Hewitt hits Wimbledon on a high

To steal a line from the late Vitas Gerulaitis after his long losing sequence against Jimmy Connors finally ended in 1979, nobody beats Lleyton Hewitt 16 times in a row.Five months after leaving Melbourne Park on crutches, Hewitt will return to the scene of his 2002 grand slam triumph buoyed by a rare win over Roger Federer at the Wimbledon warm-up event in Halle.Indeed, the interruption to a streak that had stretched back to the 2003 Davis Cup semi-final is as ideally timed for Hewitt as it must be troubling for Federer, despite predictable post-match denials. The Swiss has not won a tournament from two finals since claiming his 16th major at the Australian Open in January, and was deposed last week as world No.1 by Rafael Nadal.He also led Hewitt by a set and 0-40 on serve at 4-4 in the second set, only for the Australian to rally for a 3-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 victory sealed by a dead forehand net cord.Hewitt’s first title win since Houston last year and first on grass since Queen’s in 2006 also brought a six-place rise in the ATP rankings to No.26 in time for the Wimbledon seedings.”It’s fantastic for me,” said Hewitt, 29, after his 28th career title, fourth-best among active players.Having decided to switch his usual Wimbledon preparation from the Queen’s Club, where he is a four-time champion, to Germany, Hewitt will return to London to practise this week at the All England Club, ”and keep the eye in, just freshen up mentally and physically and get ready obviously for five-set tennis”.Hewitt admitted that after his second hip operation and subsequent knee arthroscopy earlier this year he could not have imagined that by June he would find himself upstaging his long-time tormentor on grass.”At that point probably not. So obviously me and my team have done a lot of work,” said Hewitt, acknowledging his coach, Nathan Healy, and physiotherapist Ivan Guttierez.”I don’t cut any corners. It would have been easy just to turn up and not have the surgery and say it’s too hard to get back, and retire there. But I still feel like I’m a good enough player to compete with these guys. It was a matter of getting my body in as good a shape as possible.”So is Hewitt back, Federer was asked. ”For me he was not really gone, except obviously if he’s under the knife with surgery, then you can say, ‘Yes he’s not around’,” said the six-time Wimbledon champion of a rival now 7-0 in career finals on grass and who has won more matches (98) on the surface than any other active player.”People write off former world No.1s and former grand slam champions too quickly. You can see why this guy has been at the top for over a year and has won most of the grand slam titles and Masters Cups. These guys are tough. They know how to win, they know how to play well not just for one match but for entire tournaments. And he proved it this week, even though he was close to defeat in the semis. That’s what makes him a great champion.”Hewitt said he took most heart from the encouraging result having come in a final.Federer, despite entering Wimbledon after his leanest start to a year, in title terms, for almost a decade, insisted: ”I’m happy with the way I’m playing. I’m excited about next week.”ON TO WIMBLEDONAustralians in the main draw:Lleyton Hewitt (ranked 26th), Peter Luczak (88).Samantha Stosur, right (7), Anastasia Rodionova (76), Jarmila Groth (90), Alicia Molik (96).In qualifying: 11 Australians, including Jelena Dokic, Sophie Ferguson, Carsten Ball and Bernard Tomic.
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Pass the parental leave scheme, Rudd urges the Senate

CONSCIOUS that his embattled government needs to sell its successes, the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, made an unexpected appearance to urge the Senate to pass the government’s paid parental leave scheme.With the Senate debate due to start yesterday, Mr Rudd joined the ACTU president, Sharan Burrow, and the Families Minister, Jenny Macklin, to receive a 25,000-signature petition calling on the Senate to pass the bill.The Coalition has agreed to pass the legislation but it has misgivings about the scheme, which will pay all parents who stay at home the minimum wage of $570 a week for 18 weeks.The Nationals oppose paid parental leave without similar payments for non-working mothers but have agreed to keep quiet until after the election.The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, wants a more generous scheme that would pay a stay-at-home parent their full salary for six months, capped at $150,000.The government’s $260 million scheme will be funded from the budget whereas Mr Abbott’s $2.7 billion scheme would be funded by a 1.7 per cent increase in the company tax rate for more then 3000 businesses.Women who gave birth prematurely, or who were unable to work because of complications with their pregnancy, would also be eligible for payments, under amendments to the scheme outlined yesterday.As Mr Rudd spoke yester- day, the opposition’s childcare spokeswoman, Sharman Stone, heckled him.But she gave an assurance that the Coalition would pass Labor’s legislation, enabling the scheme to begin on January 1.Mr Rudd said he would believe it when he saw it, given that the Coalition had reneged on its deal to pass the emissions trading scheme it negotiated with the government by dumping Malcolm Turnbull as leader.”Get out of the road guys. Just get on with it,” Mr Rudd said.
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England searching for redemption in Sydney

