The year that was: 360-degree view of the sporting action in 2018
Here are some sporting triumphs around the world this year.
Love him for his batting or loathe him for his off-the-field antics, Indian skipper Virat Kohli has stayed streets ahead of the other cricketers in the world and has let his willow talk in all three formats. Australian cricketers, meanwhile, hit rock bottom after the 'Sandpapergate'. Here in Dubai, India won Asia Cup as the UAE saw a packed cricket calendar. Elsewhere, ending Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo's monopoly, Luka Modric, who played a key role in Croatia's runners-up finish to France in the Fifa World Cup, won the Ballon d'Or. Godolphin bagged the Dubai World Cup, King's Stand Stakes and the Melbourne Cup.
Virat Kohli dominates across all three formats of the game
Virat Kohli is the unquestioned number one batsman and became the second fastest batsman after Don Bradman to score 25 Test centuries. The Indian has smashed 11 international centuries in 2018, including six in ODIs, to underline why he is considered arguably the best batsman of his era. Top-ranked in both the Test and ODIs, Kohli was especially dominating in the 50-overs format, scoring 1,202 runs, with a 133-plus average. His off-the-field behaviour may have come under scrutiny but his masterclass between the 22 yards has made him a favourite with the aficionados.
Khabib Nurmagomedov became the first Muslim to win a UFC title
Russian professional mixed martial artist Khabib Nurmagomedov became the first Muslim to win a UFC title when he defeated Irish fighter Conor McGregor. The headline bout at UFC 229 drew 2.4 million pay-per-view buys, the most ever for an MMA event. Overnight Khabib became the most popular star in the Arab world for giving a fitting reply to McGregor's religious taunts to the Russian fighter.
Hamilton races ahead of his rivals
Briton Lewis Hamilton left his rivals behind with superb driving to win the championship for himself and constructors championship trophy for Mercedes. He ended the season in Abu Dhabi with a win at Yas Marina Circuit. With 73 wins, Hamilton is only second to Michael Schumacher, who has won 91 titles. He has won the World Championship title five times.
Historic triumph for Barman at Asiad
Swapna Barman created history by becoming the first Indian heptathlete to win an Asian Games gold, a feat she achieved despite a toothache. Barman, who has six toes in both her feet, produced her career-best performance by logging 6,026 aggregate points from the seven events spread for two days. After her historic win, Swapna made a plea to provide her customised shoes for her 'abnormal' feet.
Hima Das enjoyed a meteoric rise
Born into a poor family in Assam, India, sprinter Hima Das' enjoyed a meteoric rise. In July, Hima created history in Tampere, Finland, by winning the 400-metre women's gold at the World U20 Championships. Hima registered 51.46 seconds to become the first Indian sprinter to win gold in a track event in a world championship across all age groups.
Mary Kom - Most successful boxer in the history of WWC
Mary Kom became the most successful boxer in the history of Women's World Championships (WWC) by winning her sixth gold medal. The 35-year-old mother-of-three now has an incredible six golds and one silver in the tournament. With this gold, 'Magnificent Mary' also matched Cuban men's legend Felix Savon as the joint most successful pugilist (men and women) in the World Championships history.
Yet another successful year for All Blacks
The Haka performing New Zealand rugby team dominated yet another successful year. The All Blacks scored 12 wins and lost just two.They have absolutely dominated the statistical rankings this season, topping the charts for average points, tries, carries, metres, breaks, defenders beaten, passes, tackle %, lineout % and scrum %. The team is well prepared for the 2019 Rugby World Cup to be held in Japan.
Sindhu breaks final jinx
India's PV Sindhu cried tears of joy when she finally laid her hands on a gold medal by claiming the World Tour Finals with a win over 2017 world champion Nozomi Okuhara. Dubbed a bridesmaid after falling short of gold on a number of occasions, Sindhu finally broke her jinx in a major event. "I have no words. It is my first win after losing in the finals, so it was memorable," Sindhu said.
Ball-tampering scandal rocked Australian cricket
Australian cricket plunged into an abyss with 'Sandpapergate' as ball-tampering scandal devastated the entire country. The main perpetrator, Cameron Bancroft, will remain the face of the worst scandal in Australian cricket since Trevor Chappell bowled an under-arm delivery against New Zealand in 1981. The mayhem that ensued first led to captain Steve Smith, deputy David Warner and Bancroft being sent home in disgrace and later slapped with lengthy bans.
Two nations make Test debut
Ireland made their debut as the 11th Test playing nation when they hosted Pakistan in Dublin. William Porterfield and his men endured a chastening and rainy initiation though, losing by five wickets after being made to follow on. Afghanistan fared worse in their debut in India the following month, beaten by an innings and 262 runs inside two days by the top-ranked Test team.
ICC bids to include women's T20 in Commonwealth Games
Australia comprehensively defeated England to lift the Women's T20 World Cup before the International Cricket Council (ICC) also made an effort to help grow the game by submitting a bid for the inclusion of women's Twenty20 into the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
De Villiers and Herath retire
International cricket was robbed of one of its biggest crowd-pullers when South African talisman AB de Villiers, famed for his 360 degree batting and incredible athleticism in the field, announced he had "run out of gas". Sri Lankan cricket also said goodbye to spin spearhead Rangana Herath, who retired with 433 wickets, the most by a left-arm spinner in Test cricket, from 93 Tests after the Galle Test against England.
An emotional farewell for Cook
England bade a fond farewell to their record Test scorer Alastair Cook, who signed off with an emotional century in his final Test innings at the Oval. England will have few complaints about the year, having risen to the top of ODI rankings a year before hosting the World Cup on home soil. Eoin Morgan's team registered impressive away series victories in Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, offering signs that they could break England's World Cup duck record. The Test team under Joe Root also impressed with a 3-0 whitewash in Sri Lanka, ending England's 17-year wait for a series victory there, which followed a 4-1 defeat of India at home.
