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In recent southern summers, Andy Murray has arrived determined to end his run of gallant seconds at the n Open, a tournament where he has managed to be on the wrong side of five finals.
This time, his goals are far more modest. The man who was No.1 in the world up until last August simply wants to get back on the court as he continues to spar with a hip injury that has sidelined him since Wimbledon.
On Sunday, Murray confirmed his long-awaited return to the ATP Tour would take place at the Brisbane International, with the 30-year-old triple Grand Slam winner to take the court in the second round on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Now ranked 16, the Scot has endured the longest injury lay-off of his professional career but feels he is making steady progress. A 75-minute practice with Argentine world No.68 Federico Delbonis included more hits than misses, he said, but top-level matches will be far more instructive.
“I feel like I’m getting better. You need to play matches. You need to play against the best players to gain confidence in the way your body and hip is feeling. My hip feels way better than it did at Wimbledon and way better than it did at the US Open, which is good,” Murray said.
???”I felt OK today [Sunday] actually, better than I did in the [exhibition] match in Abu Dhabi. I’m going to get better with each day I practise with better players.
“I feel fresh, certainly mentally. I don’t feel like there are many miles in my legs at all, which wasn’t the case at the beginning of 2017. Most days I was quite sore all over. Right now, the hip is the only thing that is any concern. The rest of the body feels really good.”
The tour can be a draining grind for even those at the pointy end of the rankings, which is why Murray has been pleasantly surprised in how much he’s missed the sport. Staring at the wall in a gym can do that to an athlete, although it’s not as if he returns with delusions of immediate grandeur.
For a man accustomed to being one of the Big Four of the men’s tour, Murray appears to be taking his current predicament in a surprisingly good spirits. He’s not sure whether he will be able to scale his former heights and if that’s the case, so be it.
“My expectations aren’t massively high just now, because I’ve not played for such a long time. Also, I just want to enjoy playing again. I really missed it the last six months or so, you kind of re-evaluate what’s important to you,” Murray said.
“I want to play tennis… I don’t mind if it’s 30 in the world level. I’d love it to be No.1 of the world level. But I just want to play. When that’s taken away from you, you realise how important it is. I’m just hoping I can get back to a level where I can be competitive. If I don’t [play my best tennis] I’m OK with that, I just want to keep playing.
“On a day-to-day basis it’s difficulty to tell what my level is. Having such high expectations for quite a long time, when I have a few bad days, I feel like I’m playing poorly but it might be good enough to beat top 30, top 40 in the world. It’s difficult to tell.”
What he knows for certain is that he can’t keep punishing his body at the current pace, nor has he been surprised by the injuries to fellow top-liners Rafael Nadal (knee), who was a late withdrawal in Brisbane, and Novak Djokovic (elbow), who may miss the first slam of the year.
“I’ll make some changes to my schedule this year. I’ll play less than I have in the past to give my body time to rest and recover. I wouldn’t say I’ve overplayed but just the way the schedule is, there’s not loads of breaks. I want to be healthy and back on the court.
“I think most players probably love playing tennis, enjoy it, realise how lucky you are to do it as a job. So I’d want to play as long as I could. To physically do that, most players would feel the same way, giving yourself breaks, especially as you start to get older, I think is very important and something that I’ll be looking to do for however long I keep playing.”
1. Who is the captain of the Sydney Swans?
2. In which sport did Harley Windsor and Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya win the junior world championship this year?
3. Who won ‘s only gold medal at the world swimming championships in Budapest?
4. Who is ‘s highest ranked singles tennis player?
5. Which country defeated in the semi-final of the Davis Cup?
6. Which n won two stages of the Tour de France?
7. Which country defeated in the semi-final of the women’s cricket world cup?
8. Who has taken the most wickets in Test cricket this year?
9. Which Matilda was named AFC footballer of the year?
10. Who won golf’s US Masters?
11. Which horse, trainer and jockey won the the Melbourne Cup?
12. Which club won the inaugural AFL Women’s competition?
13. Who did Cameron Smith overtake as the NRL’s games record-holder?
14. Who was the MVP of the National Basketball Association?
15. Which n beat Manny Pacquiao to win the WBO welterweight title?
16. How many games did the Wallabies win in 2017?
17. In what event did Sally Pearson win her second world title?
18. Which country was banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang?
19. Which football club became the first team to defend their UEFA Champions League title in the open era?
20. Which Major League Baseball team won the World Series?
21. Who became ‘s first ever UFC world champion in 2017?
22. Which team won the inaugural Super Netball title?
23. Who was the leading point scorer in the NRL?
24. What does Winx’s current unbeaten streak stand at?
25. Which team won the Super Rugby title?
26. Who won the Coleman Medal in the AFL?
27. Which two players scored 10 or more Test tries in international rugby?
28. Which team did Sydney FC defeat in the A-League Grand Final?
29. Which four players played all 14 Tests for the Wallabies?
???30. In boxing, who is currently the world heavyweight champion?
