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Federer's resurgence, Birkdale drama and magical Man City - 2017's sporting highlights

Omnisport
NEWS
51   //    31 Dec 2017, 21:41 IST
Roger Federer - cropped
Roger Federer after winning the Australian Open

There were countless memorable sporting moments in 2017, from Roger Federer's stunning Australian Open triumph to Manchester City's dominance of the Premier League.

Omnisport's writers reflect on the drama they witnessed at the year's biggest events. 

 

Dejan Kalinic on the Australian Open and a magical men's singles final

A first Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal grand slam final since 2011 made the men's Australian Open decider special enough, but two of the greatest players of all-time served up a classic in their unexpected showdown on Rod Laver Arena.

Federer was playing in his first tournament since Wimbledon the year prior and questions remained over how he would return from knee surgery.

Nadal was on the comeback trail after a wrist injury, but found himself in an enthralling decider in Melbourne.

The duo put on a stunning show, Federer winning a five-set thriller. And, what is more, the pair each went on to enjoy tremendous years, surely exceeding even their own lofty expectations as they split the year's four slams.

 

Nicholas McGee on a stunning Super Bowl LI comeback

Any debate over the legacy of Tom Brady was settled in the most unbelievable fashion in February.

Down 28-3 to the Atlanta Falcons, Brady appeared set to suffer the third Super Bowl defeat of his glittering career. However, in an utterly remarkable exhibition of his stunning poise in the biggest moments, Brady led his New England Patriots team all the way back to tie 28-28 and force overtime.

When the Patriots won the overtime coin toss, it was a near-inevitability he would lead them on a game-winning drive, which was capped by James White's touchdown to seal a 34-28 win and a fifth Lombardi Trophy for Brady and New England, surpassing his idol Joe Montana (four) to cement his place as the greatest quarterback of all time.

 

Peter Thompson on another Nadal masterclass at the French Open

There was almost an air of inevitability around Roland Garros as Rafael Nadal set about accomplishing 'La Decima'.

It had been three years since the 'King of Clay' celebrated a 14th grand slam singles title at the French Open, a long wait for a sporting icon who has become so accustomed to success.

Nadal had come agonisingly close to claiming another major title at the Australian Open in January, losing to old foe Federer.

The imperious Spaniard never looked like missing out on a 10th French Open title in Paris, where he was on another level to his rivals.

Those fortune enough to see the world number one lift La Coupe des Mousquetaire without dropping a set on a glorious June afternoon in the French capital shook their heads in disbelief, as did outclassed runner-up Stan Wawrinka.

 

Matthew Scott on Real Madrid's UEFA Champions League final triumph

The 2017 Champions League final was a rare beast, in that it pitted the two sides regarded as Europe's best against each other. By my reckoning, a first since Manchester United and Barcelona faced off in 2009.

Cardiff city centre could barely contain the heaving mass of Juventus and Madrid fans, who brought a wonderful celebratory atmosphere to the Welsh capital, both outside and inside the Principality Stadium, while the return of home hero Gareth Bale was enough to keep the locals interested.

The Liga champions had the better of it once the action got under way, winning 4-1 and becoming the first side in the modern era to conquer the continent in successive seasons, though Mario Mandzukic's stunning overhead kick will forever remain one of the best goals I've ever witnessed.

 

Jon Fisher on the Confederations Cup in Russia

Initially thought of as a useful logistical guide ahead of next summer’s World Cup, the Confederations Cup turned out to be an enjoyable event in its own right.

Omnisport’s three reporters took in the group matches in Moscow, Sochi and Kazan as well as the final in St Petersburg.

And although European champions Portugal, and star turn Cristiano Ronaldo, were bundled out by Chile in the last four, Germany continued to fly the UEFA flag.

A 4-1 drubbing of Mexico in the semi-finals was followed by a hard-fought 1-0 win over Chile – Lars Stindl netting the winner after 20 minutes – in the title-decider as Joachim Low’s men successfully backed up their 2014 World Cup triumph.

More importantly perhaps was the fact Russia proved it could stage an international football tournament. Let’s hope they can replicate the feat in 2018.

 

Jack Davies on the British and Irish Lions' tour of New Zealand

The British and Irish Lions had not won a series in New Zealand since 1971, but victory in the second Test against the All Blacks this year teed up a dramatic finale in Auckland on July 8.

New Zealand led 12-6 at half-time thanks to tries from Ngani Laumape and Jordie Barrett, but the faultless kicking of Owen Farrell – and one penalty from the boot of Elliot Daly – steered the Lions to a stunning 15-15 draw, producing the first tied series since South Africa in 1955.

Nobody quite knew how to react to the unexpected result, and those craving a fourth deciding Test were left disappointed.

 

Russell Greaves on the 146th Open Championship and Spieth's spectacular triumph

As a fan of Jordan Spieth, watching the American's apparent meltdown at the 13th on Sunday at Royal Birkdale was a painful experience. As a sports writer, it was manna from heaven.

What unfolded was a human drama of epic proportions; the vivid, uncensored study of a man whose inner demons appeared to be devouring his spirit, determined to prise his grasp from the Claret Jug.

Minute after agonising minute passed, watching the young Spieth forage in thick undergrowth behind a sizeable mound before retreating to the practice range for a drop.

And yet somewhere amid that farce, the man at the centre of it was bracing himself for something closer to fantasy. Spieth scrambled a bogey, nearly aced the next hole, eagled the 15th and birdied the following two, ensuring his par at the last wrapped up a third major triumph.

It truly was something special from someone special.

 

Tom Webber on the IAAF World Championships and Usain Bolt's farewell

Eight-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt's talent marked him out as an all-time great, but it was his magnetic personality that made him a favourite of fans across the globe.

The final race of his illustrious career at the IAAF World Championships in August produced mixed emotions inside the London Stadium, though. While his dreams of claiming a farewell gold ended amid sensational drama as he picked up an injury on the last leg of the 4x100 metre relay, the crowd were in raptures as Great Britain stormed to gold.

Once the dust had settled a day later, Bolt returned to the track and was the sole focus as he entered retirement on the back of an emotional lap of honour - recognition befitting a sporting icon.

 

Peter Hanson on the Mayweather-McGregor superfight

Few events in recent sporting history, let alone 2017, have attracted more attention than Floyd Mayweather Jr and Conor McGregor's much-hyped crossover fight, which took place in Las Vegas on August 26.

From the moment it was confirmed one of boxing's all-time greats would face the biggest star of UFC, the hype machine went into overdrive.

Mayweather ultimately bided his time on fight night to skilfully pick off his tiring opponent, a boxing novice.

Yet McGregor's ability to at least stay in the contest during the early rounds meant all the pre-fight predictions of irreparable damage to boxing's reputation were swiftly swept under the carpet.

 

Dominic Farrell on Manchester City's record-breaking Premier League winning run

As we are being reminded with unusual frequency for December, Manchester City have not won anything yet. Pep Guardiola, a serial winner with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, will not be satisfied until they have.

But the Catalan tactician has accomplished what he was not supposed to over the course of City's phenomenal record-breaking, 18-match winning run in the Premier League. His intricate passing style, the intensive pressing and rigorous positional play – that couldn't work in England, where teams wouldn't roll over. It has, emphatically, and many have. 

City in full flight have been one of the delights of the sporting year. Raheem Sterling's graduation from streaky winger to dead-eyed matchwinner best represents the huge steps forward taken by most of the players under Guardiola's charge, while Kevin De Bruyne is as complete and devastatingly effective as any midfielder on the planet. They haven't won anything yet; it won't be long.

 

Omnisport
NEWS
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