Following her match against Laura Robson at last week’s Italian Open, Serena Williams walked back to the players area and met her coach, Frenchman Patrick Mouratoglou.
She said to me, Now I understand why you warned me that she’s good , revealed Mouratoglou after the rampant world No 1′s first meeting with the British teenager.
Williams, who had avenged her sister’s defeat by Robson in the previous round, is not easily impressed, and while she had conceded only four games it could easily have been more.
The way that the American then went on to destroy her opposition en route to the title put the result in further perspective.
Hot streak: Laura Robson is taking good form into the French Open, especially after beating Venus Williams So after an oscillating year, the Wimbledon-based teenager is carrying at least some form into the French Open, the draw for which is made on Friday morning.
Perhaps that is just as well because at the tender age of 19 she goes into the year’s second Grand Slam as the highest-ranked British player at 35 in the absence of Andy Murray, not a position she would have anticipated for several years to come.
Ask Robson how she would mark herself for 2013 to date and she says: I d probably give myself a five or a six.
I didn t really get the start I wanted and it’s only in the last few weeks that I feel that I have picked up.
‘I m playing with more confidence and feeling happier on the court.
I have always tried to play an aggressive style and in order to do that you need to be feeling confident.
Making inroads: Although Robson lost to Serena Williams, her play and determination was impressive Mouratoglou knows the potential of her natural ball-striking ability, which takes time away from opponents, as he used to coach her at his academy outside Paris.
He believes she is at the forefront of an unusually good cluster of teenagers, which includes Donna Vekic, the London-based Croat coached by David Felgate, Australian Ashleigh Barty and Russian pocket battleship Yulia Putintseva, who will one day challenge the established order.
This year Robson has beaten former Grand Slam champions Petra Kvitova their games have much in common and Venus Williams, plus last year’s Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwanska.
She was also in a winning position against former Roland Garros champion Ana Ivanovic, but these performances have been accompanied by some tame defeats by lesser opposition, often hastened by a surfeit of double faults.
Giantkiller: As well as beating Venus, she has also defeated Petra Kvitova and Agnieszka Radwanska this year Therefore whatever the draw gives her today it might be hard to draw conclusions.
Perhaps it matters a bit less to me because I do find it easier in some ways playing the top players, added Robson.
But in the first round of Madrid two weeks ago I won a tough match against a Slovakian girl who was ranked much the same as me, and in a way that was a very important match.
The fact that the uplift came after she dispensed with her taskmaster Croat coach Zeljko Krajan is almost certainly no coincidence, and she admits the pair had little in common.
Women’s tennis has a complex psychology all of its own and when the new person is appointed, expect them to be more empathetic.
I m in a better place now and I m moving in the right direction, she says.
You always want things to happen quickly and I definitely get frustrated sometimes, especially when you lose close matches, but the important thing now is to keep improving.
Grass: In 2011 Robson beat Angelique Kerber at Wimbledon before losing to Maria Sharapova She is approaching the time of year that is accompanied by greater attention on all British players.
For her it will be more intense if her performances in Paris nudge her up into the world’s top 32, which would make her the first seeded home woman at Wimbledon since Jo Durie.
Not that it affects her adversely, judging by last year’s Olympic silver medal.
I see the attention as completely normal now, and it’s bound to happen when the grass-court season comes.
It’s the same for the Aussies when it’s the Australian Open and the Americans when it’s the US Open.
Friends: Robson and Heather Watson have struck up a good relationship on tour together That is one reason she is pleased to see Heather Watson returning next week in Paris after glandular fever; another person to share the burden, and to hang out with.
Heather was 21 last week and there was a small get-together on Saturday night.
I think she is planning something else after the French.
It’s just great that she’s back playing again.
It will be expecting a lot of Watson to make major strides on her return, and the same applies to 30-year-old Elena Baltacha.
The former British No 1 will make her return to Grand Slam action following the ankle surgery she had after the Olympics.
Britain’s interest in French Open qualifying ended yesterday when Johanna Konta was beaten 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 in the second round by Galina Voskoboeva.
Pirelli: Confident a solution to recent delaminations has been found Sky Bet Formula 1 Betting Retrieving latest Sky Bet odds Formula 1 Betting 10 Free Bet Pirelli say they are “close” to striking an agreement with all 11 teams about the tweaks they will make to their rear tyres from the Canadian GP – but have admitted their whole future in the sport beyond the end of the season remains far from settled.
