mark. In Tests in which they have posted at least six scores o

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Five months ago, Novak Djokovic finally closed the deal on his career Grand Slam. After going 0-for-11 at Roland Garros, he defeated Andy Murray in an emphatic four-set final.That gave Djokovic the years first two major titles -- and a seemingly insurmountable lead as the ATP World Tours No. 1-ranked player. He found himself 8,035-points ahead of the No. 2 Murray, the equivalent of four Slam championships.In retrospect, that grand flourish in Paris was the beginning of the end of Djokovics 2016 season.I think after the French Open, the majority of us felt that Novak had a lock on the No. 1 ranking because of how dominant he had been, said Darren Cahill, former coach of No. 1-ranked Andre Agassi and Lleyton Hewitt. When he wins the French, when he finally gets there, it has to be a letdown.Hes only human.Mary Carillo, who will be a commentator during this weekends Fed Cup final for Tennis Channel, was also among that majority.When Novak won the French Open, I thought, This guys capable of running the table. Who the hells going to stop him from being the king? Carillo said. Ive got to say its a big surprise whats happened to Novak, the way he lost his way.In my mind, its a bigger surprise than what happened this year with Serena, Roger and Rafa.Thus, the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, for the first time since points were first awarded at the year-end event in 1990, could feature a frenetic winner-take-all championship match Sunday Nov. 20. Its a potential matchup of two friends and rivals who first met as 11-year-olds at a juniors tournament in France. (Murray won 6-0, 6-1.)Its hardly an unreasonable scenario. Murray has won 19 straight matches and is a sparkling 47-3 since the French Open. Djokovic? The four-time Barclays defending champion is a combined 23-0 against the other three players in his group, Milos Raonic, Gael Monfils and Dominic Thiem.Lets crunch the numbers: Murray currently leads Djokovic by 405 points, but with 275 coming off his total from last years Davis Cup final, the lead is effectively 130 points. Because the three round-robin matches are worth 200 points for each win, with 400 for a semifinals victory and another 500 for winning the title, whoever goes one round further will be the top-ranked player. As long as Djokovic wins two round-robin matches, their meeting in the final would produce the year-end No. 1 -- the best possible punctuation for mens tennis.For the first time, Murray is the favorite to win this tournament, said Brad Gilbert, Murrays former coach and part of ESPNs coverage team in London. I would definitely say the Muzzard is playing the best tennis Ive seen him play.While Djokovic won the French Open, Murray very quietly was having his best clay season. He was also a finalist in Madrid and won the title in Rome. And then his season took off, with the title at Wimbledon and a gold medal at the Rio Olympics. He finished with a flurry, winning the last four events he played, in Beijing, Shanghai, Vienna and Paris.That title ended 122 consecutive weeks at the top for Djokovic. Murray, at 29, is the ATPs oldest first-time No. 1 since John Newcombe in 1974.Murray, according to Cahill, has learned to win when hes not playing his best.His average level has improved considerably, Cahill said. Hes had to struggle and survive. Hes gutting his way through matches now.Andys never shied away from the fact that hes always wanted the No. 1 ranking. To do that you have to be incredibly consistent. In the past, he dropped too many second- and third-round matches. Hes managed to eliminate that.Some of that mental toughness, according to ESPN analyst Pam Shriver, came from his time away from coach Ivan Lendl, who abruptly quit after a three-year stint, only to return two years later this past June.This made him more resilient, Shriver said. Hes been relentless and aggressive in his pursuit of Djokovic. I think its great for mens tennis. Murray has been constantly trying to overcome this extraordinary trifecta of Fed, Rafa and Djokovic.Beyond Murrays beefed-up grit, Gilbert identifies two other areas of dramatic improvement.The second serve and the forehand are better than ever, Gilbert said. Against the Big Three, maybe they didnt hold up. Now hes dictating play way more than he ever has. Usually a coaching change comes when things arent going to plan. Andy added Lendl after a terrific clay court season.That put everything together.Djokovic, meanwhile, looked spent after the French Open. He lost in the third round at Wimbledon to Sam Querrey, the Serbs worst effort at the All England Club in eight years. And while he won the title in Toronto, Djokovic lost his first match in Rio de Janeiro to Juan Martin del Potro and fell in the US Open final to Stan Wawrinka. Shanghai (a semifinals loss to Roberto Bautista Agut) and the Paris Masters (a quarterfinals defeat by Marin Cilic) didnt go much better.Paris was not good, Carillo said. There was nothing declarative in his game.Gilbert wonders whether injury might be a factor in Djokovics recent performances.If you think about it, hes been incredibly healthy, then all of a sudden hes