NEWS

Carl Baker believes he can play a ‘massive part’ in the second half of the season but admits the ball is very much in Coventry City’s court regarding his future at the club.

The fans’ favourite is currently being treated at Ryton for an Achilles injury but has no idea if he will be offered a deal by manager Mark Robins to re-join the Sky Blues for the rest of the season.


“I’m just doing some rehab with the physio, so I haven’t been training with the lads or anything,” revealed Baker, who had the opportunity to re-sign at City in the summer but opted to take up an opportunity to play in the Indian Super League with ATK.

However, his spell in Kolkata was cut short when he suffered an Achilles injury in a pre-season match which could keep him out for up to three months in total, although he's well down the road to recovery.

“I am going in there a few times a week trying to get fit but that’s about it at the minute," said the 35-year-old forward.

“But I feel I can play a massively important role for someone this season. It’s an important time of the campaign and it would be nice to have a fresh new addition, I suppose.

 

“It would work out great from my point of view to do something with Coventry but I don’t know where the club’s at.

"I’m available on a free so I can sign anywhere I want. I am hoping to be back fit in the next few weeks and then it’s just a question of getting my fitness levels up.

Worse case scenario
“Worse case scenario it could be sometime in February but there’s still a good few months left of the season and I’d like to think I could do well because I will be fresh.

“The first half of the season can take its toll a bit on the lads, playing a lot of games and players can get a bit tired and pick up injuries in the second half of the season.

“But hopefully I will be fresh as anything and if Cov do get to the play-offs I’d like to think I’d be flying by that stage.

“But I am not going to chase anything up. If there’s something there and something happens, then great. I’d be happy to do a deal.

“I’m going in a couple of times a week and training on my own at a local gym so if I did go in full-time it would obviously speed up my recovery time, but I’m pretty relaxed about it.”

What Robins has said
Speaking last month, the manager said: “If he’s in the building and under our noses then let’s see where it takes us.

“I have been honest with him, we need a certain type of player and if he falls into the category that we need down the line then that might be a bridge we cross then, but I am quite happy to help him get back to fitness.

“I don’t want to make more than what it is at the minute, which is him coming in to get fit. He’s happy with that and just needs to get himself fit.

“If we can help him to get to the stage of playing, fine, I have no problem with that.”

Asked if he’s spoken to the manager since his initial conversation about his rehabilitation, Baker said: “I have seen him around the training ground and spoken to him about general stuff, but not about anything else.

“The last time I spoke to him properly was when I came back from India injured and he said I could go in and use the facilities to try to get fit. He’s helping me out, doing me a favour really.”

Blessing in disguise
Although disappointed to cut short his spell in India, Baker believes it may have been a blessing in disguise following the birth of his third son, Keegan, at Christmas.

Four-time Olympic champion Mo Farah has been nominated for the 2017 Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award.

Farah, who was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year in December, is one of four British nominees.

Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome and Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton are also in contention for Sportsman of the Year.

World heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua is nominated in the Breakthrough of the Year category.

The late Bradley Lowery's friendship with Jermain Defoe is also recognised on the Best Sporting Moment shortlist.

Six-year-old Lowery captured the hearts of the nation as he bravely battled a rare form of cancer, and posthumously received the Helen Rollason Award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year show.

Teenage racing driver Billy Monger - who lost both of his legs in a high speed crash - is nominated in the same category after getting back behind the wheel.

Speaking about his nomination, Farah said: "2017 was an incredible year for me.

"I'm overwhelmed with the support and recognition I've already received but winning a Laureus statuette would be amazing. It would be even more special given the super talented sportsmen I'm up against."

Farah retired from the track in 2017 after winning 10,000m World Championship gold in August, but will run in this year's London Marathon. Four-time Tour de France champion Froome - who is currently facing questions after returning an "adverse" drugs test - was nominated after becoming the first British winner of the Vuelta a Espana.

Lewis Hamilton won his fourth Formula 1 world title, while Joshua unified the WBA, IBO and IBF heavyweight titles.

Chapecoense - the Brazilian football club who lost the majority of their team in a plane crash in 2016 - are nominated in the Comeback of the Year category.

The winners, as voted for by members of the Laureus World Sports Academy, will be revealed in Monaco on 27 February.

Sportsman of the Year award
Roger Federer (Switzerland) tennis, Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) football, Mo Farah (GB) athletics, Chris Froome (GB) cycling, Lewis Hamilton (GB)Formula 1, Rafael Nadal (Spain) tennis.

