Tag Archives: scrapper

US OPEN 2012: Andy Murray beats Marin Cilic

Scrapper Murray recovers from slow start to beat Cilic and reach US Open last four

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UPDATED:

01:02 GMT, 6 September 2012

Maybe it was the rare sight of Ivan Lendl taking his cap off and scowling, maybe it was the arrival of Pippa Middleton at courtside, but something happened to bring Andy Murray back from the brink.

The 25-year-old Scot was in desperate trouble in the second set of his US Open quarter final when both these things came to pass, and they coincided with him roaring back to defeat world No 13 Marin Cilic.

From the dire straits of 6-3, 5-1 down when he could barely get the ball in the court, Murray fought back to win 3-6, 7-6, 6-2, 6-0 in three hours to keep his Grand Slam dream alive.

Made it: Andy Murray reached the last four with a tough win over Marin Cilic

Made it: Andy Murray reached the last four with a tough win over Marin Cilic

After finishing he was able to relax and see who his next opponent would be in his second straight semi-final at Flushing Meadows — whether it would be a rematch of his epic two clashes with Roger Federer at Wimbledon this year or a less expected contest with Czech powerhouse Tomas Berdych.

Either way he has two days to compose himself after making what was an awkward assignment against the 6ft 6in Croat look exactly that.

Murray was bafflingly poor until his dramatic revival after the match was moved to the Louis Armstong Stadium following earlier rain. It is a court he has struggled on before and it doubtless did not help that it was not even half full at the start, his mood matching the flat atmosphere.

Troubled times: Murray struggled to get to grips with the court and his opponent in the early stages

Troubled times: Murray struggled to get to grips with the court and his opponent in the early stages

Troubled times: Murray struggled to get to grips with the court and his opponent in the early stages

Troubled times: Murray struggled to get to grips with the court and his opponent in the early stages

The danger signs were immediate, especially the odd manic grin at his box and the curse that this surface was ‘10 times’ fast than that of the Arthur Ashe. The feet that moved so fluently in a brilliant fourth round performance were anchored to the floor.

Cilic’s early break was clawed back but when Murray was broken immediately again he hurled his racket into the concrete.

When two double faults saw him go behind early in the second you feared the worst, and so clearly did Lendl, who never shows emotion at courtside but now removed his headgear. At 1-5, another dismal break conceded, it looked a very long way back, but there was always the memory of the 2010 Australian Open semi-final, when he turned round another bad start against the same opponent.

Slumped: Cilic fell apart in the final two sets as Pippa Middleton cheered Murray on (below)

Slumped: Cilic fell apart in the final two sets as Pippa Middleton cheered Murray on (below)

Pippa Middleton watches Andy Murray

Cilic is utterly inscrutable but can get very nervous inside, and by the time Pippa arrived courtside, Murray was getting fired up and hauling him in.

Even then there were dramas as three unforced errors saw the world No 4 go 2-4 down, before a few errors from the other side helped him back and he ran away with it 7-4.

Slowly but surely, Cilic’s game began to collapse with Murray now darting around the back court and starting to work his backhand beautifully. Only two more games were conceded.

London 2012 Olympics: Ashley McKenzie got into judo after fight over Pokemon

Team GB star McKenzie took up judo after fight over Pokemon card

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UPDATED:

17:26 GMT, 23 July 2012

Olympics 2012

Ashley McKenzie grins broadly as he tells how a fight over a Pokemon card turned him from a problematic youngster in trouble with the law to one of Britain's best hopes for a judo medal at the London Olympics.

Thrown out of school, his life was changed when he was 11 by a tussle on a street near his home in west London which broke out when another boy tried to make off with his prized Pokemon Charizard card.

'This Charizard was the best card. It was my life back then,' he recalled at the British judo team's training base in Dartford to the east of London.

Pokemon warrior: Ashley McKenzie (front row, second right) with the rest of Team GB's Olympic squad

Pokemon warrior: Ashley McKenzie (front row, second right) with the rest of Team GB's Olympic squad

'I've gone to grab his shirt and next thing I knew I was over his shoulder. I was a scrapper back in the day so I knew this wasn't right.

'I went for him again and as I've gone for him he's thrown me again. I was thinking “No way, what's going on How's he throwing me He's hurting me”.'

Baffled, he went home and looked on the internet where he discovered he had been overcome by a judo move. Keen to learn more, he went along to a local club and found his erstwhile attacker there, along with his Pokemon card.

'We spoke, we're friends, I started judo. Obviously I got my Pokemon card back,' he added with a laugh.

McKenzie, now a charming 23-year-old, is very open about his past troubles, and proud of how he turned his life around.

