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My sporting month: June 2011

With Saturday’s Champions League final in the can, and the Football League promotion playoffs also completed, the football season is finally over – although the transfer window and the current controversy swirling around FIFA will no doubt keep the back pages full over the next few weeks. However, the ‘summer season’ is now well and truly upon us. The month of June includes several traditional summer events, such as Royal Ascot (14th-18th) and the Henley Regatta (which starts on the 29th). But here are five key dates which I’ve marked in my calendar for the month of June.

1. French Open finals (4th & 5th)

The second of tennis’s Grand Slam tournaments concludes next weekend, with the top four men’s seeds still on target to meet in the semi-finals. Defending champion Rafael Nadal is scheduled to meet Andy Murray, while the currently unbeatable Novak Djokovic would take on Roger Federer.

In the women’s draw, however, none of the top three seeds qualified for the quarter-finals – only the third time ever this has happened at a women’s Grand Slam tournament. That has opened up the draw for Maria Sharapova, seeking her first Grand Slam win since the 2008 Australian Open, who could face Belarus’s Victoria Azarenka (at four, the highest-ranked player left in the draw). Meanwhile, home hopes rest on the shoulders of Marion Bartoli, who will face defending champion Francesca Schiavone after the pair won their respective quarter-finals.

2. Critérium du Dauphiné (5th-12th) and Tour de Suisse (11th-19th)

With the Tour de France barely a month away, the Dauphiné and Tour de Suisse are the two key tune-up events in advance of the biggest race of the year. While one shouldn’t read too much into the overall results – last year’s races were won by Janez Brajkovič (RadioShack) and Fränk Schleck (now Leopard-Trek) – the nature of the mountain-heavy courses do provide some clear indications of form ahead of the Tour. Alberto Contador was restrained at the Dauphiné but showed flashes of his trademark acceleration in the mountains, while Andy Schleck tested himself with a couple of stinging attacks in Switzerland.

The Tour de Suisse is perhaps more likely to attract the top sprinters, with three stages looking flat enough to end in bunch gallops (the Dauphiné has two). But expect the top GC contenders to be split more or less evenly across the two, with each race featuring four mountain stages, a prologue and a longer individual time trial to provide a good all-round test. The winner of the Tour de Suisse is likely to have been decided before the closing time trial, whereas the Dauphiné concludes with a tough mountain stage which starts with a Tour favourite, the Col de la Croix de Fer, and finishes on the summit of La Toussuire.

3. Canadian Grand Prix (12th)

On the same weekend as the Le Mans 24 hour, the Canadian Grand Prix has long been a favourite on the Formula 1 calendar. An unforgiving circuit which is notoriously tough on engines, brakes and tyres, it has always been one of the better tracks for overtaking. And with the introduction this year of both the DRS drag reduction system and lower-endurance Pirelli tyres, this year’s event should provide plenty of close racing, overtaking moves and accidents as drivers slither around on worn tyres trying to fend off faster cars behind.

The chasing pack will be desperate to prevent defending world champion Sebastian Vettel – who has won five out of six races already this year – from extending an already commanding 58-point lead. Vettel has never won in Canada before, but Lewis Hamilton took his second victory here last year, and Michael Schumacher (a record seven times) and Fernando Alonso are also previous winners.

4. US Open (16th-19th)

Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell had a stunning 2010 season, winning his first major in this tournament at Pebble Beach – the first European to win since Tony Jacklin 40 years previously – and going on to seal the point which won the Ryder Cup for Europe. This year the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland hosts the second major of the year, with McDowell joined by fellow Brits Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, the current top two in golf’s rankings, looking to continue foreign success on American soil after South African Charl Schwartzel won the Masters in April. McDowell’s compatriot Rory McIlroy will also be looking to put his Masters experience behind him, when he shot a disastrous 80 after taking a four-shot lead into the final round.

5. Wimbledon (starts 20th)

For many Britons, this is the unofficial start of summer – and often the cue for two weeks of torrential rain.

The 2010 tournament was arguably most memorable for the world record 11-hour, 183-game match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, which eventually finished 70-68 in Isner’s favour in the fifth set. Ladies’ champion Serena Williams has not played in nearly 11 months, since suffering a foot injury and subsequently undergoing emergency surgery for a blood clot on her lung. She has not yet confirmed whether she will be present to defend her title. Meanwhile, Federer, Djokovic and Murray will all have their eye on unseating defending men’s champion Nadal.

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

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