Naomi Osaka hits a forehand during practice ahead of the Australian Open final against Petra Kvitova. Photo: Mark Baker/AP

DURBAN – From the land of the Rising Sun, the daughter of the nation has risen again.

Naomi Osaka is in back-to-back Grand Slam finals and taking to the court this morning against Petra Kvitova in the Australian Open women’s final.

Naomi is a force to reckon with in the modern game and will be around for a while to come. For her to back up that US Open win with another final is quite astonishing!

The last time this was achieved was in 2001 by Jennifer Capriati, with the Australian Open followed by the French Open.

Can the Japanese lady match this achievement? The Bones like her chances. 

In the men’s final, we have two masters of the game, who are total opposites in terms of style – Rafa ‘The Lefty’ Nadal takes on Novak ‘The Returner’ Djokovic in what should be an epic match-up between two of the best players the game has ever seen.

A good friend, let’s call him Paulie D, questioned my choice of Nole, which I struggled to respond to at first – especially after the last two matches I watched Rafa play this past week.

That, combined with the fact that he hasn’t dropped a set, an acute back issue (which is a mare, ask Vuka) and has had 24 hours more downtime than his opponent, all played a part in my apprehension.

Watch out for Rafa’s serve and volley, as this is a vast improvement in his game as he gets older.

Askies on the Serena call I made last week, but as Mshengu would say: “I was robbed.”

And I am sure Serena can relate to this, as that umpire didn’t need to make that marginal call which warped her psyche, just when she was serving for the match. Shortly after that, she twisted an ankle and opened the door for the upset.

This weekend it is Naomi’s turn to shine, and Novak’s time to prove he is still the best and the world number one!

There is oval-ball action on the go that kicked off late last night, out of Hamilton. This is bound to be a good tournament and, like this year’s World Cup, anyone of four or five teams could win.

The Blitzboks don’t quite look the finished article at the minute, but should be there and there about.

However, in my humble opinion, this weekend’s tournament is between the Yanks and the locals – which include Fiji, baba.

Then in footy, it’s Cup action all round, locally and abroad in England. The cup games are exciting and all, but only when we are soeking a young upset.

But, in the main, it’s pretty average until we get to the quarter-finals onwards.

Locally, we have the Nedbank Cup round of 32, which started midweek with some interesting fixtures having being played already.

Look out for an upset in the Maritzburg game, and there are expected wins for the Premiership sides, Mamelodi Sundowns and Free State Stars.

As for oorkant, it’s the FA Cup. It should be the usual top echelon of teams to get through this early round, but be wise to a team like Palace, who could be the side with the weekend’s upset versus Tottenham Hotspur.

Lastly in the oval-ball action, there are some local warm-up games in preparation for the season ahead, and Super Rugby in particular.

More pertinent is the European leagues playing this weekend, as they gear up for the Six Nations starting next weekend with some cracking match-ups.

Italy will not be the pushovers you are accustomed to. Look at the likes of Saracens and Exeter to put in handicap-beating performances, and let us also hope the Cheetahs can win away to Zebre – despite my opinions above on Italian rugby.

Happy viewing, Sangoma Out!

@shabsgunner


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