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Of the many qualities great athletes share, ruthlessness is among the most apparent. When Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic advanced to the third round of the French Open on day four, almost in tandem on the two principal stages, they crushed their opponents with such familiar ease that it seemed a shame only one of them can reach the final.
If they do meet to decide who is strongest on the opposite side of the draw to Andy Murray, who plays Martin Klizan on Thursday, it looks likely they will leave a trail of bruised spirits behind them.
While Djokovic was tidying up his one‑sided match against João Sousa in a little over two hours, Nadal was embarking on an even quicker defeat of Robin Haase to move within one win of a century of five-set career triumphs on clay, and his 74th win at Roland Garros, his personal fiefdom where he has lost on court only twice.
Djokovic defeated Sousa 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 on Suzanne Lenglen and now has given his personal Portuguese punchbag just 24 games in four matches. On the tournament’s showpiece court, Philippe Chatrier, the Spaniard who the French love to cheer saw off the stubborn Haase in 1hr 49min, winning a high‑quality contest 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 – the same scoreline as Djokovic.
Those contenders have now had two quick wins each, the perfect start to any big tournament. Murray has not been quite so explosive out of the traps. He dropped a set against the string bean Russian Andrey Kuznetsov on Tuesday, although he recovered in blinding style to win 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, 6-0. The world No1, who seems to have not a friend among the experts here, has a tricky assignment in his second match against Klizan, one of the Tour’s more difficult customers.
In his first-round match, the Slovakian got into a row with French wildcard Laurent Lokoli, who refused to shake his hand at the end – in part because he believed Klizan was feigning injury after giving up the fourth set to love and then storming back to win in five sets.
On Court 6, there was pathos and tears of joy for Steve Johnson, bathos and some world-class racket-smashing for Borna Coric. After 3hr 53min the battling American, whose father died recently, sobbed uncontrollably in celebration of a 6-2, 7-6 (8), 3-6, 7-6 (6) win that booked him a third-round match against Dominic Thiem, who earlier beat Simone Bolelli 7-5, 6-1, 6-3.
The volatile Coric, meanwhile, lost it when Johnson put the winning forehand down the line out of his reach, thrashing the ground with the same venom he had earlier applied to his ground strokes. He was aware of Johnson’s sadness but struggled to control his own emotions, storming from the small court in a rage.
Adding to the tension earlier, Johnson had to overcome a penalty point for ball abuse on match point, before they went to the final tie-break. Elsewhere, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga endured his first opening-round defeat at a grand slam in a decade, going out to the world No91 Renzo Olivo, who now faces Kyle Edmund.
Petra Kvitova, who rode into Paris on a wave of emotion after six months out recovering from a knife attack at her home in the Czech Republic, went down fighting in the second round against Bethanie Mattek‑Sands, the American winning 7-6, 7-6. The popular left‑hander said: “The tie-breaks showed that I don’t have [enough] matches under my belt. Otherwise, I feel good. I’m happy I’m here and playing. The atmosphere on Court 1 was incredible. The fairytale ended. Now, in upcoming weeks, I think it will be business as usual. I still have the motivation.”
The Mazda CX-9 has all of the premium attributes, without the premium price. Scout’s Scott Kennedy spent a week with the 3-row family hauler, and the whole family was impressed.
I spent a week with Mazda’s highly touted CX-9. The premium SUV slot is one of the hottest segments in the industry with everyone from Maserati to Bentley jumping into the fray with SUV’s of their own.
While the Mazda CX-9 isn’t swimming in the same pool as those manufacturers when it comes to brand prestige, Mazda’s premium SUV stacks up nicely with the BMW X-5 and Audi Q7 while undercutting the Germans on price significantly. More importantly, it has a usable third row. You’re not going to want to put a pair of shooting guards in the back, but it’s perfect for bigger families or moving the kids to the back while the grandparents take the second row.
The Signature trim level came with all of the requisite goodies to be considered premium, wood and aluminum trim, perforated leather seats and steering wheel, radar cruise control, lane assist, blind spot warning, and an impressive 12 speaker Bose sound system among other things.
Syncing to my iPhone was a snap, and the user-interface on the infotainment system. The interface has a knob just below the arm-rest, but Mazda adds the convenience of a touch screen. The ability use the touch screen disables at speed though, a decision I’ll never quite understand. The navigation is real time and updates. It works well, but I don’t think there’s an in-car navigation that works better than a smart-phone, at least I haven’t found one.
