From Winter Games to the World Cup, here are the highlights of 2018

No need to work your way through those exhaustive 2018 sports calendars. I've found the best bits for you.

No doubt there will be many more thrilling moments and unexpected accomplishments. But make sure you are glued to the screen on:

January 27: Australian Open women's final

Serena Williams holds the trophy after winning the Australian Open final in 2017

Serena Williams won the mixed doubles in 2017. Well, she had two people on her side of the net during the women's final. Who would bet she can't give birth, swing the racquet in a few warm-up events and win an eighth Australian title?

Australia would be a paroxysm of mixed emotions should Nick Kyrgios make his way to the men's final, a process that would leave a trail of blazing strokes, abused officials and controversial statements evoking love and loathing in equal measure.

But so mercurial is Kyrgios it is difficult to predict whether he will breathe out after breathing in, let alone his grand slam performances. Expect the customary Fedaldjokcurray victory instead.

February 9-25: Winter Olympics

Scotty James in training ahead of a World Cup half-pipe competition in Pyeongchang

I would narrow it down to Australia's apparent gold medal hopes, moguls skier Brett Cox and snowboarder Scotty James. But Winter Olympics previews are only slightly more reliable than Melbourne weather forecasts.

Instead tune in for the curling, speed skating or luge and allow yourself to revel in your ignorance of quirky sports you'll never take seriously, much like your American guest might do when you take them to an AFL game.

April 5-8: The Masters

Jason Day tees off on the 14th hole in round one of the PGA Championship

The usual local interest: Jason Day is a perennial contender, Mark Leishman is due and Adam Scott has taken his long putter out of the shed and is shopping for pants that go with green.

But the real fascination is whether Tiger Woods' apparent renaissance after years of physical pain and private turmoil is real and he will threaten to win his first major since the 2008 US Open.

That would be amazing for golf fans, even more inspiring for those of us who can't bend over to pick up the bath mat without feeling like we've been stabbed in the back with a hunting knife.

April 13: Commonwealth Games women's 110m hurdles final

Sally Pearson celebrates while carrying the Australian flag.

Gold Coast flyer Sally Pearson is the official "Face of the Commonwealth Games". As such, the 2017 world champion's appearance will be the 'Cathy Freeman Moment'.

Unfortunately so many media outlets are boycotting the event because of a strict rights-holders agreement that Pearson's likely triumph might not even make the back page of the Mudgee Guardian.

April 15: Commonwealth Games netball final

Caitlin Bassett of Australia competes for a rebound with Casey Kopua and Katrina Grant

Even those who doubt the enduring significance of the Commonwealth Games will agree the netball final between — I'm going out on a limb here — Australia and New Zealand will be worth watching.

Have Lisa Alexander's Diamonds separated themselves from the pack with their cutting-edge program? Have the gritty Silver Ferns been inspired by recent defeats? The Comm Games might save its best moment for the last day.

April 20: Women's Asian Cup final

Sam Kerr celebrates against Japan

You once might have said that with South Korea, Japan and Vietnam, the Matildas had drawn the "group of death". Now, with Sam Kerr the most lethal weapon in the international game, other teams lament drawing the world No.4 ranked Australians.

An Australian victory will increase impetus for Australia's 2023 Women's World Cup bid. Given the attacking spirit with which the Matildas play it will also be great fun to watch.

June 16, FIFA World Cup, Australia v France

Socceroos celebrate qualifying for 2018 World cup

Under the coaching of, ummm — is Harry Redknapp still available? — the Socceroos' opening World Cup game will carry enormous expectations. Even with the most pessimistic observers doubting the capability of a patchwork squad.

Australia lost the first set to France 6-0 in a friendly in Paris in 2013, a result that cost Holger Osieck his job. They will need to perform far more impressively to ensure the path to the second round is still open in subsequent games against Denmark and Peru.

A consoling thought is that the French have a habit of starting big tournaments like a student's car on an icy winter morning.

June 24: State of Origin II

Cameron Smith with a ball.

So finally, here it is. Standalone Origin. Or ''Origin where NRL coaches don't whine endlessly about losing players to the biggest fixtures on the game's calendar'', as it is also known.

The Sunday evening match will attract even greater interest if NSW have beaten Queensland at the MCG in Origin I and have a chance to clinch a rare series victory. Although, as ever, 67-year-old Cameron Smith playing his 412th Origin game will have something to say about that.

September 29: AFL grand final

James Harmes smiles and points to the crowd with his right arm after kicking a goal for the Demons.

Can Melbourne win their first grand final since 1964? After all, if the Western Bulldogs (1954) and Richmond (1980) could break significant droughts, then surely the Demons are next to star at the MCG's Theatre of Fairy Tales.

Geelong will claim Gary Ablett returning to join Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood would be a romantic premiership tale. Thousands of Adelaide Crows fans, and one or two on the Gold Coast, will disagree.

October 29: Cox Plate

Winx wins the Cox Plate

Winx claims the record by winning her fourth Cox Plate. Snap up the $1.20 while you can get it.

November/December: Australia v India Test series

Australia's Steven Smith raises his bat and helmet after reaching his century in Ranchi

India does not have a great record in Australia but the competitive juices will be flowing given the acrimonious recent history between the teams.

Then there is the battle within the battle between Steve Smith and Virat Kohli, who should still be vying for the Bradman Trophy as the Best Batsman on the Planet.

So it should a great series — which, come to think of it, is what we said about the Ashes this time last year.

OK, I've only got a calendar here. I don't have a crystal ball!

Original Article

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