Precocious
Youth, Part One: Rafael Nadal.
When Lleyton Hewitt levelled at one set
all last night, mixing up his game, charging the net and breaking Rafael
Nadal’s serve to win the second set, we dared to dream. We shouldn’t have. Two
ruthless sets later, it was all over and Rafael’s clay adventure rolls on, with
Our Lleyton nothing but a statistic as Victim No. 57.
Overall, Nadal was too powerful, too fast and too confident. Hewitt, all of 25
years old, looked old compared to the Spanish 20-year-old and the scariest statistic is that Nadal
has let exactly one passing shot get by his racquet in the last two matches
(Hewitt couldn’t manage it even once). That’s one passing shot in eight sets
and something like eight and a half hours of tennis. The much-anticipated final
against world number one Roger Federer edges closer. Nadal will now meet
either local favourite Gael Monfils or Serb Novak Djokovic in the quarters.

Precocious Youth, Part Two: Michelle Wie.
Golf’s most prodigious talent (now that Tiger is middle-aged in sporting
terms) is Hawaiian teenager Michelle Wie and this morning, our time,
she attempted to qualify for the men’s US Open. It sounds like it was
an event. New Jersey’s Canoe Brook Country Club had to close its gates
because the crowd overflowed and more than 300 media were accredited to
watch her play. Sports Illustrated was so excited it ran a live Wie scorecard
on its website. The 16-year-old duked it out in a straight-up fair
fight against all the men trying to qualify, chipping in off the green
to finish at two-under 68 in the first round, but also missing a string
of birdie putts. She was right in the mix until a trio of bogies derailed her
late on the second qualifying round. Despite missing out today, she
shows every sign that she is good enough to mix it on the men’s PGA
tour. But maybe the point of Wie’s adventures against men’s fields is
just to enjoy watching somebody daring to dream such big dreams.

Ashes tickets
at bargain basement prices?
Given its performance against Sri Lanka
at Trent Bridge in the final Test, England is looking a little ragged ahead of
its Ashes defence. Murali took 8-70 with England bowled out for 190 on the
fourth day, losing the Test by 134 runs. The Poms made a good start, not losing
their first wicket until they’d notched up 84 runs, but from there Murali went
to work. “In a way, it feels like a win,” Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene
said after
the game
, with the three Test series finishing at 1-1. It’s only Sri Lanka’s second Test
victory in England, the first coming in 1998 when Murali took 9-65.