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Arsenal v. Chelsea Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has labelled Arsenal boring for failing to score at home in Monday’s goalless draw at the Emirates Stadium.

Sri Lanka v. Pakistan Dinesh Chandimal kept his nerve to pull off a sensational two-wicket win for Sri Lanka in the fifth and final one-dayer in Abu Dhabi on Friday, but Pakistan took the five-match series 3-2.

Liverpool on the rise


Murray earns first win since comeback by Osama Sameer

Andy Murray beat Stanislas Wawrinka 6-3 6-4 in the fifth-place play-off at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi to win his competitive match since returning from back surgery.

Tip! Murray, who won this event in 2009, broke in the sixth game of the opening set, but Wawrinka hit back immediately with a break of his own. The comeback lasted just minutes, though, as Murray attacked Wawrinka’s serve in the eighth before serving out for the set in a little more than 30 minutes. The second set followed a familiar pattern, with Murray breaking in the sixth to put himself in pole position. The Wimbledon champion had match-point at 5-3, but Wawrinka rallied and Murray was forced to serve out the match. Murray, whose US Open defence in September was ended by Wawrinka, said: “I came here to get a couple of competitive games under my belt and I’m happy to get two matches against top players.” Murray’s day did not end with the Wawrinka win as the Scot headed straight back to the court for a practice session.


Six-time Grand Slam winner Stefan Edberg has joined Roger Federer’s coaching team ahead of next month’s Australian Open in Melbourne. The Swede was Wimbledon men’s singles champion in 1988 and 1990, and reached number one in the world rankings.

The last of 32-year-old Swiss Federer’s 17 Grand Slam titles was his 2012 Wimbledon triumph over Andy Murray.

“I’m really excited to be part of Roger’s team and I hope together we can bring out his best tennis,” said 47-year-old Edberg.

“Stefan was my childhood hero, and I am really looking forward to spending time with, and learning from, him,” he said.

The former Davis Cup winner will begin working with Federer ahead of 2014’s first major, which begins on 13 January.


Forget the ‘SAS’: Liverp partnership forming by Bilal Murtaza Expectations

Henderson has spent much of his Liverpool career so far being unfairly cast in a similar light to the likes of Tom Cleverley at Manchester United. There are countless other examples at highend clubs over the years, too.

Price /Tags

Though Henderson’s career at Anfield so far hasn’t been everything he or the Liverpool fanbase will have wanted it to be (especially at his £16m price tag, which has indirectly piled on the negative feedback), he looked a completely different player whenever Suarez was within passing reach.

Improvement

He wanted to feed the Uruguayan goal monster. Perhaps he knew that there was a very good chance such assists would lead to goals, and in turn make him look far more effective to those who pay little attention to the nuances of a 90-minute football match, outside of “who did good goal” and “who did bad mistake”.

When Liverpool got off to a flyer at the start of 2013-14 thanks in large part to the goals of Daniel Sturridge, Reds fans and neutrals alike began to salivate over the prospect of, to borrow a cliché, an ‘SAS’ strike partnership. I mean, if Sturridge was performing like that with Luis Suarez still

finishing up his biting suspension, imagine what the two would be like together in that sort of form! Of course, it’s never that simple. Especially when it comes to strike duos. Especially in the game’s current environment, where very few teams employ two out-and-out attackers simultaneously any more.

Now, Sturridge is the one on the sidelines, thanks to an ankle injury which will keep him out for around two months. Suarez, meanwhile, has reached all-new levels of brilliance in what is proving to be a superlative spell of free scoring and goal creation. As it turns out, those early predic-


pool ‘HAS’ a better His successful assists for Suarez were adding extra zest to his overall game. Henderson was sharper in the tackle, more dangerous going forward of his own accord and even covering extra additional yards on the pitch. Not only that, but if Henderson is to make the England squad for the World Cup in Brazil, an intimate understanding of their group rivals Uruguay’s dangerous forward will help book his seat on the plane just as much as good form will. In turn, Suarez – who at the moment has every right to go for goal any time the ball’s at his feet in the final third – was exchanging more passes with the England midfielder than usual. He has even teed him up to go for goal himself a few times! Henderson’s goal against Tottenham came inadvertently off a Suarez effort at goal – and yet, I cannot envision even that goal being scored by the Henderson of seasons past. Would he have had the confidence to have even come forward with the ball initially, let alone be in a great position to lash home the rebound? Watching Henderson break through at Sunderland while a youth football reporter in the late 2000s, I’d say the teenage Jordan may well have fed off Suarez this well. But definitely not early Liverpool Jordan.

tions of a killer understanding between two Liverpool players sending them up the league table were half-right. Instead of it being Suarez and Sturridge, however, the current hot duo is Suarez and Jordan Henderson. The synergy between a striker

and a central midfielder being so encouraging isn’t unprecedented, but it’s certainly not something the majority of spectators would pay attention to as they would the couplings you see occur more naturally at the heart of a defence, midfield or attack.