With the Italian manufacturer having had to row back from the more significant changes they had initially planned to make to their divisive 2013 compounds for next month’s Montreal race, Pirelli have been seeking agreement among the teams over the alterations they will ultimately make to cure the spate of tyre delaminations seen in recent races.
Some teams have continued to stress that the tweaks could still have an effect on the current competitive order, but speaking to reporters following Thursday practice in Monaco, Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s motorsport boss, revealed that a consensus was finally not far away.
“Basically we’re very close to having an agreement with all the teams, which is really important, about the change we want to make to the rear tyre,” Hembery revealed.
“We want to get rid of the delamination that we found has been caused by cuts in the tyre, debris-induced which creates a weak spot and overheating.
We’ve been able to replicate that now in our laboratories and our internal testing and we believe the solution we have will completely resolve that.” Hembery confirmed that the proposed changes would result in the operating temperature for the rear tyres reducing by “five and up to ten” degrees and added: “That can have a small impact.
But it depends of course as a lot of tyres are front limited so that can have an impact on maybe the number of laps you can get out of the tyre, but it will be minimal.” Prior to the row over the Canadian changes, Pirelli had already introduced a revised hard compound into their range without fanfare from the last race in Spain.
Asked why they had been able to change to a more durable compound apparently unopposed in that case, Hembery said: “Well it’s because it was a known compound we changed to and they the teams understood the issues we had with the working range with the previous hard tyre.
“Now because it risked changing the dynamic of the tyre in terms of terms of shape and deformation for example they had to seek consensus.
You can imagine there are a number of teams that have been extremely vocal about wanting dramatic changes and there’s a number of equally vocal teams who want absolutely no changes.
“So you’re stuck in the middle of that and have to find a solution that’s sportingly equitable, which means making as few changes as impossible because everybody had the same information and data when we started out in the season and it would be unfair that teams that perceive they’re doing well at the moment to penalise them with a change that’s too dramatic.” But with one fire appearing to be close to being put out, Hembery was far more pessimistic over the progress of Pirelli’s contract renewal talks for 2014 onwards.
The Briton had declared during winter testing that he hoped to have the Italian firm’s future resolved by April or May but no deal has yet been struck.
“Apparently on the 1st September we need to tell them the teams everything they need to know about the tyres for next season but we’re now mid-May so you can imagine how ludicrous that is when we haven’t even got a contract in place,” Hembery suggested.
“Maybe we won’t be here anyway…” Pressed on whether his final comment had been tongue-in-cheek or if the contract situation had really reached a critical level, Hembery added: “Two weeks have past so it’s grown.
At a certain point somebody’s got to make a decision.
We’ve been trying to say that something needs to happen and quick.” Elaborating on why the contract situation had become so critical, Hembery explained that such are the dramatic changes to the cars and engines for next season that development of the 2014 compounds wouldn’t be a straightforward as simply tweaking the existing compounds and structures.
“I’ve already said we’ll never declare an internal deadline but clearly time really is too late,” he admitted.
“Things are getting, as far as we can see, extremely serious because the changes next year are so substantial that the sport has to make a rapid decision because aside from having the fixed resources in the business involved in F1, there’s also the technical job.
“We need to do a technical job as well – it’s not a case of maybe putting a harder compound onto this year’s tyres.
The changes are so dramatic that we probably need to do a thorough re-engineering of the tyre.
That takes time and the longer this goes on it makes our job impossible and there comes a point where probably you say ‘well, we don’t have time to do the job’.”
Catania have officially extended Mariano Andujar s contract until 2015, but Fiorentina want his understudy Alberto Frison.
The Argentine goalkeeper has put pen to paper on a new deal holding him to the Elefantini until June 2015.
I am very happy to be staying for an extra year and confirm all the good work that has been done here, said Andujar.
We know that from now on it ll all be even more difficult, but we have faith that we can further improve.
On a personal level I hope to perform even better and go to the World Cup thanks to Catania.
While Andujar is putting down roots in Catania, his understudy Frison could be on the way out.
According to rumours, Fiorentina are tracking the second choice goalkeeper for a potential summer transfer.
Roberto Mancini: Sacked by Manchester City last week Sky Bet Football Betting Retrieving latest Sky Bet odds Football Betting 10 Free Bet Manchester City chief executive Ferran Soriano says the club are ‘just looking for the next cycle’ following the recent sacking of Roberto Mancini.
City dismissed Mancini last week after failing to win a trophy this season, despite the Italian lifting the FA Cup in 2011 and the Premier League title 12 months ago.