Sportswoman of the Year award
Garbine Muguruza (Spain) tennis, Caster Semenya (South Africa) athletics, Serena Williams (US) tennis, Allyson Felix (US) athletics, Katie Ledecky (US) swimming, Mikaela Shiffrin (US) alpine skiing.

Team of the Year
France's Davis Cup team (tennis), Golden State Warriors (basketball), Mercedes-AMG Petronas (Formula 1), New England Patriots (American football), New Zealand's America's Cup team (sailing), Real Madrid (football).

Breakthrough of the Year
Anthony Joshua (GB) boxing, Kylian Mbappe (France) football, Jelena Ostapenko (Latvia) tennis, Sergio Garcia (Spain) golf, Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece) basketball, Caeleb Dressel (US) swimming.

Comeback of the Year
FC Barcelona (Spain) football, Roger Federer (Switzerland) tennis, Valentino Rossi (Italy) motorsport, Sally Pearson (Australia) athletics, Justin Gatlin (US) athletics, Chapecoense (Brazil) football.

Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability
Marcel Hug (Switzerland) para athletics, Yui Kamiji (Japan) wheelchair tennis, Oksana Masters (US) cross-country skiing, Bibian Mentel-Spee (Netherlands) snowboarding, Jetze Plat (Netherlands) ironman, Markus Rehm (Germany) long jump.

Action Sportsperson of the Year
Tyler Wright (Australia) surfing, John John Florence (US) surfing, Anna Gasser (Austria) snowboarding, Mark McMorris (Canada) snowboarding, Nyjah Huston (US) skateboarding, Armel Le Cleac'h (France) sailing.

Best Sporting Moment of the Year
The Iowa Hawkeyes and the 'Kinnick Wave' (US) American football, Bradley Lowery and his special bond with Jermain Defoe (GB) football, Kimi Raikkonen and his six-year-old fan Thomas Danel (Finland) Formula 1, Chapecoense (Brazil) football, Billy Monger (GB) motorsport.
 

Rory McIlroy admits he has become a nightmare for restaurateurs as a result of the lifestyle changes adopted during a three-month golfing sabbatical.

The 28-year-old's break from the game ends on Thursday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. The tournament marks the start of a heavy playing schedule which he hopes will help him add to the four major titles he has won to date.

In the 104 days he has spent away from the game, McIlroy has gone through a prolonged period of self-analysis, physical training and range time. He believes he has found the formula to fully equip his challenge for the game's biggest prizes.

He is vowing to arrive earlier at tournaments and play more regularly having taken steps to acquire the energy to cope with this heavier workload.

McIlroy insists that a minor heart issue is "nothing to worry about" and that an improved diet has left him ready to take on fellow competitors he has enjoyed watching on television over the last few weeks.

"It's been nice, I've really enjoyed the time away from it but I must say I'm excited to be back," McIlroy told BBC Sport here in the Middle East.

"I'm probably a bit of a pain in the backside for waiters trying to order something and asking 'can you do it this way or cook it without any oil or any butter.'

"I've been quite disciplined with it. Obviously I let myself go on Christmas Day and Thanksgiving. But it's been really good and it shows.

"I feel better, I am a bit leaner and energy levels are probably a bit better and hopefully that'll affect how I perform on the golf course."

McIlroy carries the air of a student having used a refreshing summer vacation to gain resolve to knuckle down for final exams.

Of course, this is not a now or never moment in his career but there is an unmistakeable imperative. He is fully aware of the high standards currently being set by the likes of Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas.

The Northern Irishman trails in the wake of these dominant Americans, having slipped to eleventh in the world rankings and he has been keeping tabs on their progress.

"I was just happy watching," he told me. "Mentally I was in a good place where I didn't feel like I needed to be out there at all.

"I was concentrating on what I needed to do but at the end of the day I'm still a fan of golf and I like watching and like keeping an eye on what everyone is doing.

"I watched quite a bit of golf in my downtime, obviously I played a little bit too and everything feels good."

McIlroy believes he can give himself better chances in events by arriving earlier at venues than he has done in recent years. "I'd turn up on Tuesday afternoons, hit a few balls, play the pro-am Wednesday and go," he said.

"I think, looking back on it, I'm going to try to get to golf tournaments a bit earlier. Try to get in on a Monday and it just gives you an extra day to prepare on the course, get used to green speeds, rough lengths and firmness of everything."

But he is adopting a more balanced approach to life in general. "I feel like you can still be really dedicated to what you do and still have time for other things. I think that's been the big thing because I'm sort of all or nothing in everything in life," he said.

"And I feel like I've learned a little bit of balance over the past three months in terms of still enjoying myself and being able to make the most of free time but still putting in the time you need to hopefully be the best golfer I can be.

