06 January 2019, by: Quintin van Jaarsveld
January Sporting Action Attractions
A bumper 2020 sporting year will kick-off with a can’t-miss month of mouth-watering events across the globe, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
Headlined by the Olympic Games, which gets underway in Tokyo in June, the 2020 sporting calendar is jam-packed and promises to deliver magical moments that’ll stand the test of time.
January sees a stacked and wide-ranging offering of sporting stoke and will set the benchmark for what will be a year to remember.
Here is our fan-friendly guide of the top action attractions coming to you this month:
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Hitting the ground running, the Premier League kicked off the year with a bang on the first. The Matchday 21 menu was a smorgasbord of delicious duels, the main course being the much-anticipated Arsenal-Manchester United clash at Emirates Stadium. Both traditional giants have been well off the pace thus far and the Gunners’ 2-0 win would’ve been a massive confidence-booster.
In another anticipated showdown, defending champions Manchester City beat Everton 2-1 while log-leading Liverpool continued their stellar campaign with a 2-0 home win over Sheffield United.
With other leading overseas competitions like La Liga (3 January), FA Cup (4 January) and Serie A (5 January) also having resumed, and the Bundesliga set to continue soon (18 January), there will never be a dull moment for football fans.
BET: PREMIER LEAGUE
On the local football front, the Absa Premiership continued on 3 January in Pietermaritzburg, where Maritzburg United picked up three valuable points with a 2-1 win over Golden Arrows.
Kaizer Chiefs started the year sitting pretty at the top of the table but slumped to a 2-1 to SuperSport United away from home in the featured fixture of 4 January’s line-up, which would’ve boosted the belief of second-placed Sundowns.
In addition, Africa’s secondary club football tournament, the CAF Confederation Cup, resumes on 10 January, followed by the Diski Challenge on 11 January.
After enduring their annus horribilis in 2019, the Proteas are hell-bent on redemption in 2020. The second Test against England started on 3 January at Newlands, where Faf du Plessis and company were eager to continue laying the foundation for the new era but now seem headed for defeat.
With Graeme Smith serving as acting Director of Cricket, Mark Boucher as head coach and fellow former Proteas Jacques Kallis (batting coach) and Charl Langeveldt (bowling coach) also forming part of the new management team, South African cricket’s already better off than this time 12 months ago as the Proteas seemingly have the building blocks in place to shape a new dynasty.
For the players, that journey begins with baby steps and that’s what the four-Test series against the English (plus the three-match ODI series and two T20s in February) represents.
BET: SA v ENG
Mixed martial arts superstar Conor McGregor makes his much-anticipated return against fellow legend Donald Cerrone in the main event of UFC 246 in Las Vegas. “The Notorious” last fought in October 2018, when he lost to lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, and is jumping straight back into the fire against gun-slinging “Cowboy”, who boasts the most wins and finishes in UFC history.
The astute businessman that he is, McGregor has taken the calculated risk of opting for this dream bout to take place at welterweight, seemingly handing the bigger Cerrone an advantage. The reward is that a win would see the Irish enigma hold all the cards, as victory would put him in the unique position of having his pick of either going after the lightweight, or, the welterweight title. “Cowboy” has nothing to lose and everything to gain, setting the stage for a striking shootout for the ages.
Can anyone stop dominant defending-champion Novak Djokovic Down Under? That’s the big question ahead of the Australian Open (AO) at Melbourne Park. The world No.2 is at his absolute best in the first Grand Slam of the year, boasting a record seven men’s singles titles, and certainly enters as the favourite.
The man he defeated in the 2019 final, world No.1 Rafael Nadal, will be ultra-motivated as he’s chasing a 20th Grand Slam singles title, which would equal Roger Federer’s record, while third-ranked Federer is always a threat and won two of his six AO titles in 2017 and 2018.
The game of thrones in women’s tennis is wide open and this should be evident in the AO. Despite a lowly 10th-place ranking, all-time great Serena Williams is the favourite in most events she enters. Having won the last of her record seven AO titles in 2017, she seems primed to make a serious run at the crown and as added motivation, victory will see her equal Margaret Court’s record 24 majors.
Naomi Osaka, who last year became the first Japanese-born champion in AO history, won’t give up her crown without a fight, but she faces tough competition in the likes of Williams, world No.1 Ashleigh Barty, Simona Halep and 19-year-old Canadian sensation Bianca Andreescu among others.
After South African fans get a sample of what’s to come on Super Hero Sunday in Soweto on the 19th, Super Rugby blasts off on the 31st. The action starts in Auckland, where the Blues host the Chiefs, before the Brumbies take on the Reds in Canberra and the Sharks battle the Bulls in Durban. The tournament celebrates its 25th anniversary, but what fans will be celebrating is the fact that it’ll be the final season under the nonsensical conference system, with the Sunwolves set for a last hoorah before the tournament reverts to a 14-team league format in 2021.
South African sides were also-rans in 2019 and local supporters will hope the Springboks’ World Cup triumph will translate into Super Rugby success. The Crusaders were in a class of their own once again in 2019, winning their third title on the trot and 10th overall, and the men from Christchurch will enter the tournament as favourites. Whether anyone can put a stop to their dominance remains to be seen, but it promises to be another action-packed rugby rollercoaster ride.
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