News from Sporting Agenda

 

  • • Full steam ahead for Cheltenham Festival

    With the entire planet seemingly in the grip of the coronavirus outbreak, and sports events under particular threat of cancellation, it is with relief that the Cheltenham Festival is still scheduled to press ahead as normal this week. With 200,000 people due to attend over the four days, additional measures are in place to try to prevent or minimise further spread of the disease. With Cheltenham being the highlight of many people’s sporting, let alone racing, calendar, it would have been emotionally and financially devastating to the racing fraternity to cancel, as happened with the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak. On the course, where further equine welfare measures have been introduced, the quality will be there for all to see, despite the disappointment of Altior being ruled out. With the likes of Epatante in the Champion Hurdle, Paisley Park in the Stayers Hurdle and Al Boum Photo in the Gold Cup, not to mention Grand National hero Tiger Roll seeking his fifth festival win, as well as several good rides for Rachael Blackmore, Bryony Frost and Lizzie Kelly, there’s so much to look forward to. For once the weather seems to be the least of our worries, so let’s hope the virus stays away.

  • Relentless reds march on

    ​With Liverpool seemingly running away with the Premier League, having opened up an apparently insurmountable lead over their nearest challengers, the top clubs are mostly enjoying a well-earned mid-season break. When they return from whichever sunny climes they escaped to, it will be to face the final stretch of the season, with games coming thick and fast. With the return of European fixtures, and the FA Cup starting to look interesting, there will be plenty of distractions for the top sides, although Liverpool may even have wrapped up the Premier League by the end of March, if things continue the way they are. Having returned from Qatar as world club champions, whilst fielding teenagers in recent domestic cup competitions, they clearly have their eyes on the bigger prizes, their pursuit of which remains relentless and seemingly unstoppable.

  • British girls aim for Fed Cup finals

    The new look Fed Cup makes its return this weekend, with Great Britain paying a visit to Bratislava to take on Slovakia on the clay in their World Group play-off. Like the Davis Cup, the competition has been given a facelift, with the winners this weekend going through to the 12-strong finals, held in Budapest in April. After some mixed results at the recent Australian Open, there will need to be a marked improvement from the British girls, especially in the absence of world number 14 Johanna Konta and British number 2 Katie Boulter, but there is every reason to expect Harriet Dart and Katie Swan to build on previous performances, whilst debutants Naiktha Bains and Emma Raducanu will no doubt step up to the plate. Add to that the experience of Heather Watson and the team will believe that that finals place is theirs for the taking.

  • Six Nations back to the fore

    With the World Cup now a distant autumnal memory, the always eagerly-anticipated Six Nations Rugby is back to brighten the spirits.  Brexit Day may be upon us, but the world’s oldest rugby tournament fortunately remains a permanent fixture and promises its usual mixture of drama and upsets, thrills and spills, and general excitement.  Whilst a few names have fallen by the wayside since the World Cup, there is a whole range of electrifying fresh talent ready to be unleashed on the international stage over the next six weeks.  With Wales hosting Italy, followed by Scotland and England visiting Ireland and France respectively, the three newly Brexited nations are, ironically, all up against European counterparts over the first weekend, but, as they say in France, plus ça change… 

  • Doubles to the rescue in Melbourne

    The scorching weather having been replaced by some much needed rain, and with it a coating of mud and dust which fell during a storm in Melbourne, leaving the outside courts needing to be power washed, the Australian Open is now well under way. However, with all British interest in the singles ended before the third round, it will be once again up to our doubles and wheelchair players to keep the flag flying. In the mens doubles, Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski are always a potent threat, eleventh seed Joe Salisbury is progressing well and Jonny O’Mara is already through to round three. And with Andy Lapthorne still to come in the Wheelchair Quad events, where he has won the doubles on five occasions, as well as twice reaching the singles final, there’s plenty of cause for British optimism.

  • Tennis down under

    Following the emotion and excitement of November’s newly formatted Davis Cup, won so impressively by hosts Spain, the inaugural ATP Cup, held across Australia, proved equally thrilling, with Serbia, headed by Novak Djokovic, defeating Rafa Nadal’s Spain in the final in what is effectively the lead up to next week’s Australian Open. Meanwhile, across the Tasman Sea, Serena Williams has done her preparations for Melbourne no harm by winning the Auckland Classic, her first title in three years. Elsewhere, Britons Dan Evans and Kyle Edmund are currently looking for confidence boosting wins in their build up to next week, whilst Sir Andy Murray sadly misses out through injury. However, the terrible bushfires currently raging in Australia are a cause of concern for all, with many players donating to the relief efforts, but the resulting air quality remains a real threat to the event

  • 2020 vision for the sporting calendar

    As another incredible year of international sport draws to a close, it is time to start looking ahead to see what 2020 might bring. On the cricket field England are currently about to take on South Africa over four test matches, before heading to Sri Lanka, followed by a full summer of domestic cricket. After the thrills and spills of the recent World Cup, international rugby returns in February in the considerable shape of the Six Nations Championship, whilst England’s footballers host Italy and Denmark in March as they build towards the European Championships in June. The tennis calendar has as its usual New Year curtain-raiser the Australian Open, and hopefully with it the continuing return of Sir Andy Murray, as he looks to reclaim his seat at the top table of the game and have a tilt at another Wimbledon title. Elsewhere, the challengers are forming a disorderly queue to take on Anthony Joshua after he recently reclaimed his heavyweight world title. Meanwhile, on the turf, the national hunt world will be looking to Cheltenham and then Aintree, before the flat season kicks in with Newmarket and Epsom classics followed by Royal Ascot. On the subject of horse power, Lewis Hamilton will be looking to continue where he left off as he bids for a record-equalling seventh world title. After a classic year of sport, with so much to look back on, there is still plenty to look forward to over the coming months