The “Banana” Arc Shot

If you spend any time watching the cream of the tennis crop, you’ll be aware that certain players have developed signature moves, or “calling cards”, to gain an advantage over the opposition.

From Andy Murray’s pitch-perfect lob to Justine Henin’s finessed volley and Ernests Gulbis’ “soaring eagle” forehand, in our weekly signature moves series we’ll run through the characteristic shots of players past and present – and explain how to replicate them on court.

The Rafael Nadal “banana shot”

“Unreal”, “incredible”, “majestic” – the list of adjectives applied to Rafael Nadal’s signature forehand is lengthy. The down-the-line “banana shot” may sound relatively simple, namely curve the ball around your opponent, but it’s incredibly difficult to get right. Nadal, with the lasso-like whip he generates on the ball, pretty much invented the ‘arc shot’ that sees the ball loop up into the air and somehow drop in thanks to obscene amounts of topspin.

Rafael Nadal’s deceptively simple technique is the result of thousands of hours of practice. Here’s the king of sidespin in action:


SABR Trick Shot

Turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks.

In the summer 2015, tennis fans were treated to a new maneuver by the 34-year-old tennis legend Roger Federer. It’s called the SABR and features Federer moving way up on an opponent’s second serve to hit a half-volley in an attempt to dictate pace and frustrate opponents. Whenever anyone hears about it, the first question is: What does SABR mean?

It’s an acronym:


Federer used it in his dominating win in Cincinnati and utilized it during his other U.S. Open 2015 matches, with the exception of his fourth-round win over the mega-serving John Isner. The move helped him position himself after he hits a deep, chipped return and puts his opponents, like Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Richard Gasquet, off balance.

The move was inspired by one of Federer’s longtime coaches, Seve Luthi, who basically dared Roger to try it at practice. At a U.S. Open presser, Federer discussed the move’s origin:

“At the end of practice we were just kidding around almost. I said, ‘Okay, I’m going to chip and charge and just keep the points short. I’m tired. I want to get off the court soon anyway. That’s when I started to run in and hit returns. I hit a couple for a winner. They were ridiculous.

“He laughed, I laughed, Severin laughed. Then I did it again in the next practice just to see if it actually would still work again. Then I tried it the next practice and it still worked.

“That’s when Severin said, ‘Well, what about using it in a match?’ I was like, ‘Really?’ “So he pushed me to keep using it and not shy away from using it in big moments.”

UEFA Champions League Anthem

The UEFA Champions League Anthem, officially titled simply as “Champions League”, is the official anthem of the UEFA Champions League, written by English composer Tony Britten in 1992.

In 1992, UEFA commissioned Tony Britten to arrange an anthem for the UEFA Champions League which commenced in August 1992. He composed a ‘serious’ classical piece, in a style similar to some of George Frideric Händel’s works. The composition is heavily influenced by Händel’s Zadok the Priest. Tony Britten acknowledged that “there’s a rising string phase which I pinched from Handel and then I wrote my own tune. It has a kind of Handelian feel to it but I like to think it’s not a total rip-off”.[3] For the recording used in television transmissions of UEFA Champions League matches and events, the piece was performed by London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and sung by the Academy of St Martin in the Fields Chorus. The chorus is in UEFA’s three official languages: English, French, and German.

The anthem’s chorus is played before each UEFA Champions League game, as well as at the beginning and end of television broadcasts of the matches. Special vocal versions have been performed live at the Champions League final with lyrics in other languages, changing over to the host country’s language for the chorus. These versions were performed by Andrea Bocelli (Italian) (Rome 2009) and (Milan 2016), Juan Diego Flores (Spanish) (Madrid 2010), All Angels (Wembley 2011), Jonas Kaufmann and David Garrett (Munich 2012), and Mariza (Lisbon 2014, unlike the previous final performers, Mariza sang the main lyric of the anthem). In 2013 final at Wembley Stadium, the chorus had played twice.

