Lewis Hamilton won a race. Cristiano Ronaldo scored a brace. AB de Villiers was his team’s ace. Sergio Garcia finally made a case. And FC Monaco played with great pace. Yes, this week may sound routine in context of sports happenings, but there’s more to it than meets the eye.
Hamming It Up
The British F1 three-time champion, Lewis Hamilton, threw down the gauntlet in the second race of the season at China – winning it over a rejuvenated Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. Both of them are tied for the lead at the top of the Driver’s Standings after two races, and they look a lot friendlier as rivals than Hamilton’s previous rivalries – with Fernando Alonso back in 2008, followed by a unique bitterness with teammate Nico Rosberg till last year. Hamilton is not the defending champion, and has won three titles as compared to Vettel’s four. That they’re leading already is a good competitive sign – proof that it may just not be the one-horse race we all expected it to be in 2017. Additionally, the Brit has six pole positions in a row now – just two short of Aryton Senna’s all-time record of eight in a row.
UP NEXT: The Bahrain GP this weekend, on April 16. Both drivers have won this race twice.
The Champions Cometh
Cristiano, who hadn’t scored in his last seven starts for Real Madrid – an eternity in the life of the four-time FIFA Player of the Year – continued his peculiar habit of scoring when it matters the most. In the second half at the Allianz Arena against the mighty Bayern Munich, he scored a brace, enabling the defending Champions League title holders to win 2-1 and head to the second leg of their quarterfinal to the Bernabeu against the German Champions with two priceless away goals. The last time a team had defeated Bayern in Europe at their own home was Real Madrid, back during their winning campaign in 2014. Bayern will rue the penalty missed by goalscorer Arturo Vidal at the stroke of half-time. They would have been 2-0 up, but instead find themselves heading to Spain with a deficit to make up.
But the story of the week came at Dortmund, where the home team Borussia Dortmund were taking on French wonder-team Monaco in the other quarterfinal on Tuesday. Hours before the match, a bomb blast occurred on the Dortmund bus heading to the stadium, injuring Dortmund defender Marc Bartra – forcing the match to be postponed at least a week. But instead, the UEFA postponed it to the next day, where the home team played a scintillating game of football and lost 2-3 to Monaco – whose away fans were generously accommodated by the German fans overnight through a Twitter hashtag after their stay was extended for a night in the city. While it was a win for the fans outside the stadium, the Dortmund players were left feeling cheated by UEFA for not giving them enough time to recover from the trauma of the blast a day ago. They will now head to Monaco next week and try to overcome the deficit, facing an uphill task against perhaps the most prolific and young team of Europe.
Meanwhile, it was déjà vu for Barcelona all over again, as they crashed to a humiliating 3-0 defeat at Juventus in the first leg, invoking memories of the 4-0 at Paris two months ago before they came back to Camp Nou and pulled off a miracle 6-1 reverse. This time, however, it could be a little more difficult, with the Italian Champions renowned for their defense, unlikely to let the Spanish Champions run away with the return leg. It could well be the end for Barcelona – who have lost games in a very un-Barcelona way this season, being outplayed for long stretches of time. Is this the end of the Messi era? Only time, and the upcoming FIFA World Cup next year, will tell.
A League of its Own
Sanju Samson became only the 12th Indian batsman in the tenth season of the T20 League to score a T20 century. He annihilated the Rising Pune Supergiants bowlers for Delhi Daredevils, earning them victory over a team suffering due to M.S. Dhoni’s fading abilities in the middle order. Afghanistan teenaged spinner Rashid Khan has spun a web around batsmen over the last week, becoming this year’s Mustafizur Rahman: a surprise package who has picked up six wickets in the Sunrisers Hyderabad’s three games. With David Warner back in form, the defending champions look back in the run after a defeat to Mumbai Indians in their second game, while Rohit Sharma’s Mumbai Indians have won two on the bounce after a typical losing start to the campaign. It’s too early to tell, but Glenn Maxwell’s Kings XI Punjab could well be the team to beat this season; last year’s wooden spooners seem to have found a balance in their middle order that they were so desperately lacking last year. Maxwell’s own form is a big plus.
On Friday night, Virat Kohli will be back to lead the Royal Challengers Bangalore against Mumbai Indians – his first game after the injury he picked up at Ranchi in the Test match against Australia. His team has lost two of their first three games, and despite the swashbuckling return of AB de Villiers, they look lost without their record-breaking Indian batsman. The departure of Mitchell Starc seems to have made a big difference to a side that has notoriously been top-heavy, which is why they’re still to win a title despite being perhaps the most famous and ‘richest’ franchise of the tournament.
Golf’s almost-man Sergio Garcia is no more the best player to have never won a Major. Garcia landed The Masters, Golf’s first major of the year, with a stunning under-the-pump back-nine streak that included a playoff with his Ryder Cup teammate Justin Rose. Garcia won his first major in his 74th attempt – twenty long years after he turned pro, and almost beat Tiger Woods in 1998 at the PGA Championship as a talented Spanish teenager.