• 17/04/2024 20:42

Guardiola's cup fever, Usik on horseback and a dubious ode to Messi: what 2023 was like in sports

 Кубковая лихорадка Гвардиолы, Усик на коне и сомнительная ода Месси: каким был 2023 год в спорте

Photo: Sports awards befitting Max Verstappen, Lionel Messi and Izi Sventek (RBC-Ukraine collage) Author: Anton Fedortsiv

Tennis player Novak Djokovic, football giant Manchester City, race car driver Max Verstappen, boxer Alexander Usik, veteran Lionel Messi and many other sports stars fondly remember the events of the past year.

Digest of the main events in the world of sports in 2023 – in the material of RBC-Ukraine.

January. In the middle of winter, the main event was traditionally the Australian Open. Local authorities dropped all claims against Novak Djokovic before the tournament, so after the coronavirus pause he came to the Green Continent again. The main goal of the Serbian's trip to Melbourne was prosaic – the tenth title of the first major of the year.

Djokovic coped with the task one hundred percent. In the final, the Balkanian was stronger than the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas in three sets. The Australian Open trophy won allowed the Serbian tennis player to overtake Rafael Nadal as the leader in the number of victories at Grand Slam tournaments (22 each).

February. If for Ukrainians 2023 will forever remain the year of two Christmases, then for football it will be the year of two Club World Championships. In February, the tournament was hosted by Morocco, and in the decisive match , Real Madrid, with Andrei Lunin at the start, met with the Arabian Al-Hilal from Riyadh. It was a real goal festival.

 Кубковая лихорадка Гвардиолы, Усик на коне и сомнительная ода Месси: каким был 2023 год в спорте

Photo: Andrey Lunin and the rest of Madrid in gold (si.com)

The Royal Club made a bid for success in the first 20 minutes when Vinicius Junior and Fede Valverde scored. The Arabians snapped back with a goal from Moussa Marega, but at the beginning of the second half they did not notice Karim Benzema and the same Valverde. Argentinean Luciano Vietto scored a double, but Vinicius also scored a second time, so Real took the trophy.

March. The 2022/23 Biathlon World Cup season ended in the first month of spring. The men's champion was Johannes Boe . True, the Norwegian guaranteed the title long before the last races of the season. The star biathlete won 16 starts and took 18 podiums, giving his competitors five victories overall.

There was much more intrigue in the women's competitions. Four athletes won 3 races at once, so the overall stability of performances came to the fore. Julia Simon worked out best with her. The French biathlete was on the podium most often (10 times), and was ahead of the Italian Dorothea Wierer in the overall standings.

April. After a year-long pause associated with pregnancy and the birth of her daughter, the most titled domestic tennis player Elina Svitolina returned to the court. The Ukrainian started on Grutna in the States, and then moved to Europe. The former world No. 3 spent April returning to optimal physical condition.

 Кубковая лихорадка Гвардиолы, Усик на коне и сомнительная ода Месси: каким был 2023 год в спорте

Photo: Elina Svitolina managed to defeat Iga Swiatek herself (Getty Images)

During this time, she lost four out of five fights. But the following month, Svitolina set about returning to the tennis elite. By the end of the year she succeeded. There were many notable victories. The main achievement of the year for the Ukrainian was reaching the semi-finals of the Wimbledon tournament and finishing in the top 25 of the WTA rankings.

May. The last month of spring was marked by attention to the sand courts of the French capital. However, Roland Garros in both the men's and women's singles ended quite predictably – with victories for Novak Djokovic and Iga Swiatek, respectively. But the path to triumph for both was thorny.

The star polka had to push herself against the American Cori Gauff in the quarter finals, and beat the Brazilian Beatrice Haddad Maia in the semi-finals only in a tiebreaker. The final with Karolina Muchova from the Czech Republic even reached the third game. Djokovic also had strong victories, but Norwegian Casper Ruud did not take a single set.

June. Overseas sports pleased us with championship premieres. The winners of the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League won their debut titles. The Denver Nuggets basketball team has long dreamed of rings. The team won the division three times in 5 years, but was blown away in the playoffs. But now Nikola Jokic and Co. completed the job, defeating Miami (4:1).

There was no intrigue in the Stanley Cup final either. “Vegas” won the trophy 6 years after the founding of the team, spectacularly defeating “Florida” in a series of up to four victories. The Nevadans held the last match on home ice and simply crushed the Panthers (9:3). There is also a Ukrainian share in this triumph. Ukrainians Alexander Godynyuk and Sergey Gapshenko work as Golden Knights scouts in Europe.

 Кубковая лихорадка Гвардиолы, Усик на коне и сомнительная ода Месси: каким был 2023 год в спорте

Photo: Hockey Stanley Cup weighs 15.5 kg (usatoday.com)

Manchester City has finally achieved European glory. Pep Guardiola made City winners of the Champions League after the nth attempt. Although the final with Inter Milan could have turned out differently. But the strongest are lucky, and the English grandee found a hero in Rodri. What makes the season legendary are City's other victories – the Premier League title and the FA Cup, which made the word “treble” sweet.

