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Sunday, April 09, 2017

Sports Sunday: Roubaix, Tennis, the NBA and No Olympics

Cycling in France:  Paris-Roubaix:  After the cobbled climbs of Flanders, the World Cycling Tour’s Classics hard men turn their attention to 257 kilometers of race, including many sections of bone-shaking pavé of Paris-Roubaix today, Palm Sunday.  Alongside being Classics legend Tom Boonen’s final professional race, the Hell of the North is sure to throw up plenty of enthralling action across secteurs such as the
feared Arenberg Forest.  Boonen calls this "the best race in the world," and he has won Paris-Roubaix four times since becoming involved with pro cycling in 2002, so he should know.  It all leads up to a grandstand finish on the Roubaix Velodrome, where Mat Hayman emerged as a surprise winner last time out.  Race conditions are expected to include a strong tailwind, about 70 (20C) degrees, and dry conditions, meaning a faster race.  Because of this, the start of the race has been delayed 15 minutes.  At least the pavé, or much feared cobblestones, will be dry, and there won't be so much mud.  Congratulations Tom Boonen!  Have a good retirement! 

The Davis Cup, self styled the World's Cup of Tennis, takes place each year over four weekends.  Yesterday it looked as if France and Great Britain were heading for a draw, but France prevailed, and now Great Britain is eliminated from Davis Cup after a 3-0 quarter-final defeat by France, as Jamie Murray and Dom Inglot lost in the doubles.  France will now face Serbia - who beat Spain 3-0 in Belgrade with the help of world number two Novak Djokovic - in the

semi-finals in September.  France have astonishing strength in depth and the fact they have not won the Davis Cup since 2001 is one of the most painful subjects in French sport.  In Belgrade, world number two Novak Djokovic helped Serbia to victory in their last-eight tie against Spain.  Elsewhere Italy kept their semi-final hopes alive with victory in the doubles over Belgium in Charleroi.  Italy now trail 2-1 going into Sunday's reverse singles.  USA also turned the momentum in their quarter-final clash with Australia in Brisbane.  Sunday's action includes the USA and Australia:  Nick Kyrgios (Aus) vs Sam Querrey (USA), and Jordan Thompson (Aus) vs John Isner (USA).

In the United States, it is almost time for the playoffs of the National Basketball Association.  Both the Eastern and Western Conferences have playoff spots up for grabs leading into the final few games of the regular season.  The Trail Blazers are in the driver's seat for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference after beating Minnesota.   Atlanta, Milwaukee, Chicago, Indiana, Miami and Charlotte are still alive to grab one of the final four playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, but they all look good for possible post season play. 

For many decades, the National Hockey League, featuring teams in both US and Canada, has placed a pause in it's already long and sometimes tedious schedule on Olympics years, allowing players, who come from many countries, to return home to play for their home countries' teams.  The NHL announced Monday that it will not participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, saying it sees no tangible benefit, read no profit,  in halting its season for three weeks next February despite clear signs from the world's best players that they want to go.  Players immediately blasted the decision, showing just what a boneheaded move this was.  Disappointing news, (the NHL) won't be part of the Olympics 2018. A huge opportunity to market the game at the biggest stage is wasted," tweeted New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who won the 2006 Olympic gold medal with Sweden.  Indeed, other leagues have seen their international popularity spread greatly after participation in the Olympics, notably China and the NBA. 

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