The Signature CX-9 passes the look test immediately. While many of its competitors have gotten more square and angular, the Mazda’s elongated hood and sloped roof-line cut a striking silhouette. The grille has the appearance of what can be described as an overbite as the hood protrudes over the lower bumper ever so slightly. While slightly polarizing at first, it works well with the rest of the design. I was particularly fond of the Machine Gray paint (a $300 extra).
The second row windows are huge, giving terrific range of vision for your passengers, and most of the people driving this car are going to be families. One of the drawbacks with the over-sized rear windows is that they don’t roll all the way down, which immediately drew a question from my five-year-old daughter who wanted to know why her window wasn’t all the way down. She was satisfied when I told her that was the trade-off for having such a big window.
The CX-9 puts the U in Utility when it comes to hauling. With the third row folded flat, the Mazda holds 38.2 cubic feet of gear, and with the ability to fold the second and third rows flat the CX-9 swallows a whopping 71.2 cubic feet. The rear hatch is controlled via the key fob, and it has a good range. Outside beyond my line of sight, my daughter yelled that she couldn’t reach the hatch to close it, one push of the button on the fob and I hear “It’s going down now daddy.” It’s also tow rated at 3500 pounds.
The CX-9’s 2.5 liter turbo four is rated at 250 horse power. In the age of 700+ horse power SUV’s, that might not seem like a lot, but it was more than enough for daily driving. With 310 LB of torque on tap, the big SUV can get up and go with no noticeable turbo lag.
It’s a refined engine that is incredibly quiet at low RPM’s. The first time I came to a stoplight, I looked to see how I could disable the start-stop feature, because I can’t stand start-stop engines. Good news for me (and you, because I haven’t met anyone that likes that feature), the CX-9 doesn’t have start-stop; the engine was so quiet, with a complete lack of vibration, I thought the engine was off. It wasn’t.
The turbo four never seems to want for power. It accelerates quickly down the on ramp to merge into freeway traffic, and it has plenty of power in the critical 60-80 range when passing. I found the estimated fuel economy of 26 highway to be dead on as I averaged just over 23 in mixed driving. Using regular unleaded will save you a few extra dollars at the pump as well.
Once on the highway, I appreciated the blind sport warning system, but didn’t find the lane departure as useful. I had mixed feelings on the radar cruise control. On the highway, it keeps a significant distance to the car in front of you, even in its most aggressive setting. This causes two problems. First, cars are constantly getting between you and the person in front of you, and second, the distance is significant enough that the driver in front of you is much less likely to move over as you’ve given the appearance that you’re following, not trying to pass.
I didn’t use the radar cruise control on the highway after testing it, but it was perfect on two lane roads where local law enforcement is always looking to add to their budget. The radar controlled distance was perfect for a car in front of you on two lanes, and the cruise modulated the downhill speed well to keep you from breaking through the imaginary grace zone for getting a ticket.
The CX-9 was shoed with 20 inch alloy wheels and all-season tires and the ride was quiet and comfortable. The suspension handled bumps perfectly, I hardly felt them in the cabin, and there was no excess bounce.
The Bottom Line
The Mazda CX-9 out punches its price class. With an as tested price of $44,315 the top end trim level compares well to brands with significant price increases. Road test a CX-9 against a BMW X5 35i, Audi Q7 3.0, or Mercedes GLE 350, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a $15,000 (or more) difference.
The CX-9 is one of the best looking SUV’s on the market and has a premium feel inside and out. With an 80 month or 60,000 mile power train warranty the CX-9 offers value, performance, and peace of mind.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton happens to be an expert on wideout A.J. Green—so if he makes a bold statement about his No. 1 target, it’s best to pay close attention.
Dalton did just that recently, bragging about Green’s form this offseason during an interview with the team’s official website:
“I would say he’s better than he’s been,” Dalton reported after Tuesday’s practice. “It’s the best shape he’s been in, probably. He’s fast, he’s big. He’s been doing it all. Even if you said he was the same, that’s really good.”
For his part, Green concurs and explained what he worked on this offseason:
“I focused more on receiver stuff,” Green said. “I feel like this offseason I got better and did more and more stuff that catered to me … I think I came out more fluid than last year.”
Green only played in 10 games last year thanks to injury, but it’s still odd to think the 28-year-old wideout can get even better.
