From the dusty red clay of Rome to the squared ropes in Madison Square Garden in New York, there will be lots of thrilling sporting moment to savour this week.
Rafael Nadal seems to have returned to his best form at his preferred time of the tennis season as he keeps racking up wins in the major clay court tournaments on the ATP Tour. The Rome Masters begins this week and he will once again be the undoubted favourite heading into the tournament. Andy Murray is the defending Champion in Rome, but his recent form isn’t encouraging enough to make us believe he will be defending his title or putting up a huge fight to keep it. It’s going to be a packed field in Rome with the likes of Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Milos Raonic Kei Nishikori and Dominic Thiem all aiming to knock Nadal off his perch.
In the female category, Madrid Masters champion, Simona Halep will be the one to beat in the absence of defending champion Serena Williams, as the Romanian has been in great form recently. However, the likes of Angelique Kerber, Karolina Pliskova, Kristina Mladenovic, Garbine Muguruza and old warhorse, Venus Williams will see the absence of Serena as a huge chance for any of them to lay their hands on the title.
Unified and welterweight champion Terrence Crawford will put his titles and undefeated record on the line when he comes up against Felix Diaz on Saturday at the Madison Square Garden in New York. Diaz has been calling out the champion for a while now and he will finally get his wish this weekend. The challenger comes in with a 19-1 record, while the champion is undefeated with a 30-0 record. If this fight goes according to plan with a win for Crawford, a unification fight against the other unified champion in the division, Julius Indongo, to unify all four major belts will definitely be the next fight on the horizon.
This week will see the first of the three Grand Tours in the sport, the Giro d’Italia, enter its second week and this is where we begin to separate the contenders from the pretenders. Bob Jungels currently leads the overall standings; the 24-year-old from Luxembourg leads British riders Gerraint Thomas and Adam Yates. We will find out if he has the stamina to hold on to that lead as the week progresses.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt will announce a squad of 30-plus players for the June tour of USA and Japan today. The 51-year-old, who just returned from the World Cup draw in Kyoto where Ireland was drawn in Pool A alongside the hosts, will name a full-strength team as senior players need to be playing rugby in the event of a Lions call-up.
South Africa will enter into the final round of the World Rugby HSBC Seven Series in London in pole position to win the overall title. They are currently on top of the standings ahead of defending champions Fiji and England.
The Western Conference final between San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors began in the early hours of this morning and will continue throughout this week. The Warriors are the favourites to clinch the Western Conference title and head into their third consecutive NBA Finals, but the Spurs might just have plans to derail that ambition.
The Eastern Conference Finals will begin later in the week as there’s still the small matter of tonight’s Game 7 of the semi-final series between the Boston Celtics and the Washington Wizards. The winner will face LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers team. King James is aiming to reach his seventh consecutive NBA finals.
Chinasia Ibonye|The Guardian NGR|AFP