Hearn goes stratospheric, and will Federer ever quit? An urgent message to the world of sport from 2030

By Sports Desk January 01, 2020

Out with the old and in with the new.

Happy new year! Happy new decade! To your health, and to your wealth. May your future be prosperous and your family live in abundance.

Remember when we'd greet each other with such forceful cheer, way back in 2020? When Donald Trump was merely a White House tweeting machine, and not yet a challenger to Jack Nicklaus' golf majors record.

This is a message dispatched from Tuesday, January 1, 2030, and you've just swallowed the theory that the so-called former "commander-in-cheat" might legitimately win not one golf tournament but upwards of 18 against the world's elite.

The funny thing is, had it happened, perhaps it would not have been the most seismic event of the past 10 years - a turbulent, anything-goes period in sporting history.

Some will tell you sport in the 2020s reached its nadir when FIFA's executive committee needed three days of meetings before ruling out staging the 2029 Club World Cup in the cities of Chernobyl and Pripyat. You can't, it turns out, carry out urban regeneration within a nuclear exclusion zone, not even with the best will in the world and the 100% backing of CONMEBOL.

Others will look to the NFL appointing Sarah Sanders as its commissioner. Here, in any case, is an advance snapshot of the decade you're about to live through.

A 39th game in the Premier League ... and goodbye to VAR! 

By the dawn of the 2020s nobody doubted heads could be turned by great wedges of cash. The Premier League's long-mooted '39th game' finally got the green light, with an extra round of fixtures being staged in the United States in 2023 - predictably overshadowed by a routine weekend of college football.

Away from dollar-driven 'progress', 2023 also saw the VAR system abolished by incoming FIFA president and career goal-hanger Gary Lineker. No one countenanced ever speaking of VAR again.

Roger… and still not out!

Roger Federer has never added to those 20 grand slam titles he tallied in the '00s and '10s, and agonisingly he saw Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic both nudge one ahead of him on the all-time list in the early 2020s. Where are Rafa and Nole now though? In an incontestable, quite glorious triumph for Team Federer, Roger is rolling on at the age of 48, a knock-in for those Wimbledon and US Open wild cards and still a fixture in Anna Wintour's wildest dreams.

In 2026, Federer partnered his 16-year-old daughter Myla Rose in mixed doubles at the Australian Open. "I've always wanted to keep going until my grandchildren have the chance to see me play, but of course so many people want to write me off," said Roger in a post-match interview.

Federer, hunting that elusive 21st major, has reached the third round of a major only twice since 2022. The year 2022, coincidentally, saw Serena Williams finally match and then pass Margaret Court's women’s tour record of 24 singles slams, immediately quitting tennis and public life at the age of 40 for a surprising second career in taxidermy. Cross the formidable Serena these days and you really can get stuffed.

Run off track

Peeved with persistent pee-test perniciousness, the plug was pulled on Olympic athletics six months out from Los Angeles 2028. To assuage the choking loss of track and field, the sport was substituted on the Memorial Coliseum stadium schedules by daily NFL games, thus guaranteeing stunning television audiences and spectacular financial success, feathering the IOC nest. The rest of the world audience, as per, embraced whatever sport in which their country had concocted a way to become world-beaters since the Tokyo Olympics. America's dominance of the shooting proved a sore point with some observers, given the successful dismantling of the NRA by President Michelle Obama's administration.

Hearn in space

'No context' in 2019, and no gravity by 2028, boxing promoter Eddie Hearn teamed up in a co-promotion with Elon Musk's SpaceX corporation to announce boxing's first showdown on the International Space Station. The Matchroom boss guffawed and called the experience "different gravy" on a recce trip, yet not one astronaut on the ISS laughed back nor posted a three-second clip straight to Twitter. Even from a height of 250 miles, the world instantly felt a better place.

Coming out was the new staying in

A host of sports stars – you'll recognise some of the names, but all in good time - came out as proud members of the LGBTQ+ community over the last decade. The enlightened public majority welcomed the healthy cultural shift that made it possible, and an ignorant minority was soon shouted down. After years of suppressing their true selves in public, this generation of athletes was able to thrive in large parts of the world. There's no punchline here, just the hope we don't screw this one up in the years ahead.

The future's female, are we nearly there yet?

How has the gender gap closed over the course of the 2020s, you wonder? Here's an answer: significantly but not sufficiently.

