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'Inhuman': Rival defends Novak Djokovic after 'clueless' US Open drama – Yahoo Sport Australia

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Dominic Thiem has defended Novak Djokovic (pictured) after facing ‘inhuman’ pressure during the US Open final. (Getty Images)

Former US Open champ Dominic Thiem has labelled the pressure Novak Djokovic faced during the US Open final as ‘inhuman’ after seeing the 20-time grand slam champ break down before the match was over.

Russian Daniil Medvedev ended Djokovic’s hopes of a calendar grand slam after a near flawless 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 US Open final win.

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The Russian was in imperious form and momentarily paused Djokovic’s chance of a record 21st grand slam.

From the start Djokovic couldn’t find the answer even if the crowd rallied behind the Serb’s quest for tennis immortality.

However, fans watched around the world as the weight of expectations came crashing down on Djokovic as arguably the greatest ever play broke down in tears.

And he 2020 US Open champ Thiem jumped to the defence of Djokovic.

Thiem missed a chance to defend his title after a wrist injury largely curtailed his 2021 season, but the injured star praised Medvedev for his maiden grand slam title.

However, the Austrian said while Djokovic was thoroughly outplayed it must have been a relief to finish the US Open after the ‘inhuman’ amount of pressure on the World No.1.

“On the other hand, you could see the tension Novak Djokovic was under – especially at the last exchange, where he was in tears,” Thiem said on Eurosport.

Dominic Thiem (pictured) celebrates after winning the US Open title in 2020.Dominic Thiem (pictured) celebrates after winning the US Open title in 2020.

Dominic Thiem (pictured) said the pressure on Novak Djokovic was ‘inhuman’ ahead of the US Open final. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

“We saw what was going on inside him; also what he had accumulated in the last weeks and months. That is simply inhuman.

“I don’t know him that well, but I think he has a really good heart and has deserved the love of the whole audience here. We don’t need to talk about his sporting achievements anyway.”

Tennis icon Boris Becker also weighed-in on the tension and said he doesn’t remember a time when Djokovic had looked so ‘clueless’ on the court.

“He didn’t want to become one of the best – he wanted to become the best, and he would have underlined that with a victory here today,” he added on Eurosport.

“I have never seen Novak so clueless.”

Novak Djokovic’s relief after US Open final

But despite the straight-sets loss, Djokovic says he was just happy his chase for grand slam perfection in 2021 was finally over.

When asked in his post-match press conference to describe his emotions, the 34-year-old said: “Relief.”

“I was glad it was over because the build up for this tournament and everything that mentally, emotionally I had to deal with throughout the tournament in the last couple of weeks was just a lot.”

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2020 Ryder Cup: The significance of the numbers on Team Europe's Ryder Cup golf bags – Golf Channel

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Analytics have become an increasingly important part of the entire Ryder Cup process, but European captain Padraig Harrington is taking his numbers game to a new level – literally.

Stitched on the golf bags of all 12 of Harrington’s players this week at Whistling Straits is a number. The digits are unique to each player and signify where they fit on Team Europe’s historical timeline, which has featured 164 players, from the first eight Brits in 1927 to Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger, who was the last rookie selected for this year’s squad.

“Mine is the smallest number, obviously: 118,” said Lee Westwood, who is competing in his 11th Ryder Cup this week.

The 48-year-old Westwood, who has played in 44 career cup matches, just three shy of Phil Mickelson’s record. His first match came back in 1997 at Valderrama, where the Europeans, captained by the late Seve Ballesteros, edged the Americans by a point.

It was a solid debut for Westwood, who went 2-3 and teamed with Nick Faldo for all four team sessions, but the Englishman doesn’t remember the birdies and bogeys from that week as much as the passion that exuded from the European team.

“I knew from day one, really, [how important the Ryder Cup was],” Westwood said. “Listen, that week the captain was Seve Ballesteros. There may have been one or two people over many generations as passionate as Seve about the game of golf, but I doubt there’s been many as passionate about the Ryder Cup as Seve was. … You just fed off him, really. With Nick Faldo as my partner, Seve and Nick both held the Ryder Cup in high regard, and just being around them, you could see how much it meant to them.

“Passion for the Ryder Cup was never something that I had to learn or gain. Pretty much like European team spirit is not something we have to work on; it’s just there.”

Sergio Garcia can attest. The Spaniard, whose 25 ½ career points earned is a Ryder Cup record, has played in nine of these matches. His debut came in 1999, and he teamed with Jesper Pernevik to go 3-0-1 in team play, though the Euros lost by one at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.

But when it came to his number, Garcia had no clue until Monday night when Harrington played a short, inspirational video before presenting each player his number and bag.

“I’ve always known that being a part of the Ryder Cup team is very difficult, but I didn’t know that only that little amount of players have made it,” said Garcia, who is No. 120. “So, that showed you how difficult it really is. That’s why every time I’m a part of a team or the rest of our teammates, that’s why we give it the respect that it deserves, because it’s so difficult to be a part of it.

