.

A crowd of 35,271 was there to see the WSL1 champions take Birmingham apart.

It was all too easy for Lucy Bronze to head home from Megan Campbell’s cross to take the lead on 18 minutes.  Seven minutes later they were two up, this time Bronze the provider and Izzy Christiansen firing home.

Carli Lloyd grabbed the third on 32 and it was really all over as a contest by this point.

In the second half Birmingham battled hard, pulling a goal back in the 73rd minute through Charlie Wellings, but Manchester City were to have the last word, scoring a fourth through substitute Jill Scott.

And now Manchester City women have not done the treble as some uninformed journalists would have it, but they do hold all three domestic titles.

Spring Series

Liverpool continued their storming start with a convincing win over Sunderland.  They are six points ahead of Chelsea in second, but have played two games more.  One of the strange things about WSL football is the distribution of games.  Thus some teams have now played five, while others only three.  Manchester City have only played three and lie third.

Wednesday 17 May

Liverpool Ladies 4-0 Sunderland AFC Ladies

The Black Cats had no reply to this in-form Liverpool side.  The home side took the lead on 10 minutes with Caroline Weir hitting the corner from 30 yards out.  Thwere two up on 21 with Natasha Harding getting her name on the score sheet.  It was 2-0 at half-time.

After the break Sunderland fought hard.  Maddie Hills hit the post just after the resumption and perhaps if her strike had gone it things might have been different.

But it was not to be.  Weir got her second and her side’s third on 57 minutes, with former England captain Casey Stoney rounding off the scoring ten minutes from time.

Yeovil Town Ladies 0-1 Reading FC Women

Yeovil are still yet to register a point as Reading took all three points at the Viridor Stadium.  The only goal of the game came on seven minutes when defender Mandy Van Den Berg  poked the ball over the line from a corner.

Chelsea Ladies 2-2 Arsenal Ladies

It was an excellent topsy-turvy match at Staines, which luckily was shown live on the BBC red button.

The away side took the lead on 34 minutes when keeper Carly Telford brought down Danielle Carter in the box.  It was a soft one, but Jodie Taylor stepped up to take the resultant penalty.  Telford looked to have redeemed herself as she saved the spot-kick but couldn’t keep out the rebound that Taylor put away to make it 1-0 to Arsenal.

There was no further scoring in the first-half although it was tightly fought and there were chances for both sides.

After the break Chelsea upped their game.  They drew level when the imposing Millie Bright met a Hannah Blundell free-kick in the box, heading it firmly past van Veenendaal.

The last ten minutes were frantic.

Chelsea looked to have taken the points when Drew Spence, scoring off the bench for her sixth in six games fired into the corner from a pinpoint pass from Crystal Dunn one minute into injury time.

But Arsenal were to have the last word as Jordan Nobbs deflected a Carter shot into the goal in the 95th minute to level the game.

It was clear by the body language of the team and of coach Emma Hayes, that Chelsea viewed the result as two points lost.

Birmingham City 2-0 Bristol City

Birmingham put the disappointment of the FA Cup final behind them on Wednesday as they took their first Spring Series win against Bristol City at Solihull Moors.

England striker Ellen White scored twice before half-time to put the home side two up and although Bristol tried hard in the second period, they could not break down the Birmingham defence.

Off the Pitch

Signings

The fallout from the Notts County debacle continues.

Defender Amy Turner has signed for Liverpool Ladies, while Wales international Angharad James has joined Yeovil Town Ladies.  Striker Rachel Williams has signed for Birmingham City Ladies again.  She previously played for them between 2011 and 2013.

England defender Laura Bassett meanwhile has decided not to sign for a new club before the Euros in the summer.

She is currently training with her previous club, Birmingham City, and is in Mark Sampson’s squad to go to the Netherlands.

She has decided to delay making any further decisions about her future until after the tournament.

Replacing Notts County

The Football Association has invited WSL2 clubs to apply to join WSL1 for the 2017-18 season to replace Notts County Ladies.

Whoever does fill the gap will have to meet WSL1 criteria around licences and finance (they should have perhaps checked Notts County for this).

Doncaster Belles, who were relegated last season, have released a statement expressing their disappointment that the FA is going through this process.  They consider that as a relegated side they should have had priority.

A decision will be made in June.

Scotland

Scotland’s women will play three warm-up matches in their preparation for this summer’s Euros:

9 June: Scotland v Romania (Falkirk)
13 June: Sweden v Scotland (Vaxjo)
7 July: Scotland v Republic of Ireland (venue to be confirmed)

Barcelona

Top Catalan women’s team, Barcelona, are in negotiations with the American National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) with a view to entering a team into the2018 competition.

The club already has an office in New York and six academies across America.

There are currently 10 franchises in the NWSL, but none from Europe.  However, the noises coming from the League seem positive and it looks as if this proposal could have legs.

Motor Cycling

No, no new staggering news about a new women’s motor cycling initiative, but it’s that old, old story of the “grid girls”.

It seems that, at least in Spain, their days could be numbered – or curtailed.

Catalan political party Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds have called for new rules on the use of grid girls at the Moto GP Catalan Grand Prix in Barcelona in June.

