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Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, the superstar British tennis player who battled for public acceptance until his ultimate triumph on grass this year, has won 2013 BBC Sports Personality of the Year in a landslide.

The Scot, who was the first Great Britain player to win the hallowed grass tournament in 77 years when he beat Seabian Novak Djokovic in the summer, got 56 per cent of the total 717,454 votes for the annual award.

"I'd like to thank all the public who voted, for giving me so much support over the last couple of years," said Murray, who was in Miami during the gala ceremony in Leeds. "It's made a huge difference."

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova was on hand in Floria to present to the trophy to Murray, who was third last year in the same award after finishing as runner-up at Wimbledon. 

"Thanks to Martina for giving this to me. She's possibly the greatest tennis player of all time," Murray said. 

"I've got a few people to thank - my family first. A lot are there in the crowd. They've supported me since I was a kid, making a lot of sacrifices for me. I couldn't have done it without you.

"My team are also all standing behind the camera here. They've been with me for a long time and I also couldn't have done it without them. Thank you to all of them."

Murray added his appreciation for fans who'd stuck with him through his evolution as a player, and apologised for sounding boring. 

"I know sometimes I'm not the easiest person to support but I've had a lot of pressure on me for a long time. I'm glad I managed to do it," he said.

"No matter how excited I try to sound, my voice always sounds boring - that's just my voice. I'm sorry. I'm very excited right now. Thank you very much everyone."

Despite carrying the England batting line-up during the Ashes here in the summer, Ian Bell got the wooden spoon in voting. 

The British and Irish Lions won Team of the Year after breaking a 16-year drought for a series win when they beat Australia 2-1 while Warren Gatland added to his accolades with the coach of the year gong. 

The vote count was released by BBC: 

Murray: 401,470

Leigh Halfpenny: 65,913

AP McCoy: 57,854

Mo Farah: 51,945

Ben Ainslie: 48,140

Chris Froome: 37,343

Hannah Cockroft: 26,151

Christine Ohuruogu: 13,179

Justin Rose: 9,833

Ian Bell: 5,626

Images via Getty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Give it a Bash: The Aussie Twenty20 fest is a star-studded affair

 

The KFC Twenty20 Big Bash League is back from December 20 with Sky Sports kindly showing a large serving of the Australian tournament live in the UK (Channel 10 has the rights in Oz).

So what better chance to see who's lining up for who and how they're shaping up for season 2014. 

 

BRISBANE HEAT

The defending champions boast the toast of the summer, Mitchell Johnson, who will surely be key for the Aussie ODI side. They also boast destructive Test and T20 all-rounder Shane Watson and the unsung hero of the Test series Ryan Harris. Internationally English keeper Craig Kieswetter can tear attacks apart on his day while New Zealand spinner Daniel Vettori remains world class. Luke Pomersbach will be important with the bad while Dan Christian will be pushing to get back into the national set-up. The Heat will also be without Test coach Darren Lehmann.

Stars to watch: Craig Kieswetter (England), Shane Watson, Dan Christian, James Hopes, Mitchell Johnson, Daniel Vettori (New Zealand)

 

ADELAIDE STRIKERS

With a big signing in England's Alex Hales from Melbourne Renegades to bolster their batting stocks, the Strikers will be keen to improve last season's disappointing finish. However, he could end up spending more time with his national team than the South Aussies. Phillip Hughes is also in good nick, with plenty to prove. With the ball Kane Richardson is a T20 gun while Johan Botha's super slow spin is a nightmare for batsmen to get away. 

Stars to watch: Hales, Hughes, Callum Ferguson, Johan Botha (South Africa), Shaun Tait

 

PERTH SCORCHERS

Finalists in the 2012 edition, the West Aussies have a host of all-rounders at their disposal again including Mitchell Marsh, Adam Voges and Brad Hogg. Shaun Marsh is scoring at will - tops of the six hitters last year with 16 - while the cool head of Simon Katich will be handy as ever. Road to recovery Test paceman Patrick Cummins could cause some worries while Nathan Coulter-Nile is fancied also (he was waiting in the wings in case Ryan Harris wasn't fit in Perth). 