a little nicked up, Gilbert said. The arm, the wrist, its been different things all summer. Maybe thats affected practice and how he does things.The great thing about tennis, though, is that whoever finishes No. 1, the race for next year starts really soon. Theres no one else in equation for 2017 other than Murray and Djokovic.Cahill laughed when he was asked whether Djokovic, who like Murray is 29, would ever regain the No. 1 ranking.Nah, Cahill said. Everyones reading into this way too much. Hes been so dominant the past three, four years. Its tough to get to No. 1 -- tougher to stay there.I think hell recharge his batteries for 2017. What hes gone through speaks volumes about what hes been able to maintain. Hes been so dominant you forget to appreciate. It doesnt come easy, even to the great players.Whatever happens in London, Murray -- the once-scowling, ranting, on-court tyrant -- is in a better place. When John Isner forced the Paris final to a third set, Murray did not sulk. Rather, he bounced around the court, sprinting to get in position to return the next serve, even after getting aced. It was a refreshing (and telling) display of positive energy.Everythings all right with Andy, Carillo said. Hes married and has a little girl. Hes taken the happy mantle that went from Roger the Rafa to Novak. Happy helps on the court. Its nice to see him smiling.Kyrie S1 Hybrid For Sale . Mats Zuccarello and Derek Stepan scored shootout goals, and backup goalie Cam Talbot earned his second win in two nights as the Rangers shook off a late tying tally and beat the Maple Leafs 2-1 Monday night. Kyrie Irving Shoes Clearance . Down by seven with 90 seconds left in regulation, thats where they looked comfortable. http://www.kyrieirvingshoescheap.com/cheap-kyrie-3-shoes-a.html . Tevez, who has had conflicts with coaches in the past, has not been called up since Sabella was named coach in 2011. Argentina boasts Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Angel Di Maria. Kyrie 2 Shoes Cheap . McCarthy, a player who played some games in the second tier for Wigan at the start of this season, would go on to shine inside Evertons midfield, outplaying the man he was brought in to replace, on one of the grandest stages in English football. On Saturday, it was fitting that Manchester Uniteds most recent dagger into the chest was delivered by Frenchman Yohan Cabaye, a wonderfully gifted central midfielder who put on an outstanding effort for Newcastle at Old Trafford. Cheap Kyrie 2 For Sale . Ivanovic was leading 7-5, 1-0 when Hantuchova withdrew after falling 0-40 behind in the second game. The match started slowly for Ivanovic, who surrendered her first two serves as Hantuchova took a 5-3 lead.The Lords Test was one of those matches that makes you feel slightly sorry for those uninitiated into, or unpersuaded by, the wonders of cricket. For example: all those ancient Romans, Incas and suchlike born tragically in the wrong place and at the wrong time; the elephants, sharks and stick insects cursed by being created as non-cricket-watching species; most Americans; my brother; N Srinivasan; and certifiable buffoons.They missed a sinuous drama of ever-cranking tension, burst in the end by a thunderously stump-clattering denouement, and scenes of glorious, infectious Pakistan delight. As all great cricket matches are, it was speckled with individual and collective brilliance and bloopers. Unlike most great cricket matches, it also featured a 42-year-old scoring a century, a legspinner taking ten wickets at Lords, a player taking 11 wickets and batting for almost five hours before being out, but still finishing on the losing side, and Nigel Farage, UKIPs quitmeister general, being roundly booed whenever he walked up the steps at the side of the Mound Stand on Friday. In every respect it was a magnificent, unforgettable occasion.It was the fourth great Test match that Lords has hosted in the past four years, after similarly captivating contests last year against New Zealand, in 2014 against India, and two years prior to that against South Africa. The latter two were similar to this years game. All featured tightly contested first innings with scores around 300 (339-272 this year; 295-319 in 2014; 309-315 in 2012). Bowlers held the balance of power, but batsmen were able to score. South Africas second-innings 351 was the highest innings in these three matches, Englands 207 on Sunday the lowest.The almost identical run rates - 3.05 in 2012; 3.03 in 2014; 3.09 in 2016 - have been unspectacular by modern standards, and only four sixes have been hit in a total of 1138 overs - three in 2012, one in 2014, none in this years Test. In fact, excluding the 88-over Bangladesh v South Africa Test in Dhaka last summer (reduced to one days play by a prolonged splattering of entirely scheduled seasonal rain), this was the first six-less Test anywhere since England and West Indies failed to clear the ropes at Lords in May 2012.Nevertheless, each game has utterly gripped the minds and souls of those who have watched them; each has made you want to dig up the Romans and the Incas, shake them by the scruff of whatever is left of their necks, and shout: Dont you realise what you are missing? Or dive into a shark tank and