The greatest comeback? Abidal, Ali and others to rival Tiger

By Sports Desk April 15, 2019

"The greatest comeback story in sports." That was how Stephen Curry described Tiger Woods' incredible triumph at the Masters on Sunday.

Woods' time as golf's premier star looked to be over as his form and fitness deserted him in recent years, with a back injury threatening to end his career.

However, after returning to contention last season, the 43-year-old claimed his 15th major title and fifth green jacket with a superb display at Augusta.

Before following Curry's lead and pronouncing this achievement the greatest ever, though, we highlight some other sporting comebacks to rival Tiger's…



Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova was one of the best tennis players in the world when she was the victim of a knife attack in December 2016, suffering a career-threatening injury to her playing left hand.

She was incredibly back in action for the 2017 French Open and then made the quarter-finals of the US Open.

Kvitova was not done there either, reaching the 2019 Australian Open final and climbing to number three in the WTA rankings. She could yet follow Woods in securing an emotional major win.


Few comebacks have been as spectacularly swift as that of Eric Abidal, who was diagnosed with a tumour in his liver in March 2011 and lifted the Champions League trophy two months later.

The Barcelona defender's problems were not entirely resolved, though, and he required a liver transplant the following year that led to a lengthier lay-off.

Yet Abidal still managed to return to win LaLiga in 2012-13 and continue his playing career until 2014. He has since become Barca's technical secretary.



Niki Lauda was the reigning Formula One champion and well on course for a second straight title in 1976 when he crashed at the Nurburgring Grand Prix, with his car engulfed in flames.

Part of Lauda's ear was burnt off and his vision was impaired, but he was back in action six weeks later for the Italian Grand Prix.

The title escaped the recovering Lauda by just a point in 1976, yet he was back on top the following year and claimed the drivers' championship again in 1984 to cap a remarkable career.


Muhammad Ali went three years without a professional fight in the middle of his career.

Ali was convicted of draft evasion, sentenced to five years in prison and fined $10,000 because of his stance on the Vietnam War. He remained free while he appealed, but his boxing licence was revoked.

The American returned to action in 1970 and, although he lost to Joe Frazier in a title fight the following year and sustained a broken jaw against Ken Norton in 1973, Ali was heavyweight champion again when he defeated George Foreman in 1974, aged 32.



Michael Jordan did comebacks like few others.

Jordan quit the Chicago Bulls in 1993 after three straight championships to try his hand at baseball, fulfilling his late father's dream that his son might make it in two sports.

That stint in the minor leagues did not quite work out, though, and Jordan was back in the NBA in 1996 and incredibly won three consecutive titles once more with the Bulls. A second return from retirement with the Washington Wizards did not quite go to plan.

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  • Woodland 'enjoying the moment' as U.S. Open breakthrough looms Woodland 'enjoying the moment' as U.S. Open breakthrough looms

    Gary Woodland is embracing the pressure and challenge from the chasing pack after taking another step towards his first major title at the U.S. Open.

    Woodland ended the third round with a one-stroke lead following his two-under-par 69 in California on Saturday.

    Winner of three PGA Tour trophies but still searching for his major breakthrough, Woodland was two shots clear atop the leaderboard when he teed off on the penultimate day.

    The American's lead was cut to one by 2013 champion Justin Rose (68), however, Woodland is relishing the race to the finish line at Pebble Beach.

    "I don't need to change anything," Woodland told reporters. "It's more of enjoying the moment. I mean, this is what we play for. This is what I've worked so hard for.

    "And I think playing with Tiger [Woods] last year on Sunday [at the US PGA Championship], I don't know if I enjoyed it to start the round, I think there was a lot of moving pieces going on, and I think I kind of got caught up in it a little bit.

    "Once I settled in, after I made a birdie putt on eight, I settled in and then I was back to being myself. And that's what I've learned from that situation, is I can't control everybody else. I can control my attitude, and I can control my game. And that's what I'm out here to do."