Manuel Pellegrini is the odds-on favourite to take charge at the Etihad Stadium after confirming he will be leaving Malaga, and Soriano believes it is time for a ‘new era’ at City.
When asked what Mancini did wrong, Soriano told CNN: “He did very good things for the club.
He stayed there for three years, which is a lot of time.
He brought the club to a winning club.
“Now we are just looking for the next step, the next cycle.
“We have a fantastic squad.
We want to play better football and we want to continue winning.
“It is not that Mancini did anything wrong.
We are just in another cycle, in another era.” In their statement that announced Mancini’s departure, City referred to the need to develop a “holistic approach” to all aspects of football at the club.
It had previously been rumoured City wanted to introduce a fluid 4-3-3 style of play to all their sides, from junior level up to first team.
When asked about that matter, Soriano said: “We are looking to play very good football, very beautiful football.
When we are playing good football, then we will win.
“So it is not only about winning, it is developing football that is attractive and it will be played by our main teams, our first team in Manchester, our young teams in Manchester and also our teams in New York.
“We want to share the same football concepts across all our teams.”
Sitting at their favourite table at Lucio restaurant on London’s Fulham Road last week, the only topic of conversation among Chelsea executives was the second coming.
The Italian restaurant is a favoured haunt among the top brass at Stamford Bridge and it has been buzzing with talk of Jose Mourinho’s imminent return.
But for all the pleasure he gave Chelsea supporters when he won two Premier League titles, the FA Cup and two Carling Cups, there is concern that a world of pain awaits.
Special gone: Jose Mourinho has been sacked as Real Madrid manager, with a return to Chelsea on the cards Early bath: Mourinho was sent off in Real’s 2-1 Copa Del Rey final defeat by Atletico While Roman Abramovich has already taken the decision to re-employ him, there are deep reservations at Chelsea about the Special One.
Why? Well, you could say it’s the nature of his departure from Real Madrid.
Or a pattern of behaviour, dating back to some of his more controversial moments at Chelsea, that suggests he is not about to change his confrontational style of management.
He has appeared unhinged in his final few months in charge of Real, bringing the world’s biggest football club into disrepute with his behaviour to the point where virtually everyone involved with Los Blancos will be glad to see him go.
Decision made: Roman Abramovich has made the call to bring Jose Mourinho back to Stamford Bridge They are wondering whether the success he did enjoy in his three years at the Bernabeu has been worth the aggravation.
That’s what Abramovich has acquiesced in, preparing to re-appoint Mourinho as Chelsea coach nearly six years after he was fired following the 1-1 draw with Rosenborg in September 2007.
Taking his place: PSG boss Carlo Ancelotti is lined up to be the man to step into Mourinho’s shoes Come home: Mourinho’s return to Chelsea would be a popular move among the Stamford Bridge crowd The decision to rehire him was taken in March on board one of the Russian’s super yachts off Marbella, at the height of Chelsea fans resistance to interim coach Rafa Benitez.
At the time there was a sense of panic at Stamford Bridge, with growing unrest after Benitez’s rant following the FA Cup fifth-round victory at Middlesbrough on February 27.
Abramovich had been made aware of the depth of ill-feeling towards Benitez when a small group of Chelsea supporters were ushered into the boardroom before the match with Manchester City late last year.Some suggested the return of Mourinho, reminiscing about the glorious era when he delivered the club’s first top-flight title in 50 years.
His relationship with Abramovich deteriorated in 2007, when Avram Grant was appointed director of football, but there were few signs of tension during the pre-season.
Damning verdict: Florentino Perez at the press conference Celebrating: But could Cristiano Ronaldo be on his way to Stamford Bridge with Mourinho? Sidelines: Mourinho riled supporters by falling out with goalkeeping legend Iker Casillas Abramovich arrived unannounced beside the pitch during a volatile game between Chelsea’s backroom staff and the media during their two-week stay in Los Angeles.
Chelsea’s owner enjoyed the occasion, delighting in the staff’s victory after Mourinho limped off and replaced himself in goal with Silvino Louro his goalkeeping coach and a veteran of two European Cup finals with Benfica to ensure their win.
But the mood between employer and employee soured back in England and he was gone after the Rosenborg game in September.
Yet the Portuguese coach promised he would one day return to Chelsea and that will come true shortly after Real Madrid’s final game of the season, against Osasuna, on June 1.
This time he has agreed to work with a director of football Michael Emenalo for Chelsea’s long-term benefit.