31. Who became the first n to play in the NHL?
32. How many majors did Roger Federer win in 2017?
33. Which n won the overall World Cup title in the C1 class canoeing this year?
34. Which player won the Johnny Warren Medal, awarded to the A-League’s best player?
35. Which NRL player had part of a finger amputated in December?
36. The New England Patriots completed the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history – how many points were they losing by? 15, 20 or 25?
37. Which horse won the inaugural Everest race in Sydney?
38. Name the men’s and women’s world surfing champions:
39. Which two male n cricketers made their Test debuts this year?
40. Aaron Mooy earned promotion to the Premier League with which English football team?
41. How many games did the Perth Wildcats lose in their two play-off series en route to winning the NBL title?
42. What do Lasqueti Spirit, Le Romain, Hartnell, Happy Clapper, Ventura Storm and Humidor have in common?
43. won both the men’s and women’s Rugby League World Cups – who were their respective opponents in the two finals?
44. Three different golfers from which nation won women’s golf majors in 2017?
45. Which Queensland player scored the late try that broke New South Wales hearts in State of Origin II?
46. Which two n venues hosted Day/Night Tests this year?
47. Before Italy famously crashed out of the 2018 World Cup play-off against Sweden, when was the last time they missed the tournament?
48. Which pair of drivers won this year’s Bathurst 1000?
49. How many teams will compete in the inaugural women’s NRL competition, which was announced in December?
50. How many of Formula 1’s 20 races did champion Lewis Hamilton win?
1: Josh Kennedy
2: Figure skating
3: Emily Seebohm (200m backstroke)
4: Ashleigh Barty, world no. 17
6: Michael Matthews
8: Nathan Lyon
9: Samantha Kerr
10: Sergio Garcia
11: Rekindling, ridden by Corey Brown and trained by Joseph O’Brien
???12: Adelaide Crows
13: Darren Lockyer
14: Russell Westbrook
15: Jeff Horn
17: 100m hurdles
19: Real Madrid
20: Houston Astros
21: Robert Whittaker
22: Sunshine Coast Lightning
23: Nathan Cleary (Penrith)
26: Lance Franklin (Swans)
27: Israel Folau and Rieko Ioane
28: Melbourne Victory
29: Michael Hooper, Reece Hodge, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Sekope Kepu
30: Anthony Joshua
31: Nathan Walker
32: Two (n Open and Wimbledon)
33: Jessica Fox
34: Milo?? Ninkovi??
35: Angus Crichton
36: 25 points
38: John John Florence and Tyler Wright
39: Cameron Bancroft and Hilton Cartwright
40: Huddersfield Town
42: They all finished second to Winx in 2017
43: England (men) and New Zealand (women)
44: South Korea (Park Sung-hyun, In-Hyung Kim and Ryu So-yeon)
45: Dane Gagai
46: Adelaide Oval and North Sydney Oval
48: David Reynolds and Luke Youlden
A looming heatwave in early 2018 is unlikely to augur an exceptionally hot year for as a weak La Nina in the Pacific will start to tilt the odds to relatively cool and wet conditions for much of the nation, forecasters say.
By the first weekend, many populated regions will have copped temperatures close to or above 40 degrees as a pulse of heat sweeps across southern . Melbourne can expect 39 degrees on Saturday while parts of western Sydney may reach 40 and 44 degrees on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
The longer-term forecast, though, is for a relatively damp start to the year. The latest Bureau of Meteorology climate outlook for the first three months of 2018 show the odds favour more rain than usual for almost all of the country. (See chart below).
“The cloud and the rain reduces the chance of getting searing heat,” Brett Dutschke, a senior meteorologist with Weatherzone, said.
Mr Dutschke said sea-surface temperatures were “still fairly high” – particularly off south-eastern – creating conditions for above-average rain.
Still, the warm end to 2017 – likely to be among ‘s five warmest years in records that go back to 1910 – means any relative easing in temperatures may barely be noticeable for many regions.
La Nina events typically mean eastern turns wetter and cooler than usual, as a strengthening of easterly winds along the equatorial Pacific drags more rain westwards.
The La Nina, though, is expected to be weak and end by autumn, the bureau predicts.
Break in the weather: summer may turn cooler and wetter than average. Photo: Jason SouthHeat in places
The south-eastern corner of the nation, though, can get hotter than usual weather during La Ninas, and the next few months look like following that pattern.
A region spanning west of Adelaide and taking in eastern Victoria and Tasmania can expect above-average daytime temperatures over the January-March period, particularly during January, the bureau said.
