This Week in Sport: 31st May – 6th June 2021

Another fantastic week of sport lies ahead! We get underway with Day 2 of the French Open on Monday. Follow that up with Game 2 of the Carolina Hurricanes - Tampa Bay Lightning series from the NHL playoffs. Get over that midweek hump with the start of the first Test between England and New Zealand. Thursday sees the start of the U.S. Women’s Open golf while Friday sees high-quality AFL action between Melbourne and the Brisbane Lions. As we move into the weekend, Hull RFC takes on St. Helens in the Semifinals of the Challenge Cup. And anticipation is high for Sunday as F1 takes on the Baku City Circuit for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Roger Federer at the French OpenMonday 31st May 9:00AM GMT – Tennis: French Open

There is a full day of first round action at the French Open at Stade Roland Garros in Paris. Play begins at 9:00AM GMT on Monday 31st May 2021.

The first round of the 125th French Open continues today, with many of the sport’s biggest stars in action. In the men’s draw, 3rd seed Rafael Nadal begins his campaign for his fifth consecutive French Open title. This run would match the five titles Nadal won between 2010 and 2014 as the longest run of dominance in tournament history. The Spaniard begins his tournament against world number 62 Alexei Popyrin. The other two members of The Big Three are also in action. World number 1 and 1st seed Novak Djokovic begins his hunt for just his second title at Roland Garros against Tennys Sandgren. Meanwhile, Roger Federer, who along with Nadal is looking for a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title, opens against Denis Istomin.

There are just as many storylines unfolding in the women’s draw. Serena Williams, who has not won a Grand Slam tournament since the 2017 Australian Open, begins the journey towards her record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title and a Quadruple career Grand Slam. That journey begins against Irina-Camila Begu. World number 1 Ashleigh Barty, whose one and only Grand Slam title came at Roland Garros in 2019, begins her tournament against Bernarda Pera. And Polish teenager Iga Świątek, who shocked the tennis world by winning the French Open last year, begins her title defence as the 8th seed against Kaja Juvan.

It may be the first round but we are already guaranteed some must-watch tennis.

Alexander Nedeljkovic for the Carolina HurricanesTuesday 1st May 12:00AM GMT (Wednesday 2nd June) – Ice Hockey: Carolina Hurricanes v Tampa Bay Lightning

As the NHL playoffs continue, the Carolina Hurricanes face the Tampa Bay Lightning at PNC Arena in Raleigh for Game 2 of their second-round series on Wednesday 2nd June 2021 at 12:00AM GMT.

The Tampa Bay Lightning lead this second-round series after a 2-1 win in Sunday’s Game 1. Goals from Brayden Point and Barclay Goodrow were the deciding factors in a fairly evenly-matched contest. The Carolina Hurricanes, top seed from the Central Division, fought their way through a first-round series with the Nashville Predators. Despite taking a two-game lead, the Hurricanes saw their opponents battle back to tie the series. While the Hurricanes won the series 4-2, it was a draining matchup that saw six overtime periods across the last four games of the series. Sebastian Aho leads the team in scoring, with five goals across the first seven games of the Canes’ playoff run. The Stanley Cup-holding Lightning represent perhaps the biggest obstacle in Carolina’s quest to win their first Stanley Cup title since 2006.

The defending champion Lightning were also taken to six games in their first-round series, losing games 3 and 5 of their matchup against the Florida Panthers. Brayden Point is the team’s leading scorer in the playoffs, with five goals to his name. The Hurricanes, considered something of a strong title contender are a team that Tampa Bay will be glad to see off early in the playoff run as the Lightning hope to mount the first successful Stanley Cup defense since the Penguins in 2017.

Will the Lightning go 2-0 up? Or can Carolina even the series?

Kane Williamson for the New Zealand cricket teamWednesday 2nd May 10:00AM GMT – Cricket: England v New Zealand (Day 1, 1st Test)

The first Test between England and New Zealand begins at Lord’s in London on Wednesday 2nd June at 10:00AM GMT.

