Welcome to this week’s column. Plenty to get through again this week with updates on some of last week’s stories, plus all the results and news from last weekend and the rest of the week. This week we look at darts, tennis, boxing, football, cycling, ultra-running, netball, rugby union and cricket.
Let’s crack on.
I don’t know why I start with the darts this week, but I have been very much taken with Mikuru Suzuki’s darts journey, which culminated last weekend in her becoming the first non-European to win the Women’s BDO World Championships.
Suzuki beat Maria O’Brien of England 2-0 in the semi-final, while Winstanley saw off Anastasia Dobromyslova of Russia 2-1.
The unseeded Japanese player then proceeded to complete the biggest shock of the week as she beat top seed Lorraine Winstanley of England 3-0 to take the title.
Indeed, Winstanley took only two legs off Suzuki, who averaged 90.12 over the match.
Suzuki’s nickname is “The Miracle” and while I probably wouldn’t go that far, it was a very impressive, surprising win and she obviously has the potential to do much more.
Jasmin Paris has become the first woman to win the Montane Spine Race. The British ultra-runner completed the 268-mile competition in 83 hours 12 minutes and 23 seconds, beating the old course record by no less than 12 hours.
The race is run along the length of the Pennine Way from Edale in the Peak District to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish borders and is open to both male and female runners. Two-thirds of it is run in darkness.
And if running 268 miles, in winter, mostly in darkness was not enough, Paris stopped at the aid stations along the way to express breast milk for her baby daughter, Rowan.
I can’t even begin to understand what this kind of endurance event must be like to compete in. She has my complete admiration. What an achievement.
Petra Kvitova took the Sydney title, defeating Ash Barty in the final in three sets, 1-6 7-5 7-6.
Sofia Kenin of the USA claimed the title in Hobart, defeating Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia in straight sets, 6-3 6-0.
As usual, there were mixed fortunes for Britain’s women in the first round at Melbourne.
Harriet Dart crashed out badly, admitting that she let the situation and nerves get to her in her hard-earned first round tie against Maria Sharapova. She had worked so hard to come through qualifying, but lost 6-0 6-0 against the Russian in one hour and two minutes.
In an interview with BBC Sport she said,
“I think nerves got the best of me but I tried my best and that’s all I could do.
“She hits a huge ball and it comes at you quick. She doesn’t give you anything so it was always going to be difficult.
“I’m glad to have these experiences and hopefully get more of big experiences on big stages.”
Katie Boulter, on the other hand, had a fine win in her first round match against 2015 semi-finalist Ekaterina Makarova. She won 6-0 4-6 7-6 (10-6). For the first time this year there is a tie-break in the final set, but it is first to 10 points rather than seven. Boulter apparently forgot this and celebrated at 7-4, but managed to maintain her composure to take the match, hitting 53 winners in the process.
She couldn’t, however, repeat the performance in the second round and went out to 11th seed Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets 6-3 6-4. Although she played well, she was clearly frustrated with her performance. In her post-match interview she said,
“I didn’t feel like I put my best game on the court.
“I’ve learnt so much just from playing matches on courts I haven’t played on before. I feel a lot more settled now,” she said.
Heather Watson suffered another disappointing first round exit, losing 6-1 6-2 to 32nd seed Petra Martic. Cue many, many Watson-haters on the BBC website/Facebook/Twitter. Watson certainly suffered in the heat (as have others, causing retirements) and has cited this as among the reasons for her loss, but she has also indicated that her mental attitude is also a problem and she lacks confidence and self-belief.
There is no doubt that Watson has talent, but has she fulfilled her potential? Perhaps sessions with a sports psychologist may do the trick. It would take a major miracle to silence the haters, but her first priority should be to herself.
Johanna Konta won her first round match after a difficult battle with Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia. She won a final set tie-break to take the match 7-6 2-6 7-6 (10-7.
However, she was undone in the second by 18th seed Garbine Muguruza in a spectacular match which lasted two hours 42 minutes. Unfortunately, only 250 fans were left in the arena to see it as the match started after midnight and finished at 3.12am. Fabulous scheduling by the tournament organisers.
The final score was 6-4 6-7 7-5 to Muguruza. Konta will feel heartened that she played a brilliant match in difficult circumstances. And another point to make – I know the women’s matches generally take less time to complete, but would the organisers have started another men’s match at nearly 12.30am if there had been one to play? I don’t think so.
Other highlights so far:
Jelena Ostapenko, seeded 22, lost in the first round to Maria Sakkari of Greece 6-1 3-6 6-2.
Danielle Collins of the USA is having quite a tournament. Having disposed of 14th seed Julia Goerges in the first round, she then saw off 19th seed Caroline Garcia in the third round 6-3 6-2.
