A viral infection has been blamed for snooker World No. 1 Ronnie O’Sullivan’s failure to participate in the China Open last week. The tournament is regarded as instrumental in developing and popularising the game abroad. The ‘Rocket’ has enjoyed a spectacular season, winning the Wembley and Irish Masters as well as two further ranking titles and will make his next appearance at the Crucible in this month’s World Championship, unless relapsing into the sort of depression that has plagued the 29-year-old in the past.
Croatia’s tennis ace Ivan Ljubicic got the biggest shock of his life during the Miami Tournament last week – in the changing rooms. To the great amusement of his fellow players, who were in on the joke, Ljubicic was faced with a completely naked Michael Llodra when opening his 3 x 2 ft locker. The Frenchman said he was trying to gather some of the Croat’s positive energy that has seen him win a string of matches this season. Badly shaken, Ljubicic just managed to edge past Vince Spadea 6-3 4-6 7-6 in the next round.
American Bode Miller may have broken 22 years of European skiing dominance by taking the 2005 overall World Cup title, but when he arrived back at his home in New Hampshire, the magnificent trophy was also in pieces. Miller already lost a gold medal in 2003 when using it to hold up a toilet seat!
Not The Full Monty
Seven-time European No. 1 Colin Montgomerie, currently ranked No. 56 in the world, has not received a wild card invitation for this week’s US Masters in Augusta. The Scot had been hoping for a kind gesture after his fourth place finish at the Indonesian Open proved insufficient to break into the top 50.
Last week’s piece entitled “Crowd control” was, of course, a joke. Even the eccentric Sepp Blatter is not planning to phase out referees in favour of expert panel video-replay decisions or indeed handing a vote to fans.
The 5.20 race at Melbourne’s Sandown course was declared void by stewards after an angry flock of seagulls created havoc. The carnage ensued as the field approached the birds resting on the track. A panicked take-off resulted in horses rearing up, dazed riders littering the turf. Of the five thrown riders, one suffered a broken arm, another a chipped tooth and the remainder heavy bruising. Wildlife is reportedly a common hazard to racing in Australia.
Top class tennis sisters Venus and Serena Williams are to star in their own television series. A six-part reality show will be filmed by ABC channel depicting the siblings’ off-court activities.
Formula One drivers are no longer allowed to wear rings, bracelets, chains and other items of jewellery while racing according to a new FIA ruling. The items, deemed to be dangerous during accidents, include Michael Schumacher’s lucky amulet, something that has filled the champion with foreboding.
Daniel Carlsson, driving a Subaru, dominated the Rally of Portugal from start to finish, taking the race by winning nine out of a total of 12 stages. One minute and nine seconds behind the Swede came Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen with Portugal’s Armindo Aravjo finishing third.
NASDAQ 100 Miami Open
Kim Clijsters once more demonstrated her class in taking this, the biggest tournament outside the Grand Slam events, with ease, to add to her Indian Wells crown which she won a fortnight earlier. Neither Venus Williams nor Amelie Mauresmo, who was humiliated 6-1 6-0 in the semis, could live with the rejuvenated Belgian who triumphed 6-3 7-5 over golden girl Maria Sharapova in the final.
Tim Henman (pictured) ran into Roger Federer at the semifinal stage of the men’s competition and must be sick of the sight of the Swiss. The World No. 1 gave Britain’s only top-class player a 6-4 6-2 pounding on the way to a virtually unchallenged final showdown with Spanish Davis Cup hero, Rafael Nadal. The 18-year-old from Majorca is surely a champion in the making but on this occasion, he lacked the artillery and ‘ring craft’ to stop the greatest player in the world who has no rivals when at the top of his game. Federer maintained his incredible winning streak, only blighted by the onesemi final defeat in Australia. The number one won, with some difficulty, overcoming the young heir apparent 2-6 6-7 7-6 6-3 6-1.