Stars to watch: Shaun Marsh, Dwayne Smith (West Indies), Alfonso Thomas (South Africa), Patrick Cummins

 

SYDNEY SIXERS

The former World Champions are hindered by their wealth of Test players - Steve Smith, Brad Haddin and Nathan Lyon - while left-arm quick Mitchell Starc isn't fit. Then there's the potential limited overs internationals they could lose including Moises Henriques for Australia and Englands Ravi Bopara and Michael Lumb. Big Mark Cosgrove will have to be the enforcer while Marcus North's addition from the Scorchers brings experience. A good chance to have a look at rising talent Jordan Silk too. 

Stars to watch: Brad Haddin, Michael Lumb, Steven Smith, Ravi Bopara, Brett Lee

 

MELBOURNE RENEGADES

The quality of this squad will also hit it hard during the limited overs series in January. Aaron Finch will surely be one of the first picked in the Aussie yellows, while Peter Siddle may be rested if not in the ODI side. Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez is a terrific addition though at the top of the order, while one of the greatest spinners of all time Muthiah Muralidaran leads the spinners with Australia's Fawad Ahmed. James Pattinson could also be fit again. 

Stars to watch: Aaron Finch, Mohammad Hafeez (Pakistan), James Pattinson, Muthiah Muralidaran (Sri Lanka).

 

HOBART HURRICANES

The loss of the great Ricky Ponting is massive for last year's strugglers, while swing bowler Ben Hilfenhaus isn't quite match fit. George Bailey too is in the Test team now, but thankfully for them giant Travis Birt is still inexplicably out of the national side (he had a lean 2012 but is scary when on song). Keeper Tim Paine is also a talent looking to get back to his best. Pakistani imports Shoaib Malik and Owais Shah are also outstanding T20 journeymen. Ben Laughlin and Doug Bollinger (also with the Test squad in Perth) will be key with the ball. 

Stars to watch: Travis Birt, Tim Paine, Owais Shah (Pakistan), Aiden Blizzard, George Bailey, Shoaib Malik (Pakistan), Ben Laughlin

 

SYDNEY THUNDER

Another great line-up, but who plays for the western Sydney-based side will be key. Michael Clarke will unlikely line-up and Chris Gayle is no longer among them and David Warner will also be on international duty. On the flip side, they have a new skipper in retired Test genius Michael Hussey along with more than useful internationals in  experienced Sri Lanka opener Tillakaratne Dilshan and (Irish) Englishman Eoin Morgan. Chris Woakes is another English addition while Sri Lankan leg-spinner Ajantha Mendis will try to get what he can out of the Homebush deck.

Stars to watch: David Warner, Tillakaratne Dilshan (Sri Lanka), Eoin Morgan (England), Mike Hussey, Michael Clarke, Usman Khawaja, Chris Woakes, Ajantha Mendis (Sri Lanka), Dirk Nannes.

 

MELBOURNE STARS

A well-balanced line-up led by Cameron White, who excelled in the shorter form in England for Hampshire this year. England's Luke Wright is destructive, but as with Aussie Glen Maxwell will be with the national team, as will paceman Clint McKay. David Hussey's experience is valuable while young all-rounder James Faulkner is injured and keeper Matthew Wade is the preferred ODI gloveman for Australia. Brad Hodge and Rob Quiney will expect to be the mainstays with the bat while slinger Lasith Malinga is probably the best T20 pace bowler in the world with his unplayable yorkers. 

Stars to watch: Brad Hodge, Luke Wright (England), Glenn Maxwell, David Hussey, Cameron White, Rob Quiney, Lasith Malinga.

 

 

Fanning master of the waves again with dramatic win in Honolulu

Aussie surfer Mick Fanning is world champion for the third time, winning his first season title in six years at the Pipe Masters in Honolulu Hawaii.

Two heat wins with the key wave in the last 90 seconds secured the trophy for the Gold Coast rider. 

Behind in the fifth round he snatched victory with his final effort of 9.5 to beat CJ Hopgood. 

Then, when behind in the quarter-final against world number 32 Australian Yadin Nicol, Fanning needed 9.57 to make the semis - he scored a 9.70.

