Legendary status beckons for Djokovic in Melbourne, but questions remain over his Australian Open spot

Legendary status beckons for Djokovic in Melbourne, but questions remain over his Australian Open spot NOVAK DJOKOVIC is the hot favourite to make it Australia Open No.10 in January, despite the tennis world still being unaware whether the Serb will actually be allowed to participate in the competition.

The 34-year-old is the most successful player in the history of the event, his haul of championship successes ahead of Roger Federer and Aussie tennis legend Roy Emerson, both winning six titles. However, the insistence that no unvaccinated players will be allowed to compete has thrown the defending champion’s presence into doubt.

Djokovic has been very guarded about whether he has had the jab or not, and had highlighted his belief in people being allowed the ‘freedom of choice’. However, if he wants to play at Melbourne Park then he will have to reveal his medical status, with no-one allowed entry unless they’ve been vaccinated against Covid 19.

With the chance to move ahead of both Federer and Nadal on to 21 grand slam titles, reaching double figures in Aussie Open wins in the process, there is a clear attraction to play, especially with Federer still injured and Nadal on the comeback trail after a foot injury ruled him out of the US Open. If Nadal comes through a three-day exhibition event in Abu Dhabi this month unscathed, he is likely to target a warm-up tournament in Australia before heading to Melbourne.

Bookies have decided that if Djokovic is there then he is the player to beat, installing him as 6/4 favourite – bet £6 on the Serb and get £10 back if he wins with bet365 current welcome bonus in a free bet deal. Daniil Medvedev, who beat Djokovic in the US Open Final in September, is second favourite at 11/4, with Alex Zverev at 11/2.

The value may be further down the betting with former champion Nadal at 14/1, and up and coming Canadian star Felix Auger Aliassime available at 40/1 – Aliassime was beaten by Medvedev in the semi-final at Flushing Meadows.

At even longer odds you can get 80/1 on Andy Murray to defy his metal hip and claim a first Australian Open title; the Scot has lost five finals at Melbourne, four of those to Djokovic.

The focus, however, is on world No.1 Djokovic, and the Aussies clearly want the defending champion to line up come January, with tournament director Craig Tiley talking up the chance of the Serb making history.

I know he wants to be here, he’d like nothing more,” said Tiley. “He doesn’t want to start the year without the opportunity to win all four Grand Slams – that’s enough motivation. So, the question is going to be: where is he at with his vaccination status?

At the end of the day, you want to give everyone the best possible chance to get in, and to do it within the parameters which we can.”

And Tiley admitted: “Time is running out, and obviously you can get one vaccination – the Johnson & Johnson shot – but if you need a double vaccination, that window between the two vaccines is really closing.”

If Djokovic doesn’t make the event, and at present that appears a very strong possibility, then the smart money will be on either Medvedev or Zverev to claim a first Australian Open.

Medvedev will be looking to make it back-to-back slams after lifting the US Open title in September, and the world No.2 is seen as heir apparent to Djokovic at Melbourne. But he was beaten by Zverev in the recent ATP Finals event – the German’s first win over the Russian in two years – and the German will go into the Australian Open full of confidence.

Zverev, 24, has won six titles this year and an Olympics gold, but the drawback for the 24-year-old is that he is yet to win a grand slam. His best result is a beaten finalist at Flushing Meadows in 2020, going down in five sets to Dominic Thiem.

 

The ‘Fight of the Century’ 1971

The 'Fight of the Century' 1971 The ‘Fight of the Century’ was the second defence of the World Boxing Council (WBC) and World Boxing Association (WBA) World Heavyweight Titles by Joe Frazier, against Muhammad Ali, and took place at Madison Square Garden, New York City on March 8, 1971.

Ali, of course, had previously held the WBC and WBA titles, but was stripped of both in 1967, after refusing to be inducted into the US Army. Nevertheless, Ali remained unbeaten, with a career record of 31-0, and was still the lineal world heavyweight champion. After three years of inactivity, he had beaten Jerry Quarry and Oscar Bonavena in late 1970 before turning his attention to Frazier, whom he predicted he would knock out in the sixth round. Frazier, 27, was two years younger than Ali and weighed in nearly 10lb lighter; he had achieved universal recognition when defeating former WBA World Heavyweight Champion Jimmy Ellis at the same venue the previous February and, having successfully defended the both titles against Bob Foster at the Cobo Arena, Detroit nine months later, entered the ring with a career record of 26-0.

