More so than any other year in recent memory, 2017 was punctuated with claimants to all-time greatness in their respective sports converging to add to the perpetual debates.
Rivalries simmered, old guard dominated, youngsters sprung up, and a fair few farewells were bid. Here’s a look back at the year that was.
Real Madrid reinforce European reign
Real Madrid became the first side in the Champions League era to retain the premier club trophy, thumping a hitherto impregnable Juventus 4-1 in the final. With a staggering 10 goals in the last three rounds of the Champions League, and 12 overall, Ronaldo eventually won his fifth Ballon D’Or equaling Lionel Messi’s tally, as Real won La Liga after a five-year gap as well.
In England, Antonio Conte’s Chelsea won the league in the Italian’s first season in charge, ensuring that no side has retained the EPL crown since Manchester United in 2009. However, with 19 wins out of 20 at the start of the new season, it’s Manchester City that are vying to maintain the streak of no side defending their title, breaking all sorts of records in the run meanwhile.
In Italy, Juventus continued their dominance with a sixth Serie A title and a third league cup double on the bounce. Bayern Munich won the fifth Bundesliga on the trot as well, but relative struggles in the Champions League meant that Carlo Ancelloti was sacked.
In France, Paris Saint Germaine lost out on their fifth Ligue 1 title on the trot to AS Monaco, prompting an unprecedented splurge in the summer that included €180 million for Kylian Mbappe and the earthshattering world record €222 million for Neymar Jr.
With the Brazilian eying the Ballon D’Or, the Champions League draw has thrown up and intriguing Round of 16 match-up between PSG and Ronaldo’s Real Madrid.
The two most decorated male tennis players of all-time took the GOAT debate to a new level by splitting the four majors in the year as Roger Federer won the Australian Open and Wimbledon, while Rafael Nadal bagged the French Open and US Open. The duo also won five of the nine ATP Masters 1000 titles, further stamping their mark at the top of the game.
It was eventually Nadal who edged out Federer in the year-end ranking, winning it for the fourth time and in turn becoming the oldest player to do so.
However, there were first ATP Masters wins for Alexander Zvever, Grigor Dimitrov – who also won the ATP World Tour Finals – and Jack Sock, with the likes of Nick Kyrgios, Dominic Thiem and David Goffin making finals as well.
As Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stanislas Wawrinka return from their injury layoffs, with the next gen threatening to challenge the status quo that now has Fedal at the very top, again, 2018 could see another reshuffle of the pecking order.
Hamilton in pole position
As Federer and Nadal brought their decade and a half old rivalry to the fore, the head to head that is simmering in Formula 1 is between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastien Vettel, who have now won eight of the past 10 drivers championships between them. With 62 wins, Hamilton is now next only to Michael Schumacher’s 91.
Hamilton has now won three of the past four drivers championships, with Mercedes winning all four constructors’ championships on the bounce.
2018 will now begin with Vettel and Hamilton on four championships each, third on the all-time list with Alain Prost, behind Juan Manuel Fangio (5) and Michael Schumacher (7).
The all-time leading constructions champions Ferrari (16), however, are still looking for their first title since 2008.
The greatest NBA side of all-time?
Based on a single season performance, are the 2016-17 Golden States Warriors the greatest basketball side of all time? The consensus is that it’s either them of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls.
But with two wins and a runners-up finish in the past three years, the Warriors are without a shadow of a doubt the best team in the NBA as things stand.
What’s also intriguing is the rivalry between the Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers who have contested each of the three NBA finals.
But with Warriors themselves not quite up to pace with the standards they set last season with a 28-7 record at the top of the Western Conference standings at the time of writing, and Cavaliers third in East with 24-11, 2018 might just pan out differently for everyone.
Even so, another win for Warriors would reaffirm their own NBA dynasty.
One last Bolt from the blue
While others are busy establishing their pedigree, one of the greatest athletes of all time bid adieu to the sporting world at the World Athletics Championship.
It wasn’t a fitting farewell as Usain Bolt finished third in the 100 meters final, and then could not finish the 4x100m owing to a cramp.
He leaves the sport with 19 major gold medals, six World Athlete of the Year titles and world record times in 4x100m (36.84 seconds), 200m (19.19 seconds) and the iconic 9.58 seconds for the 100m.
Hole in golf
As all-time greatness was debated elsewhere, golf continues to struggle to fill the massive void created by Tiger Woods’ plunge that has seen him without a major for a decade now. Rory McIlroy, who was supposed to be the successor, has now had three major-less years.
Jordon Spieth’s win at The Open Championship in July ended a run of seven first-time major winners in golf, showcasing the vacuum and the complete dearth of any dominance. Among these was Sergio Garcia, whose memorable win at the Augusta Masters has now elevated him from the unwarranted title of the ‘greatest to never win a major’.
Elsewhere Brooks Koepka (US Open) and Justin Thomas (PGA Championship) continued the dominance of first-time major winners.
However, with Spieth’s three major crowns in the past three years putting him a PGA Championship win away from bagging all four, he is now the most successful player in recent years.
Even so, with Woods looking good on his comeback, and McIlroy also eying a return soon, 2018 might see one of these two finally (re)announce their presence.