The complete anthem is about three minutes long, and has two short verses and the chorus. The anthem has been released commercially in its original version on iTunes with the title of Champions League Theme. Also, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields chorus can be heard singing the influential piece “Zadok the Priest” on the 2002 album World Soccer Anthems.

Lyrics (German)

Ce sont les meilleures équipes
Es sind die allerbesten Mannschaften
The main event
Die Meister
Die Besten
Les grandes équipes
The champions
Une grande réunion
Eine große sportliche Veranstaltung
The main event
Ils sont les meilleurs
Sie sind die Besten
These are the champions
Die Meister
Die Besten
Les grandes équipes
The champions
Die Meister
Die Besten
Les grandes équipes
The champion

English Translation

They are the best teams
They are the best teams
The Main Event
The master
The best
Great teams
The Champions
A big meeting
A great sporting event
The Main Event
They are the best
They are the best
These are the champions
The master
The best
Great teams
The Champions
The master
The best
The Champions

Michael Phelps’ Dedication Outweighs His Talent

There were times in the past four years when the water was still. For days at a time, Michael Phelps didn’t bother to show up at the pool, never rippled the surface. He stayed missing so long that his coach, Bob Bowman, wondered whether they “were going to get this thing done.” But eventually — reluctantly but determinedly — Phelps towed that long torso back into the liquid, where the greatest swimmer of all time belonged.

Phelps won The Great Race of the London Games, out-surging Ryan Lochte at the wall like a wave crashing on a rock to claim the gold medal in the 200 individual medley. Sometimes Phelps has made winning look like an offhanded affair, and that’s been a source of misunderstanding in his four-Olympics career. But on this night, we understood how much he cares about the sport of which he has rewritten all the records, after seeing his weary, tear-glazed look on the medal podium at the London Aquatics Centre. Because the man is tired. He has worn himself out chasing greatest-everness, and no one has realized just how much, except perhaps his fellow compatriot Lochte, who tried to do something Phelpsian here and failed.

As Phelps waited to step up to the medal podium, he propped himself against a wall. Outwardly he looked like he always has. Idle. Habitually nonchalant. In fact, he thought his quivering legs might buckle.

“I was hurting,” he said. “I was in a lot of pain. My legs were hurting bad, and I needed to lean against something.”

With every race in London it becomes more apparent not only how comprehensive and spanning Phelps’s achievements are — great God almighty, 20 Olympic medals, 16 of them gold — but how hard-won they are. Whether Phelps had enough push left in him for an individual gold medal in London was so in doubt that the day before the race, Bowman tried to motivate Phelps by barking at him “until he gets mad at me and goes home in a pout.”

It was so in doubt that with 20 meters to go on that final freestyle leg, Lochte thrashed right alongside him, about to overtake him, and Phelps’s mother Debbie clutched her hands together up in the stands, her eyes wide and alarmed, shouting, “Yes, Yes, Go! Go! Go!”

It was so in doubt that when Phelps touched the pad, he whirled so quickly to stare at the board that his own forceful backwash, an upwelling of water from his last heaving strokes, knocked him backward. Then the numbers flashed: Phelps 1 minute 54.27 seconds, ahead of Lochte by .63 of a second.

It was so in doubt that Phelps’s main sensation upon realizing he had become the first man in history to win three consecutive gold medals in the same swimming event wasn’t triumph. It was a brew of reprieve, nostalgia, unreality, and completeness.

“Obviously, it’s a relief to win an individual gold medal,” he said. “It’s something pretty cool and special to three-peat.”

But while it was a first, it was also a last, the final time he would ever swim the 200 IM competitively.

“Over the last couple of days, it hasn’t really gone through my head,” he said. “It will probably kick into my head more and more. We’re just kind of checking everything off.”

He has fought half-heartedness for four years. After his historical feat of eight gold medals in a single Olympics, he entertained serious doubts about swimming in a fourth Olympics, and there were weeks when Bowman couldn’t get him to answer the phone, much less commit.

