After a year in which England won Commonwealth netball gold, England’s men reached the semi-finals of the football World Cup, Lizzy Yarnold took a second Winter Olympics gold and Dina Asher-Smith claimed multiple medals on her way to becoming – currently – the fastest woman on the planet, 2019 has a lot to live up to.
But next year promises to be a bumper sporting year to rival the last one.
England and Wales host the Cricket World Cup, the Women’s World Cup takes place in France, the Netball World Cup is in Liverpool, cycling’s Road World Championships in Yorkshire, the World Athletics Championships are held in Qatar and Japan hosts the Rugby World Cup – to name only a few standout events.
So who is set for a successful year? BBC Sport’s experts give their views.
CRICKET – Jonathan Agnew, cricket correspondent
English cricket must embrace the most exciting and significant summer in its history. At every level, this is the opportunity for the authorities to sell the game to a new audience.
First it is the World Cup, which starts on 30 May, and never before has the England team started as pre-tournament favourites. Combined with home advantage, this gives captain Eoin Morgan’s team the best possible chance to win the 50-over World Cup for the first time. The demolition of Australia last year, and its continued success in Sri Lanka confirmed the view that England are best placed to lift the trophy.
Quite how the coach, Trevor Bayliss, will cope with the pressure remains to be seen, because immediately after the World Cup is over, the Ashes begins on 1 August. Australia have been rocked by the sandpaper scandal that overwhelmed the country – and it will be fascinating to see whether Steve Smith and David Warner will return. If they do, their reception at Edgbaston for the first Test should not be missed.
England’s women will be looking to avenge their defeat to Australia in the World Twenty20 final by regaining the Ashes. The format is the usual mix of one-day matches and a solitary Test, which I still believe would work well in some cases in the men’s game.
CYCLING – Chris Boardman, cycling summariser
Before the road season really gets under way, we have the Track World Championships in Poland to look forward to at the end of February. With the Olympics drawing ever nearer and qualifying points on offer, sparring between nations becomes more and more serious. Expect fast times and ferocious competition in Pruszkow.
After finishing third in 2018, 33-year-old Chris Froome will undoubtedly be out for a fifth Tour de France win in 2019. His defeat in this year’s race to team-mate Geraint Thomas is probably giving him even more focus and ambition to do so in July.
Team Sky, who recently announced 2019 will be their last year in cycling, will be looking to bow out in style and with two proven tour winners on their roster, they have the most enviable of all problems, which previous winner to back. This year, they side-stepped the decision and simply let the riders’ legs do the deciding and there’s no reason to assume they won’t do the same again in 2019. It’ll certainly add an extra richness to the narrative of both the race itself and the build-up to it.
Once the battle in France has concluded, all eyes will turn to the Road World Championships in September, which for the British riders is an extra special event in 2019. Record crowds are all but guaranteed in Yorkshire but the rugged terrain will make it hard to identify on whose shoulders the country’s hopes should rest.
The tough finishing circuit around Harrogate will certainly make it difficult for Mark Cavendish to deploy his sprint. If he did manage it, it would be the crowning glory of his illustrious career. In the women’s event there is less doubt. Far from being a hindrance, the terrain will actively favour former world champion and Yorkshire woman Lizzie Deignan.
RUGBY UNION – Chris Jones, rugby union correspondent
2019 is all about the World Cup in Japan, which starts in late September. Although New Zealand have a chance to cement their legacy as one of the greatest sports teams of all time by winning a third tournament in a row, their aura of invincibility has been eroded of late – with Ireland establishing themselves as genuine contenders after a dream 2018.
Elsewhere, South Africa are resurgent, Wales will be relentlessly competitive, while England cannot be discounted. It all means the World Cup – held in Asia for the first time – is more eagerly anticipated than ever before.
Before that, the Six Nations will provide a valuable marker of each team’s progress, as Joe Schmidt and Warren Gatland bid to add another Championship title to their glittering CVs at the start of their final year in charge of Ireland and Wales respectively.
It is all change in the women’s game as well, with the RFU taking a big step towards professionalism by contracting England women’s XV-a-side players on a permanent basis. On the pitch, the round two clash between England and France in Doncaster catches the eye in the Six Nations, although the occasion will fail to match the record crowd in Grenoble last year. While certain unions are doing what they can, the women’s game will struggle to advance without a collective vision from the governing bodies.
BOXING – Mike Costello, boxing correspondent
Tyson Fury’s rise from the canvas against Deontay Wilder in December helped resurrect interest in the heavyweight division beyond British shores. Anthony Joshua has attracted vast crowds over the past two years and now a three-way rivalry, which promises to form the most exciting heavyweight scene for a quarter of a century, has ignited.
If egos and TV priorities can be controlled, history beckons. Since the inception of the WBO (World Boxing Organisation) in 1988, no heavyweight has held all four recognised versions of the world title. Any one of the still-unbeaten trio could become the undisputed champion in 2019.
Canelo Alvarez has had the first of the 11 fights included in his exclusive $365m deal with US streaming service DAZN and the completion of the trilogy against Gennady Golovkin would rank high on the list of the most sought-after showdowns to come. Alvarez won the rematch last September, following their draw a year earlier, and the form of those two battles indicates that a third is likely to be close and contentious.
