Sport shorts: Thiem to face Djokovic in the Australian Open final and forget Brexit Day, it’s transfer deadline day

Ten things from the world of sport on Friday 31 January

Dominic Thiem celebrates his semi-final victory over Alexander Zverev
Dominic Thiem celebrates his semi-final victory over Alexander Zverev 
(Image credit: Kelly Defina/Getty Images )

1. A huge weekend of sport ahead

Tomorrow and Sunday will see a number of major sporting events on the schedule.

The weekend starts with the Australian Open women’s singles final between Sofia Kenin and Garbine Muguruza at 8.30am (GMT).

Also tomorrow is the first two matches in the Six Nations rugby championship. Wales play Italy in Cardiff (2.15pm) then Ireland host Scotland in Dublin (4.45pm).

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On Sunday morning Novak Djokovic will aim to defend his Australian Open men’s singles title. Serbian Djokovic, a 16-time grand slam champion, plays Dominic Thiem in the Melbourne final.

The big sporting weekend concludes with England against France in the Six Nations in Paris (3pm) and the NFL Super Bowl between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers in Miami.

Super Bowl LIV starts at 11.30pm on Sunday night and is live on Sky Sports and BBC Sport.

2020 sport event calendar and live TV guide: what’s on in February?

2. Thiem to take on Djokovic

Dominic Thiem will play Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open men’s singles final on Sunday.

In today’s semi-final clash Thiem secured a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-4) victory against Germany’s Alexander Zverev to earn his place in the showpiece final.

Austrian Thiem, 26, said: “To reach the Australian Open final is unreal. Two tie-breaks, so tough and so close, it was almost impossible to break him.”

Defending champion Djokovic is aiming for an eighth Australian Open title. Should he win at the weekend it would be the 17th grand slam title of his career.

Sunday’s final in Melbourne will start at 8.30am (GMT) and is live on Eurosport.

3. Furbank to make England debut

Northampton Saints full-back George Furbank will make his England debut on Sunday in the Six Nations clash against France. Anthony Watson’s injury means that head coach Eddie Jones has had to shuffle his backs for the trip to Paris.

Furbank’s selection at full-back means Elliot Daly will play on the left wing and Jonny May on the right. Captain Owen Farrell plays at inside centre, George Ford is fly-half and Ben Youngs is scrum-half.

England team to face France

  • Starting XV: 15. George Furbank, 14. Jonny May, 13. Manu Tuilagi, 12. Owen Farrell (captain), 11. Elliot Daly, 10. George Ford, 9. Ben Youngs; 1. Joe Marler, 2. Jamie George, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 4. Maro Itoje, 5. Charlie Ewels, 6. Courtney Lawes, 7. Sam Underhill, 8. Tom Curry
  • Replacements: 16. Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17. Ellis Genge, 18. Will Stuart, 19. George Kruis, 20. Lewis Ludlam, 21. Willi Heinz, 22. Ollie Devoto, 23. Jonathan Joseph

Six Nations round one preview: will brute force be enough to crush Les Bleus?

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4. Vomiting hippo predicts Super Bowl winner

A hippo in the United States is predicting a Super Bowl victory for the Kansas City Chiefs against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night.

Zookeepers at Cincinnati Zoo decided to ask Fiona the Hippo to pick which team would win the NFL showpiece. Confronted with the logos of the two teams, the hippo vomited on the Kansas one, ending any doubt over the matter.

Super Bowl LIV parties: where to watch in London

5. LPGA China event cancelled

The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) has confirmed that the Blue Bay event in China in March has been cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The LPGA said in a statement: “Any time you cancel an event, it is a difficult decision and we appreciate how hard our partners, the China LPGA and the China Golf Association have worked to host an incredible event.

“While we are disappointed that the tournament won’t take place this season, we look forward to going back to Blue Bay in 2021 and for many years to come.”

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton has won six Formula 1 world championships

(Image credit: Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

6. Hamilton: no talks yet with Mercedes

Six-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton has yet to start talks with Mercedes over a new contract. Reports had claimed that talks had “broken down” between the parties, but the British driver said on social media that he and team boss Toto Wolff “have not even spoken about [a] contract yet, nothing is being negotiated currently”.

7. Wigan win Super League opener

Rugby League’s Super League season got underway last night with Wigan Warriors beating Warrington Wolves 16-10. Warrington had captain Chris Hill sent off after just 23 minutes for a high tackle on Wigan’s Sam Powell.

Tonight Hull Kingston Rovers host Wakefield Trinity (7.45pm) and St Helens take on Salford Red Devils (7.45pm, live on Sky Sports).

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8. Messi stars on 500th Barca victory

Lionel Messi marked his 500th win as a Barcelona player by scoring twice in last night’s 5-0 victory over Leganes in the Copa del Rey round of 16.

Argentine Messi scored on 59 and 89 minutes to take his season tally to 19 goals in 23 appearances in all competitions for the Catalans.

Barca Blaugranes reports: “It has taken Messi 710 games to register his 500th victory, and he has scored 622 goals and picked up 241 assists along the way. Not bad.”

Messi vs. Ronaldo: all-time career goals and records

9. Forget Brexit Day, it’s transfer deadline day

Tonight at 11pm marks the moment when the United Kingdom officially leaves the European Union. But forget Brexit Day, at the same time there’s more important things happening...

When the clock strikes 11pm it will also mean the close of the January transfer window. Ahead of the window “slamming shut” Premier League and English Football League clubs will be busy speaking to agents and players in the hope of refreshing their squads for the remainder of the season.

Real Madrid star Gareth Bale has been linked with a return to Tottenham. However, Sky Sports reports that Real boss Zinedine Zidane has ruled out the Welshman leaving on deadline day.

10. Back pages: United sign Fernandes

Several papers splash photos of Bruno Fernandes signing his Manchester United contract alongside a beaming boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with the Daily Star and Metro headlining the image “Special Bru”.

The Sporting Lisbon star yesterday penned a five-and-a-half-year contract, with the option of a further 12 months, in a deal that could “potentially rise to £67.7m”.

Today’s newspaper back pages

Man Utd serve up a ‘Special Bru’ ahead of transfer deadline day scramble

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