"I just saw the set on the horizon, and I thought 'alright, whatever's going to come, I'm just going to try and pick the right one,'" Fanning said.

"That wave came and it was so beautiful.

"I'm just overwhelmed with emotion right now, its incredible."

Fanning bowed out in the semi, but he'd done just enough to hold off the charge of Kelly Slater, who would go on to win his seventh Pipe Masters with a win in the final over 2012 World Champ Joel Parkinson. 

 

 

 

Sonny Bill stripped of heavyweight title after ignoring challengers

Sonny Bill Williams is now 'only' a Rugby Union World Cup winner and Rugby League World Cup finalist after he was stripped of his his New Zealand heavyweight boxing title. 

New Zealand Professional Boxing Association had no choice after the freakish athlete didn't respond to mandatory challenges to his crown within a six-month deadline, having won the crown against Clarence Tillman almost two years back. 

Williams had earlier last week given up his dubious 'international' World Boxing Association belt won against South African Francois Botha in February this year. 

The only challenge to Williams belt came three months ago from NZNBF champ Joseph Parker for a $1.2m purse, but Williams' management hadn't responded. 

"We haven't heard a thing back and, personally, that's rude," NZPBA president Lance Revill told NZ Newswire.

"He's not even said he's received the challenge and that they're going to think about it. If that was the case we'd hold off, but we've got no choice now but to strip the title."

Williams, 28, has signed on to one more year at Sydney Roosters in a bid to defend their NRL Premiership and after making the choice hadn't committed to any future bouts. 

The code-jumper who starred for New Zealand in the World Cup in the UK is unbeaten in his six professional fights. 

Images via Getty

 

 

 

 

Santa came early, thousands of him, and 

 

Thousands of revellers dressed as Father Christmas have invaded London for the annual Santacon celebration.

The gathering, which is part flash mob, part pub crawl, sees the capital transformed into a world of only red and white figures.

Starting in Trafalgar Square, the Santas usually bring plenty of alcohol to keep up the festive cheer, before heading off to bars elsewhere around London.

The event is described on the official website as a "non-profit, non-political, non-religious celebratory parade of Christmas cheer, goodwill, and fun."

Santas are encouraged to sing, hand out presents even have strangers sit on their lap.

It has been claimed Santacons have been held in as many as 300 cities worldwide, but they aren't always given a warm welcome.

Some bar owners in New York have complained about bad behaviour including fights and people being sick in previous years ahead of this year's gathering.

The London organisers encourage Santas to be "friendly, respectful, and cooperative with police".

 

 

 

 

 

 

Santa sent millions of letters a year

 

Updated: 06:08, Thursday December 12, 2013

 

 

Santa Claus, the Three Wise men and other guardians of Christmas traditions receive 8 million letters per year, even as the internet era has made traditional mail less popular, the UN post agency says.

The number of children's letters to these Christmas figures has risen by a third over the past five years, the Universal Postal Union (UPU) said.

Although the letters are often simply addressed to 'Santa, North Pole' or to 'Father Christmas', postal workers in countries ranging from Brazil to Finland to Lebanon make sure that they are not returned as undeliverable.

In several countries, services have been set up so that children receive actual replies to their letters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

World Cup: Can the Socceroos survive the death zone?

 

Sebastian Hassett looks at the frightening form of our three World Cup group rivals.

 

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Game changers: The star-studded Spain side has won two European titles either side of their breakthrough World Cup victory.

 

Game changers: The star-studded Spain side has won two European titles either side of their breakthrough World Cup victory. Photo: Kathy Willens

 

CHILE

 

(v Australia in Cuiaba, June 13)

 

Rank: 15

Impressive: Robin van Persie and his Dutch teammates can start making plans for Brazil.

 

Formidable: Robin van Persie is the Netherlands' all-time leading goalscorer. Photo: AP

 

Australia's first World Cup opponent returns to the game's biggest stage after making it to the final 16 four years ago.

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Chile did well to advance considering that Spain was in their group and the Spaniards lost their opening match to Switzerland. But the South Americans were unperturbed, posting tight 1-0 wins over Honduras and then the Swiss, only coming unstuck against Brazil in the knockout phase.

