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Author Archive for Kevin Mitchell

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Jake LaMotta was not a great champion but one of the toughest, a boxing beast | Kevin Mitchell

The fine details of his brief reign as world middleweight champion are not always absorbed in recollections of his career, mainly because one of the greatest films of all time painted him in classically Shakespearean mode

Jake LaMotta should have been in Las Vegas to watch Gennady Golovkin and Saul “Canelo” Álvarez, two distinguished middleweights pitched together to echo the deeds of the division’s glorious past, a fight reckoned to restore boxing’s faltering image. LaMotta, who knew a lot about the game’s sullied reputation, would have given it a wry smile.

The fight did not quite do its job. It was a terrific rather than a truly great contest and dreadful misjudgment by one of the officials overwhelmingly in favour of Álvarez returned a split draw, drowning out all other post-fight sentiments. So, unfairly but inevitably, Golovkin-Álvarez will be remembered only slightly more fondly than the theatrical crossover fight in the same ring three weeks earlier between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor.

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Golovkin v Álvarez: the real deal after the Mayweather v McGregor sideshow | Kevin Mitchell

The upcoming fight in Las Vegas between the aggressive Kazakh and the wily Mexican has the look of a bout from boxing’s golden age

It is time for boxing to fix its house. Two weeks after Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor did each other a mutual favour in a cross-discipline public spar that delivered them an estimated $400m to share (the Irishman getting a quarter slice), Gennady Golovkin and Saul “Canelo” Álvarez meet in the same ring on Saturday night to decide who is the best middleweight in the world.

Related: Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather the only ones enriched by this fight | Kevin Mitchell

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Andy Murray out until new year to focus on slow recovery from hip injury

• Scot decides against surgery and will rest until 2018 season
• Murray will miss Beijing and Shanghai tournaments

Andy Murray’s decision to skip the rest of the season, leaving the window only slightly ajar for a highly unlikely return to competition before the 2018 campaign, has received wide approval across the tennis industry.

The former British No1 Greg Rusedski, who took six weeks out with a damaged shoulder towards the end of his career, was among those who welcomed Murray’s decision to let his painful hip injury heal slowly.

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Hungover Roger Federer tells tennis’s next generation to attack old order

• Wimbledon champion celebrated title in bar until 5am
• Federer calls on young players to play more attacking tennis

Roger Federer, hungover after partying until 5am to celebrate his eighth Wimbledon title, had enough lucidity on Monday morning to throw down a challenge to the next generation to play more attacking tennis if they want to dislodge the old order.

The 35-year-old Swiss could easily return to No1 in the world and win his third slam of the season in New York next month after coming through Wimbledon without losing a set. He won in Melbourne, too, in vastly different circumstances, and he looks and sounds as content as when he was dominating the game alongside Rafael Nadal, then, in recent years, competing with Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray for supremacy.

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Roger Federer vows to attack in final against big hitter Marin Cilic | Kevin Mitchell

The Swiss master has been in imperious form at the All England Club but is wary of his Croatian opponent’s ace card and promises to go on the offensive

Marin Cilic played probably the match of his life when he beat Roger Federer in straight sets in the semi-finals of the US Open three years ago, on his way to lifting his only slam title to date, a performance he hopes to emulate in his first Wimbledon final on Sunday. The 28-year-old Croat is enjoying an excellent summer on grass and has the game to win a second slam, of that there is little doubt, but he is playing someone who is in his 29th grand slam final, his 11th at the All England Club, where he has already prevailed seven times.

That Flushing Meadows triumph was Cilic’s sole win over the Swiss in seven attempts and Federer has it hard-wired into a tennis memory that stretches back seven years further than his opponent’s debut, in February 2004. Two weeks before Cilic beat one Ivaylo Traykov in a Futures tournament in Zagreb that day, Federer was winning the second of his 18 slam titles, getting the better of the mercurial Marat Safin in Melbourne.

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Andy Murray faces familiar injury concerns ahead of Wimbledon defence

• World No1 struggles with soreness in hip during Friday practice
• Murray begins against Alexander Bublik with Nadal in same half of draw

Rarely has tennis arrived for its annual two-week picnic at the All England Club in such turmoil and uncertainty – precisely the sort of conditions that have accompanied Andy Murray’s rise to the lonely mountain top of his sport.

He begins the defence of his title on Centre Court on Monday as the world’s No1 ranked player but, as when he won his first two grand slam events and an Olympic gold medal, injury gives his demeanour a downbeat stoop. After a Friday practice session in which he served and moved smoothly but grimaced a few times between points, his response to questions about the chances of his starting the tournament was typically gnomic: “I hope so, that’s the plan.”

