Daniil Medvedev staved off a Dominik Koepfer fightback to record a battling victory in the French Open first round on Monday.

The world number five raced out the blocks on Court Simonne-Mathieu and eventually triumphed 6-3 6-4 5-7 6-3 in Paris.

Medvedev, a five-time major runner-up and 2021 US Open champion, broke Koepfer's first service game in the French capital with that a seeming sign of things to come.

Though the 28-year-old dropped his serve in the first set, Medvedev had little trouble in responding with the score finely poised at 3-2 to claim first blood at Roland-Garros.

The fifth seed has only ever gone as far as the quarter-finals, three years ago, at the French Open but showed his clinical best to snatch the second set after holding all six service games for a narrow triumph.

World number 65 Koepfer battled back in the third but the resilient Medvedev responded by breaking his German opponent early in the fourth set, finally securing victory in just over three hours.

Data Debrief: Medvedev gets better of Koepfer again

Medvedev has won all four of his meetings with Koepfer, with his most recent such victory seeing him reach the second round at Roland-Garros for the third time in eight attempts.

Since the start of the 2021 season, Medvedev is 27-1 against players ranked outside the top 50 at major events, with his only loss in that run coming against Seyboth Wild in the French Open first round last year.

Koepfer, meanwhile, extends to 1-17 against top-10 players in his career, earning his only such victory against over Gael Monfils – then ranked ninth in the world – at the 2020 ATP Masters 1000 event in Rome.

Varvara Gracheva produced an eye-catching upset after sending Maria Sakkari crashing out of the French Open on Monday.

World number 88 Gracheva battled to a 3-6 6-4 6-3 victory on Court Simonne-Mathieu, claiming a notable Roland-Garros scalp in the first round.

Gracheva clinched five of six break points in an impressive fightback after falling a set down in Paris to sixth seed Sakkari.

Her reward will be a second-round meeting with Bernarda Pera, who overcame Japan's Nao Hibino in straight sets on the same day.

Data Debrief: Gracheva earns top-10 scalp

Gracheva will be bidding to make the third round in Paris for the third time in her career after Sakkari became the first big-name exit in the women's draw.

This victory against world number eight Sakkari marked Gracheva's fourth top-10 win in her career, and second win against such opponents in major events.

Virgil van Dijk insists his future remains solely with Liverpool as the Reds captain welcomed incoming Dutch compatriot Arne Slot.

Slot will replace Jurgen Klopp as Liverpool manager, with the Dutchman expected to take charge at Anfield from Saturday after sealing his switch from Feyenoord.

The soon-to-be Liverpool boss leaves the Netherlands after three highly successful seasons with Feyenoord, having led them to the league title in 2023.

Slot will be welcomed by two fellow countrymen on the red side of Merseyside, with Van Dijk and Ryan Gravenberch eager to link-up with their new manager.

As Netherlands began their Euro 2024 training camp on Monday, Van Dijk told a news conference: "I still have a year left on my contract.

"I am club captain and I have made it clear I am there for the new coach and enthusiastic over the next season.

"Obviously, there will be a lot of changes but I am confident we will make a big success of it.

"I congratulated [Slot] of course and I'm really pleased for him and his family. We spoke about the team and the future but now my focus is fully on the national team."

Slot's reign ended with six straight league wins and Feyenoord did not lose any of his final 20 Eredivisie matches at the helm, their last defeat coming against PSV on December 3.

The 45-year-old oversaw exactly 150 games in charge of Feyenoord across all competitions, winning 98 of those contests (65.33 per cent).

Slot also won the KNVB Cup glory in April, overseeing a 1-0 win over NEC Nijmegen in the final of that competition, and Gravenberch believes that success has earnt his Liverpool move.

"I think he can be good for my career, he's a coach who wants to play good football," added Gravenberch.

Germany will head into hosting Euro 2024 with an "unbelievable optimism" of lifting the UEFA trophy on home soil.

That was the message from Germany sporting director Rudi Voller, who backed Julian Nagelsmann's team to succeed on their own turf when the tournament starts on June 14.

The three-time European champions have crashed out of the World Cup in the group stages at the last two competitions, as well as a last-16 exit to England at the delayed Euro 2020.

Yet Voller believes Germany have a chance to do something special under Nagelsmann, after watching two impressive friendly victories over France and Netherlands back in March.

"A key moment in our development was the last two [friendly] matches in March," Voller told a news conference on Monday, as Germany started their short training camp in Thuringia.

"We realised that after three and half months [under Nagelsmann] we had two convincing wins and in the inner circle there was more optimism.