While heavy rains drenched eastern Victoria in early December, areas to the west of a line roughly running from Melbourne north to Echuca on the Murray mostly missed out, said Craig Lapsley, Victoria’s emergency management commissioner.
“We move back into really hot weather again” in the first week of January, he said.
Places of most concern for fire authorities in Victoria include Warburton, Healesville and the Otways. These areas near Melbourne swell with holiday visitors.
Tarps cover damage done by giant hailstones after a storm in February 2017 over Sydney’s Rouse Hill. Photo: Nick MoirNSW fire threat
For NSW, recent soaking rains and storms have eased the fire threat, especially in the state’s north-east.
Still, the 100-odd fires that were started by lightning just prior to Christmas showed risks remain high for many parts of the state, said Ben Shepherd, senior spokesman for the NSW Rural Fire Service.
Inspector Shepherd said the dry winter and spring of 2017 had left much of NSW with unusually dry fuel loads.
According to the Keetch-Byram Drought Index used by the RFS, a region stretching from Nowra on the south coast up to Sydney and through the Hunter Valley remains particularly dry. (See chart below.)
Areas in Sydney’s north and west, such as Terrey Hills and Richmond, have soil moisture readings worse than in 2002-03, a summer of major fires. (See below.)
“It probably needs 80-100 millimetres of rain to bring conditions back to where they would normally sit for this time of year,” Inspector Shepherd said. Energy watch
Also watching the skies closely over the coming months will be governments wary of blackouts if the electricity sector fails to cope with surging demand for cooling.
Last summer, South suffered outages and NSW came close during a February heatwave.
This year, the network supplying eastern is lacking Victoria’s Hazelwood power station after its closure last March, while another ailing plant, AGL’s Liddell in the Hunter Valley, will be down one of its four 420-megawatt units possibly until February.
With Victoria’s Hazelwood power station closed, power supplies could be strained again this summer. Photo: Joe ArmaoCyclone watch
Another threat may come with cyclones, although the worst of the impacts are typically restricted to the less-populated north of the country.
La Nina years typically have an above average number of cyclones crossing the n coast.
So far, this summer has had a relatively quiet start to the cyclone season, as did the 2016-17 year.
In fact, the whole southern hemisphere has been seen relatively few cyclones, with record low levels since accurate records began with the satellite era about four decades ago, according to Philip Klotzbach, a research scientist in the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University. Southern Hemisphere Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) is only 8% of normal for the 2017/18 season to date – the lowest Southern Hemisphere ACE on record from July 1 through December 29. pic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/vbIYjByn1R??? Philip Klotzbach (@philklotzbach) December 30, 2017 read more
Jets say their club-first approach is set to pay dividends BELIEVER: Roy O’Donovan signed with the Jets after hearing the plans for the club. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
TweetFacebookTHE Newcastle Jets begin 2018 in second position in the A-League, W-League and Youth League.
It’s a worthy achievement considering the Jets collected the A-League wooden spoon last season, haven’t played in the W-League finals in nine years and were also-rans in youth league.
Although there is still plenty of football to be played, chief executive Lawrie McKinna believes the parameters are in place for the club to have on-going success.
Read more: Jets on the same flight path for Sydney blockbuster
Infact, McKinna hasa long-term plan for the Jets to become “the best professional sporting club in on and off the park”.
“We had a staff development day with Momentum Business Improvement Specialists in July and as a club -players, coaches and administration staff -we set a goal of being the best club in . That doesn’t mean we have to win every week.
It also takes into accountthings like promotion, relationship with fans and themedia, a successful academy… To do that we all have to work together. If we don’t,we don’t have a club.”
Womens League: Coach Craig Deans says there’s a long way to go to secure finals spot
The Jets this season tookcontrol of the W-League and the Emerging Jets, now known as the Jets Academy, from Northern NSW Football, who remain a partner.
“Our vision is to be one big club,” McKinna said. “Whether you are an under-14 player, a W-League player or girls academy player, you play for the Newcastle Jets. We would love everybody at the same complex but it just can’t happen.”
At the top of the tree is the A-League team.
Owner Martin Lee, after taking stock in is first year in charge, has significantly increased the Jets’ resources and made the club a more attractive option for high calibre players.
Sport: Clubs’ New Year’s resolutions for 2018
“When you first come into a club everything is in place,” McKinna said.
“You can’t just scrap it all because not everything is wrong.We had to slowly tweak things.We wanted to make an environment where players enjoycoming to work. Lifestyle was a big thing.
A lot of players came to the club after we had finished bottom. Roy O’Donovan had offers everywhere, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Daniel Georgievski had other options but chose to come here.
“They believed in what we were trying to do.”