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Two matches, a tumble and tears but Konta past world No1 Kerber at Eastbourne

Konta sees off Ostapenko 7-5, 3-6, 6-4 and world No1 Kerber 6-3, 6-4Fears of concussion after bang to the head led to uncontrollable sobbingJohanna Konta needed a statement win after some worrying slippage since her Tour breakthrough in Miami nearly th…

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Andy Murray injury worry part of wider picture as top players feel strain | Kevin Mitchell

There is no cause for alarm after the world No1 pulled out of a pre-Wimbledon exhibition tournament but he, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are all feeling physical pressure

On the face of it, Andy Murray’s withdrawal from an exhibition at the Hurlingham Club in London on Tuesday, citing a sore hip, is no cause for great alarm and of a piece with his season, indeed his career.

He will, he says, play on Friday. However, taken cumulatively, the defending champion and world No1 will be at least mildly disturbed his body is aching in more places than he might have anticipated. Since his heroic charge over the closing stages of last season to rip away Novak Djokovic’s top ranking Murray has suffered physically, and perhaps spiritually.

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Novak Djokovic’s peace mission may have neutered killer instinct – McEnroe

• Former great questions Pepe Imaz’s influence on troubled Serb
• Djokovic awaits confirmation Andre Agassi will be at Wimbledon as mentor

John McEnroe fears Novak Djokovic’s burgeoning spirituality could be draining the Serb of his “killer instinct”.

The American, who wrestled with his own volatile personality for much of his career, says of the one-time shirt-ripping beast of the Tour: “From an emotional standpoint he perhaps felt he wanted to bring in somebody who wants to give people a lot of hugs. That does not necessarily translate to having that killer instinct. It does not automatically lose it, but you don’t want to get into a situation where it is all peace and love and then have to go out and try to stomp on somebody’s head in competition.”

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Novak Djokovic’s peace mission may have neutered killer instinct – McEnroe

• Former great questions Pepe Imaz’s influence on troubled Serb
• Djokovic awaits confirmation Andre Agassi will be at Wimbledon as mentor

John McEnroe fears Novak Djokovic’s burgeoning spirituality could be draining the Serb of his “killer instinct”.

The American, who wrestled with his own volatile personality for much of his career, says of the one-time shirt-ripping beast of the Tour: “From an emotional standpoint he perhaps felt he wanted to bring in somebody who wants to give people a lot of hugs. That does not necessarily translate to having that killer instinct. It does not automatically lose it, but you don’t want to get into a situation where it is all peace and love and then have to go out and try to stomp on somebody’s head in competition.”

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Rafael Nadal pulls out of Queen’s but insists he will be fit for Wimbledon

• French Open champion skips Queen’s on doctor’s advice
• ‘My body needs to rest if I am going to be ready to play Wimbledon’

Rafael Nadal on Tuesday night withdrew from the Aegon Championships at Queen’s, which starts next weekend, on doctor’s advice, but insists he will be fit for Wimbledon at the end of the month.

Nadal, who won his 10th French Open on Sunday, said: “I am very sorry to say that I am not going to be able play Queen’s next week. I was hoping to take some days off and then be ready. But, at 31, and after a long clay-court season with all of the emotions of Roland Garros, and after speaking to my team and doctor, I have decided my body needs to rest if I am going to be ready to play Wimbledon.

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Rafael Nadal reveals freewheeling philosophy motivating him for Wimbledon

Spaniard won his 10th French Open playing with a rare freedom, and later explained his approach to life: ‘I do things as they come’

Rafael Nadal made an observation in Paris about his philosophy on life that sounded innocuous enough to dip below the radar of those who were correctly more concerned with the history he had just created but it describes perfectly why he is playing some of the best tennis of his career.

His words reveal, too, that the 31-year-old Spaniard, who has suffered more injuries than is good for his long-term health, is not done just yet.

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Andy Murray and Lendl are cutting it fine for the French Open, says Becker

• ‘Gap between Melbourne and the French was maybe too long’
• Agassi appointment ‘a good choice’ by Djokovic

Boris Becker has questioned whether Andy Murray will have enough time to strike up a winning rhythm with Ivan Lendl at the French Open, which starts on Sunday, but says reduced expectations at Roland Garros might help the Scot at Wimbledon, where he is champion.

Becker, who reached the semi-finals in Paris three times, said of Lendl’s late arrival before the second slam of the season: “That is their arrangement. That is what worked last year. That was part of the deal but I think, if both were honest, the gap between Melbourne and the French was maybe a little long.

