1. Bush fires threaten Australian Open
The bushfires ravaging Australia could threaten the first tennis Grand Slam of the year as poor air quality caused by the smoke in Melbourne forced one player to retire from the qualifying tournament and practice was suspended. Slovenia’s Dalila Jakupovic had to be helped off court after suffering a coughing fit during her match against Stefanie Vogel. Organisers of the Australian Open said conditions would be “monitored constantly” but some players have expressed concern over the situation ahead of the tournament, which begins next week.
2. Man Utd third in Deloitte Football Money League
Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid top this year’s Deloitte Football Money League, with Manchester United in third place. Barcelona had earnings of £741.1m in 2018-19, while Real Madrid pulled in £667.5m. United, who have been the top-ranked English side every year since the survey began in 1997, made £627.1m, but another season without Champions League football could see them overhauled. “Their closest Premier League rivals are Manchester City and Liverpool in sixth and seventh respectively, with City just £88.9m behind. Tottenham, meanwhile, are now the top-ranked London club in eighth – their highest ever position in the rankings, with Chelsea and Arsenal in ninth and eleventh respectively,” reports Sky Sports.
3. Barcelona sack manager
Barcelona have sacked manager Ernesto Valverde and replaced him with Quique Setien despite sitting atop the La Liga table. The 55-year-old guided Barca to two titles but the Catalan side have produced some unconvincing displays and have failed to win the Champions League under his leadership. Spanish observers say the writing has been on the wall since Barcelona’s humiliating defeat to Liverpool last season, but most agree that the Catalan club have handled the situation badly.
4. Harry Kane could miss Euro 2020
There are fears that England football captain Harry Kane could miss this summer’s Euro 2020 tournament after undergoing surgery. The Spurs striker was injured against Southampton on New Year’s Day. “José Mourinho’s revelation that Harry Kane may not be back until ‘next season’ after rupturing a tendon in his left hamstring in the defeat to Southampton on New Year’s Day will have set alarm bells ringing for the England manager a little more than 150 days before their opening match of Euro 2020 against Croatia on 14 June,” reports The Guardian.
5. Fury and Wilder trade barbs
Boxers Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury traded barbs at a fiery press conference ahead of their heavyweight showdown in Lasa Vegas next month. Former world champion Fury said he did not expect to win on points in the US but told his American rival: “You’re going to sleep in two rounds, I keep having the same dream and when I’m playing poker I keep getting dealt two. It’s definitely a thing. He is getting knocked out in two.” But Wilder, the WBC champion, responded: “I will knock him out. I’m the king of the jungle. I’ll rip his head off. I’ll knock him through the ropes.” When the pair fought in 2018 it was declared a draw.
6. Maguire stuns Robertson
Stephen Maguire came back from a 5-1 deficit to beat Neil Robertson 6-5 at the Masters tournament after producing what Mail Online calls “what could well be the most astonishing shot in snooker history”. The Scot lined up a fairly routine red, only to see the ball bounce in the jaws of the pocket, and fly up into the air. Meanwhile the white ball also went aeriel and bounced over the pack of reds. Astonishingly the red ball then span back into the corner pocket while the white rolled down the table and into the top corner pocket. Although the shot was called a foul it appeared to inspire Maguire who won five frames in a row to beat Australian Robertson.
7. Woods set for third Test recall
Fast bowler Mark Wood is in line for a shock recall to the England side for the third Test against South Africa. The 30-year-old Durham quick could be selected ahead of Jofra Archer after impressing in the nets. “England want extra pace on the traditionally slow St George’s Park pitch, and while Archer has been showing something of his form of last summer in the nets, Wood has been replicating a human catapult in doing everything asked of him and more,” reports The Daily Telegraph.
8. Archer abuser banned from cricket
The man who racially abused England cricketer Jofra Archer in New Zealand last year has been banned from attending international and domestic fixtures in the country for two years. New Zealand Cricket said it had contacted the man and banned him until 2022. Spokesman Anthony Crummy said: “We’d again like to extend our apologies to Jofra and the England team management for such an unsavoury incident and reiterate once more that this type of behaviour is completely unacceptable.”
9. League star shows ‘signs of improvement’
Rugby league star Mose Masoe is showing “signs of improvement” after undergoing surgery on a “serious spinal injury” sustained in a pre-season friendly on Sunday. The Hull Kingston Rovers forward was stretchered off against Wakefield Trinity at the weekend. Rovers have set up an online fundraising page to support the Samoan and his family. The club said: “He is awake and alert and has continued to show signs of improvement. Mose has an overwhelmingly positive mindset and would like to thank everyone for their concern and well wishes.”
10. Diack trial postponed
The trial of Lamine Diack, the former head of athletics’ world governing body, the IAAF, has been delayed until June. The 86-year-old had been due to face corruption and money-laundering charges in a Paris court on Monday. “Diack Sr was investigated by French authorities for four years over claims he took payments of more than 3m euros to cover up cheating. Having begun on Monday, the long-awaited trial was halted almost immediately when prosecutors revealed they had received last minute new evidence, and asked for a delay,” reports the BBC, which says the documents relate to testimony from his son and co-defendant Papa Massata Diack.