The party would not ban the girls outright, but would impose a dress code and ensure that there were an equal number of “grid boys” employed.

This is the last in a number of attempts by various groups to alter or ban the practice.  Progress is slow, but progress there is.  Let’s hope that persistence pays and this outdated and ridiculous practice bites the dust soon.

Cricket

India seem to be playing themselves into fine form just in time for the World Cup.  The final of the Quadrangular series will be between India and South Africa.  The round robin section is now complete and the rest of the scores were as follows:

15 May

Zimbabwe 113 all out (40.2 overs)
South Africa 114/3 (21.2 overs)
South Africa won by seven wickets

A record-breaking game then took place between India and Ireland!

India 358/2 (50 overs)
Ireland 109 all out (40 overs)
India won by 249 runs

Some of the staggering statistics from that game:
Openers Deepti Sharma (188) and Punam Raut (109) shared a first-wicket stand of 320 runs.  This was the first 300+ stand by any pair in women’s cricket.  It was also higher than the current men’s record of 286 between Upul Tharanga and Sanath Jayasuriya for Sri Lanka in 2006.  Sharma’s 188 came off 160 balls, the second –highest individual score in women’s ODIs, bettered only by Belinda Clark’s 229 not out for Australia.

In the next game the top two played a thriller.

17 May

South Africa 269/5 (50 overs)
India 261/9 (50 overs)
South Africa won by 8 runs

Ireland 150 all out (45 overs)
Zimbabwe 154/5 (41 overs)
Zimbabwe won by 5 wickets

19 May 2017

Zimbabwe 98 all out (42.3 overs)
India 99/0 (16 overs)
India won by 10 wickets

Also in action as we speak, Ireland unlikely to chase down this total but,

South Africa 323/8 (50 overs)
Ireland currently 67/1 off 17
Ireland need 257 off 33 overs

Both the third place play-off and the final take place on 21 May.  Results and report next week.

Tennis

Off the Court

Maria Sharapova has not been given a wildcard for the French Open, which begins later this month.  There has been some hoo-hah in response to this, but the French Tennis Federation has defended its position,

“There can be a wildcard for the return from injuries – there cannot be a wildcard for the return from doping,” (FFT) chief Bernard Giudicelli Ferrandini .

Quite right – the FFT was under no obligation to grand this wildcard to Sharapova, but the WTA has chosen to say they had “no grounds to penalise” her.

On the Court

Madrid Open

The Madrid Open duly ended with an exciting climax, with third seed Simona Halep victorious over fourteenth seed Kristina Mladenovic 7-5 6-7 6-2.  Halep seemed to be heading for a straight sets win, but Mladenovic fought hard to level the match at one-all.  But the Frenchwoman had perhaps pushed herself to exhaustion in the process and could not maintain her form to take the third.

Italian Open

Another week, another tournament.  The Italian Open is now well underway

British number one Johanna Konta started well with a straight-sets win over Yulina Putinseva of Kazakhstan 6-3 6-0.

She had a bye in the second, but went out in the third round (last 16) to the rejuvenated Venus Williams, 6-1 3-6 6-1.

World number one Angelique Kerber made a surprise exit in the second round as she was comprehensively defeated by Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-4 6-0.

The quarter-final match-ups look like this:

Kontaveit v Halep (6)
V Williams (9) v Muguruza (3)
Bertens (15) v Gavrilova
Svitolina (8) v Pliskova (2)

Rugby Union

Harriet Millar-Mills was crowned Aviva Premiership Women’s Premiership Player of the Year 2017 this week.  It is the second year in a row that she has won the award.

Boxing

Nicola Adams won her second professional fight at the weekend.  She stopped Mexican Maryan Salazar in the third round in Leeds on Saturday.

It was Adams’ first fight over three-minute rounds, rather than the usual two.

Her partner, American boxer Marlen Esparza also won her second fight the previous week and now (according to a nicely cosy BBC article) the two are in a “battle” to see who will win a world title first.

And finally

And finally, there was a blue plaque unveiled this week to the most successful women’s team ever – the Dick, Kerr Ladies.

The Dick, Kerr Ladies were founded in Preston at the Dick, Kerr & Co munitions factory in 1917.  Its original aim was to raise money for wounded troops.

In 1920 a crowd of 53,000 saw them play at Goodison Park.  In the same year they played in the first women’s international against a French XI, winning it 2-0.

Who knows what they could have gone on to do?

But in 1921, in their wisdom, the FA banned women’s football as apparently “unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged.”

The team actually carried on regardless, playing all over the world and chalking up a 200-match unbeaten run in the process.

The Dick, Kerr Ladies disbanded in 1965 due to lack of players, just four years before the Women’s Football Association was founded.  If you are interested in their story, check out Gail Newsham’s book, In a League of their Own.

There are only two statues to sportswomen in the UK.  There is a new campaign surrounding blue plaques and general recognition.  On Twitter you can follow @blueplaquerebel or check out www.blueplaquerebellion.com and the hashtag #recogniseher.  Send them your nominations for women in sport who should be celebrated.