Sports Outside the Beltway

Crystal Ball Time

My annual sports predictions for the upcoming year. Due to some unknown reason, I skipped doing this a year ago. What matters is I came back, right?

1 Cleveland beats the LA Lakers for the NBA Championship
2 Indianapolis defeats Arizona in the Super Bowl Crystall ball
3 San Jose defeats Washington for the Stanley Cup
4 St. Louis beats the Los Angeles Angels in the World Series
5 Tiger Woods returns to golf, wins at least one tournament but no major championships. That is a risky prediction in light of the fact that Tiger has won majors on 3 of this year’s host courses.(Augusta National, Pebble Beach, St. Andrews)
6 Phil Mickelson wins the US Open
7 Michelle Wie wins at least two tournaments, one of which is a major championship
8 Ji Yai Shin is LPGA player of the year
9 A non-Korean golfer will be LPGA rookie of the year
10 Yu-Na Kim wins figure skating gold at the 2010 Olympics
11 The Miami Dolphins don’t make this year’s playoffs but have a winning 2010 season
12 The Miami Heat make the playoffs but lose in the 1st round
13 The Florida Marlins have a winning record but don’t make the playoffs
14 Urban Meyer doesn’t return as coach of the Florida Gators
15 Joe Paterno announces his retirement after the 2010 Penn State season is complete
16 The Florida Panthers don’t make the playoffs
17 The Florida Panthers trade Goalie Tomas Vokoun
18 Manny Pacquiao loses to Floyd Mayweather
19 Kansas defeats Purdue for the NCAA Basketball Championship
20 Texas defeats Alabama in the BCS Championship game
21 Army has a winning football season and gets a bowl invitation
22 Washington Redskins fire Coach Jim Zorn
23 Serena Williams wins at Wimbledon
24 Versus and Directv finally settle their dispute
25 A North American horse racing track closes its doors.
26 Sebastian Vettel wins the Formula World Drivers Championship
27 New York Rangers fire Coach John Tortorella
28 The New Jersey Nets don’t finish with the worst record in NBA history
29 Connecticut defeats Tennessee for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship
30 At least half these predictions are wrong

We’ll come back on December 31st 2010 and see how I did.


Richard Gasquet avoids tennis ban for cocaine kiss

What drugs was the CAS taking when they made their ruling? From AP-

French tennis player Richard Gasquet was cleared of any wrongdoing Thursday when the Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted his claim that he tested positive for cocaine by kissing a woman in a nightclub.

The CAS dismissed appeals by the World Anti-Doping Agency and International Tennis Federation, which wanted Gasquet banned for up to two years.

“I’m absolutely relieved. This is the end of a crazy story,” Gasquet said. “I’m happy to be 100 percent cleared.”

The court in Lausanne accepted Gasquet’s claim that he inadvertently consumed cocaine by kissing the woman in a Miami club hours after withdrawing injured from a tournament in March.

“It was impossible for the player, even when exercising the utmost caution, to know that in kissing a woman who he had met in a totally unsuspicious environment, he could be contaminated with cocaine,” the court said in a statement.

A CAS panel of three lawyers said the quantity of the drug in Gasquet’s urine test was “minute” and the 23-year-old Frenchman was “clearly not a regular cocaine user.”

One kiss on a cocaine user is supposed to then make the substance show up in a non-user’s bloodstream. This sounds implausible to say the least.


Belgian panel suspends Yanina Wickmayer for 1 year

Wickmayer is in the middle of a breakthrough year for her which includes two tournament victories. From AP-

A Belgian anti-doping tribunal has suspended U.S. Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer for one year for allegedly failing to report her whereabouts to anti-doping officials three times.Wickmayer

The Flemish regional tribunal said in a statement issued Thursday that the minimum one-year sanction is “reasonable.” Tribunal spokesman Koen Uman says the suspension takes immediate effect, but can be appealed by Wickmayer.

The 18th-ranked Belgian has denied any wrongdoing and said on her Web site she planned to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The suspension came as a surprise to the prosecutor who only wanted a suspension issued. Someone may say the panel should learn the phrase ‘guilty till proven innocent’ but Wickmayer violated the rules three times not once.

Bottom line- I think she should be suspended but not for a whole year.


Tennis authorities looking into WTA match

The match in question took place yesterday. From AP-

Tennis authorities are looking into a WTA Tour match involving U.S. Open finalist Caroline Wozniacki that apparently sparked bettors to pile money on her opponent when she was on the verge of losing in straight sets.

Wozniacki, a 19-year-old Dane ranked sixth in the world, retired from the first-round match at the Luxembourg Open with a hamstring injury on Wednesday while leading Anne Kremer of Luxembourg 7-5, 5-0.