Even though the terrain covered from Perth to Sydney was unknown to most in the England party, the route itself was all too familiar. England have made the journey along redemption road many times before, all too often for comfort.There is little doubt that the next five days will have significant bearing for Martin Johnson and his entire squad, for coaches as well as for players.They will be fighting for credibility on Saturday night, for a sense that they are not to be eternal also-rans, rugby’s economic superpower reduced to pauper status.”I’m sick and tired of being on the wrong end of results, sick and tired of being in a review meeting having to learn more lessons,” No.8 Nick Easter said.England’s World Cup campaign will be derailed before it has even begun if they do not show some wit, invention and get-up-and-go in the second Test.Johnson had been bullish in the build-up. By the final whistle he had been reduced to beetle-browed despair, even making disparaging comment on his own players – a rare state of affairs.Johnson admitted that he did not know why his team made so many mistakes, particularly in the first half; why the kick-chase was so limp, why the close defence was so ruinously flaccid. He was locked in meetings with his coaches until the early hours.The England coach has never ducked his own responsibility. He knows that if the squad has spent plenty of time in his company then he and his coaches have to share the blame for such a lacklustre, angst-ridden display. The mood was despondent as the squad crossed Australia on Sunday.They still maintain, though, that morale is as high as it’s ever been. “A loss will not shake your belief,” Graham Rowntree, the scrum coach, said on arrival in Sydney.”You can’t start questioning belief. And, yes, I have got every faith in Martin. I trust him and he is the right man for the job. But, bloody hell, we do need that breakthrough win. I can’t hide from the fact that we’re not getting wins.”The Wallabies will be licking their lips, seen where they’ve beaten us and seen our lack of tries. It sounds flowery to say our environment is good but the proof is in the pudding.”And that is results. England did as England have done at Subiaco Oval. They scrummed the opposition into a state of collapse, enough to yield two penalty tries, a return never seen before in a match between the major nations. But that was it.The scrum is one of the elements that defines rugby. The Wallabies are a clever, tricky, inventive side. But they cannot lay claim to being top-rank while their scrummaging resources are such a laughing stock.Their props were woeful, their we-all-fall-down antics a betrayal of the game’s fundamentals. Referee Nigel Owens should have reached for the yellow card earlier than he did when sin-binning Salesi Ma’afu in the 67th minute. Romain Poite, the French referee, is unlikely to be as lenient in the second Test on Saturday.Therein lies the problem for England. Even though Wallabies hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau is back in contention after being named yesterday in the Australian Barbarians side to play England tonight at Gosford, coach Robbie Deans has pledged to back the men who suffered such misery at Subiaco Oval.More of the same for England will take them where exactly? Even Johnson acknowledged that they will not get such dominance as a matter of course in the Test arena. If they rely again only on their scrum to deliver the spoils, it might bring victory but it will be a pyrrhic one. England have to show that they can attack on a broader front. Even one of the few who emerged in credit on Saturday conceded as much. “We’ve got to find other ways to play,” said Leicester tight-head Dan Cole.”We knew the scrum would be important but it’s not the be-all and end-all. We’ve all got to sharpen up.”Telegraph, London
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Bailey happy with Demons’ resolve in draw

Melbourne just missed the big scalp they were hunting. But Demons coach Dean Bailey was proud of his side’s resilience in at least sharing the points with a heavyweight for the first time this season.The Demons came back from 20 points down early in the match, and fought gamely despite Collingwood’s superior weight of attacking moves and 10 more scoring shots at the MCG yesterday.While the Demons have shown vast improvement this year after consecutive wooden-spoon seasons, their four wins so far have all come against sides which are with them in the bottom six.The closest they had previously come to claiming a major upset was their one-point loss to the Magpies in round two. So given third-placed Collingwood had 20 more entries to their attacking 50-metre zone and kicked the first three goals inside nine minutes, it was a victory of sorts for the Demons, whose only win in the previous six rounds was by a single point against Port Adelaide.”The stats really imply that two points [for a draw] was a good result for us,” Bailey said. ”If you purely look at the stats, you mention inside 50s and the tackle count was way out of sync, we were disappointed in the first quarter [which was 32 tackles to seven], that’s not good enough.”But at the end of it, you look at the three quarters after that and we just seemed to hang in there. They missed a couple of opportunities and we just hung in there and that was the pleasing thing.”To describe the Demons as merely hanging in understates their performance. After Collingwood’s barrage in the first nine minutes, they kicked 11 goals to the Magpies’ six and hit the front twice in the final term.While the Magpies moved the ball into attack much more often, the Demons generally did so more smoothly and directly, reflected by their greater efficiency once they went forward.They had the most effective ball user in general play, in Aaron Davey, whose skill and poise running from defence was critical given the Demons’ frequent need to rebound.Melbourne ruckman Mark Jamar was also the game’s dominant big man, a fine solo effort against Darren Jolly, with whom he was once vying for selection at the Demons, before Jolly left for Sydney in 2004, ahead of joining Collingwood this season.A pack mark and goal to Jamar in the final term levelled the scores, with Matthew Bate scoring the next early in time-on to create the last lead of the match to either side, before Magpies veteran Tarkyn Lockyer again tied the game.The Magpies were also fortunate to have the polish in attack of late inclusion Brad Dick, whose 4.1 provided a stark distinction to the wastefulness of his teammates. It was the goalsneak’s first AFL game of the year, after a shoulder reconstruction, replacing Alan Didak (hip), while Collingwood also lost skipper Nick Maxwell (calf) in the second term.AAP
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