Sure, there's been a woman reaching the final of the darts world championship, half a dozen female Formula One drivers, Sam Kerr grabbed a handful of A-League goals when guesting for Perth Glory, and we've seen the first prominent football managers crossing over to the men’s game (Emma Hayes spent two years at Fulham, Corinne Diacre had 15 months with Lille, Laura Harvey is bossing the Seattle Sounders and Sarina Wiegman is sporting director of PSV).

The future's better: stadiums are now packed for women's World Cups in football, rugby and cricket.

Squabbling over tennis prize money calmed when grand slams cut matches across the board to best-of-three-set contests, yet achieving outright equality across the sporting spectrum will be one for the 2030s crew to take on.

And finally…

Football 'came home', with England driven to their 2026 World Cup triumph by a combination of Jurgen Klopp's astute management, Harvey Elliott's mastery of the number 10 role, and Real Madrid frontman Dominic Calvert-Lewin's irresistible finishing.

Just one more thing…

Don't believe everything you read. That last memory of the decade? Bigly fake news. To the delight of their many World Cup frenemies, the England football team is still FAILING.

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  • Koeman demands Barcelona hit winning streak as Cadiz eye another scalp Koeman demands Barcelona hit winning streak as Cadiz eye another scalp

    Ronald Koeman has told Barcelona they must win all their remaining six games in 2020 to stay in the LaLiga title hunt. 

    A rocky start to the campaign has followed the turbulent end to last season, which came to a head with the 8-2 thumping by Bayern Munich in the Champions League. 

    Tension was then created when Lionel Messi tried to push through a close-season exit, while the effect of the pandemic has also hit Barcelona hard, causing off-field strife, with the early departure of president Josep Maria Bartomeu bringing club elections forward to January. 

    A whole host of distractions appear to have taken a toll on Barcelona's first-team squad, with three defeats in their opening nine LaLiga games leaving coach Koeman with a tall order to reel in the early front-runners. 

    Real Sociedad, Atletico Madrid and Villarreal are the surprise top three, with Real Madrid fourth and Barcelona seventh heading into the weekend. 

    Koeman feels there is no room for error now, saying: "Atletico win their games, they concede few goals. The season is long, but we cannot lose more points and until the end of the year - we have to win all the games."

    On Saturday they tackle a Cadiz side who sit sixth, a point ahead of Barcelona albeit having played two more games. 

    Cadiz beat Real Madrid earlier this season, however, so Koeman is taking their threat seriously. 

    Koeman is trying to see a bright future for his team, and despite stressing the need to string together wins, he would not go further into what a defeat to Cadiz might mean. 

    "You have to answer when things happen, I prefer to think that you can win games and be positive," he said. 

    Cadiz have taken 13 of their 15 points this season away from home, and their last league win anywhere came in October. It suggests Barcelona may be facing last season's Segunda Division runners-up at a good time. 

    Cadiz have also not beaten Barcelona in LaLiga since May 1991, when Koeman lined up in a championship-winning Johan Cruyff team that suffered a 4-0 humiliation. 

    Barcelona have won all six of the league games between the sides since, but head into this weekend on a rough run away from Camp Nou. 

    Koeman's side have taken only one point from their last three LaLiga away games and are desperate to avoid a fourth such match without a victory. The club last endured such a dry run on the road when Frank Rijkaard's team went six without winning from March to May in 2008, with Pep Guardiola soon stepping in to shake up the side. 

    "Normally we will have a lot of ball against a defence like that of Cadiz," Koeman said. 

    "We will have to be patient. It seems to be more difficult for them to win at home, but they are achieving good results [overall this season], and it is a difficult ground where we must be focused to play at our level and score goals." 

    If Messi finds the net, it will be his first goal against Cadiz in LaLiga. Barcelona's record goalscorer has scored against 37 of the 40 sides he has faced in the competition, with Xerez, Real Murcia and Cadiz being the exceptions. 

    Messi has, admittedly, only played against Cadiz once previously.

  • Flick prepared to be patient as Sane settles in at Bayern Munich Flick prepared to be patient as Sane settles in at Bayern Munich

    Bayern Munich head coach Hansi Flick believes Leroy Sane needs more time to establish himself with the Bundesliga champions.

    Since joining Bayern from Manchester City for a reported €45million in July, Sane has scored three goals and provided three assists in seven Bundesliga games, three of which have been starts.

    He has also created four big chances, with only Thomas Muller (six) and Serge Gnabry (five) creating more for Bayern.

    His big chance conversion percentage is 50 per cent, while he has completed just 38.1 per cent of his attempted dribbles.

    The attacker missed almost the entire 2019-20 season with City after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament and suffered a knee injury against Hoffenheim at the end of September.