gloat about how much better a good Test match is than swimming around in an ocean trying to find your next helping of seal carpaccio. England, after recovering from three bad fourth-innings starts to force their way back into contention three times, have lost all three. How we have sacrificed ourselves for the greater good of the Test game.Looking ahead to what should hopefully be a better series than the one-sided clouting that followed Indias illusory win in 2014, there are weaknesses for England to exploit, straws at which to clutch - an unconvincing opening pair, a weak tail (Pakistans last three wickets added just 36 runs in the match, the joint third-lowest by a winning side that has batted two complete innings in a Test this millennium), and a less-than-Olympian fielding unit. Not that Pakistan needed an Olympian fielding unit. They took only seven catches in the match. There now follows a List of the Six Teams Who Have Beaten England Whilst Taking No More Than Seven Catches in Test Matches Since 1990.1. Pakistan 2. Pakistan 3. Pakistan 4. Pakistan 5. Pakistan 6. PakistanTruly, Pakistan cricket is a unique phenomenon. (Pakistan also beat England in Sharjah last winter with seven catches, in Abu Dhabi in 2011-12 with six, at Lords in 1996 with seven, and at Lords and The Oval in 1992 with six and seven respectively.)Another potential vulnerability is that they have no back--up bowling in the current XI.dddddddddddd This was only the third time in the last ten years that a team has beaten England using only four bowlers; Australia did so in Leeds in 2009 and Perth in 2010-11. (England themselves beat Pakistan at Lords in 2010 using only four bowlers, a fact largely overlooked in most histories of that Test match.) If England can neutralise Yasir Shah, none of the remaining seamers, though they were impressive collectively at Lords, has a recent record of major Test wicket-taking.However, that if is one of ample, almost Inzamamic proportions. And those seamers looked like they are quite likely to embark on some major Test wicket-taking quite soon.There was some talk before Sundays play of how England would have to be ruthless with any loose ball bowled by Yasir. This plan they executed impressively. The only problem was that there were only about six loose balls in his 31 overs of probe (England managed three fours in his last 25 overs). Yasir is a magnificent cricketing jewel. He does not seem to have the whirling mystery and intermittent mercurial unplayability of Abdul Qadir or Mushtaq Ahmed. He just bowls good balls almost all the time, and very good balls quite often. Cricketing history suggests this is a Good Plan. Especially against a team with a historic vulnerability to (a) good legspin, and (b) very good legspin.Grand statistical conclusions are risky this early in his career, but his numbers are eye-popping. He is on course to break George Lohmanns 120-year-old record for fewest matches required to reach 100 Test wickets. He has been the leading wicket-taker in five of Pakistans last six Test victories, and joint-leading wicket-taker in the other (he and Shoaib Malik both took seven against England in Sharjah). He has taken seven or more wickets in a staggering nine of his 13 matches. By way of a few comparisons (and bearing in mind that Yasir is unlikely to maintain quite such a staggering success rate), Murali took seven or more in 59 of 133 Tests, a statistical miracle; Warne 42 in 145 (ditto); Abdul Qadir 13 in 67; Mushtaq Ahmed 9 in 52; Danish Kaneria 9 in 61; Stuart MacGill 13 in 44.As a bonus stat, on Sunday, Yasir became the first bowler ever to hit the stumps of Englands Nos. 5, 6 and 7 in the same Test innings. And this was the first Test in which England have lost eight batsmen bowled out since the drawn match in Port Elizabeth in 1999-2000 (when seven were castled by the South African pacers in the first innings alone).The relentlessness of Yasirs excellence was one of the principal factors in another recurring English problem - a failure to convert. In this match they struggled to convert 20s into fifties. Englands batsmen had nine scores of 20 or more, but only Alastair Cooks drop-assisted 81 breached the half-century mark. In Tests in which they have posted at least six scores of 20 or more, this represents their worst conversion of 20s to fifties since the 2005 New Years Test in Cape Town, when all 11 English 20s went un-half-centuried. This highlights the unceasing pressure applied by Pakistans bowlers. Pakistan, for their part, only converted two of their 11 scores of 20-plus into half-centuries. Highlighting the almost unceasing pressure applied by Englands bowlers.More on Englands ropey conversion stats later in the week. And their relative weakness against left-arm seamers. James Andersons return should prove influential. Whether it proves decisive will depend on Englands ability to stop getting out, having got themselves in. A task that will be made significantly easier if Pakistan drop Yasir, start bowling right-handed a bit more, and read cover to cover MS Dhonis little-read coaching and captaincy tome, How to Follow Up a Nerve-Jangling, Brilliant Lords Victory as Uselessly As Possible. ' ' '

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