Paris:Playing the king of clay at the French Open is akin to scaling Mont Blanc without any ropes and even an intrepid adventurer from Europe’s Alpine heartland found it a peak too steep as Rafael Nadal claimed an 11th title .
Austria’s Dominic Thiem strained every sinew trying to cling on to the 32-year-old Spaniard and at times even gained a precarious foothold in his first Grand Slam final.
But it ultimately proved a futile mission as, just like in all but two of Nadal’s previous 87 matches here, the incredible Spaniard proved invincible, winning 6-4 6-3 6-2.
In claiming a 17th Grand Slam title, Nadal matched Margaret Court’s record of 11 titles at a single major — hers all coming at the Australian Open. There is nothing to suggest Nadal’s domination on the Parisian dirt will end any time soon.
Seventh seed Thiem arrived on a sultry Court Philippe Chatrier with three career wins over Nadal, all on clay, and in an absorbing first set lasting an hour showed why — going toe-to-toe in some ferocious rallies.
But from the moment Nadal broke serve in the 10th game to win the opening set Thiem’s belief ebbed away.
There was late anxiety for Nadal as the predicted thunderstorms loomed and he needed his left forearm massaged after beginning to suffer from cramp.
He also let four match points go at 5-2 but he would not be denied as Thiem went long with a backhand on the fifth.
Nadal’s celebration was restrained — throwing his arms skywards and turning to his entourage including coach and fellow Mallorcan Carlos Moya and his uncle Toni who stood down last year after his nephew Nadal reached La Decima.
There was no disguising what it still means to him, though, as the tears welled up after being handed the Coupe des Mousquetaires from Australian great Ken Rosewall.
“It’s amazing now, I can’t describe my feelings,” a sweat-soaked Nadal told the crowd. “It’s not even a dream to win here 11 times, because it’s impossible to think of something like this.”
PM Modi hopes historic Test match will boost ties with Afghanistan
New Delhi :Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday he hopes the historic cricket Test match between India and Afghanistan would strengthen ties between the South Asian neighbours and allies in the fight against militancy in the region.
Afghanistan started its maiden five-day Test match in Bengaluru on Thursday, with the match attended by top government officials from both sides.
“I congratulate the people of Afghanistan as their cricket team plays their first international Test match. Glad that they have chosen to play the historic match with India. Best wishes to both teams!” Modi said on Twitter. “May sports continue to bring our people closer and strengthen ties.”
India’s sports minister, Rajyavardhan Rathore, shook hands with Afghan players before the match and read out a congratulatory statement from Modi.
Awarded full member status by the International Cricket Council (ICC) alongside Ireland in June last year, Afghanistan became the 12th Test-playing nation after first being recognised by the ICC in 2001. India is the world’s top-ranked Test side.
Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai was presented with a memento from former India all-rounder Salim Durani, who was born in Kabul, before the match began.
India has already offered war-ravaged Afghanistan two stadiums in the country to host matches with other nations.
New Delhi enjoys close relations with Afghanistan and both accuse common neighbour Pakistan of not doing enough to stop Islamist militants operating on its territory.
“The historic friendship and relations between India and Afghanistan go back to centuries. I’m glad that cricket is now added as another layer,” Afghanistan Cricket Board chairman Atif Mashal said in January, when the date and venue of the match were announced.
No let-up in intensity, vows skipper Rahane
Bengaluru: A day before Afghanistan’s debut in the world of Test cricket, India skipper Ajinkya Rahane said playing Test cricket was always special and it was an honour for his team to be a part of the historic tie.
Said Rahane, standing in for the injured Virat Kohli, “Every Test counts and we don’t want to take anyone lightly.”
There has been a lot of talk about how India will tackle the Afghan spinners, given the way they have troubled and foxed batsmen in the shortest version of the game. “The preparation going into this match is no different,” Rahane said.
“Over the last three days, the focus has been on tuning our minds, especially because we’re coming in after two months of IPL.
“Skill-wise, it won’t make a difference, but our attitude matters, to make a quick switch, in terms of our mindset from T20s to Test cricket. It’s important that we train our minds. Cricket is a funny game and we cannot take anyone for granted. We are focusing on our strengths and positives and not thinking about Afghanistan. It is very important for all of us to go out there and give more than 100%.”
The India captain said that it was important for them to play to their strengths, and confessed that he was not sure what the pitch would offer from Thursday.
Rahane said that he was yet to discuss the XI with coach Ravi Shastri. On Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai’s statement that their spinners were better, Rahane said, “Every member believes that their team is good, be it the bowling or batting department. In Test cricket, throughout the five days, every session matters.
“Ashwin, Jadeja, and Kuldeep are all experienced and quality spinners. They back each other and enjoy bowling with each other in the match and in the nets. On a given day, it’s important what your mindset is and how you handle pressure.”
Afghanistan received Test status last year along with Ireland. Since gaining ODI status in 2009 they have qualified for two 50-over World Cups including the event in England and Wales next year.
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