As a sporting year, 2013 has one major problem: it comes right after 2012. At first glance this seems to be 2013's lot, destined always to play a grudging Salieri to the unrepeatable operatic one-off that was 2012.

Where 2012 passed in an unceasing succession of big production numbers – Olympic Games, Euro 2012, a Ryder Cup that even managed to make professional golf look like a gloriously Corinthian undertaking – following it was always destined to feel a bit like getting on stage after Jimi Hendrix with just a ukulele and a set of spoons.

Yet perhaps 2013 shouldn't be underestimated, such are the well-grooved rhythms of the sporting calendar. Many of its most promising highlights might yet act as an intriguing refrain of the riches of the past 12 months, like a well-judged sequel with slightly fewer car chases, but with the compensation of a little more plot.


With any luck, this process will kick off in January with the Australian Open, the first major of the year and the first since Andy Murray's giddy midsummer high of Olympic gold and triumph at the US Open. Suddenly tennis has four potential male Grand Slam winners, not to mention a sense of a generational changing of the guard in the women's game, where Britain's Laura Robson (below), only 18 and with no real tournament history, also has the talent to appear in a major final along the way. Murray's return to Wimbledon, a year on from his Olympic destruction of Roger Federer and now installed as the darling of the crowds, will be one of the domestic events of the summer.


The Champions League final will also take place in London in the summer, returning to Wembley two years on from its last appearance, tribute to the old stadium's grandeur, modernity and helpful tax breaks for prize-winning overseas footballers.

The Premier League will continue to divvy itself up between the overseas billionaire owners of Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea, while on the domestic front this is a key year for Roy Hodgson's prospects of hanging on to his Three Lions cufflinks and blazer set.

England's qualification for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil will most likely be decided in September when they play Ukraine. Before which there is the prospect in May of a first match against the Republic of Ireland on English soil since 1985 and a first meeting anywhere since 1995, when the match was abandoned due to rioting in the stands. What could possibly go wrong?

Cycling and rugby union

If the summer of 2013 will never match the previous one for pure multi-eventing infrastructure swank, it has its own subtler intrigues. Bradley Wiggins, knighted in the new year honours, has indicated he may not defend his Tour de France title, but the mighty Team Sky will be keen to dish up another British winner, possibly in the shape of the Kenyan-born Chris Froome. Also in June expect plenty of tearful thick-necked singalongs as the British and Irish Lions tour Australia. The Lions have lost seven of their last nine tours. But they have, along the way, done an awful lot of hugging.


In the English summer, cricket can, once again, take unobstructed centre stage: first up is the last ever ICC Champions Trophy, a reanimated dead duck of an honour jolted back to life to fill the void left by the defunct Test world championship (there's a marketing slogan for you). After which it's the Ashes, which will see England, unbeaten by Australia on home soil for 12 years, face a fine young Aussie pace attack in five Tests over just six weeks.

Swimming and athletics

Reprising some of the most poignant moments of 2012, it's the world swimming championships at the new £190m Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Sports Complex, a chlorinated oasis in the middle of lots of desert. British swimming, disappointing this year for all its lottery swagger, has much to prove. Then it's off to Moscow for the athletics world championships and a chance for all those new track-and-field fans who cheered Mo Farah home and marvelled at the pint-sized perfection of Jessica Ennis to watch a little bit on BBC2 before flicking back to EastEnders after 15 minutes of highly technical and strangely David Bowie-free high jump heats.

Rugby league

After which the British sporting year will end with the rugby league World Cup, staged in France, Ireland and, mainly, in the north of England, and likely to throw up assorted unexpected treats. Papua New Guinea versus Samoa at Craven Park, Hull, might not be Usain Bolt at the Olympic Stadium, but, like the rest of 2013, it offers its own less brash but equally pungent charm.


Barney Ronay

The GuardianTramp

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