19 for '19: unmissable sporting events to mark in your diary
Special Olympics World Games, 14-21 March, Abu Dhabi
More than 7,000 athletes from 170 nations are due to compete at the largest multi-sport event for people with intellectual disabilities and one which in 2019 celebrates its 50th anniversary. There will be 24 different individual and team disciplines, ranging from athletics and badminton to cycling and kayaking, and Great Britain is expected to send over a team large enough to compete in every one.
Formula One world championship, 17 March-1 December
Lewis Hamilton will be out to become only the second driver in F1 history to win six world titles and, in the process, close in on Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of seven. He will again be supported by Mercedes and is sure to want to get off to a winning start at the season-opening race in Melbourne. Elsewhere it will be fascinating to see how the highly rated 21-year-old Frenchman Charles Leclerc does at Ferrari following his switch from Sauber. He replaces Kimi Räikkönen, who has moved in the other direction.
Anthony Joshua’s next fight, 13 April, Wembley Stadium
Great Britain’s heavyweight king – the holder of three world titles and an undefeated record from 22 professional fights – is scheduled to go again in the spring. Wembley has been booked to host the 29-year-old for a third time but, as things stand, the identity of his opponent is unconfirmed. Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder both appear to be out of reach given they are set to face each other in a rematch in 2019, possibly also in April, so Joshua could well find himself facing Dillian Whyte after his pre-Christmas win over Dereck Chisora. One other possible opponent is the undefeated American Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller, who has already challenged Joshua to face him – in New York.
Champions Cup final, 11 May, Newcastle
European rugby’s showpiece occasion will be staged at St James’ Park, and it is very possible an English team could be involved. Most obviously Saracens, who once again look imperious, home and abroad. As ever there will be challenges from France, with Toulouse and Racing 92 also looking strong, while the reigning champions, Leinster, are sure to also be among the contenders.
Cricket World Cup, 30 May-14 July, England and Wales
Ranked No 1 in the world and having won 51 out of the 77 matches they have played in the past three years, England are favourites to win cricket’s biggest global title for a first time. Jimmy Anderson certainly thinks they can, even going so far as to say Eoin Morgan’s men would have to “screw up” in order not to be crowned world champions. Having home advantage certainly helps their cause but it would be foolish to rule out the threat posed by teams such as India, who are just behind England in the ICC’s one-day rankings, and Australia, who have won four of the past five World Cups.
Champions League final, 1 June, Madrid
The biggest fixture in European football takes place at the Estadio Metropolitano, the home of Atlético Madrid. Their city rivals Real are the current holders but have been in patchy form this season so look ripe for a serious challenge to their crown, and for the first time in seven years it could well be an English side who take the glory. The Premier League has four representatives in the knockout stage with two in particular, Manchester City and Liverpool, appearing to have the quality and strength-in-depth to go all the way.
Nations League, 5-9 June, Portugal
A competition that was met with scepticism and cynicism proved a notable success in 2018 and for England has led to genuine hope of winning a trophy. Gareth Southgate’s side face the Netherlands in their semi-final in Guimarães on 6 June and, should they win, they would face either the hosts, Portugal, or Switzerland in the final in Porto three days later. Defeat to the Dutch would mean England taking part in a third-place play-off.
Women’s World Cup, 7 June-7 July, France
The eighth edition of the competition is to be staged in France for the first time. Twenty-four teams will compete across nine cities, all hoping to reach the final in Lyon 7 July. Among them are England, who have enjoyed an encouraging year under Phil Neville, winning seven out of 12 fixtures, including a 4-1 triumph over France in the former Manchester United defender’s first game in charge. The team to beat remains the USA, however, who won the competition in Canada four years ago and are ranked No 1 in the world.
