The Weekend Roundup
Missed all the sports action last week? We got you. Every week we bring you the essential news and results to make sure you haven’t missed out.
In Melbourne 21 year old Naomi Osaka overcame the experienced Petra Kvitova to win her second successive grand slam title. Kvitova was looking to complete a fairytale ending to her comeback following a knife attack at her home in 2017. Although it wasn’t to be, in this close fought three set final, she was back at her best. Osaka looked to wrap the first set in the twelfth game, her wide positioning and incisive returns putting pressure on the Kvitova serve. But after a spot of luck after a potentially tricky Osaka return went just long Kvitova saved set point to force the tiebreak. The effort exerted in her service game meant Kvitova struggled to match her Japanese opponent who saw out the one-sided tiebreak 7-2.
Despite losing the first set, Kvitova was not to be easily overcome. On Osaka’s first service game the Czech player displayed her intent. Powerful returns forced the youngster onto the back foot and she was unable to defend a second break point. Osaka looked rattled in the third game, her frustrations beginning to show. But, perhaps powered by that passion, she broke back following a fourth deuce. 0-40 up in the fifth, the match looked to be Osaka as she took the game with the first of three break points. The next three games went with serve. At 5-3 down, Kvitova went 0-40 down on her own serve before saving three championship points to stay in the game. Her extraordinary comeback was complete when she broke Osaka in the following game, defended a break point in the next, and broke again to take the game to a deciding set.
It is no surprise that after the match Osaka explained she had had to switch off her emotions to cope with the pressure of the third set. ‘I just felt kind of hollow. Like I was a robot,’ she added. An early break in the third game gave Osaka the advantage. It was enough for her to win the championship on her serve, claiming the world number one ranking, as well as her trophy.
After the international break the superleague was back this weekend with Roses’ star Rachel Dunn celebrating her 200th Superleague appearance in a Wasps victory over London Pulse at the Copperbox Arena. A tense first quarter saw the home team emerge with a two goal advantage. However, good linking play between WA Msomi - who has returned to Wasps after a season away - GA Kate Harris and Rachel Dunn at shooter provided the edge Wasps needed. By the end of the second quarter, the game had swung in their favour, 29-32. After the break Pulse’s stamina was found wanting, and they disintegrated eventually, ceding the game 61-50.
After the game Dunn tweeted ‘200 not out...can’t believe it’s been 16 years of top flight netball, the time has flown by. I have had the absolute pleasure of working with so many great squads and coaches over the years, I feel honoured.’
Elsewhere, Saracens Mavericks set a marker for the season beating an experienced Loughborough Lightning. The newly revamped Mavericks were clearly eager to impress the home crowd, netting the first four goals of the opening quarter. Despite their physicality, bouts of sloppy play meant Lightning they were no match for their hosts. In part thanks to shooter Mary Cholhok’s impressive debut, the home side lead in every quarter and secured victory with a whopping 13 goal lead.
Meanwhile, Severn Stars beat Celtic Dragons 57-40 and Manchester Thunder dominated Strathclyde Sirens with a 70-45 win.
It was a familiar tale at the National Track Championships in Manchester this weekend as Laura Kenny took scratch race gold. Remember the name Jenny Holl though, the 19 year old pushed out with 7 laps remaining, opening up a sizeable gap, but didn’t have quite enough in the tank to secure a podium finish. Elinor Barker and Katie Archibald added to their hauls taking silver and bronze respectively. Archibald had claimed sea-level individual pursuit gold the day earlier, her third consecutive national title.
Archibald also claimed bronze in the individual sprint behind 2017 champion Jess Crampton in silver and Sophie Capewell who took gold. However, it was Shanaze Reade who stole the headlines. The thirty year old two-time world champion, announced her retirement in April 2017, but returned to training last year. She took the women’s team sprint with Blaine Ridge-Davis.
On the significance of the nations event, Kenny, who has not competed here since before the birth of her son, stated ‘Sometimes people think because you’ve won at World Championships and Olympics, Nationals can’t mean too much, but it does. Every race means something, and to wear this jersey means you’ve not only beaten the other girls from your country, you’ve beaten the world’s best.’
With the Six Nations break looming, Saracens remained top of the tree thanks to a home win against Bristol Bears. Despite over 30 points separating the two sides in the table, this fixture was an evenly matched clash. Putting points on the scoreboard in under three minutes, and adding another try mid-way through the first half, it looked as if it was business as usual for the Sarries. The Bristolians had other ideas. Presenting a defensive wall, the Bears challenged their hosts to break them down. For fifteen minutes they held firm, until Georgie Lingham scored her second of the afternoon extending her club’s lead to 17. This sparked a resurgence in the visitors, with substitute Florence Long and Lucy Atwood both scoring, to make it 17-14. With time against the Bears, Saracens weathered the storm to cling on and claim the victory.
Loughborough Lightning and Harlequins both kept the pressure on Saracens however. A spirited but frustrating performance by Worcester Valkyries saw them lose at home to Loughborough 0-24, gifting their opponents a try bonus at the last. After a tough fixture against Wasps, Harlequins Ladies Head Coach Karen Findlay praised her team for their 17-13 victory, ‘We had to meet force with force. I’m delighted for the team.’
Far from the calm lakes of Olympic rowing, the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge sees teams of four take to the Atlantic ocean, rowing 3000 miles from La Gomera, Spain to Antigua. It requires gargantuan physical effort and resolve. This year the first all female four, Row For The Ocean, finished the challenge on Thursday after 43 days, 2 hours and 26 minutes at sea. When not taking on the seas, the four of Kirsty Barker, Kate Salmon, Rosalind Holsgrove-west and Laura Ty are a Landscape Architect, Scientific Consultant, Physiotherapist,and Social Media Manager. Not a bad achievement for a side-hustle. The four took on the challenge in aid of Surfers against Sewage’s Plastic Free Coastlines campaign. You can donate to that here: https://www.rowfortheocean.co.uk/shop
Arsenal returned to winning ways this weekend brushing aside mid-table reading. It took a mere three minutes for Vivianne Miedema to find the back of the net thanks to a deflection from a Reading defender. The strike took the Dutch player to a record breaking 16 league goals in a single WSL season. A controversial penalty - given for a supposed foul from Jade Moore on Danielle van de Donk, although it appeared the Arsenal midfielder had simply tripped over the ball - was converted by Kim Little to double the visitor’s lead. Katie McCabe’s stunning left footed strike in injury time provided was the icing on a terrific performance. The Gunners’ heroics weren’t enough for them to regain the league lead however, as Manchester City beat Brighton & Hove by the same scoreline.
Chelsea were looking to build on the momentum of their win at Arsenal last weekend, but a plucky Birmingham performance saw the the visitors steal the wing. Despite a dominant first half, Chelsea only went in at half-time level following at Follis equaliser. The midfielder should have doubled that tally just after half time, but was unable to convert one on one with keeper Carly Telford. A speculative lob from Lucy Quinn at 60 minutes gave the visitors the advantage, but this was matched by Cuthbert free kick at 83 minutes. With Chelsea rueing their missed chances it was Birmingham emerged the deserved winners. Ellen White made her return from injury with aplomb to secure Birmingham’s victory in the dying minutes with a beautifully placed volley.
The results from this weekend mean Manchester City stay top, with Arsenal a point behind with a game in hand. Chelsea’s loss sees them now five points behind their London rivals.
In the Championship Tottenham, Charlton and Durham have all leapfrogged favourites Manchester United. The Red Devils, have two games in hand over first and second place and three over third placed Durham.