Sent packing: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Benitez and England’s cricket team

A look at the sporting weekend’s big winners and losers

Novak Djokovic (centre) arrives in Dubai after leaving Australia
Novak Djokovic (centre) arrives in Dubai after leaving Australia
(Image credit: STR/AFPTV/AFP via Getty Images)

1. Djokovic: ‘I hope that we can all now focus on the game’


The 2022 Australian Open grand slam has begun in Melbourne without the defending men’s champion. World No.1 Novak Djokovic, a nine-time winner in Australia, was deported from the country yesterday after losing a “last-ditch” court bid, the BBC reported. The unvaccinated tennis star appealed Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s decision to cancel his visa on “health and good order” grounds, but judges rejected the challenge.

Before flying to Dubai, Djokovic issued a statement saying he was “extremely disappointed” by the Australian court’s ruling. He does, however, respect the decision. “I cannot stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open,” the 20-time grand slam champion said. “I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me and I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love.”

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Djokovic vs. Nadal vs. Federer: career records and grand slams

2. ‘Gutless, spineless and pathetic’


Novak Djokovic is not the only person to suffer a huge defeat in Australia… the England cricket team are also hurting after getting hammered 4-0 in The Ashes. England collapsed again as they were beaten in the fifth and final Test of the series in Hobart.

In their second innings, Joe Root’s side lost all ten wickets for just 56 runs as Australia sealed a 146-run victory inside three days. Root judged the performance as incredibly soft – this was an “incredibly generous” verdict, The Guardian said. “Not least when words like gutless, spineless or pathetic must surely have been on his mind.”

Despite another Ashes humiliation Down Under, Root wants to continue captaining England’s Test side. “I’d love the opportunity to take this team forward and turn things round,” he said.

3. Robertson: Brady is a massive inspiration


Yet another Australian celebrating sporting success this weekend was snooker player Neil Robertson. At Alexandra Palace in London yesterday, the 39-year-old beat Barry Hawkins 10-4 to win his second Masters title. Winning multiple world championships is now “the last thing to tick”, he said.

Robertson revealed that he takes inspiration from NFL star Tom Brady – the 44-year-old Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback who is aiming to win an eighth Super Bowl title this year. “It’s not too late to become a three or four-time world champion,” Robertson said. “Look at Tom Brady, he is a massive inspiration. When you have people like that carrying the flag you can achieve anything well into your 40s. You just have to stay confident and keep believing.”

4. Who will replace Benitez at Goodison Park?


Everton are searching for a new manager after sacking Rafael Benitez. The Spaniard’s six-and-a-half-month spell in charge at Goodison Park came to an end after his side lost 2-1 to Norwich City on Saturday. The Toffees have won just once in the Premier League since September and following the defeat at Norwich they are 15th in the table and just six points above the relegation zone.

Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard are two names “under consideration” to replace Benitez, Sky Sports News said. Former boss Roberto Martinez and Brighton head coach Graham Potter are also linked.

Duncan Ferguson, Everton’s assistant manager, could take over on an interim basis as the club considers options, The i Paper reported. People close to Ferguson believe he may press for the chance to do the job on a long-term basis. “He will certainly unite the fans – unlike his predecessor.”

5. Premier League was a ‘massive loser’


Though “not quite as massive” as Rafa Benitez, the Premier League itself was a “massive loser” this weekend, said Richard Jolly on With many players injured, out on loan or suspended, Arsenal requested to have the North London Derby at Tottenham postponed and this was accepted by the league.

Once again, we have the “farcical situation of clubs in the richest league in the world, with huge numbers of players, claiming they don’t have enough”, Jolly added. This is “a mess” of the Premier League’s making – rules are “being abused; they have been for weeks, by multiple clubs”.