Africa Cup of Nations, 15 June-13 July, host country tbc
Africa’s biennial international tournament moves to the summer for the first time. It has also expanded from 16 to 24 competing nations. The only thing needed now is a host. The Confederation of African Football stripped the reigning champions, Cameroon, of the right to do so in November because of concerns over its infrastructure. Egypt and South Africa have submitted bids to step in with a final decision to be made by Caf’s executive committee on 9 January.
Major League Baseball: London Series, 29-30 June, London Stadium
The Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees go head to head in what will be a historic contest – the first time teams from MLB compete on European soil. The Red Sox and the Yankees, who have 36 World Series titles between them, will face each other twice in consecutive days at the home of West Ham United, with officials at the MLB hoping the event will prove popular enough for the sport to establish a “long-term footprint” in London.
Wimbledon, 1-14 July
2018’s Wimbledon passed by almost completely without notice because of a combination of Andy Murray’s absence through injury and England’s exploits at the World Cup. This summer there will be no blaring of Three Lions across pub gardens and, crucially, Murray should be back in action. Johanna Konta will also be hoping to make a mark having last exited in the second round. And then there will be players such as Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Simona Halep and Serena Williams to help bring in the crowds.
Tour de France, 6-28 July, France
The sense of fascination around cycling’s premier event will be heightened by the fact it is to be Team Sky’s last. The target for Sir Dave Brailsford and co will be to go out on a high by winning the general classification for a fifth year in a row following Chris Froome’s triple triumph and this year’s surprise victory by Geraint Thomas. Elsewhere it will be intriguing to see if Peter Sagan and Julian Alaphilippe can follow up on their triumphs at this year’s Tour, when they won the green and polka dot jersey respectively.
Netball World Cup, 12-21 July, Liverpool
Sixteen teams will take part in the 15th edition of netball’s premier competition, with all matches to be staged at the 11,000-seat Echo Arena. England play their first match on the opening day, against Uganda, and the ambition of Tracey Neville’s side will be to go all the way following their gold medal success at this year’s Commonwealth Games. However, having won the past seven World Cups, Australia remain the team to beat. Their first match is also on the opening day, against Northern Ireland.
Aquatics world championships, 12-28 July, South Korea
Gwangju - the “city of peace” - is to stage world aquatics’ premier event. Thirty nations will compete in the pool, in events including swimming, diving and water polo, and for Great Britain the ambition is to improve on the 11 medals, five of which were gold, that they achieved at the 2017 world championships in Budapest. Adam Peaty, the 100m breaststroke champion, and Grace Reid, who took silver in the mixed 3m synchronised springboard alongside Tom Daley, are among those expected to do well again.
The Open, 18-21 July, Portrush, Northern Ireland
For the first time since 1951, Royal Portrush will host golf’s oldest major. It will also be the first time since then that the competition has not taken place in Great Britain. Francesco Molinari will arrive as the reigning champion and is sure to expect a tough challenge from Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day.
The Ashes, 1 August-16 September, England; The Women’s Ashes, 2-31 July, England
Edgbaston, Lord’s, Headingley, Old Trafford and the Oval will play host as England’s men look to make up for the 4-0 shellacking they suffered in Australia last time out. Should Joe Root’s men be triumphant, they could also find themselves lifting the urn as leaves are falling from the trees such is the late finish of this series. For Australia, there could be a return to Ashes battle for Steve Smith and David Warner following their bans for ball tampering. Earlier the respective women’s sides face each other, with a one-off four-day Test match taking place at Taunton in between three one-day internationals and three Twenty20 fixtures.
Rugby World Cup, 20 September-2 November, Japan
The ninth edition of rugby union’s premier global tournament takes place in Asia for a first time. Reigning champions New Zealand will arrive as favourites but as their recent defeat to Ireland showed, the All Blacks can be rattled. Joe Schmidt’s side look best equipped of the northern hemisphere sides to go all the way and will certainly fancy their chances of progressing from a group containing Scotland, Japan, Russia and Samoa. England, meanwhile, find themselves in a tough group featuring France and Argentina.
Athletics world championships, 28 September-6 October, Doha
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