The contrast between the men’s and women’s finals at the Australian Open could not have been greater.
On Saturday, Victoria Azarenka thrashed Maria Sharapova to claim her first grand slam title and the No. 1 ranking. It was a result that suggested this year’s WTA season will be just as much as a free-for-all as 2011 was.
On Sunday, however, Novak Djokovic won his third successive major title as he overcame Rafael Nadal in one of the most amazing finals in tennis history. We can debate until the cows come home about whether it was indeed the greatest, but it was definitely the longest.
And what are the odds against the world No. 1 becoming the first man to hold all four grand slam titles since Rod Laver in 1969, when he goes to Nadal’s stronghold at Roland Garros in May? FULL POST
It’s not long until the British Olympic swimming trials in March, and it’s really exciting because it’s the first time I’m going to see the new pool in London. Days are ticking by and it’s getting really close.
I’m really excited by the prospect of actually competing at the Olympic pool for the first instance in the trials, and then hopefully I can convert my times into a place on the team and compete there again in the summer. I went to Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004, and I want to be involved again.
Having the Olympics in London will be amazing. I went to the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002 and that was a fantastic experience. It makes it even more exciting because your family and friends can be more part of the whole concept of what you’re going for. FULL POST
Tiger Woods remains the biggest attraction in the world of golf. Despite a lackluster run that has lasted two full years, and being dogged by his off-course dramas, the former world No.1 has proven yet again why he can pull in a crowd with his season-opening appearance in the Middle East.
Abu Dhabi is an unusual place for him to start his season, but there were several key factors in his decision to begin the year on the European Tour. FULL POST
The African Cup of Nations is coming to the end of its first week and, as I predicted before the start of the tournament, there have already been massive shocks and they are set to continue.
I’m delighted for Equatorial Guinea. Their victory over one of the favorites, Senegal, was a stunning result for a nation of just over 700,000 people and ranked 151st in the world.
They kept to a strict game plan and were rewarded with a 2-1 victory which eliminated Senegal, who will be going home after their final group game. FULL POST
If you believe the hype, Jose Mourinho is on his way out of Real Madrid. According to various reports and sources close to the Portuguese manager, he has had enough of dealing with the local press and the alleged discontent from the Spanish contingent in the dressing room and is ready to walk out at the end of this season.
Is this true? Yes and no.
I think he will quit the Santiago Bernabeu in June, but not for the reasons which have been circulating in the media over the last few days. FULL POST
I'm passionate about the African Cup of Nations. I've played in it twice for Nigeria and it's the most amazing experience I have had in football, even better than the World Cup and the English Premier League where I play for Fulham.
In Africa, football really is like a religion. It unites people of all backgrounds, it brings them together in common cause, and victory in the Cup of Nations is considered the pinnacle of achievement.
But for some countries, like Libya, just getting to the finals is an incredible achievement. I'll certainly be looking out for them in this tournament and I'm really hoping they can qualify out of their group. I understand that some of their players were at the sharp end of the turmoil, even taking part in the fighting, as Gadhafi was toppled from power. FULL POST
The name Senna was already on many people’s lips on Tuesday, when the eponymous documentary picked up three richly-deserved BAFTA nominations. That Williams, the Formula One team so tragically and inextricably linked to Ayrton’s death, should choose the same day to announce the signing of his 28-year-old nephew, Bruno, was remarkably poetic.
So much has been written about Ayrton Senna that his story scarcely needs retelling, even if it remains utterly fascinating. But outside of his family connections, Bruno Senna is less well-known. Ayrton himself once said, “If you think I’m fast, wait until you see my nephew!”
But the 10-year-old’s racing career almost died too on that tragic day at Imola in 1994 when his family, quite understandably, forbade him to continue. However, following a decade’s hiatus from the sport, its lure finally proved too seductive, and Bruno took to the track once more. FULL POST
Most of the talk leading up to this weekend's start of the 2012 African Cup of Nations has focused on the teams who won’t be there, rather than on the ones who will.
It's understandable, considering Egypt, Cameroon and Nigeria - who have a combined total of 13 titles - didn’t qualify for the tournament, which will take place in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. That means we won’t be seeing the likes of Mohamed Zidane, Samuel Eto’o or Jon Obi Mikel, among others, in action over the next month.
However, just because three traditional contenders didn’t make it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care about the competition. Quite the opposite. There are other emerging powers on the continent and plenty of new players to discover over the event's three weeks. FULL POST
There are two burning questions ahead of the tennis season’s opening grand slam in Melbourne: can Novak Djokovic repeat his stellar form from last year, and will the women’s No. 1 be a major winner ?
Djokovic’s Australian Open preparations have been relatively low-key again, an approach that worked last year as he launched a 43-match winning streak in Melbourne and ended the year as world No. 1 with three of the four coveted crowns.
While in 2011 he played in the non-sanctioned Hopman Cup mixed teams event, this month the Serbian made do with scooping $250,000 at an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi. FULL POST
This week I traveled to Zurich to cover the 2011 FIFA Ballon D’Or awards ceremony. The event crowned Leo Messi as the best footballer on the planet and Pep Guardiola as the top manager in the game.
No argument from me on both counts, as the little Argentine and the Spanish coach enjoyed a phenomenal year during which Barcelona won five out of a possible six trophies.
While I was in Switzerland, I was asked by several colleagues why I thought Barca were so good. Was it the academy, was it down to Messi’s brilliance, or Xavi’s playmaking ability perhaps? FULL POST