“When we got here, I said, ‘Wow, we’re here.’ There were a lot of times I wasn’t sure we’d be here,” Bowman said.

Even once he decided to swim in London, there was the question of what sort of goal to set, what do you reach for when you’ve already done everything in the sport worth doing?

He arrived here flat, unable to make his body fire, was badly beaten by Lochte in the 400 IM and failed to medal. But the key to Phelps’s phlegmatic personality is that he likes to be baited. His program of seven events might have been overreaching, but it also gave him the stimulus he needed to get his body going.

One of the things we’ve learned about Phelps in London is just how strong he is in both body and mind, beneath the lanky, lazy-bones pose. Lochte flipped 850-pound tires in his effort to surpass Phelps as the No.1 swimmer in the world. But he couldn’t do it, securing only a single individual gold after promising this would be his time.

“It just takes a real toll on your body,” Lochte said.

Which was proof that Phelps’s most notable historical feats include not just what he did in a single Olympics, but his defense of himself from one Olympics to another to another: swimming seven and eight events at a time and doing it under continual pressure, holding off the scores of hungrier and more eager chasers. There was a gleam in his tired, filmy eyes when he was asked how it’s possible that after seeming so beleaguered in the London Games, his last two swims have been his strongest.

“Maybe I’m warming up,” he said, smiling.

Real Madrid (2-1) Bayern Munich — Champions League Quaterfinal


Ronaldo, the Champions League’s record goalscorer, scored twice in the second half to end an 11-hour wait for a goal and put the 11-times winners in charge.

Arturo Vidal had headed Bayern ahead but then wasted a chance to double their lead when he blasted a penalty over the crossbar.

And Ronaldo then twice clinically converted from crosses either side of Javi Martinez’s red card to move to 97 Champions League goals.

Bayern were kept in the game after going down to 10 men by goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who saved brilliantly from Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Ronaldo.

But the Germany international will feel he should have done better for Ronaldo’s winner as the Portuguese stabbed a shot through his legs from close range.

Real may also leave with regrets, as they could have taken a commanding lead into next week’s second leg at the Bernabeu.

As well as Neuer’s string of saves, captain Sergio Ramos had a last-minute header correctly ruled out for offside before Ronaldo lost his footing when seemingly well placed to meet a cross when unmarked four yards out.

Ronaldo Run

Ronaldo was anonymous in a first half which was controlled by Bayern but the former Manchester United man dominated after the break to carry his side into a strong position.

The forward had not scored in the Champions League since a draw with Borussia Dortmund in late September but found space brilliantly 97 seconds into the second half to steer Dani Carvajal’s precise cross into the bottom corner.

Real have now scored in each of their 53 games in all competitions this season.

Ronaldo was then the key figure as Martinez picked up two bookings in three minutes, both for needless fouls around the halfway line on the Real number seven.

Bayern, who had won their last 16 Champions League games at the Allianz, were forced into survival mode by the red card and only Neuer’s excellence prevented the Spanish side from forging ahead.

But Ronaldo found the winner Real deserved when he poked substitute Marco Asensio’s cross through Neuer’s legs with the studs of his right boot.

Most Goals in UEFA Competitions

             Player                 Games
Cristiano Ronaldo                      143
Lionel Messi                      118
Raul                      158
Filippo Inzaghi                      114
Andriy Shevchenko                      142

Vital miss from Vidal?

Without injured striker Robert Lewandowski, who has scored 38 goals in 40 appearances this season, Bayern were reliant on midfielder Vidal to carry a goal threat as they edged a scrappy first half.

The Chilean powered in a header to open the scoring and was on the end of Arjen Robben’s clever cross to head their next best chance over the top.

But perhaps the key moment of the night came right at the end of the half. Referee Nicola Rizzoli awarded a penalty when Franck Ribery’s shot hit Carvajal at the top of his arm, but after a lengthy wait Vidal fired it well over the top.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side barely registered after the break, managing just two attempts on goal in contrast to their 11 in the first half, and they must hope that Poland goal-machine Lewandowski can recover from a shoulder problem to lead the line in Madrid next week.

