Firstpost Spodcast Episode 241: Rafael Nadal downs Nick Kyrgios, West Indies end World Cup campaign on positive note and more
In today's episode, we discuss Rafael Nadal's victory over Nick Kyrgios, West Indies' campaign at the World Cup, Arjen Robben's retirement and other football transfer news.
Welcome to Spodcast, the sports update on Firstpost.
We start with news from Wimbledon. Rafael Nadal may or may not win a third Wimbledon singles title this year but he will derive some joy from having beaten his 'bete noire' Nick Kyrgios in an engrossing match on Thursday.
A Nadal-Kyrgios contest is the closest thing to a grudge-match in tennis. Both have said unflattering things about each other in the past, with the irreverent Australian Kyrgios even holding Nadal’s uncle responsible for disparaging comments. Nadal came through in four sets 6-3, 3-6, 7-6, 7-6 in the match which Kyrgios receive a warning for unsportsmanlike behaviour after a non-stop commentary to the umpire and two underhand serves. His first underarm ace, at 40-0 and 2-5 down in the first set, went viral on social media yesterday, showing a Wimbledon crowd that was caught off guard roaring in approval. Kyrgios has become an internet sensation due to the drama he brings to tennis. But on court, Nadal, calm as ever, breezed through the first set, lost the second, then outlasted Kyrgios in the tiebreakers in sets three and four to bring up his 50th win at Wimbledon.
His pleasure was evident when he sealed the match against a man he had accused of lacking respect for the sport as he fist-pumped and jumped in the air yelling to his camp seated on Centre Court. He said after the match, “I have been aware of everything...I was just next to him so I don't want to comment on this.... Potentially he is a Grand Slam winner.”
Meanwhile, Roger Federer also eased into the third round, beating British wild card Jay Clarke 6-1, 7-6, 6-2 to equal American legend Jimmy Connors's record of 17 appearances in the last 32. Federer said his game had not been perfect but Clarke had helped his cause. Ninth seed John Isner, who played in that epic semi-final last year against Kevin Anderson which lasted over six hours, fell in five sets to unseeded Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin 6-4, 6-7, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 in a match that lasted over three hours.
In the women’s draw, 2018 Wimbledon winner Angelique Kerber crashed out in the second round, losing to Lauren Davis 6-2, 2-6, 1-6. Davis, who dropped below 250th rank earlier this year, said after the match, “It’s been a tough journey and a process of learning and growing as a player and person...The drop in ranking has made this win even more fulfilling.”
There was a scare for seven-time champion Serena Williams, who dropped the first set against 18-year-old Slovenian qualifier Kaja Juvan before prevailing 2-6, 6-2, 6-4. The 37-year-old said after the win, “It brings the best out of me, the pressure...I play best when I am down sometimes. I am a fighter I never give up.”
Ashleigh Barty's bid to become the first woman since Williams in 2015 to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year stayed on track with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Belgium's Alison van Uytvanck.
In news from the 2019 Cricket World Cup, Chris Gayle powered the West Indies to a win over bottom-placed Afghanistan as the Caribbeans ended their campaign on a positive note.
Batting first, West Indies got off to yet another bad start. Opener Gayle was back in the hut in just the sixth over. He is just 10 runs short of Brian Lara's all-time West Indian record of 10,348 one-day international runs. But Evan Lewis and Shai Hope settled into a good rhythm, putting on an 88-run partnership for the second wicket. Lewis was dismissed on 58 off 78 balls with the Windies at 109 in the 25th over. Shimron Hetmyer got a start but was dismissed by Dawlat Zadran for 39. Nicholas Pooran then put on another good batting display, picking up where he left off against Sri Lanka. He made 58 runs to add to his century in a losing cause earlier this week. West Indian skipper Jason Holder smashed a quick fire 45 while Carlos Brathwaite lashed 14 off four balls to take the score to 311/6. They scored 111 runs in the final 10 overs.
Afghanistan’s chase did not begin well. They lost captain Gulbadin Naib in just the second over. Ikram Alikhil then put on 133 for the second wicket with Rahmat Shah, who scored a steady 62. Alikhil was dismissed on 86 by Chris Gayle, who had a great match with the ball. He sent down 6 overs, conceded just 28 runs and took the all-important wicket of Alikhil. There were notable contributions by Najibullah Zadran and Asghar Afghan but ultimately, Afghanistan did not have the firepower to get them over the line.
