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Tennis giant and one-hit wonder

Steven Lynch May 14, 2012
Maria Sharapova's reach is an advantage © PA Photos

I saw Maria Sharapova in person recently, and was astonished at how tall she is. Is she the tallest (female) Wimbledon champion? asked Jane Harding
The statuesque Sharapova is usually shown as being 6ft 2ins tall (188cm), although some sources say she's just a little shorter at 6ft 1in (185.4cm). Either way, Sharapova is not quite the tallest Wimbledon ladies' champion of them all: Lindsay Davenport was 6ft 2½ins tall (189cm), and shares with Russia's Elena Bovina the distinction of being the tallest woman ever to play in the singles at Wimbledon. The shortest woman to play at Wimbledon was Gem Hoahing - born in Hong Kong but representing Britain - who was just 4ft 9½ins tall (146cm). Born in 1921, she appeared at the Championships between 1937 and 1961; at the age of 14 she won a junior title in Middlesex by winning all her matches 6-0 6-0.

Who's the only golfer to win a major since 1980 but never finish in the top ten in another one? asked Colin Briggs
I think actually there are two men who fit the bill here. Keegan Bradley, who won a major - the 2011 PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club - at his first attempt, has only played in one since (the 2012 Masters), and finished 27th in that. The other shooting star in this regard is Todd Hamilton, who emerged from the pack to win the 2004 Open at Royal Troon. In 31 other majors, Hamilton's best finish so far has been a tie for 15th place at the Masters in 2009.

I have just been watching the World Snooker Championships. Has a left-hander ever won it? asked Tom Catchpole
Only two left-handed players have ever won the world snooker title: Mark Williams, the Welshman who won the title in 2000 and 2003, and Neil Robertson, the Australian winner in 2010. The only other left-handers to reach the final are Perrie Mans from South Africa (in 1978), the unlucky Jimmy White - the runner-up on no fewer than six occasions (1984, and each year from 1990 to 1994) - and the 2011 beaten finalist Judd Trump.

Jimmy White fell at the final hurdle in snooker © Getty Images

I remember an athletics race when Steve Ovett or Seb Coe ignored the supposed pacemaker, who went on to win. When was this, and who was the cheeky winner? asked Richard Houston
The event in question was a 1500-metre race at the Bislett Stadium in Oslo in June 1981. Steve Ovett was just about at the height of his powers, and was tipped to set a new world record. the American runner Tom Byers was viewed as a pacemaker, but Ovett and the other runners - who included Steve Cram, John Walker and Steve Scott - were more concerned with watching each other. Byers was about 50 metres in front at the bell, and although the chasing pack kicked hard and closed the gap markedly, Byers still sneaked home about half a second in front of Ovett for a famous win. "We ran like a load of hacks," said Ovett afterwards.

Swimming world records seem to be broken all the time. What's the longest-standing one? asked John Pickard
The longest-standing individual swimming world record at a recognised distance (one competed for at the Olympics, and set in a 50-metre pool) was set in June 2007, when the American Kate Ziegler lowered the women's 1500m freestyle record to 15 minutes 42.54 seconds. In the men's events the longest surviving record dates only from August 2008 and the Beijing Olympics - where, almost inevitably, it was set by the multi-medal-winner Michael Phelps. He completed the 400m individual medley in a time of four minutes 3.84 seconds. The following day, Phelps and his American team-mates set a new world-best in the 4x100m freestyle relay, and that's still standing too.

Who was the first world speedway champion, and who's won it most often? asked Dave Cooper
The first official world speedway championship was contested at Wembley Stadium in 1936, and won by the Australian Lionel van Praag, who raced for the home team Wembley Lions. Until 1994 it was a one-off event, but since then it has been a Grand Prix series along the lines of the Formula One drivers' championship. Two men have won six titles: the New Zealander Ivan Mauger collected six between 1968 and 1979, while the Swede Tony Rickardsson has won five of the Grand Prix series titles, and also claimed the last of the old-style championships in 1994.

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