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Andy Murray and Lendl are cutting it fine for the French Open, says Becker

• ‘Gap between Melbourne and the French was maybe too long’
• Agassi appointment ‘a good choice’ by Djokovic

Boris Becker has questioned whether Andy Murray will have enough time to strike up a winning rhythm with Ivan Lendl at the French Open, which starts on Sunday, but says reduced expectations at Roland Garros might help the Scot at Wimbledon, where he is champion.

Becker, who reached the semi-finals in Paris three times, said of Lendl’s late arrival before the second slam of the season: “That is their arrangement. That is what worked last year. That was part of the deal but I think, if both were honest, the gap between Melbourne and the French was maybe a little long.

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Gervonta Davis talks a good fight but Floyd Mayweather Jr steals limelight

Mayweather’s protege might be the one going into the ring to defend his WBO title against Liam Walsh, but during the long run-up to the fight it has seemed that the semi-reitred multimillionaire is the real star of the show

Professional boxing operates on a simple principle: destroy all harmony. It has been that way for a couple of centuries and it is not altogether a mystery given it is a sport that accommodates raw, if legal, violence.

That it is why casual observers were pleasantly surprised when Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko refused to “get in the gutter” before trying to knock each other unconscious in front of 90,000 fans at Wembley two weekends ago.

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Andy Murray is struggling and anxious – it may be a good thing | Kevin Mitchell

A worrying air of caution has returned to Andy Murray’s game but the Scot has often been at his best when scrapping against the odds, and it is not too late to get things in order for the French Open

It is easy, and dangerous, to underestimate the depth of Andy Murray’s dilemma after another unexpected setback in his meandering season: bundled out of second round of the Italian Open he was defending for the first time. He is, after all, still No1 in the world.

But check the descent. This time last year Murray, who had not long become a father for the first time, was driving Novak Djokovic to distraction on Campo Centrale, ignoring a steady Sunday afternoon drizzle and uneven light as he forged on to win one of nine titles that would garland his 2016 campaign. He had not lost a set all week.

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Maria Sharapova’s lustre dims as French Open shuns expedient option | Kevin Mitchell

The decision to deny Maria Sharapova a wildcard is a bold statement by the new FTF president and one that has embarrassed the Russian all over again

Maria Sharapova has had to fight for virtually every point in her tennis career, every break in her curiously combative life, whatever the misguided perception of the Russian as a bird in a gilded cage.

Nothing changed for her on Tuesday night. With the unexpected weight of moral probity falling heavily on her neck, the former world No1 was denied a wildcard of any kind – qualifying tournament or main draw – into the French Open at the end of the month.

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Limbo of Sharapova and Djokovic adds intrigue to the grand slam summer

Locker-room goodwill played its part in the Russian’s derailment at the Madrid Open while the Serbian is looking for a whole new support staff after 10-years

Unintentionally, of course, Maria Sharapova and Novak Djokovic have injected the tennis scene with an overload of drama.

Related: Eugenie Bouchard edges out Maria Sharapova in thrilling grudge match

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Novak Djokovic goes for nuclear option in bid to arrest worrying slump | Kevin Mitchell

In dispensing with the close-knit support team that helped him to 12 slam titles, Djokovic looks desperate to end his struggles since last year’s French Open

It will be surreal in the extreme when Novak Djokovic goes on court in defence of his title in Madrid next week, glances up at his box and the growling, comforting countenances of his fiercely loyal Serbian friends are missing. The troubled world No2 called the nuclear clearout of his support staff on Friday “shock therapy”. And it does have the unmistakeable ring of a psychiatrist’s formula, a decision reached after a deep discussion about life and tennis. It also has the ring of desperation.

Related: Novak Djokovic parts company with coaching staff in ‘shock therapy’ move

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Ilie Nastase banned from Wimbledon’s royal box but Sharapova return likely

• All England club confirms Romanian will not be invited after Fed Cup row
• Sharapova will discover if she has been awarded wildcard on 20 June

It’s looking very much like Maria Sharapova will return to Wimbledon this summer in a very British embrace but Ilie Nastase, the new vilain du jour, need not bother queueing up.

The All England Club still hopes the Russian will be the architect of her own resurrection at Madrid, Rome and the French Open before it needs to decide, but hinted as strongly as decorum would allow on Wednesday that there ought to be no moral impediment to her coming back to a tournament where she announced her arrival in 2004 by beating Serena Williams in the final.

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