Thursday, February 29, 2024

Budge delivers Classic

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While some ratepayers dispute ATEED’S Auckland City Council $175,000 contribution to the ASB tennis classic, few would argue that director Karl Budge hasn’t done an astonishing job as the event’s director.

The former Pukekohe lad who left school at 16 has the Midas Touch when it comes to attracting world renown champions, especially women, to the Auckland event.

This year was no different when Germany’s Julia Gorges defended the women’s singles final by beating tournament sensation Bianca Andreescu 2-6, 7-5, 6-1.

Gorges is a classy lady who plays an aggressive game. But so does the remarkable 18-year-old Andreescu whose power play off both hands scored stunning 6-4, 6-4 and 6-7, 6-1, 6-3 upsets of Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki and American Venus Williams respectively.

Just how far Andreescu will go is anyone’s guess, but she possesses a great attitude and a sharper attack than her highly-rated fellow Canadian, glamour-girl Eugenie Bouchard.

Although being part of the champion doubles team, Bouchard has yet to fulfil her potential whereas her younger countrywoman has the weapons to charge higher up the women’s ladder.

However the best match of this month’s ASB Classic was an extraordinary men’s quarter-final of exquisite tennis in which Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff edged Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta 7-6, 6-7, 7-6 after three enthralling tie- breakers.

It was wonderful drama that set Struff up as the likely overall winner before he was axed 7-5, 4-6, 6-3, by giant killer Cameron Norrie, the former Bucklands Beach lad who moved to Great Britain at age 17 in the belief he would get better financial support there.

So far it has proved a smart move for the left-hander who gave the locals plenty to cheer about until he faded in a final won by American Tennys Sandgren 6-4,6-2. Still it was a fantastic effort to go so far.

Meanwhile having outclassed Pakistan and Sri Lanka on home soil, the Black Cap cricketers face a massive challenge against the classy Indians in five ODIs that will severely test their mettle.

Having tamed Australia, India have every right to be confident even though the Black Caps have been building nicely.

Although Tom Latham was rested in the ODIs against Sri Lanka after starring in the tests, the team has genuine batting talent led by Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson in all formats.

Batsman Henry Nicholls has erased all doubt about his ability to fill a middle order spot after consistently proving his quality.

Martin Guptill and Colin Munro have not been as consistent as they would like but both retain the ability to score at a fast rate before Williamson and Taylor demonstrate their class.

The most satisfying comeback story in the ODIs against Sri Lanka was that of hard-hitting Jimmy Neesham who also bowled well in the absence of the rested Colin de Grandhomme.
It was a similar story from another comeback player in Doug Bracewell who starred with bat and ball in the T20 triumph against the hapless Sri Lankans.

With Mitchell Santner and Corey Anderson now playing for Northern Districts after long injury spells, New Zealand is not lacking in allrounder depth.

The same applies with the bowling with speedster Lochie Ferguson advancing his claims to join Tim Southee and Trent Boult at the expense of Matt Henry.

  • Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer and author

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