England are back in action for the first time since March. They will look to improve from their Tour against India against the impressive team from New Zealand. Before England’s defeat to India they were unbeaten in Test series since December 2019, when they lost to New Zealand. England boast a quality squad, filled with the likes of Stuart Broad, Joe Root, and James Anderson but many big names are missing due to either injury or the need for rest after a complicated IPL campaign. The two-Test series against New Zealand marks the start of a busy summer of action for England against Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and India - across all formats.

For New Zealand, it’s their first Test action since January. The series will serve as a warmup for the inaugural ICC Test Championship Final, that New Zealand will be play against India later in the month. Kane Williamson leads a strong squad who continue to impress in the world of Test Cricket. This should be a thrilling two game series.

Paula Creamer at the US Women's OpenThursday 3rd May 12:00PM GMT – Golf: U.S. Women’s Open Day 1

The LPGA Tour travels to The Olympic Club in San Francisco for the 76th U.S. Women’s Open. Play begins at 12:00PM GMT on Thursday 3rd June 2021.

It’s time for the second major of the 2021 season as the best in women’s golf head to San Francisco for the U.S. Women’s Open. It’s been five years since an American won the U.S. Women’s Open but that could all change this year. While the return to form has been slow for icon of the sport Michelle Wie West, perhaps being closer to home will give her the boost she needs. Wie West, who won the tournament in 2014, lives in San Francisco and graduated from the nearby Stanford University. Sisters Jessica and Nelly Korda, ranked 12th and 4th in the world respectively, have been dominating on the Tour this season, this includes a win a piece in the first two events of the season. For the sisters, the question of winning a major is when not if.

But what about the rest of the world? There is New Zealander Lydia Ko, the onetime child prodigy who is making a heartwarming comeback on the Tour. After falling into a drought in 2018, Ko has one tournament win in 2021 and four top-11s in her last four events. While defending champion Kim A-lim is not slated to appear, her Korean compatriots 2019 champion Lee Jeong-eun and two-time champion Inbee Park will compete.

With an exceptionally strong field, you won’t want to miss a single swing.

Charlie Cameron for the British LionsFriday 4th May 9:50AM GMT – Australian Rules Football: Melbourne v Brisbane Lions

In the AFL, Melbourne host the Brisbane Lions at the MCG in Melbourne on 4th June 2021 at 9:50AM GMT.

Melbourne are once again top of the AFL standings after a win over fellow contenders, the Western Bulldogs. Now sitting at 10-1, Melbourne continue their best season in years. Their goal scoring is led by Bayley Fritsch and Tom McDonald, who have 25 and 20 goals respectively. While there is still a little over the season left, Melbourne are establishing themselves as one of the favourites to win the minor premiership, which would be their first since 1964.

The Brisbane Lions enter the week in third place, with an 8-3 record. After starting the season by losing three of four, the Lions have won their last seven. They are led by Eric Hipwood and Charlie Cameron, with 22 and 20 goals respectively. Brisbane have finished second in the standings the past two seasons. However, they have never won the minor premiership and haven’t reached the Grand Final since 2004.

Matches like this are likely to be crucial to the final regular season standing, so it’s one that you won’t want to miss.

Jack Welsby for St. HelensSaturday 5th June 1:30PM GMT – Rugby League: Hull RFC v St. Helens

Hull RFC look for a place in the Challenge Cup Final as they take on St. Helens at the Leigh Sports Village in Manchester on Saturday 5th June 2021 at 1:30PM GMT.

Hull FC won back-to-back Challenge Cup titles in 2016 and 2017, but have only reached the Semifinals once in the ensuing years. However, wins over Featherstone Rovers and Wigan Warriors have granted them the opportunity to vie for another Final appearance. Hull’s nine tries in the Challenge Cup are spread across six players, with Chris Satae, Carlos Tuimavave, and Josh Griffin each having scored two.

St. Helens, despite being perennial Super League champions, have not enjoyed the same success in the Challenge Cup. While they finished runners-up in 2019, they last lifted the trophy in 2008. Despite this, they began their 2021 Challenge Cup campaign with a win over the defending champion Leeds Rhinos. They followed that with a win over Huddersfield to reach this showdown with Hull. Regan Grace has been their star man in the tournament, with five tries across the two matches played.