Home favourite Sam Stosur also went out in the first round, losing 7-5 6-2 to Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine. Yastremska then put out 24th seed Carla Suarez Navarro in the second, 6-3 3-6 6-1.
Tenth seed Daria Kasastkina lost to the unseeded Timea Bacsinszky 6-3 6-0.
More seeds fell in the second round as we lost Donna Vekic (29), Lesia Tsurenko (24), Anett Kontaveit (20) and Kiki Bertens (9).
World number one and top seed Simona Halep survived a real scare, eventually winning her second round match 6-3 6-7 6-4 over Sofia Kenin of the USA.
We are now in the middle of the third round:
Maria Sharapova (30) beat defending champion Caroline Wozniacki (3) in the third round 6-4 4-6 6-3.
The unseeded Amanda Anisimova accounted for 11th seed Aryna Sabalenka.
Charlton v Manchester United
Hopeless FA Klaxon! It had to happen. The match between Manchester United and Charlton was abandoned on Sunday after Charlton player Charlotte Kerr was injured.
But why did they have to abandon the game? Kerr was treated on the pitch for nearly an hour, but there was no ambulance on-site and one had to be called. The ambulance did not arrive for 30 minutes and during that time the medical staff used up the available emergency oxygen.
As there is a legal requirement to have oxygen (but not an ambulance) at the game, the referee had to call it off.
The current rules state,
“Clubs shall ensure that emergency sports first aid equipment is present and in full working order at each Competition Match. Such equipment to include as a minimum a spinal board, cervical collar, fracture splints, crutches, stretchers, oxygen and a defibrillator.”
If there had been an ambulance present, Kerr would have been treated quicker, taken off to hospital quicker and the game could have continued.
The good news is that the sternum and rib injury was heavy bruising and Kerr has been released from hospital, but at the time it was not clear that it was just bruising.
Whatever the critics of women’s football say, this is elite sport. This is the highest level in the country but the FA does not seem able to see its way to ensuring, as far as it is able, the safety of the players. There have been reports this week that the FA is now considering introducing a new rule on ambulances. Let’s hope that this is the case, before something more serious happens and we lose a player for want of an ambulance.
As predicted last week, Marc Skinner has now left Birmingham City to take up the role as head coach of Orlando Pride. He has side a 2.5 year deal.
West Ham United have been busy in the transfer market this week. They signed Canadian forward Adriana Leon from Seattle Reign at the weekend. Leon has 54 caps for Canada and has scored 12 goals. Then at the beginning of the week they signed South Korean captain Cho So-hyun from Avaldsnes of Norway, an experienced midfielder with 120 caps.
Results from 13 January were as follows:
Yeovil 1-2 Liverpool
Sweetman-Kirk 27’ (Pen) 93’
Brighton & Hove Albion 0-0 Everton
Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea
Cuthbert 26’ 63’
West Ham Utd 1-3 Manchester City
Weir 15’, Hemp 39’, Parris 86’
Birmingham City 0-1 Bristol City
Manchester City are now top of the table with 31 points from 13 games. Arsenal are one point behind and have played one game fewer. Chelsea are third on 28 from 13 games. At the bottom, Yeovil have three points from 12 games with Everton above them on six points from twelve.
The Championship results from 13 January were:
London Bees 2-1 Crystal Palace
Wilkinson 6’, Pickett 24’
Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 Lewes
Naz 31’, Dean 52’, Schillaci 60’
Leicester City 3-2 Millwall Lionesses
Johnson 2’, Smith 35’ (Pen), Franklin-Fraiture 53’
Clarke 30’ 76’ (Pen)
Durham 2-2 Aston Villa
Robertson 21’, Salicki 75’
Hutton 22’, Welsh 45’
Charlton Athletic v Manchester United
Tottenham are top with 30 points from 12 games. Manchester United are second with 28 from 11, having had their game on Sunday postponed. Charlton are third on 26 from 12. At the bottom, Millwall have just two points from twelve. Crystal Palace are above them with seven points from 13.
The draw has been made for the semi-finals of the Continental Cup:
Tuesday 5 February
Arsenal v Manchester United
Wednesday 6 February
Chelsea v Manchester City
We now know the four teams who will take part in the WBBL semi-finals. Sydney Sixers finished top of the pile with 20 points from 14 games. Sydney Thunder finished second on 19 with Brisbane Heat third on 18 and Melbourne Renegades fourth on 15.
Saturday 19 January
Sydney Thunder v Brisbane Heat
(Drummoyne Oval, Sydney, UK start time 11.40pm)
Sydney Sixers v Melbourne Renegades
(Drummoyne Oval, Sydney, UK start time 2.50am, Sunday morning)
UK coverage via BT Sport and BBC 5 Live Sports Extra radio.
