[imagesource: Xinhua/Sipa USA]
Each Monday, I’ll be putting together a wrap of the weekend’s sporting action, standout moments, and major talking points, with a focus on football, cricket, and rugby.
So, off we go…
Let’s start with tennis, and the action from Down Under, as the men’s and women’s Australian Open singles titles were decided.
On Saturday, Naomi Osaka completed a straight-sets win over American Jennifer Brady, which takes her to second in the WTA rankings, and means she currently holds two of the four Grand Slam titles.
It’s just a pity that we won’t get to enjoy a Serena Williams / Osaka rivalry for much longer, and there are those within the game who believe that Osaka could go on to boast a career record to rival Serena’s.
She has a long way to go, but four Grand Slam titles by the age of 23 is a decent start.
Here are the highlights from the women’s singles final:
On Sunday, Novak Djokovic breezed past fourth-seed Daniil Medvedev in straight sets, and in doing so closed the gap on Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal.
Djokovic’s 18th Grand Slam title puts him within two of Federer and Nadal’s mark of 20, and age is certainly on his side.
The Swiss Prince is 39, and Nadal is 33 and once again battling injury, meaning the 32-year-old Serb could well end his career out in front.
Slowly but surely, he’s edged closer:
You can see an in-depth breakdown of the battle to be the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) here.
I genuinely hope he doesn’t finish as the record holder, as Djokovic can’t hold a candle to the character of the other two, but you can’t fault his on-court prowess:
Staying Down Under, and the first round of Super Rugby AU kicked off on Friday morning.
It really is Super Rugby in name only, but if you’ve missed that Ozzie commentary and the sight of an actual crowd in attendance at a sporting match it’s worth a watch.
The tournament kicked off with the Reds taking on the Waratahs in what was a rather one-sided affair, with the home side trouncing the visitors 41-7:
The round’s second match saw the Force take on the Brumbies, and this time it was the visitors who emerged victorious by 27 points to 11:
This coming weekend will see Super Rugby Aotearoa kick off, which is a tournament between the Kiwi sides, so we should see some better quality matches.
There will be no Dan Carter, though, with the flyhalf hanging up his boots after the most stellar of careers.
The Six Nations took a break, but if you missed out on the action from round two, here’s a recap of every try scored:
In the Premiership, South African Jasper Wiese had a mixed bag, with his Leicester Tigers side beating Wasps 27-8.
Wiese dotted down early on, but was then sent off after 26 minutes for a dangerous cleanout at a breakdown.
In total, the referee showed three red cards, with fellow South African Hanro Liebenberg also sent off late on in the match.
You can see Wiese’s red card incident from 1:50 below, and Liebenberg’s from the 5:30 mark:
Turning our attention to football, and the big question is whether anybody can stop the Manchester City juggernaut.
Their 1-0 win over Arsenal, thanks to an early headed goal by Raheem Sterling, was their 18th successive victory across all competitions.
It was a torrid weekend for some of the other traditional big sides, though, with Chelsea only grabbing a point at Southampton, and Liverpool losing the Merseyside derby to Everton.
The Blues’ 2-0 win was their first at Anfield since 1999, and whilst much has been said about Liverpool’s woes at the back, they’re misfiring up front, too.
Since the turn of the year, during which time Liverpool have lost five of eight Premier League games, their shot conversion rate is the worst in the league:
Part of me thinks that Everton should be docked points for this tweet, though:
“sHoUlD nEvEr aV bEeN a PeN” pic.twitter.com/tWzpseyOYh
— Everton (@Everton) February 21, 2021
Sunday saw West Ham defeat Spurs, Leicester defeat Aston Villa, and Manchester United beat Newcastle (don’t get me started – the wheels are off and the bus is alight), and whilst the title looks done and dusted, the competition for Champions League spots should be great viewing.
In Germany, Erling Braut Haaland scored twice, again, including this cracker, in Borussia Dortmund’s derby win over Schalke:
WHAT. A. GOAL. 🤩🇳🇴 pic.twitter.com/zDeKikdkmj
— HaalandReport 🇳🇴 (@HaalandReport) February 20, 2021
It’s early days still, but if he can keep up this rate of goalscoring for another decade, he will have earned the Messi / Ronaldo comparisons.
From the sublime to the ridiculous, and how about this for a miss, followed up by the referee blocking a goalbound shot?
The Mexican Liga MX match between Cruz Azul and Toluca is one that referee Óscar Macías will want to forget:
He missed an empty net goal from point-blank range and then the ref got in the way for the rebound 😬
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 21, 2021
Thankfully for his sake, Cruz Azul did win, so his blocked shot didn’t prove too costly.
Late last week we saw the IPL auction take place, and there was one name on everybody’s lips.
South African Chris ‘Tipo’ Morris was the subject of a bidding war, which culminated in him being bought by the Rajasthan Royals for a staggering $2,2 million, or just over R32,5 million.
Not bad for eight weeks work, and that tidy sum also makes him the most expensive overseas player in IPL history.
He did well to hold it together when filming this:
— Rajasthan Royals (@rajasthanroyals) February 18, 2021
By all accounts, Morris is a good bloke, so congrats to him.
I’ll steer clear of mentioning the standard of much of the domestic T20 cricket on show this weekend, and finish on a positive note.
New Zealand comfortably defeated Australia in this morning’s T20 International, with South African-born batsman Devon Conway finishing on 99 not out.
We may have been denied a (very much outside) shot at defeating the Ozzies due to the late cancelled tour, but at least there’s somebody with a South African twang sticking it to them:
Devon Conway finishes 99* 😩
The bloke deserved a ton after a phenomenal innings at the Hagley Oval… pic.twitter.com/3BBfV23hZP
— Cricket on BT Sport (@btsportcricket) February 22, 2021
We’ll take our wins where we can get them.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going for a lie-down.
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