Champions League football is no doubt what the Reds need to ensure he doesn’t lobby for a transfer once again. And yet, even then, it may take more than that. I’d dare suggest that such teamwork with the likes of Jordan Henderson could well be what settles Suarez into life at Merseyside for the long, long run.


Jamie Heaslip meets French clubs after IRFU talks stall

It is understood that Jamie Heaslip, who became the highest paid rugby player in Ireland after signing a three-year deal in 2011, does not want to leave Dublin.

Munster move further clear with Connacht victory

JJ Hanrahan scores all the Pro12 leader’s points in Christmas derby at Thomond Park

Jamie Heaslip has opened talks with the richest club in world rugby, Toulon, after negotiations with the IRFU stalled, The Irish Times has learned. Heaslip, who became the highest paid rugby player in Ireland after signing a threeyear deal in 2011, is in France discussing terms that would see him leave Leinster this summer.

Munster 22 Connacht 16: Munster carved out a workmanlike win over Connacht in a rain-lashed festive derby at Thomond Park.

rugby

Montpellier are also speaking to Ireland’s vicecaptain about a move to the lucrative Top 14 league. In a similar situation to Jonathan Sexton’s before he signed for Racing Metro 92 in January, it is understood that Heaslip does not want to leave Dublin.

Outhalf JJ Hanrahan maintained his impressive recent form by scoring all of the hosts’ points in extremely wet conditions, converting his own try and kicking all five of his penalty attempts in the 22-16 victory.

One of only two survivors from last weekend’s late victory over the Scarlets, Hanrahan drove Munster to a 13-6 half-time lead with his opposite number Dan Parks bagging three penalties for Connacht. Earls and Fionn Carr both had opportunities to stretch their legs, before the visitors strung together their best spell of continuity late on.


Sri Lanka pull off thrilling consolation win over Pakistan by Ahmed Hassan

Dinesh Chandimal kept his nerve to pull off a sensational two-wicket win for Sri Lanka in the fifth and final one-dayer in Abu Dhabi on Friday, but Pakistan took the fivematch series 3-2. Chandimal finished with 64 not out off 70 balls and added a matchturning 40 runs for the ninth wicket

with Ajantha Mandis (19 not out) to see Sri Lanka through with two balls to spare. Mendis hit the winning boundary and smashed one of the two sixes in Umar Gul’s penultimate over which cost Pakistan 15 runs and the match.

Malinga finished with 4-57. Misbah hit two boundaries and a six during his 74-ball knock, finishing with 1,371 runs in 34 one-day matches this year -- the most by any player. The two teams now play a threematch Test series, with the first in Abu Dhabi from December 31.


Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho labels Arsenal ‘boring’ by Rafi Imran Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has labelled Arsenal boring for failing to score at home in Monday’s goalless draw at the Emirates Stadium. The Blues were booed off the pitch after claiming a Premier League point, to chants of ‘boring, boring Chelsea’, but Mourinho has defended his side’s tactics and insisted the Gunners were the ones who should have felt the frustrations of their home supporters. Mourinho said: “I think boring is a team that plays at home and cannot score a goal. That’s boring.

Tip! Fernandes warns of five-team F1 future by Bilal Murtaza Caterham team owner Tony Fernandes has issued a stark warning about the future of the F1 world championship if rivals do not heed the call to rein in their spending habits. Viewing the F1 world from the opposite end of the grid to the likes of Red Bull and Mercedes, the Malaysian also has a different outlook on the struggle to keep a team on the grid, let alone be competitive and challenge for world titles, and warns that the split between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ could eventually lead to the sport being reserved for an elite few, but a shadow of its former self. Fernandes has long been an outspoken critic of the free spending that characterises the F1 world and, along with others such as Force India’s Vijay Mallya, has called on the sport to find a way of policing the profligacy before the smaller teams are driven to the wall in their attempts to remain on the grid. Even though the end-of-year announcements from the FIA and World Motor Sport Council hinted at cost capping measures to start in 2015 [ see separate story], the Malaysian is keen to point out the severity of the Tip! Tip! situation as it stands right now. “I don’t think there is [a cost crisis] - there is one,” he told Reuters around Christmas, “You hear about people not having been paid, suppliers taking a long time to be paid. These are certainly not happy days. At the end of the day there may be only five F1 teams if it carries on the way it is.” Much has been made in recent weeks about the possibility of teams fielding three cars. The suggestion, not a new one by F1 standards, would become reality if entry numbers fell below a certain level, with race contracts stipulating a minimum number of cars on the grid. Should it come to fruition, such a field would almost certainly not include Fernandes’ Caterham operation – or the likes of fellow midfield and back-ofthe grid runners such as Marussia, Sauber, Force India and even multiple world champion Williams.


At the opposite end of the spectrum, current champions Red Bull, mass manufacturer-owned Mercedes and Ferrari, and multi-faceted McLaren would appear safe, with each having a budget in excess of $200m and enjoying the sort of on-track success that begets a bigger share of revenue from the sport in a self-perpetuating cycle.

k of the revenue still goes to its shareholders, led by private equity firm CVC.