July. Euro 2023 among youth football ended in mid-summer. The Ukrainian U-21 team was pleasantly surprised there. Ruslan Rotan's team confidently advanced from the group (7 points), and in the quarterfinals they defeated France with goals from Sudakov (twice) and Bondarenko. The latter scored in the 1/2 finals, but the Spaniards responded with five goals.

However, the blue-yellows completed their main task for the tournament. The youth team won a ticket to the 2024 Olympic Games. Rotan will take the team to the capital of France, although he has completed his work with Ukraine U-21. It was led by an ally of the national team coach Unai Melgos. Ukrainian football players will become Olympians for the first time.

August. He continued to replenish the club museum with Manchester City trophies. Pep Guardiola's team won the UEFA Super Cup, defeating the Spanish Sevilla in a one-game tournament. The match was again not easy for the “citizens”. Nervion took the lead midway through the first half after En-Nesyri scored a goal.

The English giants bounced back in the second half through the efforts of Palmer, who would later be sold to London's Chelsea. None of the teams could aim for more, so they had to trust the penalty lottery. The Manchester City players completed all 5 attempts successfully. Gudel's last shot from Sevilla hit the crossbar.

For the second time in a row, Alexander Usik entered the ring in August. The Ukrainian, in the status of world champion according to WBA, IBF, WBO, IBO, met with Briton Daniel Dubois. The fight turned out to be difficult and even a little scandalous. In the fifth round, Usyk received a blow on the verge of a foul and fell. Opinions were divided. The referee, the Ukrainian team and functionaries convince that Dubois was hit below the belt. The Briton himself, his retinue and some of the boxers called the blow legal. However, Usik had time to recover, and in the 9th round he knocked out his opponent. Tyson Fury is next?..

September. At the beginning of autumn, the last tennis major of the year, the US Open, ended. After a “rest” at Wimbledon, where Novak Djokovic lost the final to tennis future Carlos Alcaraz, the Serbian appeared again in all his glory. The decisive match, identical to the grass Grand Slam, was disrupted by the neutral Daniil Medvedev.

Therefore, instead of revenge for the Wimbledon tournament, Djokovic should have pleased progressive fans with a victory over the Russian. The brotherly Serb dealt with this quite easily, defeating his opponent in three sets. Even the women's final was more competitive, where court owner Coco Gauff doubled her joy with a victory over the very “neutral” Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka.

October. Just twenty years ago, the Ballon d'Or was deservedly the main individual prize in the world of football. This status was undermined by two circumstances – the collaboration of the France Football editorial team with FIFA and the “alien” dominance of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi . And if we managed to say goodbye to the functionaries, then getting out of the captivity of the popularity of truly great performers is only half done.

Let's be honest, for at least the third time, Messi's Ballon d'Or was a huge question mark. This year, the Argentine won Ligue 1 with PSG and the Cup with Inter Miami. But Manchester City forward Erling Haaland – 4 trophies, the Golden Boot of the Premier League and Europe and the title of top scorer in the Champions League. But the prize went to Messi, who was saved by… FIFA – by holding the 2022 World Cup in the middle of the season.

November. But Formula 1 received a new dominator. And although the last grand prix of the season took place at the end of autumn, Max Verstappen could have been congratulated on his third triumph in the summer. The Red Bull driver has been completely out of reach this year. He won 19 (!) of 22 races and 4 sprints, showed 9 fastest laps and won 12 pole positions.

 Кубковая лихорадка Гвардиолы, Усик на коне и сомнительная ода Месси: каким был 2023 год в спорте

Photo: Max Verstappen became three-time world champion (redbullcontentpool.com)

Over the course of the year, Verstappen broke a number of records for the Queen of Motorsport. Most wins in a season, highest winning percentage, most consecutive wins, most podiums in a season. Most of these gains may never be surpassed again. At least they will hold out until the new heir of Schumacher, Vettel, Hamilton and now Verstappen…

Iga Swiatek also confirmed her status as “number one” in tennis. The Polish woman dispelled all doubts about the leadership at the WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico. On the way to the cup, she defeated all the strongest opponents – Marketa Vondrousova, Corey Gauff, Ons Jabeur, Aryna Sabalenka and Jessica Pegula. Throughout 2023, Swiatek suffered only 11 defeats, including one to Elina Svitolina.

December. While some of the sharks are trying to find crisis phenomena in the Manchester City game, Pep Guardiola's team continued to churn out new achievements. This time, the “citizens” won the title of the best club on the planet without any problems. All FIFA reforms taken together cannot change Europe's dominance in the world of football.

At the tournament in Saudi Arabia, Man City played two matches, scored 7 goals and did not concede a single one. In the absence of Erling Haaland, the role of king of attacks was taken over by world champion Julián Alvarez. In the final against the Brazilian Fluminense (4:0), he scored twice and assisted a teammate, but the best player of the 2023 Club World Cup was the hero of the Champions League final, Rodri.

By the way, we previously prepared a selection of new sports series for the holidays.

Read urgent and important messages about Russia's war against Ukraine on the RBC-Ukraine Telegram channel.

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