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Sat, Jan 19, 2013, 00:00


Date-Krumm still makes a racket at her age

While Japan’s Kimiko Date-Krumm flew the flag for female ‘senior citizens’ the world over at the Australian Open this week, the 42-year-old becoming the oldest woman to reach the fourth round of a major tournament since Renee Richards (45) in 1979, it was generally the sport’s teens who captured the early headlines in Melbourne.

In all, 11 players yet to hit the rusty old 20 mark made it through to the second round of the grand slam, eight more than achieved the feat in last year’s tournament, all of which left some of the game’s elder stateswomen feeling decidedly long in the tooth. “Twenty-two, it’ll be old in the tennis world soon,” said Caroline Wozniacki after she beat 16-year-old Donna Vekic of Croatia.

Wozniacki should spare a thought for Date-Krumm – she initially retired from the game in 1996 . . . the year Vekic was born. She returned in 2008, becoming the second oldest woman to win a WTA Tour title – Billie Jean King (39) still holding that record.

It’s 21 years since her best performance in a grand slam, when she reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, 18 years since she reached her highest world ranking of four, facts that most probably leaves her teenage colleagues in the ‘locker-room’ gobsmacked.

“Everybody says to me, ‘you are crazy’,” she said this week, “but they support me a lot”. Only three of the 11 teenagers, though, made it to the third round of the tournament – 17-year-old Madison Keys (USA), 18-year-old Laura Robson (Britain) and 19-year-old Sloane Stephens (USA) – so the ‘golden oldies’ put most of them in their place.

And Date-Krumm reckons that the days when so many teenagers were winning grand slams – Martina Hingis and Monica Seles at 16 and Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova at 17 – might just be on hold, the focus now, she says, on strength and power, best demonstrated by Williams and Sharapova. Older players with more developed bodies have, then, she says, the advantage.

“That’s why women’s tennis is changing compared to 10 years ago, 20 years ago. It’s more powerful,” she said. “Every time when I go to the gym, everybody is there, even before the match, after the match, everybody there. They’re doing so much exercise.” There are, too, greater restrictions on younger teenagers playing in professional tournaments than there were a few years back, which is slowing up their progress when they move from the junior to senior ranks, but a necessary development after so many high profile ‘burn-outs’, not least the one suffered by Jennifer Capriati.

Making the most of Collins v Jones Jnr

The reaction to the announcement that Steve Collins (48) would be returning to the ring to fight Roy Jones Jnr (43)?

Not universally enthusiastic, it has to be said, some choosing to question the wisdom of the proposal.

And some being, well, a little bit dismissive, as the compilation of tweets on Balls.ieintimated:

“Steve Collins should fight Roy Jones on same day Bon Jovi plays Slane so we can all pretend it’s the 90s again.” @oharaa.

“Wow Steve Collins to fight Roy Jones Jr – don’t know whether to say crikey or creaky.” @Chris180Mason.

And then there were the naughty alternatives to ‘Rumble in the Jungle’:

“Seniors in the sand?” @Jordan_s87

“Degenerates In The Desert?” @Guy_Sinnott.

“Pensioners on the Peninsula. This could go on and on.” @Jordan_s87.

It did too.


Wolves' Irish quartet get used to new manager

It hasn’t been the happiest of seasons for Wolves, their hopes of a speedy return to the English Premier League after last year’s relegation looking less than bright as they lie 18th in the Championship.

For Giovanni Trapattoni’s Irish quartet at the club, Stephen Ward, Kevin Foley, Kevin Doyle and Stephen Hunt, it’s been a dizzying old time, having played under four managers in just 11 months. Mick McCarthy was sacked last February; his replacement Terry Connor left at the end of the season; and Norwegian Stale Solbakken only lasted six months.

The new manager, former Wales international Dean Saunders, is threatening some army-like discipline – there’ll be zero tolerance for being late for training, for example.

Doyle, in particular, will be hoping for a change in fortunes, having scored just twice in his last 16 appearances. Saunders, though, has earned a reputation for being a shrewd man manager, surely good news for Doyle.

“I think he’s one goal away from getting on a roll,” said the manager. But? “At the end of the day, he gives you seven out of 10 no matter what. That is all I can ask.”

Schilling's Red Sox sock for sale

Quite why anyone would want to retain possession of a nine-year-old blood-stained sock might be hard to fathom, but it’s no ordinary sock, it’s one that became rather famous in baseball when then Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling wore it in game two of the 2004 World Series against the St Louis Cardinals, when he helped the team to its first championship in 86 years. But now he’s putting it up for auction for at least $100,000.

After retiring, the now 46-year-old Schilling invested every dollar he earned from baseball – $50 million after tax – in a video game company. You know what’s coming next: it went bankrupt last year, and he lost everything. And he’s being pursued, rather vigorously, by financial institutions having also personally guaranteed loans to the company.

If he gets his $100,000, well, there’ll be just $49.9 million to go and he’ll be sorted.

Scheduling issues help shatter illusion

That rather snazzy, funtastic new Nike ad featuring Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy being a little competitive with each other? ESPN, the spoilsports, revealed this week that it was filmed last year in southern California “with neither player there at the same time”.

Because of “scheduling issues” the pair filmed their segments separately, McIlroy’s part was shot first (he then had to leave for China to play in the BMW Masters), with Woods turning up to film his bit a few days later. An actor filled in for McIlroy, Woods reacting to him as “he attempted to follow McIlroy’s script”. (If you’ve seen the ad, you’ll trust that the actor didn’t try to reproduce any of McIlroy’s drives).

Illusions shattered.

Did you hear the one about the cyclist who. . .

If you thought you’d heard it all about what Lance Armstrong got up to during his cycling career, Canada’s CBC News threw in a fresh allegation last week .

If the man had a dollar for every wag who mentioned speedy “Magic Carpets”, he’d be able to pay back all that prize money.

Having revered Armstrong, in a largely unquestioning way over the years, it’s safe to say the bulk of the American media has had its fill, even before the interview with Oprah Winfrey was aired. The New York Post, as is its wont, was rather blunt: “Lance Armstrong secured his place among history’s most loathsome liars,” it declared, under a “LieStrong” wristband. The late-night funny men, meanwhile, had a laugh with it all, Jay Leno noting “over 128 million flu vaccines have been administered this year – that’s almost as many injections as Lance Armstrong has gotten in his entire career.”

Stephen Colbert had a different take – as Stephen Colbert tends to do: “Point is, this man is a hero,” he said. “He beat cancer, then he went on to beat something even less popular: the French.”


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