Wozniacki’s father, Piotr, told his daughter at 3-0 in the second set to retire before winning because her injury would prevent her from playing in the next round. His comments, apparently spoken in his native Polish, were picked up by microphones and heard by viewers watching the match on the Internet.

“I went onto the court and said to her: ‘Caro, it does not matter whether it’s going to be 5-0, 4-1 or 3-2. You can not play the next round, so you shouldn’t take the risk,” Piotr Wozniacki said Thursday on Danish radio. “I’m very proud of Caroline, because she stopped the fight and gave her opponent a chance.”

The father’s comments during the match led to a surge in online bets for Kremer to win.

The governing bodies of tennis created a Tennis Integrity Unit last year to combat gambling and match-fixing.

Without making any kind of judgment in Ms. Wozniacki’s case, I will suggest that what happened in Luxembourg be thoroughly investigated and in a open fashion. This is not the first recent allegation that a tennis match may not have been kosher or there was large sums of money bet at suspicious times on it. The integrity of professional tennis could be at stake if the sports fans come to believe results are being rigged.


Serena Williams could be further punished for U.S. Open outburst

She has already been fined $10,000 by the WTA. From AP-

Serena Williams is likely to find out whether she will be further punished for her outburst at a line judge at the U.S. Open before the end of the year, WTA chief executive Stacey Allaster said on Saturday.

The Australian Open and Wimbledon champion was fined $10,000 for the verbal attack on the official during the semifinals at Flushing Meadow last month.

Williams still faces possible exclusion from future grand slam events after a further review by the Grand Slam Committee, which oversees the four major tournaments in tennis.

“First of all, I’d like to say I think Serena is a fantastic champion and a great person,” Allaster told reporters at the China Open.

“She has acknowledged the incident in New York as being a mistake, and something that she’s not proud of, and she’s apologized for that.

“That is under investigation, it is ongoing. … it would be safe to assume that they will make a decision before year-end.

In case you haven”t seen last month’s incident, here is the video.

As for what Stacey Allaster said, it was very vague. IMHO the WTA would be more than justified in giving Serena Williams a multi-tournament suspension. Her behavior towards the judge was a disgrace to the sport.


Maria Sharapova wins Toray Pan Pacific Open

It was Sharapova’s first win since Amelia Island in April 2008. From AP-

It was her first tennis triumph since April 200Maria Sharapova won her first tournament since returning from a 10-month injury layoff when Jelena Jankovic retired because of an arm injury in the first set of the Toray Pan Pacific final Saturday.SPORTS-US-TENNIS-WOMEN-TOKYO

Sharapova was up 5-2 at Ariake Colosseum when the seventh-seeded Serb took a timeout to have her right arm examined by the trainer. Jankovic returned to the court and lost the first two points of the eighth game before retiring.

“It’s disappointing,” said Sharapova, who had arthroscopic surgery to repair a rotator cuff in her right shoulder nearly a year ago. “It’s toward the end of the year and there are a lot of injuries so I wish Jelena a speedy recovery.”

Sharapova seems to like playing in Japan. She also won this tournament in 2006 and won the Tokyo Open in 2003.

This win makes it look hopeful for Sharapova returning to her pre rotator cuff surgery form.


Kimiko Date Krumm wins Korean Open

At the age of 38, she is the second oldest WTA champion ever. From AP-

Japan’s Kimiko Date Krumm became the oldest winner of a WTA Tour tournament since Billie Jean King in 1983, beating second-seeded Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain 6-3, 6-3 for the Korea Open title Sunday.South Korea Korea Open Tennis

Date Krumm turns 39 on Monday. King was 39 years, 7 months, 23 days when she won at Birmingham, England.

“Yeah, of course, very happy,” Date Krumm said. “I realized one more time after this game that we don’t know about tennis unless we actually play it.”

The title was Date Krumm’s first in 13 years and eighth of her career. Formerly ranked No. 4 in the world, she quit tennis in 1996 before returning last year.

She beat top-seeded Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-4 in the quarterfinals and defending champion Maria Kirilenko of Russia 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 in the semifinals.

After needing only 1 hour, 27 minutes to beat Medina Garrigues, Date Krumm ran to the stands to embrace her race driver husband, Michael Krumm of Germany.

“Above all, my husband’s love was a big help for my win,” she said.


Date Krumm won her last WTA title in August 1996, beating Spain’s Arantxa Sanchez Vicario at San Diego.

Krumm says she is confident about playing pro tennis for at least a few more years. I am less than confident she return to her mid 1990′s form. Still I congratulate Krumm on her win.