"Sometimes I feel that I have to do too much and sometimes you don't have to, sometimes you have to work smartly and in the right way.

"It's almost better taking that approach rather than saying 'okay, I'm going to spend eight hours on the range'. That isn't productive, if you spend two quality hours on the range you can get more out of that."

McIlroy made headlines last weekend when he revealed he is being monitored for a minor heart irregularity. "It's definitely not a heart scare," he smiled.

"But in fairness it is scary when a heart doctor does ring you and say we've found something. But it is no big deal at all.

"I think if you tested the majority of the population they're going to find something that's a bit of an abnormality. It's just a little thing to keep on top of but definitely nothing to worry about."

More pertinently for someone who says it was "a relief" to be able to take three months away from the game, he seems to have the heart to rededicate himself to his golf career.

"Look, I want to win golf tournaments again," stated the man whose last victory came at the Tour Championship in September 2016.

"But you have to play them to give yourself a chance to win them in the first place. I'm playing quite a lot this year, so hopefully I will give myself plenty of chances and the more I give myself the more comfortable I will be in that position again.

"Hopefully I can start the year in the right way. I really missed the competition part of it.

"I'm as excited for a season more than I have been for a long time because of having that bit of time off and having time to reflect on things.

"I love what I do, I love being out here, I love playing golf tournaments and hopefully I can show that excitement on the course."

Fuelled by a healthier diet, it certainly seems McIlroy has rediscovered his appetite for competitive golf.

 

2018 Australian Open
Dates: 15-28 January Venue: Melbourne Park
Coverage: Watch highlights on BBC Two, the BBC Sport website and app. Live commentary on the best matches on BBC Radio 5 live, 5 live sports extra and online.
Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova powered into the Australian Open second round with a straight-set win over Germany's Tatjana Maria.

Sharapova, 30, saw off the world number 47 6-1 6-4 on the Margaret Court Arena.

It was her first match at Melbourne since failing a drugs test at the 2016 event, which led to a 15-month ban.

"I felt like I have got a lot of things out of the way physically and emotionally and mentally last year," said Russian Sharapova.

"There was a lot of firsts again for me, playing the first tournament, first Grand Slam, and just different feelings and what it would be routinely.

"But it felt pretty routine today, just really happy to be back here."

Konta beats Brengle to reach second round
Pliskova, Kerber & Garcia through
Live scores, schedule and results
She will play Anastasija Sevastova in the second round. Latvian 14th seed Sevastova beat Sharapova in the last 16 of the US Open in September.

Sharapova, the former world number one who is now ranked 48, is looking to add to the Australian Open title she won in 2008.

She hit 22 winners to Maria's seven, but racked up 28 unforced errors and went a break down in the second set before recovering.

"We know it's only going to get tougher with every match you play," she added. "It's a challenge, but that's why it's a Grand Slam."

2018 Australian Open
Dates: 15-28 January Venue: Melbourne Park
Coverage: Watch highlights on BBC Two, the BBC Sport website and app. Live commentary on the best matches on BBC Radio 5 live, 5 live sports extra and online.
Defending champion Roger Federer outclassed former Briton Aljaz Bedene 6-3 6-4 6-3 to reach the Australian Open second round in Melbourne.

The Swiss produced a majestic display to show why he is favourite to win his sixth Australian Open and 20th Grand Slam title at the age of 36.

Bedene, who has switched his allegiance back to Slovenia, played well but the result was never in doubt.

Federer won in 99 minutes and will face Germany's Jan-Lennard Struff next.

He broke Bedene's serve in the fourth game of the first set in which he conceded only three points on his serve.

The five-time Australian champion pounced immediately at the start of the second to gain another break and eased through the rest of the match, finishing with 41 winners against a player who has now made six appearances in the tournament without a win.

Federer is seeded second behind Rafael Nadal, whom he beat in last year's final, but with doubts over the Spaniard's fitness plus other long-term rivals Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka, the Swiss is seen as the man to beat this year.

"I am hoping for another good year," said Federer, who also won Wimbledon for a record eighth time in 2017.

"I am not sure it will go that well because last year went so well and I'm a year older, Rafa's looking in tip-top shape and others guys are coming back.

"Last year was a fairytale and I can't control everything. Last year could be my favourite year of my career but I am hoping to stay healthy, give myself chances and play my very best in the big matches like last year."

The only time Federer looked remotely stumped came during a post-match interview conducted by American comedian Will Ferrell who told him he had played like a "silky gazelle".

"Don't they get eaten in the end?" replied Federer before being asked whether he was a witch or a vampire and whether his age-defying performances were down to a diet of wombat meat.

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