“It’s an honor, and we treat it like that.”


Harrington using numbers to inspire Team Europe


McIlroy, No. 144 (behind just Westwood, Garcia, No. 130 Paul Casey and No. 134 Ian Poulter), described some of the video presentation, which featured the theme, “Make it count.”

“To put it into context: 570 people have been into space. I think over 5,000 people have climbed [Mount] Everest. 225 have won a men’s major. When you sort of break it down like that it’s a pretty small group and it’s pretty cool,” McIlroy said.

“It’s a small collection of people that have played for Europe in the Ryder Cup,” McIlroy added. “I think that’s what brings us very close together, and that’s been one of our sort of big focus points this week is just being here is very special and being part of a European team. Very few people can call themselves a European Ryder Cup player.”

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Blue Jays-Rays data card scandal a new case study for sportsmanship in MLB – Sportsnet.ca

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Among the office equipment the Toronto Blue Jays travel with is a paper shredder, and every document they print off with any sort of data is run through it before ending up in a trash bin.

That’s not a new practice, as different coaching staffs have been doing it for about a decade now. A newer habit for one of the team’s pitchers is to double-check that all info cards have been removed from his hats before they get packed up, lest someone find one of the cheat sheets and feed it to a rival front office.

Such is the degree of caution, bordering on paranoia, big-league clubs have around their proprietary information and it helps explain, in part, why the Blue Jays are so upset that Kevin Kiermaier grabbed the catcher’s card jarred loose during a play at the plate Monday.

What matters is not so much the specific game-plan information that the Tampa Bay Rays outfielder carried back to the dugout and clandestinely passed to field co-ordinator Paul Hoover, but the window into the Blue Jays’ thinking it provides.

Breaking down the card allows the Rays to see what kind of information the Blue Jays give their players, how they present it and extrapolate how they process data for dissemination. The cards used by their catchers contain far more data than those used by pitchers and outfielders, and is the one they most wouldn’t want another team to see, said one person with the club.

So, it is suboptimal that a division rival the Blue Jays face 19 times a season and could meet in the post-season this year has it then.

What some Blue Jays found especially irksome is the way Kiermaier scooped it up after making the third out of the inning at home plate, and then slipped it to Hoover. Once Kirk realized it was missing, manager Charlie Montoyo sent a batboy over to the Rays dugout to ask for it back, and he returned with a message making light of the situation, something along the lines of, “we can’t hit Robbie Ray anyway.”

Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins spoke with Rays counterpart Erik Neander on the field before the game Tuesday and later, manager Kevin Cash came out to chat with Montoyo. Cash ended up apologizing to him, Atkins, pitching coach Pete Walker “and if I needed to speak to Robbie Ray, I’d have no problem doing that,” he said. “Charlie and I go back and forth a lot during the course of a game, I actually thought he was joking. Regardless, not ideal, and I’m sorry for that.”

Montoyo called it “agua under the bridge,” and with the apologies in place, Cash replied “I do not,” when asked if he expected any further fallout.

For the moment, perhaps, and while it wasn’t immediately clear if Major League Baseball is involved, it’s an interesting case study for a sport long tied to the adage, “if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.”

There’s certainly some grey area in how off-side Kiermaier was, if at all, and given the scandals in recent years around the Houston Astros’ systemic sign-stealing and the Boston Red Sox’s illicit use of smartwatches, there’s room to see this in a sportsmanship-vs-gamesmanship vein.

Shown video of the matter, a veteran scout with a rival club took a harsher outlook on the matter, shaking his head and saying, “that’s bullshit — what’s Kiermaier doing picking that up? I want to beat a guy fair and square. If you’re going to look at that, what’s the difference between banging on a trash can?”

On the other hand, a longtime coach with another organization took no issue with Kiermaier’s actions, saying, “I always play by the finders-keepers, losers-weepers principle… (having the other team get the card) is the chance you take.”

Former Blue Jays centre-fielder Vernon Wells, meanwhile, made a point echoed by others, that the simplest way to avoid losing proprietary information was to not use cheat sheets on the field in the first place.

“This whole thing is ridiculous. Here’s an idea… TEACH THE GAME BETTER AND STUDY THE GAME BETTER! You shouldn’t need cards if you are a student of the game. Stop being robots and play the game!” he posted on Twitter.

Cash defended his player, saying “the card’s on the ground,” and after watching the video, “it looked like he was considering giving back and he just said, forget it, whatever, it’s sitting here, I’m going to pick it up and take it in.”

Kiermaier, when approached by Sportsnet colleague Arash Madani, said initially he wasn’t sure if the card was the one he carries with outfield positioning, as, “they’re all pretty similar.”

“Then as I picked it up, I realized it was that. I never even looked at it, I’ll say that,” he said. “But at the same time I’m not going to drop it or hand it back. I don’t know what their thoughts were about it or whatnot. At the time though, I saw it on the ground and I picked it up nonchalantly, not thinking anything of it and haven’t heard anything of it since.”