Man of the match – Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich)

Ronaldo’s double turned the game on its head but without Neuer’s show of defiance Real would already be assured of a place in their 28th European Cup semi-final.

In the first half he touched a Benzema header onto the underside of the crossbar before, in a matter of minutes, turning Bale’s header over from just four yards out, saving from Benzema with his legs and then making a superb one-handed save to keep out Ronaldo’s drive from eight yards out.

Four superb saves – but then he was beaten by Ronaldo’s second from close range.

“It’s a big result, it isn’t easy to come here and win.

“It always comes down to small margins, you have to believe until the end and we did that. When they went down to 10 men we created plenty of chances and it was a shame that we didn’t get the third. Their keeper was in top form.

“A third goal would have been a bonus.”
Zinedine Zidane, Real Madrid Manager

“It will be difficult in 90 minutes in Madrid but we are still alive. We missed the penalty which would have put us 2-0 up and then within three minutes it was 1-1.” Carlo Ancelotti, Bayern Munich Boss

Rafa & Roger At Miami Open 2017 Final

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will meet for the 37th time and in their 23rd final on Sunday as they look to be crowned Miami Open 2017 champion.

The pair have enjoyed a fabulous renaissance at the beginning of the season, while top-ranked players Sir Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic have struggled with form and fitness, and both will return to the top-five in the world after their exploits in Florida.

Federer is a two-time winner at the Masters 1000 event, while 14-time Grand Slam champion Nadal will compete in his fifth final having never lifted the title.

It promises to be a splendid spectacle, with two juggernauts of the game clashing for a third time in 2017 after not meeting once in the previous year.

Federer has had a tough route to the final, which has again highlighted just how high a level he’s playing at currently at. He impressively discarded Juan Martin del Potro in a tricky early draw, while Frances Tiafoe and Roberto Bautista Agut were also beaten on his way to the last eight.

The 35-year-old was then forced to survive two match points against a resilient Tomas Berdych before competing in one of the best matches of the year so far – a three-hour epic with Australian Nick Kyrgios.

To say Nadal’s draw has been more comfortable than Federer’s would be an understatement – he’s certainly had an easier time of it. With other dangerous seeds Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori struggling with injury, Nadal has had a relatively stress-free run to the final. The only seed the Spaniard was forced to take on was Jack Sock, who was routinely dispatched.

The pair have been the best performers thus far but it’s Federer who has truly exceeded all expectations. After taking six months away from the sport to allow full recovery from a knee injury, the Swiss maestro has roared back to ATP Tour action winning both the Australian Open and Indian Wells. His only blip to date came in a shock loss to then world No. 116 Evgeny Donskoy in Dubai but Federer is leading the Race To London and will return to No. 4 in the world with a win over Nadal.

The Spaniard’s form will also see him return to the top 5, although he’s not managed to lift a title in the opening three months of the year. He’s suffered final defeats to Federer in Melbourne and Sam Querrey in Acapulco, while his only other losses have come to the Swiss in Indian Wells and Milos Raonic in Brisbane.

While Nadal leads their overall head-to-head 23-13, the tide has certainly turned in recent times. Federer has won their last three meetings – something that had never happened at any previous point in their rivalry – and blew the 30-year-old away at Indian Wells.

I feel like there is a mountain to climb in Rafa. He’s hasn’t won this event before. He’s definitely feeling fresher than I feel right now. But that’s not a problem. I’ll be ready on Sunday.

‘It’s definitely going to be very special playing Rafa here again. I’m thrilled for him that he came back as well as he did after the comeback and the struggles that he had last year.

‘It feels like old times. We’re playing each other every week now. We can’t get enough of each other. Hopefully it’s not our last match.’

Roger Federer

‘It’s great to be in the final… For me, doesn’t matter the opponent.

‘I am happy to be in that final again, and I am excited to play another final of an important event.’

Rafael Nadal