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Djokovic, Messi steal thunder

Novak Djokovic took the spotlight early in the year in the Australian Open after being deported from Australia owing to his vaccination status and Argentine Lionel Messi’s performance in the World Cup in Doha was the fitting end to a memorable year.

AFP Sport looks back on 10 of the top sports stories of 2022:

Djokovic deported
Novak Djokovic flew to Melbourne in January hoping to capture a 10th Australian Open.

However, the famously unvaccinated Serbian had his visa canceled and was held in a hotel housing refugees before being deported on “health and good order” grounds.

Djokovic was also banned from traveling to the United States, ruling him out of the US Open but he managed to capture a seventh Wimbledon title in July.

Djokovic has been cleared to play in the 2023 Australian Open where he will be chasing a 22nd Grand Slam.

NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
KAMILA Valieva tested positive for a banned substance while competing in the Beijing Winter Olympics.

Valieva doping shame
Kamila Valieva was at the center of a doping scandal at the Beijing Winter Olympics.

The Russian, who was 15 at the time, became the first woman to land a quadruple jump in Olympic competition, helping Russia secure gold in the team event.

It then emerged she had tested positive before the Games for trimetazidine, a drug used to treat angina but which is banned for athletes because it can boost endurance.

The Court of Arbitration for Sports allowed Valieva to continue competing at the Olympics, citing her young age, though without clearing her of doping. Valieva fell several times in the individual final and finished in fourth place.

Shane Warne dies
The legendary Australian cricketer died at a luxury resort in Thailand in March from a suspected heart attack, aged 52.

Credited with reviving the art of leg-spin, Warne took 708 Test wickets as part of a dominant Australian team in the 1990s and 2000s before becoming a respected commentator.

“Looking forward to a future without Shane is inconceivable,” said heartbroken father Keith.

“But we take comfort in knowing that Shane packed more into his life of 52 years, five months and 19 days than most people would in two lifetimes.”

Russia outcasts
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February saw them and allies Belarus become outcasts of world sport.

Russia was kicked out of the football World Cup and world athletics championships while tennis players from both nations were banned from Wimbledon.

However, Russian-born Elena Rybakina, representing Kazakhstan, won the women’s singles title at the All England Club. Tensions were also evident at the US Open where Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk refused to shake hands with Victoria Azarenka of Belarus.

Champions League final chaos
The 28 May final at the Stade de France in Paris descended into chaos when thousands of Liverpool fans were unable to gain access to the ground for the match against Real Madrid.

Ticket-holding fans, who were attacked with tear gas by police and fell victim to street crime, were initially accused of trying to enter the stadium illegally.

These allegations were disproved and organizers and security chiefs damned for poor organization.

A French Senate inquiry contradicted assertions by UEFA and the French government that Liverpool fans without proper tickets were mainly responsible for the trouble.

The inquiry instead cited a “string of dysfunctions” including a lack of preparation by authorities and UEFA, as well as poorly executed security arrangements.

Swimming life-saver
When 25-year-old American artistic swimmer Anita Alvarez passed out at the end of her solo routine at the World Championships in Budapest in June, her coach Andrea Fuentes plunged to the rescue.

Dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, Fuentes dived to the bottom of the pool and dragged Alvarez to the surface.

“I think she was at least two minutes without breathing because her lungs were full of water,” Fuentes said. Alvarez quickly recovered but was prevented from competing again at the championships.

STEVE DYKES/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
DUSTIN Johnson leads the exodus to Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf.

Golf split by LIV
Backed by the deep pockets of the Saudis, LIV Golf got underway in July, splitting the sport as it attracted major winners such as Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau with pledges of multi-million dollar purses for 54-hole, no-cut tournaments.

The new circuit has been accused of “sportswashing” Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, and the US tours responded by suspending any players who competed in LIV events.

RICHARD A. BROOKS/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
ROGER Federer bids tennis goodbye.

Farewell Federer and Serena
Tennis said goodbye to two of its greatest stars. Roger Federer, unable to shake off a lingering knee injury, called it quits at the age of 41 in September after a career which yielded 20 Grand Slams — a figure now passed by Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

Federer collected 103 titles and banked $130 million in prize money.

Serena refused to use the word “retirement” when she played what was likely her final tournament at the US Open.

Now 41, the American said she was “evolving” away from tennis. She won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, was number one for 319 weeks and, according to Forbes, was worth $260 million in 2022.

Chess scandal
American grandmaster Hans Niemann was accused by Norwegian world champion Magnus Carlsen of cheating.

Niemann filed a lawsuit, seeking $100 million in damages from Carlsen, his company Play Magnus Group, Danny Rensch of Chess.com, the world’s leading online chess platform, and American grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura.

Carlsen publicly accused Niemann of cheating, and chess.com alleged in a report that the 19-year-old American has “probably cheated more than 100 times” in online games.

ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
LIONEL Messi powers Argentina to a World Cup title.

Messi’s final fantasy
Lionel Messi led Argentina to World Cup glory with a penalty shootout triumph over France after an epic final in Doha finished 3-3 in extra-time.

Messi’s virtuoso performance sealed his status as one of the greatest players of all time, joining fellow icons Pele and Diego Maradona in an elite group. The final has gone down as a modern classic, coming at the conclusion of one of the most controversial tournaments ever staged.

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