    Woodland said: "I worked for this my whole life. I've trained since I started walking. I've played sports, I've competed. I've learned how to win, even if I haven't done it as much as I'd like.

    "I know what it takes to win. And my game is in a great spot. I'm at a beautiful golf course. I came here to win, and that's what we're going out to do tomorrow."

    Brooks Koepka is also lurking as the world number one eyes a third consecutive U.S. Open title.

    Koepka posted a third-round 68 to move to seven under, four shots behind Woodland ahead of Sunday.

    "Brooks has obviously played phenomenal," Woodland added. "I don't know if anybody has done what he's been doing since Tiger did it.

    "I know if I play my game and play like the way I've been playing, the guys from behind me are going to have to do something really, really special. So I'm going to go out, stay within myself, stick to my game plan and try to extend that lead more than anything."

  • Koepka hopes recent dominance helps in final round Koepka hopes recent dominance helps in final round

    Brooks Koepka believes his recent record at majors will hold him in good stead heading into the final round of the U.S. Open.

    The two-time defending champion carded a three-under 68 in the third round on Saturday to be four shots behind leader Gary Woodland.

    Koepka has been the man to beat at majors in recent years, winning four of the past eight he has played.

    The world number one believes those experiences could be an advantage ahead of Sunday at Pebble Beach.

    "Just having been in the position I'm in. Feels like almost every major right now – second at Augusta," Koepka said.

    "I felt like I've put myself in good chances where I'm very comfortable around that. I don't need to go out and chase. I don't need to do much, just kind of let it come to you.

    "And from there, if I win, great. If not, I felt I've given it all I had this week and it's just not my week."

    Koepka was two under through seven holes in his third round and believes taking advantage of the front nine will be key.

    But he is full of confidence and said his form was just where he wanted it to be.

    "I feel good. I feel like if I can just make a few putts, I feel like I could be right there, right next to Gary. And it's been very close," Koepka said.

    "I'm pleased how I'm playing. I'm pleased how I'm striking the ball.

    "And I feel as confident as ever right now. It's probably the best ball-striking week I've had.

    "Pebble's greens are so small. I think I only missed one green today, maybe two, I don't know, if I was in the fringe or something. But to hit as many greens as I have the last two days, the ball-striking is right where I want it."

  • Woodland's lead cut to one as Rose closes in Woodland's lead cut to one as Rose closes in

    Gary Woodland maintained his advantage atop the U.S. Open but Justin Rose is only one stroke adrift heading into the final round.

    Woodland carded a two-under-par 69 to be 11 under through 54 holes, one stroke ahead of world number four Rose on Saturday.

    A three-time PGA Tour winner but seeking his first major title, Woodland hit the front on Friday after joining Rose (Thursday) and Tiger Woods (2000) as the only players to shoot 65 in a U.S. Open round at Pebble Beach.

    Woodland teed off with a two-shot lead on the penultimate day and the American stretched his advantage to three at one point in California.

    A birdie on the 11th created some distance between Woodland and Rose – the former finishing with three birdies and a bogey to stay top.

    Rose was not at his best either on Saturday as the Englishman traded birdies for bogeys on several occasions, but he did enough to keep pace with Woodland.

    The 2013 U.S. Open champion's birdie at 14 was a nice bounce back from a bogey, with Rose nailing a putt to get back to nine under.

    Rose finished the day by making birdie at 18 to shoot a three-under 68 and move to 10 under for the tournament.

    Two-time defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka posted his third successive day in red numbers as the world number one continues to lurk.

    Koepka posted a third-round 68 to move to seven under alongside Chez Reavie (68) and Louis Oosthuizen (70), four shots behind Rose in his bid for a three-peat.

    Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy shot a one-under 70 to move to six under, four strokes clear of former world number one Dustin Johnson (71).

    Masters champion and three-time U.S. Open winner Tiger Woods (71) birdied his final hole of the day to finish even par after 54 holes.

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