 

Undoubtedly, this is a better unit four years on. Now ranked 15th in the world and with a World Cup on their home continent, there's never been a better time for Chile to shine.

Clinched the win: Chile's Alexis Sanchez.

 

On fire: Chile's Barcelona superstar Alexis Sanchez. Photo: AP

 

After their qualifying campaign hit the skids, losing four in a row, Chile bounced back with five wins and a draw in their final six games. In recent months they beat England 2-0 at Wembley and drew 2-2 with Spain. In the 2011 Copa America, they topped a tough group featuring Uruguay, Peru and Mexico. However, whether it is good enough to escape from a group containing two tournament contenders, and a potential banana skin thrown in by Ange Postecoglou's men first up, will be an even greater test. Look for the Chileans to play with attacking flair in the front third but with plenty of mongrel in midfield and defence.

 

Australia's best hope: Although clearly no slouch, Chile is the team Australia has the best chance of defeating. If the Socceroos are to have any chance of qualifying, three points here are a necessity. The Socceroos could put some aerial pressure on Chile if fringe defender Marcos Gonzalez - their only potential defender over six foot (1.82m) - isn't selected.

 

Chile's three key players

 

Alexis Sanchez (striker): Has emerged as the world class player capable of dragging Chile back to the top. If anyone doubted his quality, it was there to see as he scored both goals in Chile's 2-0 win over England at Wembley. He cost Barcelona €37 million when they bought him from Udinese in 2011 and has complemented the Catalans' amazing front line, racking up 27 league goals. Could even be a golden boot contender in Brazil.

 

Arturo Vidal (central midfielder): The news that Vidal has just signed an extension with Juventus has come as a great relief to their fans, because they wouldn't be in contention for the Serie A title without him. He's already scored six goals in the league and five in the Champions League.

 

Upon re-signing him, Juventus issued a statement declaring him one "one of the most complete players in the world" who could "play in any role". He's as prolific setting up goals, adding 15 assists to his 11 goal haul (in all club competitions) last season. He scored five times in World Cup qualifying.

 

Gary Medel (defensive midfielder): Since leaving the domestic scene in 2009, Medel has gone from strength to strength, firstly with Argentina's biggest club Boca Juniors and then with glamour Spanish side Seville.

 

However, he should be better known here after making the switch to newly promoted Cardiff City in the off-season for a club record £11 million fee. On his home debut against Manchester City, a match Cardiff surprised all by winning, Medel was granted man of the match honours. At 26, he's coming into the peak of his powers.

 

NETHERLANDS

 

(v Australia in Porto Alegre, June 18)

 

Rank: 9

 

Of all the nations that haven't won a World Cup but should have, the Netherlands are now miles in front, having made three World Cup finals since 1970 and lost each time.

 

Four years ago, the Dutch were only four minutes away from a penalty shootout that could have delivered their first piece of global silverware. A scramble in the box and a quick finish from Andres Iniesta put paid to any dreams of a victory in South Africa.

 

Though European teams have historically struggled to make an impact at tournaments in South America, the Dutch were arguably the best team at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina and fell to the hosts - who qualified with a dubious 6-0 win over Peru - only at the last hurdle. There would be a great sense of justice if Louis van Gaal can bring the Jules Rimet Trophy home 36 years later.

 

The Dutch come in as something of a wildcard - potentially good enough to go all the way but no certainty to advance beyond the second round, especially if they finish second in this group and are drawn against Brazil. This incarnation of the Dutch is typically stocked with world-class attacking talent, led by Robin van Persie and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. However, their defence is not as strong. Though right-back Gregory van der Wiel and centre-half Ron Vlaar are fine players, the other defensive roles remain very much up for grabs. Fulham keeper Maarten Stekelenburg, who starred in the 2010 World Cup between the posts, will need to be at his best.

 

Australia's best hope: What stock do you place in history? Hopefully a bit - because the Dutch have never beaten Australia. In three matches since 2006, there's been two draws and a 2-1 victory for Australia in 2009.