Been here before: Ancelotti (right) will again be following in Mourinho’s footsteps, as both won the Premier League with Chelsea, where Mourinho is expected to return following a fiery departure from Real Madrid Emenalo has not gone to New York for Chelsea’s post-season friendlies with Manchester City, deciding to stay in London to prepare for Mourinho’s arrival.
He will be the conduit between Mourinho and Abramovich in the first phase of the manager’s return to Chelsea.
There will, inevitably, be some upheaval when Mourinho begins work at the club’s Cobham training centre in Surrey towards the end of next month.
There is also some trepidation, particularly after Benitez won over the staff with his genial and engaging manner when he stopped to talk with them before matches.
For all the animosity from the stands, Benitez stabilised Chelsea.
They finished third in the Premier League, they won the Europa League and he even got Fernando Torres up to 23 goals for the season.
The Spaniard got the best out of the team in a short period and earned the respect of an emerging group of players that includes Juan Mata, Oscar, Eden Hazard and, crucially, David Luiz.
Brothers in arms: Frank Lampard would love to see Mourinho return to Stamford Bridge Mourinho has his own ideas and he is already focusing on a few key areas for when Chelsea begin moves for their top targets.
The forward line is a priority, but Mourinho also wants to prise the young defender Raphael Varane from Real Madrid in the summer.
Varane, who missed the Copa del Rey final defeat by Atletico last Friday because of a knee injury, has been outstanding during the coach’s final season.
The France defender, 20, was signed from Lens in 2011 and Mourinho will take him to Chelsea if Real offer any encouragement.
There is money to spend, with Benitez revealing last week that Chelsea are planning to make some big signings under their new coach.
As ever, Abramovich will pick up the bill.
But there is a delicious irony.
When Mourinho left Inter Milan in 2010 after winning the Champions League, he mocked Benitez for winning the Italian Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup with my team .
Benitez is sure to enjoy Mourinho taking his team to the UEFA Super Cup final on August 30.
Even if the Special One has made one or two changes by then.
Gael Monfils: Came from a set down to beat Santiago Giraldo The home players enjoyed a good day at the Open de Nice Cote d’Azur on Monday as Gael Monfils, Paul-Henri Mathieu and Guillaume Rufin all advanced to round two with victories.
Monfils certainly did not have things all his own way against Santiago Giraldo as he was forced to come from a set behind before finally defeating the Colombian 4-6 6-3 6-3.
A break either way was good enough to decide the first two sets, but Monfils raised his game in the third and broke his opponent a total of three times as he completed victory in a shade under two hours.
Mathieu and Rufin enjoyed more comfortable successes as they both progressed in straight sets, the former seeing off talented American Ryan Harrison 6-4 6-4.
Rufin was utterly dominant against Paolo Lorenzi and broke the Italian five times as he eased to a one-sided 6-3 6-1 triumph.
Sixth seed Fabio Fognini overcame a sluggish start to eventually record a convincing 1-6 6-1 6-2 win over fellow Italian Marco Cecchinato.
In the day’s remaining game Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky emerged a comfortable 6-2 6-3 winner against Rogerio Dutra Silva of Brazil.
Jos Mourinho may be returning to some familiar faces at Chelsea, but the underlying dynamic has changed at his old club.
Photograph: Juan Medina/Reuters There will be some familiar faces awaiting Jos Mourinho when, as expected, the Special One newly liberated by Real Madrid secures his second coming at Stamford Bridge.
Five senior players remain on the books from his glittering first spell in charge at Chelsea and a sixth, Michael Essien, will accompany him back from Madrid.
Some of the medical and performance staff, whether analysts or masseurs, linger on.
Even Gary Straker, the steward-cum-Italian interpreter turned player liaison officer and one of the great survivors at the club, is still on the day to day scene down at Cobham.
Mourinho will presumably relish renewing old acquaintances, yet it is how he copes with the aspects of the job that may feel rather alien that will determine how long this reconciliation endures.
This is a very different Chelsea to the one he left so abruptly, and acrimoniously, in the autumn of 2007 when his relationship with the owner, Roman Abramovich, appeared fractured beyond repair.
His original brief had centred upon winning a first Premier League title in half a century, a task achieved at the first attempt, and an inaugural European Cup.
That was only secured in his absence, albeit largely with his team.
Regardless, he had overseen a revolution featuring a blend of charisma and siege mentality that was ideal at a club muscling its way into the establishment.
These days Chelsea talk more of evolution.
