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A heavyweight loser

Steven Lynch November 12, 2012
Nikolay Davydenko won at the O2 in 2009 © Getty Images
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I was watching the ATP World Tour Finals in London, and wondered if anyone had ever won it - or the women's equivalent - who hadn't won a major singles title? asked Anne Vaughan

The men's end-of-season championships started in more or less its current form in 1970, when it was called the Masters: the first winner was Stan Smith (who hadn't won a grand slam singles title at the time, although he did later). Since then the title has been won three times by men who never won a grand slam singles title; Spain's Alex Corretja in 1998, David Nalbandian of Argentina in 2005, and Nikolay Davydenko of Russia in 2009, in the first tournament held at the O2 in London. The women's equivalent - now called the WTA Tour championships, and won last month by Serena Williams - began in 1972. The only winner who never claimed a grand slam singles title was the German left-hander Sylvia Hanika, who upset Martina Navratilova to win it in 1982.

Mo Farah pulled off the double of 5000 and 10,000 metres at London 2012. How many others have done this at the Olympics? asked Greg Waterson

The inventor of the "Mobot" became the seventh athlete to achieve the long-distance double of 5000 and 10,000m titles at the Olympics in London. The first man to do it was Hannes Kolehmainen, probably the first man to be dubbed "The Flying Finn", in Antwerp in 1912. The great Czech athlete Emil Zatopek followed suit in Helsinki in 1952 (after a near-miss in 1948, when he was second in the 5000m) and also won the marathon for good measure, while at the next Olympics, at Melbourne in 1956, Vladimir Kuts of the Soviet Union won both. Another Finn, Lasse Viren, won both events in 1972 - and uniquely repeated the feat in 1976. In 1980 Ethiopia's Miruts Yifter (known as "Yifter the Shifter") pulled off the same double, and in Beijing in 2008 Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia did it too. In London Bekele's brother Tariku did his best to upset the Farah applecart - he took the bronze medal in the 10,000m.

Has anyone ever played football for England without appearing in the English league? asked Mark Roberts

A few amateur players in the early years of international football appeared for England without getting their boots dirty in the professional league system. But the only professional players to win a full England cap before they played in the Football League (and they both did later in their careers) were Joe Baker, who had played all his club football for Hibernian in Scotland when first selected for England as a 19-year-old in 1959, and Owen Hargreaves, who was called up for England in 2001 while playing for Bayern Munich. Baker was born in Liverpool, to Scottish parents, while Hargreaves was born in Canada, to an English father and a Welsh mother. Hargreaves, uniquely, had never even lived in England when he started playing for them.

Apparently there's a heavyweight boxer who once lost five successive fights for the same major title. Is this true - sounds unlikely to me!? asked Colin Hayes

There's at least one fighter who fits this bill - and he's a fairly recent one. Paolo Vidoz - the Italian beaten in the 2000 Olympic semi-final by Audley Harrison - won the vacant European heavyweight title in June 2005, beating Timo Hoffman on points despite only having four days to prepare for the fight. Vidoz made two successful defences, and then his unusual run started. First he lost the title to the Ukrainian Vladimir Virchis in July 2006, then lost a rematch the following year. After Virchis relinquished the title Vidoz was matched with Sinan Samil Sam of Turkey, who won their bout on points in July 2008. Shortly after this Samil Sam himself vacated the title, and Vidoz took on Britain's Matt Skelton ... only to lose again. And when Skelton relinquished the belt, Vidoz fought Poland's Albert Sosnowski, and lost his fifth straight title fight.

How many years have all four golf majors been won by non-Americans? asked Tom Bailey

Rather surprisingly perhaps, since the US Masters started in 1934, there has actually only been one year in which none of the four golf majors was won by an American golfer - 1994, when Jose-Maria Olazabal (Spain) won the Masters, Ernie Els (South Africa) won the US Open, and Nick Price (Zimbabwe) won the Open and the PGA. Since then an American (usually Tiger Woods) has won at least one every year. The last year that all four majors were won by Americans was 1982, when Craig Stadler won the Masters, Tom Watson the US and British Opens, and Ray Floyd the PGA.

Which rugby player is nicknamed "36"? asked Lawrence Browne

This is the young Gloucester centre Billy Twelvetrees, who was a late addition to the England squad for last Saturday's match against Fiji at Twickenham. He apparently got his nickname because Geordan Murphy, the former Ireland captain who was a club team-mate at Leicester, reckoned that 12 trees added up to 36 ...

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