2007.07.22

F1 Europe 2007: Back to form!

The Nürburgring race this year was phenomenal by recent Formula 1 standards. It is probably the most impressive race I can remember in the 21st century to date. At times it was reminiscent of the battles between Hakkinen and Schumacher in the late 1990s or Prost and Senna about a decade earlier. It goes a long way to show how the weather can highlight some of the less obvious abilities of the drivers and design decisions, how tyre strategies can make or break a team’s race and how different cars’ aerodynamics work for and against the driver under different tyres.

The intermittent rain was perhaps the main reason for which the race developed as bizarrely as it did: Raikonnen retired early, Hamilton managed an impressive climb from P17 to P10 and of course the amazing duel between Alonso (who eventually got a much needed and clear win) and Felippe Massa (2nd) who couldn’t fight the McLaren assault in wet conditions, despite having a faster car overall; Alonso’s impressive overtaking of Massa in the last laps was sensational as the cars touched twice; Fernando Alonso just after the 2007 F1 Europe racetensions obviously ran high and the race was followed by a bitter exchange of words between Alonso and Massa, although Alonso apologised for his remarks to Massa during the press conference. The changing weather conditions were also contributing factors to Mark Webber’s first podium (3rd place) with Red Bull. Alonso’s win is a return to form for both the driver, McLaren and — arguably — the championship. Renault continued its mediocre overall performance despite Kovalainen’s demonstration of his talent and continuing development — he would have finished fifth if it weren’t for a tyre puncture. Fisichella again proved that he’s an excellent driver under rain, but a mediocre driver overall, not managing to finish within the points.

While there is no doubt that Formula 1 regulations and the importance of strategy and engineering have reduced the sport to an engineering research and demonstration contest and relatively boring, uninviting races, the 2007 season continues to impress with four excellent drivers and their McLarens and Ferraris as well as the four top teams constantly improving their cars and engines. If Europe GP is any indication, things are getting better indeed. It’s only a shame that those driver and car combinations were missing in the 5 years of total Michael Schumacher domination.

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2007.07.08

Federer’s Fifth!

Roger Federer matched the Wimbledon title record of Björn Borg in what — must have been (damn you Hellenic TV for not covering this!) — a great final game against a guy regular readers of this site should know I really like and respect, Rafael Nadal.

Federer’s achievement is massive if you consider how young he is and how many years he still has in front of him he’ll probably break all the records out there by the time he retires.As Rafael Nadal matures and improves the games are becoming all the more impressive: while last year Federer seemed to have it easy against Nadal, it seemed to me — from the BBC live coverage of the final — that it wasn’t the case this year. I guess the Nadal-Federer competition is bound to continue in the years to come in what seems to be a battle between two different and at the same time so competent tennis players. This year’s final is probably going to be remembered.

Without discounting Federer’s feat however, what really impressed me — once again — is Nadal’s persistence and performance given that he was playing for the whole week with practically no time off and really stood his own against Federer on a surface that is not exactly Nadal’s favourite. His remarks after the game showed great sportsmanship — it’s hard not to like this guy for what he has achieved. I’m sure that in the years to come Nadal will add Wimbledon to his titles.

This year Wimbledon was not without its surprises, either; Marion Bartoli’s win over world No.1 Justine Henin in the semi-finals was spectacular and completely unexpected (Bartoli lost to Venus Williams in the final and the latter claimed her fourth Wimbledon title).

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2007.06.10

On Roland Garros and Federer’s nightmares.

A year ago Rafael Nadal won his second Roland Garros, successfully defending what was considered by some as a lucky win in 2005. And while some might be doubting his capability and talent then, few will do so now. Between June 2006 and today Rafael Nadal has solidified his superiority on clay, winning an all-time record 81 matches on clay before Roger Federer beat him earlier this year at the Hamburg Masters. He managed to come second at Wimbledon in 2006, only losing the final to Federer, the current world’s number one and an undisputed great player (arguably the greatest player ever). Finally, in what ends up being Federer’s worse nightmare, he’s practically the only one preventing him from total dominance of the sport by consistently beating him on that surface and keeping him from winning RG.

After the Hamburg Masters many wondered whether Federer had improved his game on clay to the point of beating Nadal at his game. Questions were raised as to whether Nadal could defend his Roland Garros title some weeks later. And today he did and by doing so he kept tennis interesting for a while longer. Rafael Nadal seems solid, both physically and psychologically. I’m very eager to see how he’ll perform at Wimbledon this year. If his performance last year is any indication of his rate of improvement and if psychology counts as much as it seemed to do today at Roland Garros, where the great Roger Federer made more than twice as many mistakes as his opponent, we might be in for a surprise.

