Here are some of the happenings in the world of sport that caught my imagination last year.
In tennis I have been a fan of Sabine Lisicki for a few years and her run to the final at Wimbledon was exciting and nerve-jangling. The meeting with Serena Williams in the quarter final was the highlight. Serena had just won the French Open and was looking invincible. Perhaps the only woman in the draw who could cause her problems at Wimbledon was Lisicki, who absolutely loves playing on grass. For once Williams was playing someone whose serve could trouble her and Lisicki raised the rest of her game when a break down in the final set to come back and cause a huge upset.
The men’s tournament at Wimbledon was of course notable for Andy Murray’s victory. Murray had a little help in that final win from Juan Martin del Potro. The semi-final between del Potro and Djokovic was a classic over five sets with both players hitting some miraculous winners. Djokovic hadn’t fully recovered when he played Murray two days later. Djokovic was also involved in a classic semi-final at Roland Garros against Rafa Nadal. At a crucial moment in the fifth set Djokovic touched the net and lost a point which would have put him a game from victory. He went on to lose the game and match.
A funny moment occurred in the women’s Australian Open final. Li Na fell and banged her head quite hard. The trainer came onto court and it looked for a while that Li may not be able to continue. Then the trainer raised her finger and asked Li how many fingers she could see. Li and the crowd burst out laughing and we knew all was well.
The British Lions toured Australia. The first two tests were closely fought and both came down to the final kick of the game. On both occasions a successful kick would snatch victory. In the first Test the Australian kicker slipped and the kick fell short. In the second it was the Lions who suffered.
Another close encounter was the First Test of the Ashes series at cricket between England and Australia at Trent Bridge. In their first innings Australia were rescued by their last batsman Ashton Agar who was making his Test debut. Agar came within a whisker of becoming the first number eleven ever to make a test century. The match also featured the infamous incident when Stuart Broad refused to walk after edging a catch, which went on to cause ill-feeling right through the series in both England and Australia. If that wasn’t enough the match itself almost saw Australia come from way behind to snatch victory. They fell just 14 runs short.
David Ortiz saves the Boston Red Sox in game 2 of the ALCS. In the match-up to decide who goes to the World Series the Red Sox were down to their final out of the ninth inning. They were trailing and facing a 2-0 series deficit with the next games in Detroit. Lose this game and there would be a mountain to climb. Ortiz comes to the plate and hits a Grand Slam home-run to tie the game. The Red Sox won the game and went on to win the ALCS and the World Series. For me their run to the title turned entirely at that moment.
Carl Froch’s controversial fight with George Groves was developing into a classic when it was prematurely stopped. The events of that night have rather overshadowed the fantastic fight that Froch had which did go the distance. Froch faced his previous conqueror Mikkel Kessler and the two champions went toe-to-toe with some ferocious hitting for twelve rounds. Froch deservedly won the fight but Kessler earned great credit as well in one of the fights of the year.
The greatest comeback of the year was in the America’s Cup when New Zealand led the series 8-1 needing only one more win to take the Cup. The American opposition brought Ben Ainslie into their yacht and he guided them to eight successive wins to retain the Cup.
The final of the women’s European hockey championship saw England playing Germany. The first half was crazy with England taking a 2-1 lead but Germany going into the interval 4-3 up. Things returned to normality in the second half which ended with the scores tied at 4-4. Extra time changed nothing so it went to penalties. Surprise, surprise, the Germans won.
Rank outsiders Wigan were given little chance in the FA Cup Final against Manchester City. In the final City were really flat and Wigan were able to take advantage with a dramatic injury time winner. It was the first time Wigan had won the trophy.
For sheer class Sprinter Sacre’s performances took the breath away. The racehorse was absolutely awesome in winning his races including the Two Mile Champion Chase at the Cheltenham festival. Such was his dominance that he was given the highest rating by Timeform by a steeplechaser for forty years.
There were some entertaining Moto GP races this year. Much of the excitement was created by rookie Marc Marquez whose brilliant overtaking moves and duels with Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa were terrific. Marquez took the world title in a championship which went to the final race of the year.
In complete contrast to the world of motorcycling comes indoor bowls. The world championship final was a thriller which went down to the final end.
The most exciting athletics race of the year was the women’s 400m final at the world championship. Christine Ohuruogu passed the field and closed down on Amantle Montsho in the home straight. Montsho and Ohuruogu crossed the line together but Montsho leaned back as Ohuruogu dipped. The Briton took the world title by the narrowest of margins.
My choice as the most dramatic moment of the year is the rugby league World Cup semi-final between England and New Zealand at Wembley. The match was fiercely competitive throughout with the leading changing hands several times. With a minute remaining England were leading 18-14 and the ball was down at the New Zealand end of the field. Inexorably The Kiwis progressed up the field. England were holding out but gave away a penalty. The Kiwis had to run it and Shaun Johnson managed to break through the defences to score a try. The scores were tied but New Zealand had the conversion to come. That was the final kick of the game. It went over and The Kiwis had snatched victory.