"Fabian's motor" and Nadal back to number 1
I have two very short comments on some sports news for today. First, on cycling, the big story was again cheating, but this time it was not doping, but rather an allegation made against Fabian Cancellara for using an electric motor during his wins earlier this year in Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders.
Cycling: Cancellara and the electric motor allegation
For those who haven't yet heard of this, a brief account can be read here. And the YouTube video which then went around showing how it could work can be viewed below.
I have been in transit, traveling between the UK and SA, and generally catching up on work missed while away, so I'm going to sit out this debate and rather provide you with the following links, for those who have followed the story but who haven't delved into it more deeply.
These are posts from the blog Cosy Beehive (I have no idea where the name comes from), which is a really good read for those interested in the technical side of the sport of cycling. The writer, Ron, is a mechanical engineer, and also is a regular reader and poster here, and he has done some in-depth analysis of the allegations and the attack in question. Here are the links:
- The initial allegations discussed and the mechanics and operation of the motor
- The anatomy of Cancellara's attack - calculating the power output in the attack in Paris-Roubaix, asking whether it is a reasonable power output
I'm not saying that this kind of electric motor couldn't be used, and certainly, now that the awareness has been raised, it should stay elevated, but overall, I think Ron deals with the issue well...(for now!)
Tennis: Rafael Nadal wins in Paris and ascends to number 1
On the tennis courts of Paris, Rafael Nadal did what many expected, given that all year, he has been untouchable on the clay, and won his fifth French Open title. Last year's shock exit to Robin Soderling in the 4th round was the sub-plot of a men's final that many would have expected to bring Nadal face-to-face with Roger Federer.
However, for the second year in a row, Soderling played the pantomime villian and denied that final when he produced an amazing, uninhibited display of tennis against Federer in the quarter-final. The Swede tried to produce the same aggressive play in the final, but was too erratic and found Nadal a much more resilient "defender". Nadal's depth of shot, particularly when defending, prevented Soderling from closing out points and in the end, it produced another pretty lop-sided result, Nadal winning 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.
Speaking of lopsided matches, it's been a while since a men's final at Roland Garros went to even four sets - 2007 was the last time, and since then, we had Nadal's crushing win over Federer in 2008, then Federer over Soderling last year, and now this result. The actual contest was relatively tight until about mid-way through the second set. Soderling had a fair share of break points, and while Nadal was already in control, Soderling's failure to convert a break point early in Set 2 was the point where the match went away. It was the manner in which Nadal defended that break point that defined the match - side to side, on the defensive, playing full-stretch squash shots, before Soderling eventually hit a smash straight at Nadal, and three shots later, Nadal won the point at the net. Defence turned into attack, and Soderling simply couldn't stay good enough for long enough to win important points.
The end result of it is that Nadal won every clay-court tournament he played in this season. If memory serves me, he dropped only 3 sets in the four tournaments he won, and none at all in the French Open. Amazing dominance, and considering that coming into the clay-court season he had not won a tournament in a year, Nadal is most definitely a revitalized force.
He also assumes the top spot in the World Rankings with the win, jumping Federer for his second stint at the top. If he can continue to build on the aggressive style of play, then the grass-court and hard-court seasons will be doubly intriguing, because Nadal barely featured in them last year, and given that the rankings rely on "defending" points earned in previous years, Nadal may stay at the pinnacle for a while longer.
A final point on the French Open - the coverage was superb, particularly the commentary. Our feed in South Africa had Wally Masur, Fred Stolle and Mark Woodbridge covering the men's final today, and listening to them is a pleasure and an educational experience, for a number of reasons. They're professional, and work well off one another. They're knowledgeable - I actually feel like I'm learning about tennis when they're on. They're humorous, but they know when to keep quiet and when to add insight. And most of all, they don't commentate like fans, telling us over and over that "these men are amazing" and "what a great player" (We know - that's why they're in the final of one of the biggest, most competitive tennis tournaments in the world....)
Oh, and just on the Women's tournament - Schiavone of Italy produced a major shock by winning the tournament, defeating another major shock in Samatha Stosur, in the final of the debutants. Stosur had beaten some massive names to reach the final - Henin, Serena Williams and Jankovic, but fell short in a competitive final. I didn't watch any of the women's tournament, so my analysis is, well, non-existent. All I know is that on the occasion I tried to watch, the screaming was so loud (Serena Williams, Sharapova stand out as prominent) that I opted to watch something else instead. Grunting I can accept as part of the effort and release when hitting big shots. But screaming - not needed and definitely not appealing. Women's tennis might be enjoyable, but when players are screaming as though shot every time they hit a ball, I'll find another sport. In the words of Martina Navratilova: "[It] has reached an unacceptable level. It is cheating, pure and simple. It is time for something to be done."
Bring on Wimbledon.
And the Football World Cup (though it's unlikely the commentary will be as high quality). The Science of Soccer series starts this week!