Hope: McKenzie is one of Britain's best gold prospects

Hope: McKenzie is one of Britain's best gold prospects

He was regularly excluded from school and spent time in a young offenders institution.

But, having got into judo, his talent was spotted and success in junior competitions followed.

'I started winning more and more, and I thought my mum's happy and my brother and my dad's happy for me winning these and when I'm in school I'm always in trouble,' he said.

'It was like a balance where I was doing something positive. So I kind of focused all my energy on judo. From there my life kind of shot up.'

It was not all plain sailing as his penchant for trouble has seen him earn a number of bans from the sport. But the medals kept coming and he knuckled down when he realised he could get to the Olympics.

'It sunk in my head, I could actually do this. This actually could be my dream, my dream could come true to be someone in the world,' he said.

He is desperate to win a medal in London in front of his friends and family but knows it will not be easy, especially with Uzbekistan's Rishod Sobirov a huge favourite in his under-60kg category.

'I've come from so low to so high in my life. I've done what I had to do and this is the end spot,' he said.

'I've completed the one big barrier that's getting out of all the trouble, trying to go to the Games. Now the next step is let's try and get a medal.'

If he doesn't succeed this time, then he's even more determined to prove himself at the Olympics in Brazil in 2016.

'At Rio I'll be looking for gold, and that is it. I want a medal, I want to get a gold so bad it's unbelievable.'

Dan Evans gives Great Britain boost with Davis Cup win over Lukas Lacko

Dan comes good for Britain by defying the world rankings to beat Slovakia's Lacko


All over: Dan Evans (left) and Lukas Lacko (right) shake hands after the British player won their match

All over: Dan Evans (left) and Lukas Lacko (right) shake hands after the British player won their match

Dan Evans gave Great Britain a brilliant and hugely unexpected start to their Davis Cup tie against Slovakia in Glasgow by beating world No 65 Lukas Lacko 6-3 7-5 7-5.

It was by far the biggest win of his career for the 21-year-old, who is ranked more than 200 places lower than his opponent and has never won a match at ATP World Tour level.

The last time Evans played Davis Cup was two years ago when he lost both singles rubbers in the nadir of defeat by Lithuania, but this could not have been more different and gives Britain a great chance of winning a very difficult tie on their return to Europe/Africa Zone Group I.

Evans had lost all four of his previous Davis Cup rubbers, failing to win a set on home soil before, but he has shown encouraging form of late and, perhaps freed by the huge rankings gap, began like a train.

He broke serve at the first opportunity and withstood some strong pressure from Lacko to take the set with a crisp backhand volley, a shot that was a real feature of the match.

The difference between the two players was emphasised last week in Zagreb when Evans earned plaudits simply for qualifying while his opponent went all the way to the final.

Evans, who stands only 5ft 9in, has always been a scrapper but has been heavily criticised in the past for a lack of maturity on and off the court and it is only this year that he has worked his way back onto the top level of Team AEGON funding.

Take that: Evans serves to Lacko at the Braehead Arena in Glasgow

Take that: Evans serves to Lacko at the Braehead Arena in Glasgow

Captain Leon Smith spoke in the build-up of the improvement in Evans' attitude and it really showed in the second set when twice he fought his way back from a break down.

In truth Lacko, who also reached the third round of the Australian Open as a qualifier before losing to Rafael Nadal, gave the Birmingham player a helping hand, double-faulting when he had just broken to go 2-0 up and then playing another poor game as the pattern was repeated at 4-2.

And Evans, whose career-high ranking of 248 came more than two years ago, punished the Slovakian fully by breaking again in the 11th game and then serving out the set to love with an ace.

The pair had met once before, coincidentally in Glasgow at a Futures tournament two years ago, when Lacko won in three sets, but the 24-year-old looked short on answers at the start of the third here.

Giant-killer: Evans is ranked more than 200 places below Lacko

Giant-killer: Evans is ranked more than 200 places below Lacko

He saved three break points in the opening game but not a fourth and was struggling simply to stay in contention against Evans, who was mixing his game up well and showing admirable composure on the big points.

Two break points went begging at 3-1 and this time Lacko did take advantage, levelling at 3-3 when for the first time the occasion appeared to get to Evans.

Regular watchers of British hopefuls may have expected that to be the turning point but Evans quickly put it behind him and was a game away from victory when he broke to lead 6-5, jumping with glee when his return proved too good for Lacko.

Sealing it was not entirely straightforward, Evans netting a simple volley to go break point down, but again he staved off the threat and clinched the decisive point when Lacko hit a return long.