From Ashes to world cups... a big year for women’s sport
We look ahead to a year in which women will make their mark in the sporting world’s biggest competitions...
Cricket: Women’s Premier League (4-26 March)
After several years of half-fledged attempts for a female version of the IPL, at last the BCCI has arrived properly at the women’s
sports party – and the launch of the Women’s Premier League could transform the cricketing landscape. For the first time, players can now contemplate earning a living away from international level, with the West Indies’ Deandra Dottin a potential trailblazer in seeking a freelance franchise future after retiring from international cricket.
The cricket is off to a fine start, too, with record totals in the first few days as a growing group of promising Indian talents in the five squads test their ability against the best that the world has to offer.
Rugby: Women’s Six Nations (25 March-29 April)
The success of last year’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand sets up another exciting Women’s Six Nations. It’s a mighty intriguing edition, too, with both France and England in a rebuilding phase amid coaching changes, and Italy, Wales, Ireland and Scotland all at different stages on their slow path to professionalism as they bid to close the gap.
The tournament is hampered a little by the dominance of the French and English, but that only makes a likely Grand Slam decider on 29 April at Twickenham all the more tasty as the stadium hosts a standalone England Women’s fixture for the first time.
2023 also sees the launch of World Rugby’s WXV competition, which sees the top 18 nations in the world compete in three tiers, made possible by the alignment of a global calendar – something not yet achieved in men’s rugby. While it is a shame that the inaugural edition is set to run up against the World Cup in France, ensuring competitive international fixtures for more nations is a major positive and should lead to significant strengthening of the global game. New Zealand is expected to host the top tier event, WXV1.
Tennis: French Open (28 May-11 June)
The retirements of Serena Williams and Ashleigh Barty leave something of a vacancy at the top of women’s tennis, but a new generation of likely stars seem ready to step up. Chief among them is Iga Swiatek, already a three-time grand slam winner before her 22nd birthday and a strong favourite to win a third French Open in June.
Recent major winners Aryna Sabalenka, Emma Raducanu and Elena Rybakina are all 24 or under, while American teenager Coco Gauff is surely soon to join them. It augurs well for a competitive grand slam summer that continues at Wimbledon (3-16 July) and the US Open (28 August-10 September).
Cricket: Women’s Ashes (22 June-18 July)
A vibrant T20 World Cup in South Africa kicked off the women’s international cricketing year in fine fashion and there is plenty to excite in the rest of 2023, not least the Women’s Ashes in the height of the British summer. For the first time, a women’s Test will be held over five days, with Trent Bridge hosting the multi-format series opener. The Women’s Ashes also sees a return to some of England’s biggest grounds, with stops at Edgbaston, Lord’s and The Oval entirely overdue.
The hosts have embraced a more positive style under head coach Jon Lewis that they hope will allow them to narrow the gap to the all-conquering Australian side, who added another piece of silverware to their rather crowded trophy room with triumph in Cape Town.
Football: Women’s World Cup (20 July-20 August)
After continental success last year, Sarina Wiegman’s Lionesses head Down Under in pursuit of World Cup glory, with the biggest women’s football tournament ever set to conclude at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium in August. Two-time defending champions the United States are unlikely to cede their crown easily, though.
It could also be a tournament dominated by player power: France and Spain are among the nations currently confronting the prospect of heading to Australia and New Zealand without some of their biggest stars among disputes about the direction of their women’s national sides. The Women’s Finalissima between England and Brazil at Wembley Stadium on 6 April should be another blockbuster encounter, and there’s plenty of club action before the World Cup, too.
Netball: World Cup (28 July-6 August)
Netball occupies a rare space in the sporting world as a game played mostly by women, and hosts a 16th World Cup in 2023. The tournament heads for new shores – Cape Town, a centre of women’s sport this year, becomes the first African city to host the event.
South Africa will be hoping for a strong performance at home after a fourth-placed finish four years ago, but Australia, Jamaica, England and New Zealand are likely to be the leading quartet of protagonists.
Golf: Solheim Cup (22-24 September)
While men’s golf is besieged by high-profile rows and a breakaway Saudi-backed series, the women’s side of the sport would appear to be in a far more settled space. It’s an exciting time, too, with the legacy of the pandemic meaning back-toback Solheim Cups in 2023 and 2024.
Both Europe and the US have new captains in Suzann Pettersen and Stacy Lewis respectively; Pettersen’s role in the extraordinary European triumph at Gleneagles in 2019 should help stir her team as they bid to retain their prize. Lewis’ selection should be strong though: Lilia Vu is a recent first-time LPGA winner and rising up the world rankings, Lexi Thompson has shown recent signs of a return to her best touch and Nelly Korda, world number two, now has top ten finishes at all five women’s majors.
Speaking of which, there is excitement in the air ahead of this year’s major swing, with a long-awaited visit to Pebble Beach for the US Women’s Open (6-9 July) certainly set to thrill.
And many other sports...
2022 saw two female boxers headline at a major venue in the United Kingdom for the first time as Claressa Shields and Savannah Marshall clashed in London, while Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano similarly broke new ground at Madison Square
Garden – the best and brightest of women’s boxing are set to be back in the ring this year. And might Formula 1 make more progress towards female representation on the grid? There have been encouraging signs, despite fears over the future of the W Series.
The best athletes in the world will gather in Budapest from 19 August to 27 August for the Athletics World Championships, while the World Aquatics Championships are bound for Fukuoka in June. Mikaela Shiffrin’s record-setting achievements on the slopes continue at the World Cup season finale in Andorra later in March before resuming later in 2023.
The WNBA in the United States and women’s AFL and NRL in Australia have long led the way in team sports, and should again produce plenty of entertaining action.
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