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Tennis for animals and England's worst football team

Steven Lynch November 7, 2011
There was little for Derby to take pride in during their disastrous 2007-08 Premier League campaign © Getty Images
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Since the introduction of three points for a win in English league football, which club has had the worst season? asked Tony Johnson
The worst season endured by any club - or more particularly, perhaps, its supporters - since the introduction of three points for a win (which was in 1981-82) was by Derby County in the Premier League in 2007-08. They finished a dire 38-match season with just 11 points - one win (against Newcastle) and eight draws. Their goal difference (20 for, 89 against) was a whopping minus 69. Derby's relegation was confirmed before the end of March, although the Irish bookmakers Paddy Power had paid out on all bets that the Rams would be relegated after just five matches of the season!

Who won a grand slam singles championship at the zoo? asked Michael Wood via Facebook
I was intrigued by this one - until I looked back a bit, to 1909, and discovered that that year's Australasian Championships (the fore-runner of the Australian Open) was held on the courts at Perth Zoo in Western Australia. The winner was the great New Zealander Tony Wilding, who later won Wimbledon four years running from 1910: he beat the local man Ernie Parker in the final at the zoo. The tournament was held twice more in Perth - in 1913 and 1921 - but then it was held at Kitchener Park (formerly Mueller Park). I couldn't help wondering what the crowd at the zoo was like ...

Has anyone ever won the World Superbikes championship and the world 500cc title? asked Martin Goss
No-one has ever managed this particular double: the closest is arguably the Italian Max Biaggi, who lifted the World Superbikes title in 2010 after winning the world 250cc championship on four occasions. Biaggi was second in the 500cc table in 1998 and 2001, and also in 2002 when it was renamed MotoGP. The American John Kocinski also won the world 250cc title (in 1990) and the World Superbikes crown (1997).

Simon Shaw was 38 when he played in this year's Rugby World Cup. Is he the oldest man to appear in it? asked David Norman
Simon Shaw was 38 years and 37 days old when he came on as a substitute for England in their disappointing quarter-final defeat to France at Auckland last month. He is the oldest Englishman to play in the World Cup - the previous record was set by 37-year-old Paul Rendall in 1991 - but not the oldest from anywhere (Shaw is sixth on that particular list). Pride of place goes to Uruguay's Diego Ormaechea, who was 26 days past his 40th birthday when he captained his country against South Africa at Murrayfield in 1999. There were two players older than Shaw in the 2011 World Cup, both of them, by coincidence, 38 years and 162 days old at their final appearance - Mario Ledesma Arocena, who played for Argentina in their quarter-final defeat by New Zealand, and Vyacheslav Grachev of Russia, who took part in the 68-22 defeat by Australia at Nelson. Two other players older than Shaw played in 1999 - Mark Cardinal for Canada and Mark Williams for the USA, who were both also 38.

Simon Shaw wasn't the only England player who struggled to catch the ball during the World Cup © Getty Images
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Luke Donald stands to become the first golfer to head the American and European Tour money lists in the same season. How many people have ever won both? asked Carl Coleman
Luke Donald does indeed stand an excellent chance of becoming the leading money-winner on this year's European Tour, after clinching the American Tour top spot in fine style with an exciting victory in the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic in Florida last month. Rory McIlroy, who's currently in fine form, is just about the only player who might just overhaul Donald in the Race to Dubai. The European Order of Merit started in 1971, and although Britain's Peter Oosterhuis won it that year, the leading money-winner was Gary Player (the European one was not calculated by money earned until 1975). Player had been the leading money-winner on the US Tour in 1961. Since then Greg Norman topped the US money list in 1986, 1990 and 1995, after being the leading money-winner on the European Tour in 1982.

Is it true that Muhammad Ali once fought - and beat - a convicted murderer in a title bout? asked Jim Simpson
The man in question was Ron Lyle, who took on Muhammad Ali for the world heavyweight title in 1975, in Ali's second defence of the title he'd not long won back from George Foreman. Lyle was stopped in the 11th round, after a flurry of punches from Ali, but had been ahead on two of the three judges' cards at the time (and level on the third). As a young man Lyle had been convicted of second-degree murder after a gangland shooting. He spent more than seven years in prison, during which time he was knifed in a fight and "died" twice on the operating table, receiving 35 pints of blood in all.

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