Bautista Agut wins DDF Tennis Championship
For the fourth straight year, the men's singles final of the Dubai Tennis Championships lacked the drama of a third set. You can blame it on a stony-faced Spaniard named Roberto Bautista Agut who clinically dismantled French shot-maker Lucas Pouille 6-3, 6-4. In the women's final, Elina Svitolina of Ukraine became the third player to defend the Dubai title with a 6-4, 6-0 win over Daria Kasatkina of Russia.
Godolphin's Thunder Snow scooped the $10m Dubai World Cup
The royal blue silks, the colours of Godolphin, hung over the spectacular Meydan Racecourse as Thunder Snow won the 23rd renewal of the $10 million Dubai World Cup on the last Saturday of March to end Emirati handler Saeed bin Suroor's two-year drought. Thunder Snow aced the five-horse American challenge to win in record time, putting Arrogate's 2:02:53 seconds to shade with a time of 2:01:38 seconds. It was a golden year for Godolphin as Jockey Kerrin McEvoy rode Cross Counter for their first Melbourne Cup, the world's richest two-mile handicap, in 30 years of trying. And Godolphin's Blue Point emerged victorious in the King's Stand Stakes at the Royal Ascot.
Three gold medals for UAE at Asian Games
The UAE's Faisal Al-Ketbi won gold in the 94kg category Jiu Jitsu at the Asian Games and Hamad Nawad added another Jiu Jitsu gold in the 56kg category while Ali Allanjawi won the gold medal in the Moto 4 final of the JetSki competition to give the UAE three gold medals besides the six silver and four bronze medals.
Cricket fever grips UAE for 10 weeks
India's triumph under stand-in skipper Rohit Sharma in the Asia Cup at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium set the tone for a long 10-week schedule of cricket for fans in the UAE. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan battled for two weeks in the Asia Cup. Pakistan then played host to Australia and New Zealand across three formats - Tests, ODIs and T20. The second edition of the UAE T10 League was like an icing on the cake when Darren Sami-led Northern Warriors lifted the trophy on their debut.
Real lift Fifa Club World Club beating Al Ain in final
Real Madrid lifted the Fifa Club World Cup for a record fourth time after a 4-1 win over hosts Al Ain. Khalid Essa was the star for the UAE champions as he stood rock-solid under the bar in Al Ain's victory over New Zealand's Wellington and against Copa Libertadores winners River Plate.
Next Gen poster boy
Next Gen poster boy Alexander Zverev's season-ending Tour Finals triumph served up a glimpse into the future of men's tennis although 2018 remained a year dominated once more by the usual, yet ageing, suspects.
Serena returns to court controversy
Serena Williams returned to the court after her 14-month maternity leave, battling back from life-saving surgery, but twice fell agonisingly short of landing a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam crown. She finished runner-up at both Wimbledon and the US Open, but it was the nature of her defeat in New York that will stick in the memory after a meltdown in the final against Japan's Naomi Osaka. Williams erupted after a code violation for receiving coaching from her box, and subsequently called chair umpire Carlos Ramos a 'liar and a thief' after she incurred a one-point penalty for racquet abuse.
A remarkable comeback by Novak Djokovic
A revitalised Novak Djokovic returned to the peak of his powers. The Serb tumbled out of the top 10 for the first time in a decade and was ranked as lowly as 22nd in June, slumping to a string of uncharacteristic defeats following an elbow surgery to fix a lingering injury. Over the next few months though Djokovic surged back to his all-conquering best, sweeping to Wimbledon and US Open crowns and completing a historic Masters sweep with an elusive victory in Cincinnati.
Roger Federer defied his advancing years
Roger Federer continued to defy his advancing years as he defended his Australian Open title and then eclipsed Andre Agassi as the oldest top-ranked player in ATP history, at the age of 36.
Rafael Nadal rules the roost on clay
Rafael Nadal dominated in typical fashion on clay, swaggering to an 11th Roland Garros title, but the injury-plagued Spaniard limped out of two other Grand Slams before further fitness problems curtailed his season. He played in just nine tournaments, his fewest since 2002, yet won five titles and compiled a commanding 45-4 record.
Didier becomes a World Cup legend
A thrilling World Cup undoubtedly got the final it deserved as France, moulded into a coherent unit by coach Didier Deschamps, dazzled in a 4-2 victory over a technically gifted Croatia. The tournament was dubbed as the "greatest World Cup ever" by Fifa President Gianni Infantino. The French legend became only the second man to both captain and coach a nation to World Cup glory after Franz Beckenbauer. The France manager lifted the trophy as skipper in Paris 20 years ago, and got his hands on football's ultimate prize again as Les Bleus saw off Croatia in Moscow.
Modric ends 10-year monopoly of Ronaldo and Messi
Real Madrid's Croatian midfielder Luka Modric (centre) ended 10-year monopoly of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo over the Ballon d'Or award. Olympique Lyonnais' Norwegian forward Ada Hegerberg won the Women's Ballon d'Or. The Under-21 award (Kopa trophy) went to Paris Saint-Germain's French forward Kylian Mbappe (right).
Arsene Wenger says goodbye to Arsenal after 22 years
The long-serving Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, was given a guard of honour before the Gunners thrashed Burnley 5-0. He made an emotional speech on the Emirates pitch at the end of his last home game as Arsenal manager. The 68-year-old French manager confessed that he was an Arsenal fan. He also said that Arsenal was a way of life for him.During his 22-year stay at Arsenal, Wenger managed 1,228 games with a winning ratio of 57.3%. During his tenure, Arsenal scored 2,285 goals in various competitions.
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