Ian Poulter competes in the Volvo World Match Play Championship at Thracian Cliffs in Kavarna, Bulgaria. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
A nod towards the not-so distant past is not only inevitable but a tangible boost as the European Tour prepares to host its flagship tournament. The BMW PGA Championship starts at Wentworth on Thursday with 12 key competitors in the field – the members of last year’s successful European Ryder Cup team. The circumstances of their glorious victory over the United States in Medinah adds to the sense of anticipation as top-level golf returns to England.
“It is an enormous boost, to have all 12 playing,” says George O’Grady, the European Tour’s chief executive. “
Czech Tomas Berdych snapped a run of 11 consecutive defeats by world number one Novak Djokovic to reach the semi-finals of the Rome Masters before Rafa Nadal was stretched to the limit against David Ferrer on Friday.
Berdych clawed his way back from a 6-2 5-2 deficit to stun the Serbian top seed 2-6 7-5 6-4 and set up a semi-final meeting with Nadal, who for the second week running outlasted compatriot Ferrer in a fierce claycourt scrap.
Nadal won 6-4 4-6 6-2 for his ninth consecutive victory over Ferrer who hit the Mallorcan with every weapon in his locker but still came up short as he did in Madrid last week.
“It was an extremely tough match, David always takes you to the limit,” Nadal, looking for his sixth title in eight tournaments since returning from injury, told reporters.
It was always going to be a big ask for the Latics to lift themselves for such a huge game just 72 hours after their glorious Wembley victory over Manchester City, and so it proved. Lukas Podolski nodded the Gunners in front on 11 minutes, but Shaun Maloney gave the visitors hope when he crashed home a free-kick on the stroke of half-time.
However, three goals in the space of eight minutes just after the hour from Theo Walcott, Podolski and Aaron Ramsey meant there was to be no fairytale ending for Roberto Martinez’s men, despite another brave crack at the Great Escape.
As the rain fell on north London, it was the home side who took an early lead.
The last 23 times the ‘big 4’ have taken part in one tournament, one of them has gone on to win the title. With the top 3 seeds Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray being shown the door before the semi-finals, the onus was on the last remaining member of the top players, in world no. 5 Ra