“Everything was so quick and after I did it, I was like dang, their scouting reports or whatever was on the ground and I grabbed it,” he continued. “It got to the point that I’m not going to return it or do that. It’s September, whatever. I didn’t know what was going on.”

Maybe, or maybe he saw an opportunity to gain an edge in the heat of the moment and took it. Either way, Kiermaier’s act of subterfuge caused a stir around an industry already paranoid about protecting data and offered up a reason to be all the more cautious.

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Training camp questions: Edmonton Oilers – TSN

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With summer officially coming to an end and training camps set to open across the National Hockey League this week, TSN gets ready for the preseason by looking at the three biggest questions facing each of the seven Canadian franchises.

On tap for today are the Edmonton Oilers, who finished with their highest points percentage in over 30 years (.643) but were swept away by the Winnipeg Jets in the opening round of the playoffs.

1. Is the defence better or worse than last year?

The Edmonton Oilers made massive changes to their defensive corps over the summer.

Gone are Adam Larsson, Caleb Jones, Ethan Bear and Oscar Klefbom, with Duncan Keith and Cody Ceci as the primary replacements. We know the Oilers won’t have much of an issue scoring goals, but did they do enough over the summer to prevent giving them up?

Like most off-season overhauls, that answer will likely depend on a few different things.

For starters, what does Keith have left in the tank? Keith is a three-time Stanley Cup winner, a three-time All-Star and a two-time Norris Trophy winner. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2015 and has 625 points in 1,192 career NHL regular-season games.

But Keith is 38 now and as TSN’s Travis Yost points out, no Chicago Blackhawks skater conceded more goals or expected goals against – goaltender neutral – over the past two seasons. Chicago allowed the seventh-most goals last season and Keith was second-worst on the team at minus-13.
The 27-year-old Ceci was signed to a four-year, $13 million contract by the Oilers in free agency but will join his fourth team in the last four seasons. As things stand right now, it’s likely he’ll play with Keith on the second pairing.

Edmonton locked in their top pairing with contract extensions for Darnell Nurse and Tyson Barrie. Nurse had a career-best 16 goals last season and Barrie recorded 48 points in 56 games.

Considering the firepower the Oilers have up front, this team shouldn’t have any trouble scoring, especially with their defenceman contributing at that level.

Another intriguing option for head coach Dave Tippett is 21-year-old Evan Bouchard. The No. 10 selection from the 2018 draft, Bouchard only has 21 NHL games under his belt and might be asked to take on a much bigger role than in years past.

2. How will major free agent signee Zach Hyman fit in?

As the clock ticked toward free agency last season, Hyman told reporters he would like to remain with the Toronto Maple Leafs if it made sense. But given the Leafs’ cap situation and Hyman’s desire for a long-term deal, what made sense to one side didn’t to the other.

In swooped the Oilers, who signed Hyman to a seven-year, $38.5 million deal in one of the most debated signings of the off-season.

Hyman’s offensive numbers – 15 goals and 18 assists last season – aren’t necessarily eye-popping considering the kind of dollar value and term he got, but the Toronto native brings a lot more to the table than just points. A skilled two-way player with or without the puck, Hyman is a combined plus-70 the past four seasons. Sure, playing alongside Toronto’s other elite forwards helps that, but it’s not like there’s going to be much of a drop-off with the Oilers.

Hyman is expected to slide in beside Connor McDavid – the same Connor McDavid who had 72 assists in 56 games in 2020-21 – on the top line and should have an instant impact for the Oilers on both ends of the ice in the short term.

Time will tell if that holds up as the years go by. History hasn’t been kind to seven-year deals for 29-year-old forwards like Hyman, especially ones with a documented history of knee injuries. But finding a player like Hyman on the open market isn’t easy and is never cheap.

3. Is Jesse Puljujarvi poised to take the next step?

Two years ago, Puljujarvi appeared to have moved on from the Edmonton Oilers.

He was drafted fourth overall in 2016 but bounced between the Oilers and American Hockey League affiliate Bakersfield Condors during his first three seasons. Things didn’t exactly go smoothly, and he signed with Karpat of the SM-liiga in Finland in July of 2019 and elected to re-sign last summer with an opt-out in time for the 2020-21 NHL season.

Since he left as a restricted free agent, the Oilers retained Puljujarvi’s NHL rights. General manager Ken Holland and Tippett promised the youngster a clean slate if he ever decided to return to the NHL.

That might have been exactly what he needed.

Puljujarvi recorded career highs in both goals (15) and assists (10) and was a plus-6, far outpacing his four goal and five assist tally with a minus-14 goal differential in 2018-19, his last NHL campaign before departing for Finland.

Puljujarvi spent much of last season playing on McDavid’s right side and the duo outscored opponents 42 to 33 at even strength. His goal total from 2020-21 isn’t especially impressive alongside McDavid but when you consider that he saw limited power-play time and 13 of his 15 markers came at even strength, it makes more sense. If Hyman slides in on the left side as expected, there could be plenty more opportunity for the 23-year-old to put up some numbers heading into restricted free agency.

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