At his best, Green posted 1,426 yards and 11 touchdowns back in 2013. If Dalton is correct, Green’s budding skill and the addition of weapons such as John Ross to the offense around him could help him produce another career year.
Gonzalo Higuaín scored 36 goals in 35 league games for Napoli last season to pick up the Capocannoniere. When he made his move to Juventus – the team that has now won the Serie A title for the last six seasons in a row – in the summer he would surely have been expecting to win another golden boot this season. But it hasn’t worked out like that. Instead, the battle for the Capocannoniere has been played out by Edin Dzeko, Dries Mertens and Andrea Belotti.
In the end, Dzeko triumphed with 29 goals, as many as any Roma player has scored in a single campaign since the 1930-31 season. Dzeko scored eight goals in Roma’s last eight matches, a remarkable turnaround when you consider he had only scored eight goals last season. Mertens finished behind Dzeko on 28 goals, an impressive total for a winger who had scored five last season. Belotti had to settle for third place in the race for the golden boot, but his return of 25 goals in 29 matches was an exceptional achievement for a 23-year-old in a Torino team that finished ninth.
Serie A has a habit of throwing up unlikely top scorers. With Dzeko, Mertens and Belotti in mind, here are a few of the most surprising Capocannoniere winners in recent history.
Younger readers may only see Michel Platini as a banned politician who entangled himself in a web of corruption, but those among us who remember the 1980s will recall his time as an elegant playmaker who drove Juventus to trophies and finished as the top scorer at Euro 1984 as France won their first international tournament.
So why is he on this list? Two reasons. Firstly, Platini wasn’t a striker; he played further back as a traditional No10. For a midfielder to win the Capocannoniere is quite the achievement, but to do so in the defensively stringent days of the early 1980s is simply outstanding.
Secondly, this was Platini’s first season with Juventus following his move from St-Étienne to replace the well liked Liam Brady. The Frenchman initially struggled in his new surroundings, so much so that there were whispers he wanted to leave Turin during the winter break. But he showed a steely reserve, rode out the rough period and scored 12 goals in the last three months of the season as Juventus challenged Roma for the title. He added another five goals in the European Cup as Juventus made it to the final, which they lost to Hamburg.
Platini finished one goal in front of Inter striker Alessandro Altobelli to capture what would be the first of three consecutive Capocannoniere titles. He didn’t win the league or the European Cup in his first season in Italy but this was undoubtedly his toughest Capocannoniere.
Cristiano Lucarelli is known in the Italian game for his communist leanings – and the occasional outrageous comment – but for a brief period in the mid-2000s he was one of the most prolific strikers in Serie A.
Lucarelli had been a journeyman for the majority of his career by the time he arrived at Livorno, his hometown club, in the summer of 2003. Theywere his ninth professional club. After two very underwhelming seasons with Torino, Lucarelli dropped a division to join the team of his heart. It was to be the start of his golden period.
In the 2003-04 season he scored 29 goals in Serie B as he finished second to Luca Toni the scoring charts and drove Livorno to the top flight for the first time since 1949. Lucarelli then hit 24 goals the following season as Livorno finished ninth in Serie A. He outscored Andriy Shevchenko, Hernán Crespo, David Trezeguet, Alessandro Del Piero, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Adriano and Alberto Gilardino while playing for Livorno, who finished eighth in the table.
Wearing the No99 shirt as a tribute to the Livorno’s left-wing ultra group Brigate Autonome Livornesi – something he later denied, saying the number was only chosen as it was the year his first child was born – Lucarelli scored six goals in one week in May to effectively tie up the golden boot. He scored all four of Livorno’s goals in a ludicrous 6-4 defeat to Parma and then, a few days later, he hit a brace in an equally outlandish 6-3 loss to Siena.
His performances earned him a call-up to the Italy squad and, when he made his debut against Serbia and Montenegro in June 2005, he scored.
There is something alluring and likable about Dario Hübner; maybe it’s the fact he was as prolific with cigarettes and grappa as he was in front of goal. His career was also an example to us all: it’s never too late to reach the big time.
Having made his Serie A debut with Brescia aged 30 in 1997, Hübner stayed with the club until 2001, scoring some 75 league goals across the top two divisions in the process, before moving to newly promoted Piacenza. He scored his first goal for his new club in a famous 2-0 win over reigning champions Roma and he didn’t stop scoring. He hit three back-to-back braces in September and October 2001, and added four more later in the campaign. By the time of the winter break, he was leading the charts with 12 goals.
