Sport in Focus
After the 2020 sporting calendar was hammered by Covid-19, sport is back with an absolute vengeance in 2021. There is the usual serving of all the annual major events, plus the added extras of rescheduled matches and tournaments, making 2021 a bumper sporting year.
Here are the three standout sporting weeks of 2021 - jam-packed with more mouth-watering fixtures than you can shake a stick at.
Which week would you pick? Remember - use Fixture Calendar to check sports in your local times and make sure these dates are in your diary!
Sunday 23rd May 2021 - Saturday 29th May 2021
This seven-day stretch kicks off with the prestigious Formula One Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday 23rd May. The race is considered one of the most illustrious, glamorous and important races, not just in formula one, but in the entirety of motorsport. The pandemic meant that the Monaco GP was not held in 2020 - the first time it has not gone ahead for 66 years - making the 2021 race even more special.
Sunday 23rd May also sees three of the top football divisions in Europe reach their climax as the 2020/21 Premier League, La Liga and Serie A campaigns all conclude. With title destinations, European football places and relegation spots to be decided, the final day of a league season always guarantees a dose of drama. Three of the most elite leagues in world football should throw up plenty to get excited about.
Wednesday 26th May sees the Europa League reach its hotly-anticipated conclusion, as the competition’s 50th final takes place at the Stadion Energa Gdańsk in Poland. Despite being the secondary domestic cup competition in European football, the Europa League final has played host to some of the continent’s biggest sides down the years. Sevilla, Chelsea, Atletico Madrid and Manchester United have all been crowned champions in the past five seasons. The Europa League final also has a reputation for delivering on the entertainment front, with just one of the last 20 finals finishing goalless.
Wednesday’s Europa League final is the perfect warm-up for Saturday 29th May’s showpiece event: the Champions League Final. Two of European football’s upmost elite will go head to head at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey, in a bid to get their hands on the most illustrious honour in club football. Will Bayern Munich defend their crown, can Real Madrid lift a record extending 14th European title, or will there be a new name on the trophy?
Day One of the second tennis grand slam of the year - the French Open - also gets underway on 23rd May at Roland Garros, and the first week of the tournament continues across the subsequent seven days. The King of Clay Rafael Nadal will be vying for a record-extending 14th title, while in the women’s draw, 2020 teenage champion, Iga Świątek, will be aiming to defend her crown.
The Giro D’Italia - one of world cycling’s most prestigious multi stage events - also takes place across the week. The cream of the cycling crop will tackle 21 gruelling stages, and with the race concluding on 30 May, these seven days could be particularly crucial in determining the destination of the pink jersey.
Saturday 29 May also signals the beginning of the 2021 Invictus Games in the Hague in the Netherlands. The seven-day competition sees wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women compete in various events, using the power of sport to inspire recovery.
Monday 5th July 2021 - Sunday 11th July 2021
Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time in 75 years due to the pandemic, but makes its welcome return in the summer of 2021. The All England Club plays host to the most illustrious Grand Slam on the tennis tour, which enters its highly-competitive second week on Monday 5th July. The women’s final takes place on Saturday 10th July, and the fortnight concludes with the Wimbledon men’s final on Sunday 11th July.
The most prestigious race in world cycling also takes place across the week, with stage 10 of the Tour de France commencing in Albertville on Tuesday 6th July. Riders will tackle 1,142km over the six days, finishing up in Andorra on Sunday 11th July with just six stages remaining to determine the owner of the yellow jersey.
There are two fixtures in the Great British and Irish Lions’ tour of South Africa to look forward to across the seven days. The Lions take on a South Africa Invitational side on Wednesday 7th July at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, before facing Super Rugby side Sharks on Saturday 10th July at Jonsson Kings Park in Durban in preparation for their three-game series against world champions South Africa.
The Copa America - the oldest international tournament in world football - enters the business stage during the opening weeks of July. The Copa America Semifinals take place on Tuesday 6th and Wednesday 7th July, followed by the third place playoff and the final on 10 July. With the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar, Sergio Ageuro and more of the very best talent in South American football on display, the Copa America is always a terrific spectacle.
Further international football action comes in the form of the rescheduled European Championships, which also reach boiling point over said seven days. The Semifinals take place on Tuesday 6th and Wednesday 7th July, before the showpiece final at Wembley Stadium on Sunday 11th July. With giants of world football Belgium, France and Spain all poised to be in action, the Euros always produce a superb serving of the beautiful game.
Monday 20th September 2021 - Sunday 26th September 2021
The 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup takes place throughout the seven days. Day three of the tournament gets underway on Monday 20th September, with a fixture occurring each day of the week.
New Zealand are the host nation for the first time in the competition’s history, and with home advantage the reigning champions will be an even more formidable opponent as they vie for their record-extending sixth world title.
The Ryder Cup - golf’s flagship competition - commences on Friday 24th September at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. Days one and two see four foursome matches and four fourball matches, before the tournament concludes on Sunday 26th September with 12 singles matches. Europe go into the competition as defending champions, but have not won in the United States since the famous 2012 Miracle at Medinah. Gripping, dramatic and steeped in tradition, the Ryder Cup is a headline event on any sporting calendar.
Friday 24th September also sees two of the greatest rivals in American sport go toe to toe as the Boston Red Sox embark on a three-game MLB series with the New York Yankees. The two teams enjoy one of the oldest, fiercest rivalries in American sport, and will thrash it out over three games at Fenway Park on 24th, 25th and 26th September.
Australian Rules Football
The pinnacle of Aussie Rules Football takes place at Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday 25th September; the AFL Grand Final. The fixture is the highlight of the Australian sporting calendar. Characterised by six-figure crowds, huge TV audiences and whacky traditions, it is a blockbuster event.
There is also athletics action to look forward to over the weekend, as the Berlin Marathon takes place on Sunday 26 September. Berlin is famed for being a fast course, with the marathon world record being broken on 11 separate occasions in the German capital - most recently in 2018 by Eliud Kipchoge in the men’s race, as the Kenyan posted a time of 2:01:39.
As we have learnt this past year all details can change at a moment’s notice, so keep up to date and check details using the Fixture Calendar.
Alice Rampling, November 2021
Photos by FORMULA 1®, Wimbledon, Ryder Cup Europe