All eleven teams shared around $750m of the income generated by the sport last year, but the bulk

when the FIA-mandated introduction of a new engine and powertrain will push costs back up.

Precise rules regarding the proposed cost cap will be drawn up by mid-2014 but, until then, the teams – who briefly appeared in control of their own fate via the self-imposed Resource Restriction Agreement - will be left to their own devices at a time

No single man can replace Ecclestone as F1 boss - Ferrari by Osama Sameer Formula 1’s owners should prepare for a totally new way of running the sport after commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone steps down from his role, reckons Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo. Rather than being replaced by a single individual, di Montezemolo thinks F1 should be run by a group of experts that can help ensure grand prix racing maintains its popularity.


Editorial

Roger Federer Decline of a Legend by Osama Sameer


Even for the most devoted Roger Federer fans, it’s hard to argue with the fact that the greatest player to yet grace a tennis court is on the decline. This time a year ago, he was ranked number one in the world, had already qualified for the ATP World Tour Finals, and had a major title (his seventh Wimbledon) to his name. He had just been upset in the quarter-finals of the US Open, but he’d made the semis or better at every other major. This year, he’s ranked seventh, his lowest ranking since October 2002. His best result at a major was the semi-finals at the Australian Open, and only made it past the fourth round on one other occasion. He has one title to his name in 2013, and it’s only a 250-level title in Halle. He’s eighth in the race to London, with less than 400 points separating himself and eleventh. Since Rafael Nadal knocked him off the top of men’s tennis in 2008, fans and writers have been claiming that Federer is on the downturn. This was absurd. However, it appears that Federer really is nearing his end this time. He is thirty-two after all. The question that remains is the following: how does this decline affect the Swiss maestro’s legacy? Let’s take a quick look at Federer’s year in a little more detail. He opened up the year by making the semifinals of the Australian Open, where he lost in five sets to Andy Murray. Though Federer and his legion of fans were disappointed with this loss, they shouldn’t have been. In January 2013, Andy Murray was one of the hottest players in the world and was playing some of the best tennis of his career. Pushing Murray to five sets was a great accomplishment for the 31-year-old Federer and showed positive signs for the year. However, his next tournaments started to make fans worry. A quarter-final loss in Rotterdam where he was defending champion to 39th-ranked Julien


Benneteau was very worrying. He followed that up with a semi-final loss in Dubai to sixth-ranked Tomas Berdych, which is an acceptable loss, but if ever a loss to Rafael Nadal raised alarm bells for Federer, it was the quarter-finals of Indian Wells. Nadal, playing his first even on hard courts in nearly twelve months, handily defeated Federer in straight sets. Now, as we later learned, Nadal was actually playing some of the best hard court tennis of his career, but what was very worrying was that Federer cited back pain that match. He then skipped two Masters 1000 events (Miami and Monte Carlo) to rest. When he returned in Madrid, where he was defending champion, he lost in the third round to Kei Nishikori, ranked sixteenth. He bounced back very well by making the final of the Italian Open in Rome the following week, but was then brutally defeated by Nadal 6-1, 6-3. For many fans and writers, these early inconsistencies could have been forgotten if Federer had a strong run at the French Open. It didn’t happen. He was defeated by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets in the quarter-finals. For many people, this is when the alarm bells really started to ring. This loss could be forgiven however. Tsonga was playing on his home court in Paris. Also, any observant tennis fan knew that Federer’s decline would begin on clay. And just because he’s struggling on clay does not mean that his career is going to suddenly end. Federer bounced back and won his sixth title in Halle, on grass, the following week. It seemed like Federer had re-found his game. So much for that theory. A return to Wimbledon should have been exactly what Federer needed to rejuvenate his season, but he was stunned in the second round by world number 116 Sergei Stakhovsky in four sets. If people weren’t already panicking, this was the moment when it became clear to everyone that Federer truly was on the decline. So how does Federer’s decline affect his legacy? It doesn’t. Everyone loses. Everyone falls. Everyone’s career ends. Even Roger Federer. What’s happening to Federer has been inevitable since he turned pro. The only reason it’s been made into such a big deal is because Federer has been so successful and sports writers and fans have been accustomed to him being on top and are incapable of accepting the inevitability of Federer’s downfall. And really, it’s come a lot later than perhaps expected. Usually by the age of 28 or 29, definitely 30, players begin to think about retiring. Federer is 32 and is ranked in the top ten. At the end of the day, the way he goes out shouldn’t matter. He’s had such a spectacular career that we should be focusing on that, not the way this amazing career is ending. He may be struggling, but players struggle. Sampras went two years without a title and then won the US Open. Roger Federer is a smart person. Though many people saw his recent firing of his coach as a sign of the end, it’s really a sign that he’s looking for a new direction. He’s not abandoning ship, he just changing his sails. I could be wrong. Federer may never win a title again, but I don’t think that’ll happen. As long as Federer loves tennis, he’s going to play. As long as he’s playing he’ll be a threat. We as fans need to stop doubting him and keeping believing. Roger Federer has earned that much.



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