This year in sports will be about more than etching names in trophies. Here are 10 story lines to follow:
Roger Federer defends his Australian Open title. If the 29-year-old Federer fails to win his 17th Grand Slam, he will be without a current major championship for the first time since 2003. His 24-year-old rival, Rafael Nadal, will be bidding for his fourth straight men’s major title, a feat that has not been achieved since Rod Laver’s calendar Grand Slam in 1969.
Pitchers and catchers voluntarily report to team camps. Several local stars aren’t expected to be ready for the start of spring training, however, including both teams' lefty aces. For the Mets, Johan Santana (shoulder surgery) is out until May and closer Francisco Rodriguez (thumb surgery) could miss time early. Yankees CC Sabathia (right knee surgery) and outfielder Brett Gardner (wrist surgery) are hoping to be ready to go after the winter.
The NBA’s trade deadline. Carmelo Anthony appears likely to be dealt by the Denver Nuggets before he can walk as a free agent this summer, and the Nets and Knicks are thought to be premier destinations for the 27-year-old All-Star forward. Even if the area rivals miss out on Anthony via trade, they may be able to pursue the New York native in July, via free agency.
The Mets' regional sports network, SportsNet New York (SNY), marks its five-year anniversary.
At the Masters in Augusta, Ga., Tiger Woods tries to end his drought at the first major golf tournament of the year. A 13-time major winner, Woods will be 35 years old and winless at the big ones since the 2008 U.S. Open.
The Brooklyn Cyclones open their 10th-anniversary season with a visit to their archrivals, the Staten Island Yankees (celebrating 10 years themselves at their $71 million home, Richmond County Bank Ballpark).
London's 2012 Olympics one-year countdown begins, with preparations afoot for the 70-day torch relay that will lead up to the 30th Modern Summer Olympic Games.
A looming confrontation between NFL owners and players over the league’s expiring labor agreement may postpone or cancel the 2011 season. Training camps are set to open in late summer.
Yankees outfielder Roger Maris slugged his 61st home run 50 years ago on this date, the final day of the 1961 season. That eclipsed Babe Ruth's single-season record of 60, set in 1927, albeit in 10 fewer games than Maris. The 27-year-old Maris, who edged teammate Mickey Mantle for a second straight AL MVP award that year, never hit 40 home runs in any other season of his 12-year career.
The Mets’ 1986 World Series championship turns 25. The Mets plan to celebrate the anniversary of their second title with player appearances at Citi Field throughout the 2011 season.