• January 26 down the years

Sharapova sizzles in the sun

The sporting events of January 26 down the years
Maria Sharapova was the darling of Melbourne in 2008 © Getty Images

Maria Sharapova won the Australian Open. Having lost to Serena Williams in the 2007 final, she won this year's event without dropping a set, beating Serbia's Ana Ivanovic to the title. It was Sharapova's third Grand Slam singles title, in three different countries. She was still only 20.

An even younger player won the first of her three consecutive Australian Opens. 17-year-old Monica Seles lost the first set to Jana Novotna but won the next two 6-3 6-1.

Wayne Gretzky was born in Ontario. By common consent the greatest ice hockey player of all time, he set more than 60 NHL records. Goals, assists, points, in a season and in total, you name it. Speed goes without saying in this game. Add it to anticipation and his ability to swerve past blockers. He was so good behind the net they called the area his office. He won the Stanley Cup four times with the Edmonton Oilers (1984-90) and took the unfancied Los Angeles Kings to the final in 1993.

The Rugby Football Union was formed. The representatives of 21 clubs and universities met at the Pall Mall Restaurant in London. It would have been 22 if the delegates from Wasps hadn't gone to the wrong place.

Jarmila Kratochvílová was born in Czechoslovakia. At the 1980 Olympics, she finished second in the 400 metres behind Marita Koch. So the Kratch upped her training. Despite a prohibitive schedule at the 1983 World Championships, she won the 800 metres in 1:54.68 and the 400 in a world record 47.99. Both are Championship records that still stand. Koch broke the 400 record two years later, but Kratochvílová's 1:53.28 for 800 metres, set before the 1983 Worlds, is still the fastest time ever run by a woman. How she managed to achieve such times in her thirties is everybody's guess. Like Koch and FloJo and most of the others, she never failed a drugs test...

The Tampa Bay defence outscored the Oakland offence, including a Super Bowl record five interceptions, turning three of them into touchdowns. After conceding a field goal, the Buccaneers scored four touchdowns, including two by Keenan McCardell from passes by Brad Johnson: 34 points in a row. The Raiders scored three touchdowns of their own, the third by 40-year-old Jerry Rice, his eighth in Super Bowls, easily the record. Oakland trailed only 34-21, but then came two interception touchdowns and Tampa Bay won 48-21. Rice finished his Super Bowl career with 589 yards receiving. The next best is 364.

Green Bay Packers won the big event for the first time since 1968. In a rather processional game, they beat New England Patriots 35-21. Quarterback Drew Bledsoe threw two touchdown passes to put the Patriots 14-10 ahead. But his opposite number Brett Favre also threw two, one from 81 yards, as well as scoring a TD himself. Green Bay's punt returner Desmond Howard was made MVP for his 99-yard run that made the final score 35-21. There was no scoring in the fourth quarter.

Buffalo Bills lost the Super Bowl for the second year in a row, 37-24 to Washington Redskins, who led 24-0 early in the second half. Washington quarterback Mark Rypien became the first Canadian-born MVP for his 292 yards and two touchdown passes.

Sir Henry Cotton raised the bar in the game of golf © Getty Images

Sir Henry Cotton was born in Cheshire. One of the best British golfers of all time, he won the Open three times. In 1934, he began with rounds of 67 and 65. Nobody shot a lower round in the event until 1977, and his scores after 36 and 54 holes smashed all Major records at the time. He could afford to shoot 79 in the last round and still win by five strokes. He made 66 on his way to winning the Open in 1948, again by five shots, having come from behind to win it in 1937. He played in only three Ryder Cups spread over 18 years.

Chicago Bears overwhelmed New England Patriots 46-10. The Bears had conceded the fewest points and yards in the regular season. No surprise, then, that their defensive end Richard Dent was voted MVP. Kevin Butler kicked three field goals for Chicago, whose five touchdowns were shared among four players, including the massive William Perry, the famous 'Fridge', who'd come into training camp weighing nearly 23 stone. New England didn't score their touchdown until they were 44-3 behind. Bears coach Mike Ditka had scored one in the Super Bowl on January 16, 1972.

Pete Sampras overwhelmed Carlos Moyà to win his second and last Australian Open. Earlier in the tournament, Moyà, a 20-year-old clay court specialist, had beaten defending champion Boris Becker, but here he couldn't cope with Pistol Pete at his peak and lost in three easy sets.

François Faber was born in France. In 1909 he was only 22 when he became one of the youngest cyclists to win the Tour de France.

The World Skiing Championships, due to start in Sierra Nevada in Spain, were cancelled for lack of snow. A hundred snow machines were brought in to no avail. They took place at the same venue in February the following year.

In the World Club Challenge in Bolton, St Helens beat Brisbane Broncos 20-18. Like other English clubs in this match, which is almost always played in England, they probably wouldn't have won in Australia. The Broncos were hot favourites, led 18-6, and only lost when they were hit by a snowstorm in the second half. Temperatures back home in Queensland were 30 degrees in the shade. The scores were level until Paul Sculthorpe and Sean Long dropped goals near the end.

When Dennis Andries fought Tom Collins for the vacant British light-heavyweight title, he lost on points after fifteen rounds. Tonight he beat him on points after twelve. Andries went on to win a version of the world title three times.