From the World Cup to Wimbledon and exciting new stars to evergreen veterans, these are the moments that made our sporting year in 2018.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on December 21, 2018

France were the eventual and deserving champions at the FIFA World Cup, an event which saw upsets galore and made a global star of the electric Kylian Mbappe. Croatia’s Luka Modric was named the player of the tournament after a series of industrious displays.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal made an early exit from the tournament but the flamboyant star consoled himself with a holiday in the Greek Islands and a US$123 million move to Italian giants Juventus. In the English Premier League, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool jostled for top position, with the latter heading into Christmas at the top of the ladder and still yet to lose a match. Usain Bolt also tried his hand at professional football, briefly appearing for the Central Coast Mariners in Australia’s A League.

Another iconic name, Serena Williams, returned to competition in 2018 after taking time off to have a child. Despite being controversially given the seeding of 25 at Wimbledon, she almost instantly returned to being one of the sport’s elite players.

Four different women won the tennis grand slams (Caroline Wozniacki, Simona Halep, Angelique Kerber and Naomi Osaka) with the latter final also being notable for Serena Williams’ tirade at match officials. Halep’s breakthrough at this level helped her end the year at number one. On the men’s side, the old firm of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic continued to dominate. Federer and Nadal claimed the Australian Open and the French Open respectively, while Djokovic won the two other slams.

In golf, all eyes were on the Phil Mickelson v Tiger Woods pay-per-view match. Eventually won by Mickelson, the event also attracted immense interest as a possible preview of the future of professional sports as a spectacle largely beholden to gambling after sports betting was finally legalised in the US.

The biggest story in cricket was the Australian team being caught tampering with the ball during a Test match in South Africa. The incident generated endless headlines and saw the team’s coach bid a tearful departure. Captain Steve Smith, Vice-Captain Dave Warner and batsman Cameron Bancroft were all slapped with lengthy bans. The episode led to significant soul-searching, multiple book-length reviews and ongoing debate as to the severity of their punishments. Without their two best batsmen, the Australian team struggled on the field but managed to level the Test series with India in a memorable Perth Test.

In the NBA, the Golden State Warriors cruised to another championship amid rumblings their ridiculously talent-laden roster was harming the competitive balance of the league. Tellingly, the most memorable point of a lopsided finals victory of the Cleveland Cavaliers was a moment of pure idiocy from Cavaliers guard J.R Smith. Believing his team was ahead in the dying seconds of game one, Smith dribbled out the clock instead of looking to score, cementing his place in meme infamy. Not long after, LeBron James called time on his stint at the Cavaliers and moved to the bright lights of Los Angeles to begin a new chapter with the storied Lakers franchise.

The sport also saw the retirement of Manu Ginobili, Jimmy Butler’s move to Philadelphia and the rise of Giannis Antetokounmpo to MVP favouritism. In women’s basketball, the US claimed yet another victory at the World Cup in Spain, with Australia taking the silver medal.

Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge also claimed a piece of sporting history in 2018, smashing the previous world record for the fastest marathon. In September, he completed the Berlin race in just 2 hours, 1 minute, 39 seconds, an average pace of 20.7 km/hour.

This year’s Youth Olympics, held in Brazil, also offered a fascinating glimpse into the possible future of sports as they showcased the likes of breakdancing, BMX racing, skateboarding and wall-climbing.