Things to watch for in Flushing Meadows climax. Over the weekend, an already fascinating US Open reaches its conclusion and there is much to keep an eye on. Will Roger Federer have a clear run to the title, now his main rival in Rafael Nadal is out? Or can the A-Rod finally realize his potential (assuming he can get past the unseeded surprise packet Mikhail Youzhny)? Meanwhile, will the tiny, wiry frame of Justine Henine-Hardenne again somehow wallop the bigger, stronger women? Sharapova versus Mauresmo is a semi to anticipate. And you’ll be pleased to know there are several Australians still alive in Open calculations: top seed Sam Stosur in the women’s doubles (she and Lisa Raymond beat a 123-year-old Martina Navratilova in the quarters), unseeded Ashley Fisher (with American Tripp Phillips) is into the semis of men’s doubles, Paul Hanley and Nicole Pratt were still going in the mixed doubles and Hana Mandlikova (no, really) was swinging a racquet in the veterans doubles.

The Poll factor set to strike again. Soccer fans might want to cast an eye to the Merseyside derby between Everton and Liverpool over the weekend: the ref in charge will be none other than the infamous Graham Poll. You might remember, Poll as the hapless ref who completely lost control of the dramatic game between Australia and Croatia at the World Cup, a performance capped off by him issuing no fewer than three yellow cards to Josip Simunic before belatedly remembering that a second yellow is meant to produce a sending off. The ref was pilloried and sent home in disgrace, but has resumed refereeing in the Premier League this year. So of course the FA have given him one of the toughest assignments for any ref – looking after the always fractious Liverpool-Everton duel. In the same game last year, Poll sent off two players and yellow-carded six others, while the return match saw a further two sent off and nine given yellow cards. So this seems like the perfect match for Mr Poll – provided be brings along his abacus to keep better count of the bookings. And it might also be worth watching to see how much stick the Merseyside fans give him over his World Cup horror show.

Italian Football Pres takes rights deal and goes home. You’d think Italian soccer would have calmed down, now the dust has settled on the outrageous match-fixing scandals and in the warm glow of a World Cup triumph. Nope. The Italian football president has threatened to postpone the start of the second division (Series B) season because clubs won’t sign up to a new TV rights deal. The division is supposed to kick off today but the President, Antonio Matarrese, confirmed that he was prepared to pull the plug if the 20 of 22 clubs not yet to have signed deals didn’t reach for a pen. Australian footy code management is pretty boring, when you think about it.

Peter Fray

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