They were all out for 288, handing a 23-run victory to the West Indies in the process.
Paceman Kemar Roach was the pick of the West Indies bowlers, finishing with figures of 3/37 in his 10 overs.
West Indies began the tournament with a comprehensive seven-wicket win against Pakistan and many tipped them as dark horses for the title, with a power-packed batting line-up and fearsome pace attack. But they have been error-prone and lacklustre, failing to turn their promising positions into concrete results. Afghanistan will head home with more experience under the belts but with major questions over their batting strength and their lack of quality seam bowlers. Afghanistan have flickered in spells during only their second World Cup — going close against India and Pakistan — but head home with a dispiriting nine defeats out of nine. Even highly rated leg-spinner Rashid Khan ended the tournament with just six wickets after taking 1-52 on Thursday.
In football news, Spanish midfielder Ander Herrera has joined Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer after leaving Manchester United, the French champions announced on Thursday.
Herrera said, “I really wanted to join Paris and wear these colours. The club has a very beautiful story and I'm happy to be able to write new pages. Joining this club is an extraordinary feeling. I promise you three things — work, professionalism and passion.”
The 29-year-old has signed a five-year contract which will keep him at the club until June 2024.
Herrera had moved to United in 2014 from Athletic Bilbao and scored 20 goals in 189 appearances during his five-year stint at Old Trafford — becoming a go-to player in big matches, especially under former manager Jose Mourinho. He is PSG's third new arrival of the close season, after teenage goalkeeper Marcin Bulka, who joined from Chelsea, and fellow Spanish midfielder Pablo Sarabia, who signed from Sevilla for a reported fee of 18-20 million euros.
Ex-Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has returned to Juventus on a one-year contract after a season spent at Paris Saint-Germain.
The 41-year-old, who will be number two to Polish 'keeper Wojciech Szczesny, previously spent 17 seasons with the Turin club, winning nine Serie A titles and playing three Champions League finals.
A Juventus statement read, “Welcome home, Gigi! It was 19 May 2018. That was the day when there were tears in everyone’s eyes: when Gigi said goodbye to Juventus, its fans and vice-versa. It was the bidding of a farewell to someone who was more than just a captain, but a legend and a symbol of the club... each of us hoped, and in the end, knew that the yarn that united us for so many years was not destined to break. And that was the case.”
Maudlin press statements aside, the past season was a poor one for both Buffon and PSG. They missed out on both domestic cup competitions and were dumped out of the Champions League by Manchester United in embarrassing style, blowing a 2-0 first-leg lead to go out on away goals following a controversial last-gasp penalty. Buffon made a crucial error that helped United achieve their remarkable comeback, spilling Marcus Rashford's weak shot into the path of Romelu Lukaku, which allowed the Belgian to score the away side's second and set up a dramatic finish.
Ironically, the Champions League has eluded Buffon despite him spending the bulk of his career at Juve, one of Europe's biggest clubs, and it was hoped that he would break his duck with the Qatari-funded Parisians.
The veteran goalkeeper, who won the World Cup in 2006 and is Italy's most-capped player with 176 appearances, joined PSG and played 25 times in all competitions, winning the Ligue 1 title and the curtain raiser Champions Trophy. Last season's league title was the 10th of Buffon's career, adding to a bulging trophy cabinet that contains just about every honour in football.
Dutch winger Arjen Robben announced on Thursday that he is ending his playing career at the age of 35 after a 10-year spell with German giants Bayern Munich.
Robben, a Groningen youth product, will be best remembered for his time at Bayern. He helped the Bavarians to eight Bundesliga crowns, five German Cups and the 2013 Champions League title, scoring 144 goals in 309 appearances for the club.
There had been speculation Robben would continue playing, with a possible return to England mooted, but instead, he has decided to hang up his boots after a career which was often blighted by injuries.
He played 96 international matches for the Netherlands, scoring 37 goals, and starred in the team which reached the 2010 World Cup final and finished third four years later. He won two Premier League titles under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea in 2005 and 2006, before claiming a La Liga winner's medal with Real Madrid.
Robben said, “It is without a doubt the most difficult decision I have had to make in my career, my heart says yes, my body says no...At the moment I'm fit and healthy and as a fan of many other sports, I want to keep it that way in the future.”
Robben had already retired from international football after the Netherlands failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
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