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Impossible to dream something like this: Rafael

Monitor News Bureau





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.”



Smith raring to go, Khawaja expected to be fit for Ashes opener




London: Sixteen months after leaving Test cricket in disgrace over the ball-tampering furore, Steve Smith’s preparations for the Ashes have gone up to a manic level as the former skipper looks to return to red ball cricket in top form.

Australia captain Tim Paine said former skipper Smith had given batting coach Graeme Hick long and taxing work-outs in the nets as he looks to hone his formidable game ahead of the Ashes opener in Edgbaston on August 1.

Renowned for his obsessive approach to training, Smith is back in the Test squad along with David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, the other two players hit with long bans for their involvement in the Cape Town scandal in March, 2018.


“You don’t become one of the best players in the world and average 60 in Test cricket if you don’t have some sort of a mission,” Paine told reporters of Smith at the team’s training base in Southampton.

“The boys have been having a bit of a laugh the last couple of days because nothing’s changed — he’s hit a million balls and our coach’s arm is falling off already on day two of the trip.

“It’s great to see that him, and David (Warner) and Cameron Bancroft have come back in and fitted perfectly in our group.

“They are guys who have always trained at exceptionally high standards and set the standard for others.

“The three of them have been outstanding since they’ve been back and involved.”

Australia are bidding to retain the urn and erase the disappointment of their one-day World Cup campaign, which ended in the semi-finals at the hands of hosts and eventual champions England.

Australia will play a four-day intra-squad match starting on Tuesday, with two sides padded out by Australia A players.

With the final Ashes squad to be named after, Paine said it would be no gentle hit in the park.

“Both sides will be looking to win and both sides will have individual players wanting to do really well to press their final case for Ashes selection,” he said.
“At the moment it’s a fair dinkum game of cricket and that’s been made really clear.

“We’re looking at it as a real opportunity to Test each other’s skills so when we get to the first Test we know exactly where we’re at and everyone’s had a perfect preparation, and everyone’s been put on pressure.”

Top order batsman Usman Khawaja, who suffered a hamstring strain during the World Cup semi-final, is being rested for the unofficial match but Paine said he was expected to be fully fit and available for selection for Edgbaston.

“I don’t think he’s in serious doubt (for the Test),” Paine said.

“He’s in a rehab stage so the decision has been made that he won’t play at this stage.

“There is a possibility, maybe, if something were to happen to someone else he might be right for the back end of the (practice) game.”

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Zidane confirms Bale’s exit from Real Madrid




London: Forward Gareth Bale’s tenure with Real Madrid could come to an end in a matter of days after manager Zinedine Zidane said the club were working on offloading the Welsh international.

Bale, 30, has won four Champions League titles since joining Madrid from Tottenham Hotspur in 2013 for a then world record 100 million euros (USD 112.20 million) but struggled to hold down his place in the starting side last season.

Amid suggestions that competition will only increase next season after the arrival of Belgian Eden Hazard, Bale was left out of Saturday’s 3-1 defeat by Bayern Munich in a pre-season clash in Houston.


“He wasn’t included in the squad because the club is working on his departure… that’s why he didn’t play,” Zidane told a news conference.

“We’ll have to see if it goes through tomorrow, if it does then all the better. Let’s hope, for everyone’s sake, that it happens soon.”

Zidane’s comments drew a stinging reply from Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett, who labelled the Frenchman “a disgrace.”

“Zidane is a disgrace to speak like that about someone who has done so much for Real,” Barnett was quoted as saying by ESPN.

“If and when Gareth goes it will be because it is in the best interest of Gareth and nothing to do with Zidane pushing.”

Bale was criticised by the Spanish media last season after failing to fill the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure to Juventus as Madrid came third in La Liga last season, 19 points behind champions Barcelona.

Zidane, however, said there was nothing personal in his decision to deem Bale surplus to requirements.

“There comes a time when things are done because they need to be done. I’ve not got anything against him,” Zidane added.

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Focus of ISL and I-League clubs needed: Devi




New Delhi: Street football was never her thing but a road behind her house did help Ashalata Devi forge a career in football. After dropping her bag at home after school, Devi would use it to slip away unnoticed to an addiction she couldn’t quit despite her mother’s best efforts. When the scolding got severe, she would lay off for a while, only to return to football days later. Till the next time her mother got angry.

“My mother would keep asking why I would not focus on academics and be the lawyer that I wanted to be,” says Devi, who was adjudged India’s woman player of the year.

“Even when I got selected for the India under-17 side my folks were sceptical but that was also when they started coming around to the idea that football would be my way of making a life. Now my mother gets upset if I mention that I will quit football,” says Devi.


Parental objection was not a hurdle for Dangmei Grace. She started playing with her brothers. It wasn’t something she was serious about till a friend took Grace, then in high school, to a football event.

“That was when I started getting interested. It helped that there were so many seniors to look up to: Bala di (Bala Devi), Bembem di (O Bembem Devi), Malik di (Sasmita Malik), Tababi (Tababi Devi). That was five years ago,” says Grace, adjudged emerging player of the year by the All India Football Federation (AIFF).

Grace is 23, and a striker; Devi, 26, is a central defender. Grace’s favourite player is Megan Rapinoe—for how she plays, conducts herself off the pitch and how she looks—though she would draw the line at colouring her hair pink.

Devi likes David Luiz and US striker Alex Morgan but among defenders, England full-back Lucy Bronze is her favourite.

Devi and Grace’s paths converged at Imphal’s Krypsha FC and from then they have been at opposite ends of the pitch for club and country. Both played for Sethu FC which won the last Indian Women’s League (IWL). Football helped them find employment: Grace is a physical education teacher with Manipur’s youth and sports department and Devi works for the Railways.

Both are now part of the India’s preparatory camp here for the COTIF Cup, an invitational tournament in Valencia, Spain, beginning on July 28. And both owe a lot to Chaoba Devi, their coach at Krypsha, and assistant to Maymol Rocky in the senior national team.

“Defenders don’t become player of the year and I was no different thinking it would never come my way. If it did now, it is because of Chaoba ma’am. She would chide me for saying this at Krypsha,” says Devi.

Both also spoke about Krypsha being crowd-funded. “‘Please can you help us, we are going to play a tournament’, we would say. They would give bags of rice, some would give money,” says Grace. Krypsha now has multiple girls’ youth teams, adds Devi.

And both say only more teams can make the IWL longer and stronger. “My request to I-League and ISL (Indian Super League) clubs is to focus on women’s football,” says Devi. “The IWL will only grow if more clubs are interested,” says Grace. Twelve teams played the IWL last term. “Not enough,” opines Grace.

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