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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 12 March 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 12 MARCH 2016 27 SPORT Nick Kyrgios growing up fast on court Tomas Berdych kicked an imploding Nick Kyrgios out of the Australian Open. Kyrgios vowed to hit the ATP Tour and expedite the maturation process. He subsequently wiped the floor with Berdych at Marseille and Dubai, and the Czech world No 7 praised the 20-year-old's development as he slogged through his first practice session at the Indian Wells Masters, according to The Australian. Kyrgios has played three tournaments this year and confronted Berdych in all of them. Berdych was betting on Kyrgios' mental disintegration at the Australian Open. It started almost immediately. When the Czech awaited the same self-destruction in backto-back meetings last month, Kyrgios neither blinked nor flinched nor tanked nor sledged nor lost. Both victories were in straight sets. Berdych admitted he had been struck by the change in attitude. "I think he has definitely made improvements," he told The Australian at Indian Wells. "He's been playing extremely well and with confidence, but the biggest difference I have seen, and something which will help him a lot, is that he has been a lot more calm on the court since Melbourne. "I could see at the Australian Open that the concentration was not always there. I could capitalise on that. But he's been more focused since then and it's going to be a huge help to his game. It is going to take him higher." Kyrgios has leapt to world No. 27 after his breakthrough triumph at the Marseille Open and charge to the semifinals at Dubai. "This year is the right time for the younger guys coming up, the guys like Nick, to go really high in the rankings," Berdych said. "He's definitely one of the players who can do that. He has all the tools you need to succeed and if he can be calm when he needs to be, while not changing the energy he takes on to a court, he is go- ing a long way ... he's going to become very difficult to beat." Asked if he found Kyrgios a likeable character, Berdych replied: "I'm not judging the people when I don't know them really well. All I can say is that I have seen him make the big improvements on the court." Kyrgios' session with Czech Jiri Vesely on Court 6 was his first hit since his unsuccessful fitness test for the Davis Cup and the subsequent row with Bernard Tomic about whether his claims of illness and injury were "bullshit". Tomic said at Kooyong that he would lose all respect for Kyrgios if he played at Indian Wells less than a week after being ruled out of the Cup tie against the US. Well, here Kyrgios was in the flesh, respected by Tomic or otherwise, joined by Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt for a one-hour practice session best described as lacklustre. A fan shouted at Kyrgios: "I've got 50 bucks on you, baby! Fifty bucks on you to win! You know you've got this!" Kyrgios rolled his eyes. He barely raised a sweat and made numerous unforced errors before casually walking back to the locker room while Hewitt headed to the carpark. Kyrgios has a first-round bye before playing either Korea's Hyeon Chung or Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Meanwhile, Berdych weighed into the Maria Sharapova debate by saying he was unsure whether he could sleep at night if he were taking a drug that might be enhancing his performance, whether it was banned or not. Sharapova has claimed no wrongdoing for using meldonium for 10 years, despite it helping increase physical capacity and endurance, because it was not a prohibited substance. She is legally correct but Berdych questioned the morality. "Me, personally, I wouldn't have a good night's sleep when I would be walking on the edge with things," he said. "But if I need to take something, I try to get five independent doctors to say everything is OK." Back in the black Bergers travel to Green Gully in Rd 4 NPL action GEORGE STOGIANNOU Just three rounds into the NPL 1 season, and the competition table already has a familiar look about it. Last season's grand finalists South Melbourne and Bentleigh Greens head the table, while Oakleigh Cannons and Northcote City are in a group of four bottom teams yet to register a win. The Cannons got to within minutes of a first win last weekend leading Richmond with just minutes to go, only to concede late in the match. Last night it hosted Hume City on a busy Friday night of NPL football. The Bentleigh Greens visited Avondale and Port Melbourne Sharks hosted the Knights. In today's first NPL1 game, Heidelberg United will be trying to make it three wins in a row when it travels to Green Gully. Last week the Bergers exacted a measure of revenge by defeating Pascoe Vale 1-nil at home courtesy of a Reuben Way tap in. The winning goal came after Bergers keeper Chris Theodoridis had made a crucial penalty save from Tomislav Milardovic. Later today, it will be Northcote City's turn to host the Vales. Still searching for its first points of the season, City will have to make do without new signing Josh Berrios who shattered his tibia bone in last week's loss to the Knights. On Monday evening, league Heidelberg keeper Chris Theodoridis returned from suspension last week to save a crucial penalty. leader South Melbourne travels to the Veneto club to take on newly-promoted Bulleen in a game that coach Chris Taylor anticipates will be his team's toughest test yet. Speaking after last week's win over Port, Taylor said: "To be honest I think this will be our toughest test. The fact they play on a synthetic pitch and they train on it all the time. It's going to be a very difficult game. Totally different to what we're used to on grass. So it gives them the momentum, and the upper edge. But we're a decent side and we're up for the challenge." Meanwhile, in NPL2 East action today, Brunswick City hosts Dandenong City with both teams coming off first wins of the season. “Our goals are to win as many games as we can,” Brunswick City coach George Karkaletsis said after last week's 5-nil demolition of Nunawading City. “We want to finish in the top half of the table, make a statement and build from there. We have a relatively young side with quite a few players who were playing state 1 last year. We're hoping they can progress with the club." Also today, fourth-placed Box Hill United hosts league leader Dandenong Thunder in what is anticipated to be the match of the round. United scored its second win in a row last week, in an impressive 2-nil defeat of Eastern Lions. It will have to defend very well today if it's going to keep the free scoring Thunder from adding to its 12-goal tally in three games. Just behind Thunder on the table is Kingston City, the only other side in NPL 2 East with a perfect start to the season. City will be confident of maintaining its winning start when it travels to struggling Nunawading City on Sunday. Players such as Zdenek Koukal and Velibor Mitrovic will be looking to add to their impressive goal tally so far this season. More marquees headed to the A-League under new strategic plan Football fans can expect to see more marquee players grace the A-League in coming seasons under the FFA's four year strategy announced last Tuesday. The FFA has announced a greater focus on the A-League as a key feature of its four-year strategic plan aimed at connecting more fans with football in Australia and building generations of successful national teams. That means increased resourcing aimed at promoting and marketing the national competition. FFA chairman Steven Lowy says the increased focus on the A-League is an acknowl- edgement that the "shop front and engine room of Australian football week in and week out is nowhere near reaching its full potential." In an open letter outlining the strategy, FFA Chaiman Steven Lowy said, there were two key themes of the strategy. "First, the A-League is the key to the game's growth. And key to the A-League's success is its power to entertain; for fans at the game, TV viewers at home and increasingly viewers through digital channels. "Secondly, the game's greatest strength - the sheer numbers of Australians who love to play the game - are the key to unlocking its potential. We FFA chairman Steven Lowy announces the FFA’s new four-year strategic plan. PHOTO: FOOTBALLAUSTRALIA.COM.AU need the millions of Australians involved at the grassroots level to also be involved with an A-League club." One of the key initiatives Lowy announced as part of the strategy, is a new approach to marquee player recruitment. Whereas this was the responsibility of the individual A-League clubs in the past, the FFA has announced it will establish a central marquee fund, which will be spent on identifying potential recruits and helping clubs to attract them here. "The upcoming renegotiation of our broadcast arrangements will be critical to funding our four year strategy, but some projects can't wait until we wrap up that new deal," Lowy said. It's believed the windfall from the Socceroos’ upcoming World Cup qualifiers and friendlies against Greece will provide at least some of the funds needed in the short term.
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