Hübner was a supremely efficient finisher who was deadly from penalties, scoring all six of his spot-kicks in 2001-02. From January onwards he went toe-to-toe with David Trezeguet for the Capocannoniere, like two heavyweight boxers trading blows. While Trezeguet was receiving ample service from Del Piero, Pavel Nedved and Edgar Davids at Juventus, Hübner was surrounded by the gloriously named Paolo Poggi, future Lazio midfielder Matuzalém and current Sassuolo boss Eusebio Di Francesco.
Both strikers finished on 24 goals, making Hübner one of only two men to have finished as top scorer in Italy’s top three divisions; he had topped the Serie B chart with Cesena in 1995-96 and had been top scorer in Serie C1 with Fano in 1991-92. He also became the oldest player to have won the golden boot, at 35. Hübner remains one of the best strikers never to have earned a cap for Italy. Nonetheless, his popularity among fans endures.
Football has an amazing ability to throw up one-season wonders. Igor Protti was exactly that in the 1995-96 season. He was just about to turn 28, had never been prolific and had only played in Serie A for one season – in 1994-95, when he scored seven goals – but he found confidence at the start of the campaign and ran with it for nine months. The Bari striker scored six goals in the opening four games – including a hat-trick against Lazio – and kept finding the net, scoring free-kicks, bicycle kicks and long-range piledrivers that would have made Gabriel Batistuta proud.
Two goals stand out above the rest. His first came in the 4-1 demolition of Inter at the San Nicola, a 25-yard scorcher that welcomes comparisons to Batistuta’s famous goal against Manchester United at Old Trafford four years later. The second, a wonderful scissor kick in a 2-1 win against Atalanta.
Protti finished level at the top of the charts with Beppe Signori. Despite being the key striker in a team that finished third, Signori’s goals tended to come against lesser sides. Protti, by contrast, score three against reigning champions Juventus, two against Inter, and five against Signori’s Lazio, all while playing for team that were eventually relegated. In addition, half of Signori’s goals came from the penalty spot.
This was to be the apex of Protti’s career. After Bari’s relegation, he was snapped up by Signori’s Lazio, leaving manydreaming of a partnership full of goals. But his move to the capital failed. He only scored seven goals for his new side – mostly from left midfield it should be pointed out – before leaving on loan to Napoli in 1997.
Like Hübner, Protti never received a call-up to the national team. In fact, Arrigo Sacchi didn’t take Protti or Signori to Euro 96. Also like Hübner, Protti remains one of the only two men to have been top scorer in Italy’s top three divisions.
The lanky forward’s name shouldn’t really be on this list. He scored goals everywhere he went – including 158 in Serie A – and even won the Capocannoniere title in 2005-06 for his sublime 31-goal haul for Fiorentina. Toni was a striker of serious pedigree but when he won his second Capocannoniere he was 38 years. And for this reason, he not only makes the list, but also is No1.
Toni was a late bloomer. Despite playing with Roberto Baggio at Brescia earlier in his career, he didn’t mature as a striker until he moved to Palermo, aged 26, in the summer of 2003 and the goals column began to skyrocket. He followed up success at Bayern Munich with less successful spells with Roma, Juventus, Genoa and a bizarre spell in the Middle East just for good measure. Many felt Toni should retire but he made his way to Hellas Verona for the most Indian of summers. Toni joined the the clubbefore the 2013-14 season and hit 20 league goals in his debut campaign – his personal best since 2009 – as they finished tenth in Serie A after an 11-year absence from the top flight.
He was just warming up. In his second season he started slowly and had only scored five goals by the winter break but all of a sudden he started scoring like it was 2006. Toni discriminated against no one, scoring against Juventus, Milan, Napoli and Inter. Verona were not exactly a team bursting with creative players – hey had lost their most inventive player, Juan Iturbe, the previous summer – but Toni showed classic centre-forward instincts to hit 22 goals, including his laughably poor Panenka penalty against Milan.
He topped the goalscoring charts with Inter’s Mauro Icardi, a player 16 years his junior and broke Hübner’s record as the oldest Capocannoniere winner in history. One suspects his record may last some time.
Josh McCown appears to be the top-performing QB on the Jets’ roster.