Therein lies the anomaly of turning to a manager whose appointment tends to guarantee both trophies and, ultimately, a messy divorce.
The Portuguese will arrive mid-project.
As Rafael Ben tez has been quick to point out over recent weeks, this is a team in transition, a side that includes the first wave of younger talent recruited at significant expense.
Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Oscar, and even C sar Azpilicueta, Victor Moses and David Luiz, were bought to fit into a framework that aped Barcelona’s quick-step, the same ideal Mourinho has spent the last three years attempting to usurp.
The club’s extensive recruitment and scouting department, overseen by the technical director, Michael Emenalo, is apparently working towards a long-term strategy, even if there has been an imbalance in the senior squad assembled so far.
The hope is that Mourinho buys into the overall vision and does not merely set back what progress has been made.
Chelsea spent about 90m during his first summer in south-west London, an outlay that would not feel outlandish if repeated nine years on.
But, back then, that bought eight players who arguably became integral to his first-choice line-up.
Emenalo would suggest the spine is already in place this time around, and that no radical overhaul is required.
Indeed, the new manager must also assess the entire squad of youngsters loaned out last season from Romelu Lukaku to Jeffrey Bruma, Patrick van Aanholt to Josh McEachran before determining the make-up of his side.
Working with Emenalo will be key.
Since joining as a scout under Avram Grant a month after Mourinho’s exit, the former Nigeria and Notts County defender has made himself a powerful figure, close to the owner and hugely influential within the set-up, whether earmarking potential signings or reporting back on the current staff.
The 47-year-old’s rise may have appeared rapid and unexpected, but he has arguably become the owner’s eyes and ears down at the training ground, a man whose input is valued.
Emenalo is here to stay.
Mourinho will have to work with him in a way he would never have accepted with Grant, who had been imposed upon him as a director of football in the summer of 2007.
Indeed, he will have to accept the entire infrastructure of the club this time around, from the chairman, Bruce Buck, to the chief executive, Ron Gourlay.
The schism that occurred with his employers six years ago had been born of a perception within the hierarchy that Mourinho felt, and acted, as if he owned the club.
The parting of the ways represented the owner reasserting control.
The problem is that Abramovich has lurched from manager to interim in the years since and never stumbled upon a candidate capable of amassing the trophies the Portuguese secured in a little over three seasons at the helm.
Mourinho may be volatile, a ticking time-bomb off the pitch, but he generally succeeds on it.
This time he must also contend with expectation.
He had arrived a Uefa Cup and Champions League winner in 2004, but was still a relative unknown.
Chelsea’s supporters at the time felt a certain loyalty to the deposed Claudio Ranieri, but were blown away by the sheer brilliance of the new manager: whether he was defending the club in public, riling opponents so brazenly, or transforming matches with tactical tweaks that felt bold and innovative.
He was a breath of fresh air.
This time round, the fans so disenchanted by the treatment of Roberto Di Matteo and the willingness to turn to Ben tez as a stop-gap replacement expect their idol to have a similar effect again, completing the team’s transition in a blaze of glory reminiscent of those title successes in 2005 and 2006.
Yet he will arrive at a club that has secured European trophies in the past two seasons, the margins for progress so much tighter than they were.
Mourinho will be welcomed by those in the stands and will savour the task ahead, but this feels like a very different challenge.
Vesna Dolonc: Serb went down 6-4 6-2 to Shelby Rogers Top seed Vesna Dolonc was a surprise casualty as she crashed out in the first round of the Internationaux de Strasbourg in straight sets to Shelby Rogers.
While the world number 96 enjoyed greater success with her first serve, Rogers was far more effective while also taking greater advantage of the break points she forced.
The American moved to a 6-4 6-2 victory in 77 minutes.
Second seed Flavia Pennetta came from a set down before reaching the second round with a gruelling three-set victory over Yuliya Beygelzimer.
The Ukrainian edged the first set 7-5 before Pennetta eased to a 6-1 second to level the scores although her service game was erratic, four aces accompanied by as many double faults.
The third set was much tighter although Pennetta managed to force 15 break points, only for her opponent to save 12 of them before the Italian managed to take it 6-4 with the match lasting two and a half hours.
Eighth seed Masa Zed-Peskiric won just two games as she tumbled out at the hands of Magda Linette.
The Slovenian was completely outplayed and lost 6-2 6-0 in 61 minutes.
Marta Domachowska beat Carolin Daniels 6-4 2-6 6-2.