Serena Williams loses U.S. Open tennis match due to penalty

IMHO last night was the lowest moment in women’s tennis in the last 30 years. From ESPN-

Serena Williams’ U.S. Open title defense ended in bizarre, ugly fashion Saturday night, when she was penalized a point on match point after yelling and shaking her racket in the direction of an official who called a foot fault.

Williams lost to unseeded, unranked Kim Clijsters 6-4, 7-5 in a taut semifinal that featured plenty of powerful groundstrokes by both women. No one will remember a single shot that was struck, though, because of the unusual, dramatic way it finished.

With Williams serving at 5-6, 15-30 in the second set, she faulted on her first serve. On the second serve, a line judge called a foot fault, making it a double-fault — a call rarely, if ever, seen at that stage of any match, let alone the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament.

Complete Results

Need the scores from any match played at the U.S. Open today? Results

That made the score 15-40, putting Clijsters one point from victory.

Instead of stepping to the baseline to serve again, Williams went over and shouted and cursed at the line judge, pointing at her and shaking a ball at her.

Dropping the f-word liberally, Williams said, “I swear to God I’m [expletive] going to take this [expletive] ball and shove it down your [expletive] throat, you hear that? I swear to God.”

The line judge was called over to the chair umpire, and tournament referee Brian Earley joined in the conversation. With the crowd booing — making part of the dialogue inaudible — Williams then went over and said to the line judge: “Sorry, but there are a lot of people who’ve said way worse.” Then the line judge said something to the chair umpire, and Williams responded, “I didn’t say I would kill you. Are you serious? I didn’t say that.” The line judge replied by shaking her head and saying, “Yes.”

Williams already had been given a code violation warning when she broke her racket after losing the first set. So the chair umpire now awarded a penalty point to Clijsters, ending the match.

Williams behavior was very unsportsmanlike. I don’t think the penalty point was unwarranted at all.


U.S. Open Tennis officials issue twitter warning

The final grand slam event of 2009 begins next Monday. From AP-

Watch what you tweet.

That’s the message tennis authorities are delivering as the U.S. Open gets set to start Monday, telling players and their entourages to be careful about what they post on the social networking site Twitter.

Signs are being posted in the players’ lounge, locker rooms and referee’s office at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center with the header: “Important. Player Notice. Twitter Warning.”

The signs, written by the Tennis Integrity Unit, point out that Twitter messages could violate the sport’s anti-corruption rules.

“Many of you will have Twitter accounts in order for your fans to follow you and to become more engaged in you and the sport — and this is great,” the notices read. “However popular it is, it is important to warn you of some of the dangers posted by Twittering as it relates to the Tennis Anti-Corruption Program Rules.”

Sports leagues and governing bodies are paying close attention as more and more athletes turn to Twitter to reach fans directly; some NFL teams, for example, urged players not to use it. But tennis appears to be the first sport openly concerned about Twitter’s possible effect on gambling.

Based on stories like this and this, there are legitimate reasons to be concerned about gambling on tennis matches and the possibility the sport could have its integrity compromised. Inside information, like whether a player is nursing a minor injury, would be valuable to gamblers.

The signs at the U.S. Open say tweeting is not allowed on court during matches. They also warn about using Twitter away from the court, saying sending “certain sensitive information concerning your match or other matches and/or players should be avoided. Depending on the information sent out this could be determined as the passing of ‘inside information.”

The messages define that as “information about the likely participation or likely performance of a player in an event or concerning the weather, court conditions, status, outcome or any other aspect of an event which is known by a Covered Person and is not information in the public domain.”

The warnings say they apply to players, coaches, agents, family members and tournament staff.

Do Tennis authorities have the right to enforce twitter rules on anyone but players and tournament staff? Rather than setting rules on what and what can’t be tweeted, the sport is probably hoping people just be prudent about what they tweet.


Rafael Nadal pulls out of Wimbledon

He becomes the first defending champion since Goran Ivanisevic in 2002 to not defend their title. From AP-

Defending champion Rafael Nadal withdrew from Wimbledon on Friday because of tendinitis in his knees.

He is the first reigning Wimbledon men’s champion to not defend the title since Goran Ivanisevic in 2002 — and only the second in the last 35 years. The grass-court Grand Slam tournament begins Monday.

“I’m just not 100 percent,” the No. 1-ranked Nadal said during a news conference at the All England Club. “I’m better than I was a couple of weeks ago, but I just don’t feel ready.”

His announcement came about 2½ hours after he lost to Stanislas Wawrinka in an exhibition match on grass at the Hurlingham Club in south London.

“Today was the last test,” Nadal said. “I didn’t feel terrible but not close to my best.”

There will be other Wimbledons for Nadal to take a crack at. I think he made the right decision for 2009.


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