Canelo’s success will be crucial to the viability and credibility of DAZN, which has emerged just as the cable network HBO departs the boxing scene in the United States. Showtime, ESPN and Fox Sports have committed to the sport in a way which will result in the coverage of more fights on more platforms than at any time in broadcasting history. The effects of such competition will resonate worldwide, for good and for bad.
WOMEN’S FOOTBALL – Rachel Brown-Finnis, former England goalkeeper
European women’s football has never been in a better place and by hosting the World Cup in France, it will provide a huge boost to the game for the hosts, and England and Scotland. France already has Europe’s best female team in Lyon, but the tournament will offer a great chance for France to use home advantage to win their first World Cup, as the men’s team did in 1998.
Despite that, reigning champions United States are the favourites. Their preparation for big tournaments is a telling factor where they are basically in camp for six to nine months and it is a recipe which has led to a record three wins. Based on that, US striker forward Alex Morgan will be the player to watch. She says she is in the form of her life after scoring 18 goals in 19 games in 2018.
I would love England to succeed and it’s their best chance in a long time to win their first World Cup. But losing vice-captain Jordan Nobbs to injury is a huge loss and there is no natural replacement for her. Scotland will be represented by their strongest ever team and have a good chance to get out of the group.
With Great Britain set to send a team to the 2020 Olympics and England hosting the 2021 European Championship, this World Cup could catapult women’s football on these shores to the next level.
GOLF – Iain Carter, golf correspondent
The biggest question in golf is whether 2019 will be the year Tiger Woods adds to his tally of 14 major titles. His return to the world’s top 20 suggests he is ready, especially at the Masters and The Open where his experience sets him apart from most rivals. But Woods must retain the strength and fitness that have been the bedrock of his renaissance and his past troubles in this regard mean remaining injury free can never be taken for granted.
How Britain’s Georgia Hall progresses after her breakthrough major triumph at the Women’s British Open will be fascinating to follow. I expect her to be a fixture on LPGA leaderboards and her temperament suggests she will be a key player for Europe as they seek to wrestle back the Solheim Cup. September’s gathering at Gleneagles promises to be one of the real highlights of the year.
Back in the men’s game, Rory McIlroy is due to return to winning ways on the biggest stages but needs to rediscover his mojo. Emerging British talents to watch out for are Matt Wallace and Tom Lewis along with Danny Willett, who now has the fitness to re-establish his world-class qualities.
NETBALL – Caroline Barker, netball commentator
2018 is gone, long live 2019, right? For netball, 2018 could not have been any better: Commonwealth Games gold and end-of-year awards aplenty. But they count for nothing come the World Cup Liverpool, home advantage and for the first time great expectation on England’s roses.
Many will look at how Tracey Neville’s England side deal with Australia, the world number ones and the wounded animal, but the bigger sniff of a threat comes from New Zealand and Jamaica. The Kiwis have a new coach, a change of heart with some of the players and they are starting to tick. They have some of the world’s best in their ranks.
That is the same for Jamaica. They have got players who can hustle with the best of them, such as former Loughborough defender Shamera Sterling, who has gained a move to Australia to play domestic netball as a result of her performances.
Neville recognises that the rest of the world have upped their game too: “If people aren’t stepping up to the mark there’s got to be changes.”
The Quad Series will measure how the world order is sitting, with the top nations all taking on England. Then all eyes and expectations will move to Liverpool.
ATHLETICS – Steve Cram, athletics commentator
The prospect of Mo Farah taking on Eliud Kipchoge in the London Marathon in April is very interesting and there is also the possibility of Farah coming back on the track, probably at 10,000m, which he has not written off.
From a British point of view, we will be looking at Dina Asher-Smith after the times and medals at European Championships to see if she can step up at the World Championships in Doha in September. Laura Muir, Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Lorraine Ugen are also part of a strong women’s team and there are plenty of medal chances.
Globally, there will be more stars making their name, with American sprinter Noah Lyles impressing in 2018 and pole-vaulters Armand Duplantis and Timur Morgunov both going over six metres in Berlin. You always want to see the Worlds hosts do well and Qatar have Mutaz Barshim in the high jump and Abderrahman Samba in 400m hurdles to get behind.
The biggest new star could be Sydney McLaughlin. The American 400m hurdler does not turn 20 until August 2019, but is a phenomenal athlete and could well break the world record as a teenager.
DISABILITY SPORT – Elizabeth Hudson, disability sport writer
With less than two years to go until the start of the Tokyo Paralympics, 2019 will be important for securing qualification slots and putting down a marker in the build-up to the Games.
The swimmers face a big test at the Para-swimming Worlds in Malaysia in July with many competitors from GB and beyond having been reclassified since Rio 2016 meaning new challenges for some big names.
The rivalry between Britain’s Hannah Cockroft and Kare Adenegan is set to continue at the Para-Athletics World Championships in Dubai in November where the likes of Jonnie Peacock, Sophie Kamlish, Georgie Hermitage and Kadeena Cox will be keen to re-establish themselves after a quieter year in 2018.
But away from the track, there will be scrutiny on the crowd size in Dubai after the success of London 2017, where attendance records were broken and the sport took a huge step forward.