Summer of Sport: The summer's ultimate sporting spectacles

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With the close of another English football season, Chelsea fans are celebrating a triumphant return to the top while Arsenal supporters are no doubt glad to see the back of the Premier League, if not Wenger himself (which won't be happening at all after the Frenchman signed a new two year contract). While, over in Spain it was a season to remember for Real Madrid fans as they beat out Barcelona in La Liga and then won the Champions League after a Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired 4-1 rout of Juventus.

For millions of sports fans around the world, three months without football, or fantasy football, is a pretty harrowing prospect.

We're here to prove that life can go on. The summer is packed with some truly epic sporting events that are guaranteed to put the zip back in your step and prove that there's more out there than 22 men and 90 minutes. Here are our top six picks:

1. Lions Tour

Rugby.jpgThe British Lions have a tough task ahead of them in the Southern Hemisphere

Sport: Rugby Union

Where: Various, New Zealand

When: June 3-July 8

www.lionsrugby.com

For those who like their summer sports together with an egg-shaped ball, you're in for a treat: Warren Gatland's Lions are heading to New Zealand for the first time since their 3-0 defeat back in 2005 and their largest test defeat at the hands of the All Blacks back in 1983. Revenge will be on the minds of the 41-strong squad and Sam Warburton will be looking to skipper them to a historic, if improbable, victory. Since everyone loves an underdog, this is the perfect opportunity take a punt and scoop big if the Lions roar.

There are ten matches in total but the three all-important tests take place June 24, July 1 and July 8, and BetStars have the tourists at 4/1 to win the first. The All Blacks are 2/7 and you can expect similar odds in the outright market. Cons? The kick-off time - if you're watching in the UK it'll be at 8.30am, which means a very early visit to the pub for the hardcore supporters, or a sporting breakfast for everyone else.

2. Wimbledon

Djokovic.jpg

Novak Djokovic has tasted Wimbledon glory on three separate occasions. Can he make it number four this summer?

Sport: Tennis

Where: All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, England

When: July 3-17

www.wimbledon.com

Of all the Grand Slams, nothing quite matches the atmosphere of Wimbledon. In a world where tradition is all-too-readily tossed aside for commercial gain, there's something very British about the age-old rule that participants must dress in white from top to toe. And, in case there's any doubt about that, the following subsection of the Wimbledon guidelines adds clarity:

"White does not include off-white or cream."

As the dates approach, Wimbledon 2017 is already throwing up some interesting questions. What will Roger Federer have to give following his epic comeback at the age of 35? Can reigning champion Andy Murray carry over his excellent form in the French Open to stir the loyal lungs on Murray Mount? He's likely to start as the favourite, slightly ahead of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic with perhaps only Milos Raonic and Nick Kyrgios to potentially upset the party. At any rate, if Kyrgios doesn't win, his capacity for antagonising everyone will certainly liven things up.

With all this and more to come, start getting the strawberries, cream and champagne ready - and pray it doesn't rain.

3. The Open Championship

The Open.jpg

The sumptuous setting for the 2017 Open Championship

Sport: Golf

Where: Royal Birkdale Golf Club, Southport, England

When: July 14-17

www.theopen.com

There's nothing quite as relaxing as settling back to watch the entire four days of action from a major golf tournament. Every minute of this year's British Open will be televised live, although tickets are still available if you want to follow the stars around in person.

The last time it was held on the links at Royal Birkdale was in 2008 when Padraig Harrington beat final-day leader Greg Norman into third. Last year's winner was Henrik Stenson and he's got a great chance of lifting the trophy again. You can get him on BetStars at a juicy 18/1 behind favourite Dustin Johnson (15/2), Rory McIlroy (10/1) and Jordan Spieth (11/1). We quite fancy Alex Norén to pull off a shock at 40/1 but if you're stuck in the past you can always lose some moolah on Darren Clarke at 450/1.

4. IAAF World Championships

Athletics.jpgThe world's best athletes will descend on London for the IAAF World Championships

Sport: Athletics

Where: The London Stadium, London, England

When: August 4-13

www.iaafworldchampionships.com

It's being billed as the biggest sporting event to hit London since the 2012 Olympics, and there's one good reason why: the legendary sprinter - and new PokerStars ambassador - Usain Bolt is bowing out in London this summer with one last shot at gold - making this one 100m race that you cannot afford to miss. Bolt is the reigning World Champ after victory in Beijing in 2015, when he pipped the controversial Justin Gatlin by a hundredth of a second with a time of 9.79. The entire stadium will be roaring in the hope that he'll complete his legacy in London, and you can catch the action on August 5.

Bolt might be the main attraction but Mo Farah will run him a close second - from the home support at least - as he also retires from stadium racing with his farewell 5,000m (August 12) and 10,000m (August 4) races.

One surprising fact you might not know - Kenya topped the World Championships medal table last time around, with Jamaica in second, USA in third and GB in fourth.

5. SummerSlam

Summerslam.jpgWorld Wrestling Entertainment put on a show like nobody else

Sport: Wrestling

Where: Barclays Centre, New York, USA

When: August 21

network.wwe.com

Wait... wrestling? OK, so WWE might not be for the purists, but if you want a dose of theatre with your sporting endeavour (and you're prepared to suspend belief for a few hours) this could be the most fun you'll have this summer. SummerSlam is the second biggest wrestling event of the year after WrestleMania, and although the line-up is still to be confirmed, there's one thing we do know: the beast incarnate Brock Lesnar will be there, defending his Universal title and taking his opponent to Suplex City. His latest victim looks likely to be either fellow monster Braun Strowman or Finn Balor, and if it's the latter it will be a fascinating clash of styles. Balor might get thrown about the ring but he's got a good chance of picking himself up and leaving with the belt.

That might not even be the best of it though, with the possibility of AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura going at it in what would be a definite match-of-the-year contender.

6. PokerStars Championship Barcelona

Barca.jpgPokerStars Championship Barcelona will be one of the most exciting events of the 2017 poker calendar

Sport: Poker

Where: Casino Barcelona, Spain

When: August 15-27

www.pokerstarslive.com

All the above events are closed shops - if you're not one of the world's elite sportsmen or women, the best you can hope for is a spectator's seat at pokerstars.tv. There are options, however, for those who fancy a more active role this summer, but you'll need to head to the Casino Barcelona for a shot at partaking in one of the year's biggest poker festivals.

The PokerStars Championship Barcelona is open to anyone who can stump up the buy-in or win their way in via a satellite, and there are tournaments suitable for every bankroll. The full tournament schedule is pending but there are events ranging from the €220 buy-in PokerStars Open (August 25-27, €100k guaranteed), to the €1,100 PokerStars National Championship (August 16-21, €4m guaranteed) all the way up to the nosebleed high rollers, where you'll find the €10k PLO High Roller, the €25k NLHE Single Day and the €50k Super High Roller.

The €5,300 PokerStars Championship Main Event is the big one and runs August 21-27 with a €7m guarantee. Play in this and expect to rub shoulders with the biggest and best players in the game, including a healthy smattering of celebrity. And, if you're lucky, you could be the next Sebastien Malec. The 21-year-old Polish player won his €5,300 Main Event seat last year for just €27 in a satellite on PokerStars and left with the life-changing first prize of €1,122,800: enough to watch whatever sport you want, in luxury, for the foreseeable future.


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