For those in Hellas, the game will be broadcast again on the Hellenic ERT Digital Sport+ channel at 00:05 local time.

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2007.05.17

Is Formula One finally getting exciting?

M.Schumacher in one of his last races

After many years of boring championships, 2005 was the first time signs of ‘change’ began to make their appearance in F1. Renault won the championship instead of Ferrari, Alonso became a respected driver of his generation ending a streak of five championship wins for Michael Schumacher and Ferrari and, a year later, Schumacher, the undisputed champion of the past decade, the best driver of his generation and — arguably — of all time, retired from the sport paving the way for an overhaul at the top, triggering a series of contracts and moves between the top teams. This year we saw Renault disappoint with below-average performance, Alonso overshadowed by his ‘sensational’ 22 year old teammate Lewis Hamilton at McLaren, and a four way battle between the drivers of the two top teams, Kimi Raikonnen and (also very impressive) Felippe Massa from Ferrari and Fernando Alonso with Lewis Hamilton from McLaren looming ahead for what is probably going to be the most exciting year in Formula 1 since the turn of the century and a reminder of the multilateral intra and inter-team battles of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Is this the beginning of a new, exciting era for F1, or just a glimpse of how good things used to/could be?

Image by user DjMagra @ Flickr. Used under Creative Commons 2.0.

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2006.09.03

¡felicitaciones España!

España wins the World Championship 2006
España beat Hellas, 70 – 47 in what was a shockingly poor performance by the Hellenic team, and an excellent, organised performance by the Spanish, despite the absence of it’s star player, Pau Gasol. Well done Spain!

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2006.09.01

Team USA vs DreamTeam Hellas: 95-101

ToTheFinal

Χωρις αμφιβολία η καλύτερη διεθνής εκπροσώπηση της χώρας μας που έχει υπάρξει!

Το σημερινό παιχνίδι Ελλαδος-ΗΠΑ ήταν πραγματικά ένα ρεσιτάλ καλαθοσφαίρισης από την ελληνική ομάδα απέναντι στην δυνατότερη, τρομακτικότερη ομάδα του κόσμου. Ξεκάθαρη υπεροχή σίγουρα στην άμυνα αλλά και στην επίθεση. Διαφορά πάνω από 8 βαθμούς υπερ της Ελλάδος στο μεγαλύτερο μέρος του αγώνα.

Η Ελλάδα στον μεγάλο τελικό του Παγκοσμίου Καλαθοσφαίρισης! Εύγε παιδιά.

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2006.07.09

A Tennis Thriller.

Forget the boring, mediocre, football World Cup final later tonight.

A thriller is taking place at Wimbledon where two of — what seems to be — the dominant male players of the next 5-10 years are competing again, just a month after Roland Garros in France.

I’m referring to Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer who meet again after one month when Nadal won his second Garros, beating the World Champion. Yet this time the roles are reversed: Rafael Nadal is not really known for his capability in grass, while Roger Federer is, having won Wimbledon three times already at the age of 24. The game is gripping. After a first 6-0 set in favour of Federer, all games have been neck-to-neck, an amazing performance on the part of Nadal who has already impressed with his appearance in Wimbledon this year. The odds are in favour of Federer, not just because of his impeccable record on grass, but also because he’s already won 2 sets. Fascinating!

Unfortunately the game is not on Hellenic TV so I’m stuck with a BBC Five Live stream.

[Update: Nadal was defeated and Federer went on to get his fourth Wimbledon title. Yet, it’s clear that Nadal has improved so much on grass that it’s more or less certain that he’ll be back for more in the future; he’s only 20 after all]

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2006.06.11

Rafael Nadal wins Roland Garros. Again.

This is one of tennis’ paradoxes and it makes the Grand Slams this year, and I guess probably for some years to come, so much more interesting.

Roger FedererRoger Federer (pictured left) is one of the best and most promising male tennis players in the world, and some argue one of the greatest, if not the greatest, male tennis player of all time. He easily beats most leading players with no sweat — as his impeccable record has shown, but when it comes to Rafael Nadal and clay he struggles and, more often than not, loses. Take for example his win-loss record for this year: 44-4 having lost all 4 games to Nadal. Federer has a single weakness: clay, and that’s where Nadal dominates. Since he lost Roland Garros in 2005 (he was defeated by Nadal in the semifinals) improving on clay must have become his main training goal.
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