Ali chose to go toe-to-toe with Frazier and the unbeaten pair fought at a furious pace throughout. The predicted sixth-round knockout never materialised; in the eleventh round, Frazier rocked Ali with two left hooks, which sent him stumbling across the ring and, in the final round, landed another, knocking him to the canvas. Ali survived the round, but referee Arthur Mercante scored the fight 8-6 in favour of Frazier, while judges Artie Aidala and Bill Recht scored 9-6 and 11-4, respectively, to hand ‘Smokin’ Joe’ a unanimous decision.

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The 1967/68 English Championship: The Title that Immortalised Man City’s Epic Run

At the end of the 1960s, a little over 50 years ago, Manchester City made history by winning its second English title. The achievement crowned Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison as important figures in City history, but also their squad, eternalised in the hearts and minds of City fans.

The team began its path in the second division and fought its way to the top of English football, while always displaying a technical, elegant, and offensive playing style.

Rising to the Top

Before this, during the interwar period, City had already become one of the most expressive teams in Manchester and one of the most consistent in the country with one championship title, several top-five finishes and three FA Cup finals under their belt. This period was one of the most successful of the club, which is only comparable to City’s modern-day dominance. After a series of impressive years asserting their dominance at the top of the tables, Manchester City are continuing on with their victorious streak, according to the Premier League outright football betting odds. They’re currently priced as the favourites to win the Premier League with odds of 8/11 and it’s doubtful that they could be thrown off course by other contenders.

Of course, the Manchester City of yesteryear boasted the ultimate dream team. With Ken Mulhearn under the goalposts, Tony Book and Glyn Pardoe on the sides, and George Heslop and Mike Doyle in central defence, City had a solid structure at the back. Leading the attack there were equally competent players, such as Francis Lee, Mike Summerbee, Neil Young or Tony Coleman, while Alan Oakes and Colin Bell, who has recently been compared to Sergio Aguero and Bernardo Silva, played ahead of the defence and projected the team forward.

The 1967/68 English Championship: The Title that Immortalised Man City's Epic Run

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City kicked off the 1967/68 season hesitantly, tying at home with Liverpool and then losing against Southampton and Stoke City. However, they bounced back with five consecutive victories, four of them at Maine Road, including a 2-0 over Nottingham Forest, runner-up of the previous season. Nonetheless, this positive run was followed by three defeats, one of them against United at home (2-1). Later, on October 14th, after a 2-0 home win over Wolverhampton, the Citizens began an undefeated 11-game streak, which included a 6-0 victory over Leicester and a magnificent performance against Tottenham (4-1), that has been nicknamed ‘Ballet on Ice’.

The good streak made them title contenders alongside Manchester United, who were the big favourites two win a back-to-back championship title.

City first took the lead of the league in early 1968, after six wins and a draw in the first seven league games in the new year. However, after losing to Leeds in the following match, United took the lead once again. Four days later, the Citizens had a real chance of reclaiming their place at the top of the table, as they faced their rivals at Old Trafford. It was now or never. In front of its largest audience of the season, City took matters into their own hands a comfortably beat United, 3-1, with goals from Bell, Heslop and Lee.

The decisive date, however, was May 11th, when the two Manchester teams faced northeast teams: City visited St. James’ Park to face Newcastle, while United hosted Sunderland. The Citizens only needed to win to secure the title and while Newcastle did score three goals, in the end, they secured the result and won 4-3, crowning them champions.

At the end of the season, City’s attack was the second-best in the championship, with 86 goals scored and the fourth-best defence, with 43 goals conceded (only three more than Liverpool and Everton and two more than Leeds).

Ultimately, City’s 1967/68 season will forever be remembered by English football fans as one of the most competitive and entertaining ever. On the other hand, Manchester United fans are more likely to look back at the season with a mix of happiness and sadness as they won their first European Cup and became the first English team to win the competition but lost what could have been their second back-to-back League One title.