 

The Netherlands' three key players

 

Robin van Persie (striker): The best player in the world's biggest league, the Dutchman is no slouch for the Oranje, either. He's scored a record 41 goals for the national team, recently overtaking Patrick Kluivert, Dennis Bergkamp and Ruud van Nistelrooy. What makes van Persie that extra bit special is his uncanny ability to conjure goals from nothing. In a league where the spectacular has become normal, some of van Persie's efforts still manage to surprise. At 30, this looks like his final chance to win a World Cup and break the Dutch drought.

 

Arjen Robben (right winger): Why did Chelsea and Real Madrid sell this magician? Robben was a prodigy when he came through with Groningen and PSV, and played just as well in England and Spain. Yet in 2009, he ended up with Bayern Munich - and nobody could quite figure out why. Either way, his career since joining the German champions has exploded. Playing as a left-footed right winger, his partnership with Franck Ribery has helped guide the Bavarians to Europe's greatest heights. Given the Socceroos' problems at left-back, Robben is poised to take great advantage.

 

Wesley Sneijder (attacking midfielder): Like Robben, there's a bit of a mystery as to how Sneijder - one of the best players in Europe on his day - ended up at his current club. Now at Galatasaray, Sneijder has struck up a partnership with Didier Drogba to help fire the Turkish club to the last 16 of the Champions League. There's talk that Manchester United are keen to bring him back from the Bosphorus. A big showing at the World Cup would remind the rest of Europe's big clubs how good Sneijder still is.

 

SPAIN

 

(v Australia in Curitiba, June 23)

 

Rank: 1

 

With the race for supremacy getting fiercer, you'd think it would be impossible for one nation to stay at the summit for long.

 

That was until this once-in-a-generation team came along. Brazil will be the last time this group comes together for an international tournament - there's almost no way Xavi, David Villa, Xabi Alonso and Carles Puyol will be there for Euro 2016. Since 2008, they've won two European Championships and the World Cup.

 

The Spanish are responsible for engineering the game's most recent tactical phenomenon after years of defensive drudgery. Their style sparked a revolution, proving that the team with the highest number of quality possessions in the right areas of the pitch would almost certainly win the match.

 

Teams tried to counteract the Spaniards but rarely came up with a solution to last the 90 minutes. Curiously, one team did in the last World Cup - Switzerland. It was the only defeat inflicted on La Roja in the whole tournament.

 

Australia's best hope: There's a chance that by the time the two teams meet, Spain will have already qualified and may look to rotate their squad. Who knows - that might lead to a sliver of complacency and an opportunity for the Socceroos to steal a hard-earned point.

 

Spain's three key players

 

Xavi Hernandez (central midfielder): At 33, this is one last chance to see arguably the defining player of modern football's defining method. For lovers of Barcelona's tiki-taka, he is the poster boy with his club and national teams built around his inch-perfect mannerisms.

 

Xavi has the master key for unlocking every defence. His sublime passing combines intelligence and skill, not to mention exquisite ball control. For all the talk of Barca's brilliant academy, it's hard to imagine how they will produce another player of his ilk for decades to come.

 

David Villa (striker): An icon of the past decade, Villa averages a goal every second game in club football and has an even better record at the international level. With 58 goals in 95 games, he can't ever be discounted as a goal-scoring threat.

 

Villa's quality comes from having the rare ability to be a penalty box poacher and a threat from range. His quick instincts and accuracy should ensure he adds a few more in Brazil.

 

Sergio Ramos (central defender): It's hard to believe that Ramos is only 27. With 115 caps to his name, the first coming as an 18-year old, he is veteran of the international stage. He's taken the mantle from Puyol as the main man in defence.

 

The legendary Paolo Maldini reckons Ramos "has everything to become the best defender in the world, if he is not already. He is very close, together with [Brazil's] Thiago Silva, but he must perfect some things to be the undisputed No. 1." Not a bad appraisal.

 

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/sport/soccer/world-cup-can-the-socceroos-survive-the-death-zone-20131213-2zd12.html#ixzz2nOHUsJbL


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'Boring' ain't so bad as Andy Murray wins BBC Sports Personality of the Year in a landslide
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