Sharapova can return to the WTA Tour in April following her 15-month ban for testing positive to meldonium. An initial two-year, back-dated International Tennis Federation ban on the 29-year-old was reduced on appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The five-time grand slam winner will be back for the clay court season and the late-May French Open where she has won twice. Her form plus the public and media reaction will be fascinating.
The 14-time major winner showed glimpses of his old self at the Hero World Challenge last month, following a 15 month absence due to back surgeries. He shot a 65 in the second round but lacked consistency, ending with a 76 to finish 15th in the 18-player field. Woods will line up at the Genesis Open in February but hasn't been clear on how often he intends playing this year.
The 41-year-old hasn't won a major since the 2008 US Open and his last tournament victory was the Bridgestone Invitational in 2013. His return to the majors would be a huge talking point
The UFC superstar ended 2016 on a bang. Well, several bangs actually, to the head, as she was dealt a 48 second beating by Amanda Nunes in the UFC 207 bantamweight fight. The supreme confidence which brought Rousey victory in her first 12 fights and saw her take the UFC world by storm has disappeared following heavy defeats to Holly Holm and Nunes. She may just walk away from it all but if she does fight again, it will be fascinating to see which Ronda Rousey shows up.
PRESSURE IS ON
No pressure. "Gatty" just needs to coach the Lions to their first series victory over the All Blacks since 1971 and in the process become the first side to defeat the All Blacks at Eden Park in 23 years. That's all. But as we learned last year against Ireland in Chicago, the All Blacks' winning streaks can be broken.
Talking pressure...come June all New Zealanders will be AC50 experts and expectations will again demand that the America's Cup is returned to our shores. Ashby faces a tall order in the unknown waters of Bermuda in smaller boats and facing a much stronger qualifying series which includes Ben Ainslie's British team and Dean Barker's Team Japan.
Stephen Kearney/Kieran Foran
Both the new Warriors coach and arguably the biggest signing in the club's history will be expected to produce results pretty much straight away. The Warriors' fan-base won't have much patience and will expect to be in the top eight throughout the 2017 season and make the playoffs for the first time since 2011. Foran will get some leeway as he attempts to overcome personal issues but the pressure will be on Kearney from game one against Newcastle.
The expectations aren't high for the All Whites in Pool A against Portugal, hosts Russia and Mexico at the Confederations Cup in June. Depending on their opponents, they probably won't be any higher in the potential World Cup qualifying playoff where they could face the likes of Argentina or Colombia. Hudson's job has been all about qualifying for World Cup in Russia in 2018. Fans will expect the All Whites to at least compete well at the Confederations Cup and we saw glimpses of hope in October's international friendlies against USA and Mexico. The potential first leg qualifying playoff in Wellington will be huge for Hudson. The All Whites won't want to be in the same position as 2013 when they were pretty much out of the running following a 5-1 defeat in Mexico. Playing at home in the opening leg, should they qualify from Oceania, is an advantage which can't be squandered.
JUST KEEP WINNING
Defending his WBO heavyweight title, possibly outside of New Zealand, will be an interesting challenge. But a later showdown against Anthony Joshua looms as the biggest event of 2017.
New coach, new caddie and possibly new equipment. 2017 is certainly going to be different for Ko as she looks to retain her world number one status and continue her amazing run since turning pro. By her own standards the 19-year-old didn't have best finish to 2016, her last tournament win coming in July. But she remains the 'it' player in women's golf.