    Flick has largely been impressed with Sane's contribution but believes there is plenty more to come once he has settled at the club.

    "You have to consider the background," Flick told a media conference ahead of Bayern's top-of-the-table clash with RB Leipzig on Saturday.

    "He had a serious injury and was injured again in the Hoffenheim game. I know from my own experience that you need some time.

    "What I see in training is good. It's not that easy when you come to a new club; you have to integrate first. At the moment we can't train like we did in pre-season."

    Bayern are two points clear of Leipzig at the Bundesliga summit and will hope to improve on their recent record against Julian Nagelsmann's side when they visit the Allianz Arena on Saturday.

    Bayern won their first three meetings with Leipzig but have triumphed only once in their last five matches. Indeed, since 2017-18, only Hertha Berlin (four times in seven games) have picked up points in as many games against Bayern as Leipzig (four times in six games).

    Leipzig are also the only team to stop the Bavarian giants from scoring in their last 70 Bundesliga matches, holding them to 0-0 draws in May 2019 and February 2020.

    And Flick is in no doubt his side are in for a tough game against Nagelsmann's forward-thinking outfit.

    "Leipzig have developed tremendously," the Bayern boss said. "Even before I was at Hoffenheim, I knew that Julian was a top coach.

    "Leipzig plays forward very quickly and are very variable. The idea of their football appeals to me and I value Julian as a coach. That's why Leipzig are where they are."

    Alphonso Davies returned to full training this week after six weeks out with ankle ligament damage, while Joshua Kimmich stepped up his own personal fitness programme following surgery on a right lateral meniscus injury.

    Saturday's game will come too soon for them, but Flick holds out hope Davies could make an appearance in Wednesday's final Champions League Group A game against Lokomotiv Moscow.

    "Alphonso has trained, but is not yet ready for tomorrow," Flick said. "Maybe he will be back on Wednesday.

    "Otherwise, except for Coco Tolisso and Joshua Kimmich, everyone is on board. That is a good sign, especially in the current situation."

  • Zidane adamant he has full backing of Real Madrid hierarchy and players Zidane adamant he has full backing of Real Madrid hierarchy and players

    Under-fire Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane is convinced he retains the full support of the club and his players amid a difficult run of results.

    Madrid head to Sevilla on Saturday having failed to win any of their previous three LaLiga matches, suffering losses to Valencia and Deportivo Alaves either side of a draw with Villarreal.

    Los Blancos have never endured a winless run of four league games under Zidane, and the champions are already seven points adrift of pacesetters Real Sociedad – though arguably the greater concern is second-place Atletico Madrid.

    Diego Simeone's men are unbeaten this term and, although a point behind La Real, they have two games in hand on them and one on their city rivals.

    Tuesday's 2-0 defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk increased the pressure on Zidane as their Champions League progression hopes were left hanging in the balance, but the Frenchman continues to put on a brave face.

    When asked if he felt he had the club's backing, he told reporters: "Yes, completely, I feel the support of the club. I can't be happy when we lose a game, but we know where we are.

    "We are lucky to fight for this club and that's what I'm going to do until the last day, and the players too. We have to be together with what we know how to do."

    Zidane was then asked if the players have given him their backing, which seemed to irk the former France international.

    "In the end, you guys [the media] always try these things, asking whether the players are with me or not," he replied. "What the players want is to compete and they have always shown their care for me, but it is not the most important thing.

    "I have been a player here, coach, I know the history I have with this club and sometimes it is true that things do not work out for us.

    "[Criticism] doesn't bother me. It's my position, it's what it is, when you don't win it's like that, it's normal for there to be criticism, but it won't change what I think. We will continue."

    Traditionally, Madrid do well against Sevilla – Los Blancos have beaten them 19 times in their previous 30 LaLiga meetings, while Zidane has not claimed more wins against any other opponent across all competitions than he has over the Andalusians (seven).

    Nevertheless, Europa League holders Sevilla – coached by former Madrid boss Julen Lopetegui – are likely to be fresh having rested many first-team regulars during the 4-0 Champions League defeat to Chelsea.

    They are also unbeaten in 15 league games at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, keeping seven clean sheets in their past 10 home games, and will move above Madrid with a win.

    But Lopetegui remains wary of Madrid, suggesting their difficult form might make them even more threatening this weekend.

    "Real Madrid are always dangerous, and even more so in these situations," he said. "They're a team that have answers for many situations and now that feeds into them to give a good performance. I'm expecting a strong Real Madrid, who will demand the best version of us."

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