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Jets will likely wait until well into training camp to announce their starting quarterback for Week 1, but it has become quite clear that Josh McCown has an early advantage.
While watching practice on Monday, Connor Hughes of NJ.com concluded that McCown has vastly outplayed Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty.
That meshes with a previous report that claimed McCown is the “heavy favorite” to win the Week 1 starting job, and we should not be surprised by that. Petty threw three touchdowns and seven interceptions in five games last season and finished with a passer rating of 60.0. Hackenberg is entering his second year, and some of the reports we heard about him last year were very unflattering.
It should be noted that coaches have been more pleased with Hackenberg this offseason, but it seems like he still has a long way to go. With Todd Bowles likely coaching for his job, the 38-year-old McCown makes the most sense.
Evenin’ all, nice to have your company for yet another instalment of State of Origin, the thrice-yearly footballing extravaganza during which mate plays mate and state plays state, and where hate seems to have taken a backseat of late. The continued ban on punching? Oh, won’t somebody think of the
children middle-aged men pining for the good ol’ days?
Tonight’s match comes from Name of a Bank Stadium formerly known as Lang Park, which was named after a former minister, politician and progressive from Australia’s colonial past, John Dunmore Lang. Looking over his resume, he’s certainly dunmore than I ever will. Zinger!
Interesting fact No.1: Lang seemed to have been a much bigger presence in Sydney than Brisbane so it seems rather generous of Queenslanders to have named their favourite sporting venue after him.
Interesting fact No. 2: The site of the stadium used to be a former cemetery and then a rubbish dump, which almost amount to the same thing. A cemetery, ay? Did anyone who okayed the build actually watch Poltergeist?
Anyway, tonight’s match.
Queensland go in with one of their weaker teams since they began their reign of terror in 2006 (if you can call a team containing Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Darius Boyd, Anthony Milford and Matt Gillett a weak one). But it’s all relative, innit?
So, given that, everyone, including me, has given NSW a real chance tonight but let’s be honest, no-one will be at all surprised if Queensland jump out of the blocks early, get a roll on, and have a resigned NSW, who’ve seen it all before, chasing the game before we make the turn for home. Shaking off the mental scars of the past will be, for NSW, half the battle.
The key to the game, as always, will be NSW’s ability to get on top in the forwards and at the ruck, and for their halves to orchestrate what is a talented backline —on paper. All eyes, then, will be on Mitchell Pearce, who will be carrying enormous pressure on his shoulders. Given his record in Origin he’s become the scapegoat for many a NSW loss but people in the know, like Peter Sterling, have said that he’s in as good a place as he’s been in a very long time. I wish him well.
For Queensland, five-eighth Anthony Milford will be on debut, filling the BFG-sized boots of Johnathan Thurston. Will he shine or get a case of the yips?
All will be revealed from 8.12pm. Or thereabouts.
Enjoy the ride and feel free to drop me a line (details on your left… no, not that far left!).
Seahawks coacch Pete Carroll (L) talks to quarterback Russell Wilson looks on prior to their game Los Angeles Rams at CenturyLink Field.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The Seattle Seahawks are going to be fielding questions regarding the recent ESPN bombshell story on Richard Sherman for a while, and wide receiver Doug Baldwin is the latest to weigh in.
While Sherman was the main topic of Seth Wickersham’s feature, you could actually argue that Russell Wilson’s reputation took the biggest hit. After speaking with several current and former Seahawks players, coaches and staffers, Wickersham was left with the impression that there is a lot of resentment toward Wilson. Some of that reportedly has to do with Pete Carroll not holding the quarterback accountable.
In an interview with 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Brock and Salk” show Monday, Baldwin was asked if Carroll treats Wilson the same as every other player.
“I don’t know. Honestly, I didn’t even read the entire article. I read parts of it,” he said, per Sheil Kapadia of ESPN.com. “Didn’t really have time to read the whole thing. I think Pete does a fantastic job of handling different individuals differently. We all have our different personalities. We all act different ways. And Pete does a fantastic job of accommodating those personalities. He’s done it with me. He’s done it with Russ, with [Richard Sherman], with [Marshawn Lynch], with all of us. And he does a great job at it.”
Baldwin didn’t exactly say anything that would confirm the alleged “resentment,” but he didn’t offer an enthusiastic defense of Wilson, either. In fairness, he probably just didn’t want to get into it and risk creating further controversy.