Who will find the win and go on to face either Castleford or Warrington in the Final?

Ferrari at the Azerbaijan Formula 1 Grand PrixSunday 6th June 12:00PM GMT – Motorsport: F1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

The F1 season continues with the Azerbaijan Grand Prix at the Baku City Circuit in Baku on Sunday 6th June 2021 at 12:00PM GMT.

For the first time since the 2020 Hungarian Grand Prix 323 days ago, Lewis Hamilton does not lead the F1 Drivers’ Championship. A poor showing at Monaco, where he finished 7th with a bonus point for fastest lap, saw him lose the championship lead to Max Verstappen. Verstappen, who won in Monaco, now leads the defending Drivers’ champion by four points.

The season now travels about 4500km east to the Azerbaijani capital of Baku. Baku has hosted a Grand Prix since 2017, with Daniel Ricciardo, Lewis Hamilton, and Valtteri Bottas all taking race wins. The street circuit is a fast one, marked with long straights and handful of technical corners. There are plenty of opportunities to overtake and battle, making it one of the most watchable tracks of the F1 season. While the race was cancelled in 2020, it is great to see it return for 2021.

Can Hamilton once again top the standings, or will Verstappen extend his lead?

Other sporting highlights from around the world

Honourable mentions around the globe go to rugby union. In the Gallagher Premiership, it’s the penultimate week of the regular season. Sale Sharks host Harlequins, Leicester face Bristol Bears, London Irish take on Wasps, and Northampton Saints travel to Exeter Chiefs. There’s a very colourful matchup in the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman Series as the Reds play the Blues while elsewhere, the Brumbies go head-to-head with the Hurricanes. The highlight of the Major League Rugby competition this week is the showdown between the NOLA Gold and Rugby ATL.

In rugby league, the Castleford Tigers take on Warrington Wolves in the Semifinals of the Challenge Cup. Travelling to the southern hemisphere, the Storm take on the Titans in the NRL.

For basketball fans, the first round of the NBA playoffs continue throughout the week. The WNBA season also continues with the New York Liberty taking on both the Las Vegas Aces and Connecticut Sun, with the Sun and Aces also facing off this week.

With Euro 2020 on the horizon, there is plenty of football to enjoy. Most European nations are in action in international friendlies, with various other international football happening around the world. Meanwhile, the European U-21 Championships conclude this week. In English league football, Morecambe and Newport County face off in the League Two Playoff Final.

There is plenty of cricket to enjoy. The County Championship continues this week, with Essex taking on Nottinghamshire. Meanwhile, in the Rachel Heyhoe Flint Trophy, the Central Sparks play the Western Storm.

All the major golf tours are in action this week. The PGA Tour is in Ohio for The Memorial Tournament. The European Tour is in Germany for the Porsche European Open and the Ladies European Tour is in France for the Jabra Ladies Open.

The NHL playoffs continue throughout the week with plenty for hockey fans to enjoy - the second round gets underway in full this week. Coming to an end this week are the IIHF Hockey World Championships.

The Vitality Superleague, Britain’s premier netball league season moves to its conclusion with the Finals Series taking place later in the month.

In the MLB, there is plenty of quality baseball to enjoy. The Los Angeles Dodgers take on the St. Louis Cardinals while the San Diego Padres face off against the New York Mets.

The road to the Tour de France continues in the cycling world. The Critérium du Dauphiné ends in Frances and the Tour de Suisse gets underway.

If horse racing is your thing, be sure you don’t miss The Investec Derby this weekend.

For motorsport fans - with the F1 in Azerbaijan, MotoGP is in Catalonia for the Catalan GP.

In the boxing world, there is an exhibition fight between Floyd Mayweather and YouTuber Logan Paul.

For sailing fans, SailGP returns with its Italy meet.

A week of world class sport awaits. Whatever you’re watching, enjoy!

Fixture

Photos by Roland-Garros, Carolina Hurricanes, BLACKCAPS, U.S. Women's Open, Brisbane Lions, St.Helens R.F.C. Official, FORMULA 1 AZERBAIJAN GP

Written and information correct on 30th May at 9pm GMT

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