The final is next Saturday, 26 January.
England tour of India
The schedule for England’s tour of India has (finally) been released.
There will be three ODIs played at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai and three T20s to be played at the Barsapara Cricket Stadium, Guwahati.
The ODIs will each score two points towards the ICC Women’s Championship.
All UK times:
ODIs – 22, 25, 28 February, Mumbai, 3.30am
T20s – 4, 7, 9 March, Guwhati, 4.30am
Nicola Adams will challenge for the WBO World Flyweight title on 8 March at the Royal Albert Hall. She faces Arely Mucino of Mexico.
Mucino became world champion in February and her ten years as a professional boxer has seen her amass 27 wins, two draws and three defeats.
Saturday’s Premier 15s results:
DMP Sharks 14-53 Loughborough Lightning
Saracens 31-28 Harlequins
Worcester Valkyries 7-27 Gloucester-Hartpury
Firwood Waterloo 0-14 Bristol Bears
Richmond 12-38 Wasps
All of the teams have played 14 games. Saracens are top with 65 points. They have opened up quite a gap now, with Harlequins second on 58. Loughborough Lightning are third on 55. At the bottom, Valkyries are marooned on just four points. Above them are DMP Sharks on 13 and Firwood Waterloo on 14.
This weekend’s fixtures:
Loughborough Lightning v Firwood Waterloo (12pm, Loughborough University)
Wasps v DMP Sharks (2pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Bristol Bears v Worcester Valkyries (2.30pm, Shaftsbury Park)
Gloucester-Hartpury v Saracens (4.30pm, Gillman’s Ground)
Harlequins v Richmond (5.30pm, The Stoop)
The first weekend of the Quad series saw two excellent games:
England 54-41 New Zealand
After a tight first half, England did the job in the second to stretch the lead and take the game away from the Silver Ferns. At half-time the Roses had just a one point lead, 25-24. By the end of the third quarter the lead was up to 10 points and the Roses kept up that momentum to take the win by 13. Jo Harten scored 27/32 and Helen Housby 25/31. For New Zealand, Solonaima Maria Folau shot 29/32 and Ameliaranne Ekanasio 12/13.
Australia 62-45 South Africa
Australia, having to cope with the loss of their captain, Caitlin Bassett, who is sidelined with a broken arm, made a slow start. South Africa, in contrast, were quick out of the blocks and took an early lead. They managed to maintain this good form until well into the second-half, but the Diamonds went into the break 27-25 up. They then upped their game in the third quarter, taking control by the end of it and pushing their advantage to extend the gap to 17. For Australia, Gretel Tippett shot 30/32 and Caitlin Thwaites 17/18. South Africa’s main shooters, Lenize Potgieter and Ine-Marie Venter scored 35/40 and 7/9 respectively.
This weekend sees rounds two and three at the Copper Box in London. There is TV coverage on Sky Sports and on BBC 5Live Sports Extra on the radio.
Vitality Netball Super League
Last weekend’s results:
Friday 11 January
Strathclyde Sirens 45-55 Team Bath
Saturday 12 January
Loughborough Lightning 52-44 Team Bath
Surrey Storm 39-59 Saracens Mavericks
London Pulse 40-67 Celtic Dragons
There are no fixtures this weekend as we concentrate on the Quad Series. It’s early days of course, and most teams have only played two games. Team Bath are on top with two from two. Wasps and Thunder are next, although they have only played one game each and have one win.
The Women’s Super League is now entering into the second half of its season. The league has split into top five and Bottom four. Fixtures get underway again this weekend. More news in a couple of weeks when I’m back.
Former Team GB cyclist Jess Varnish has failed in her attempt to prove that she was an employee of both British Cycling and UK Sport at an employment tribunal.
This means she will, in effect, be unable to sue the bodies for wrongful dismissal and sex discrimination.
Varnish had claimed that British Cycling’s control over her made it an employer-employee relationship, but the governing body said it was more like a university grant situation.
There is no doubt that UK Sport will be heaving a huge sigh of relief at this decision, but it may yet have to review its processes and attitude to athlete welfare.
For more on this story see this excellent piece in Cycling Weekly.
First “And finally” of the year must go to Imke Wubbenhorst. I know many of you will be asking “Who?” as I was, to be honest. But she’s top of my pile this week for her fantastic response to yet another puerile question from a journalist.
Wubbenhorst is manager of BV Cloppenburg – a men’s fifth tier team in Germany. She is the first woman to hold a managerial position at a men’s club at this level.
She was asked by a journalist whether she warned her players to make sure they put their pants on before she came into the changing room.
To which she replied,
“Of course not, I’m a professional; I pick my players based on their penis size.”
Love it. No more need be said.
No column next week as I am out and about.