"Unbelievable optimism. We don't need to go crazy that now everything works but we should have a measure of optimism."

Germany open the tournament against Scotland before facing Hungary and Switzerland in Group A.

Nagelsmann's team will warm up for the European Championship with friendly preparations against Ukraine next Monday and Greece four days later.

With preparations hotting up before the Euros heads to Germany, Voller insists the hosts can go deep into the tournament.

"Through those two international matches we want to be part of the group that are there until the end," he added.

"We have a home tournament. We should have the optimism to go very far and if it is Berlin [for the final] in the end, even better."

Rafael Nadal says there is a high chance he has appeared at the French Open for the final time after his first-round exit on Monday.

The Spaniard has won a record 14 titles on the clay courts at the Paris tournament, yet came unstuck in a straight-sets hammering by Alexander Zverev.

An emotional Court Philippe-Chatrier crowd watched on as Nadal was picked apart by the impressive Zverev, who triumphed 6-3 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 in just over three hours.

In doing so, Zverev became only the third player to defeat Nadal at Roland-Garros – after Robin Soderling and Novak Djokovic.

Yet this defeat could mark Nadal's last in the French capital as speculation swirls over the 37-year-old's future with injury issues persisting.

Nadal said after the loss: "It's incredible. I don't know if it's going to be the last time that I'm going to be here in front of all of you.

"I am not 100 per cent sure, but if it's the last time, I have enjoyed it. The crowd have been amazing during the whole week of preparation and today.

"The feelings I have today are difficult to describe in words. For me, it's so special to feel the love of the people in the place that I love the most."

Nadal has won 112 matches at Roland-Garros, the highest tally in men's singles main draws in the Open Era at a single major event.

The 22-time major winner adding to that impressive record appears unlikely.

"I have been going through a very tough two years in terms of injuries," he continued. "I went through all these processes with the dream to be here at Roland Garros.

"I was competitive, I had my chances, but it was not enough against a great player like Sacha.

"There's a big percentage that I will not be back here playing at Roland-Garros, but I can say that I've enjoyed playing here a lot.

"Maybe, in two months, I say it's enough and I can't give anything else, but it's something I don't feel yet.

"I have some goals. I hope to be back on this court for the Olympics, that motivates me. That's going to be another chance. I really hope to be well-prepared."

Basketball legend Bill Walton died Monday at the age of 71.

The NBA announced he passed away following a prolonged battle with cancer.

During a 10-year professional career, Walton won a pair of NBA titles and was named the 1977-78 league MVP. He was also included on the NBA's 50th anniversary and 75th anniversary teams.

He was the No. 1 overall pick of the 1974-75 NBA draft by the Portland Trail Blazers following a brilliant collegiate career that saw him win a pair of national titles at UCLA and earn three national player of the year awards.

"Bill Walton was truly one of a kind," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.

He helped redefine the centre position, but his career was cut short by foot injuries.

After averaging 17.1 points and 13.5 rebounds in his first four seasons with the Trail Blazers, he averaged 10.2 points and 8.1 boards in his final six seasons with the Clippers and Celtics.

He led Portland to the 1976-77 NBA title, while being named Finals MVP, and later won a championship with Boston in 1985-86.

He retired after playing just 10 games in the 1986-87 season, and was inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.

Following his playing career, Walton became a star broadcaster for decades. He became known for his colourful broadcasting style, where he enthusiastically offered high praise and also blunt criticism.

"What I will remember most about him was his zest for life," Silver said. "He was a regular presence at league events – always upbeat, smiling ear to ear and looking to share his wisdom and warmth. "

 

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) all-rounder Sunil Narine was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the Indian Premier League 2024, marking a historic third time he has won the prestigious award. The former West Indies cricketer played a pivotal role in KKR's emphatic victory over Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in the IPL final on Sunday, May 26, when he celebrated his 36th birthday.

Narine's stellar performance throughout the season was a key factor in KKR's success. He scored 488 runs at an average of 37.07 and an impressive strike rate of 179.85. With the ball, the 36-year-old off-spinner took 17 wickets, maintaining an economy rate of 6.90. Additionally, his fielding contributions were significant, with seven catches and three run-outs.

"The feeling is overwhelming and I couldn't have asked for a better birthday gift. I am enjoying my cricket at the moment -- batting, bowling and fielding. What helps is when the team is winning," Narine said after receiving the MVP award.

Narine's overall performance earned him 431.5 MVP points, putting him well ahead of second-placed Virat Kohli (315.5 points) and third-placed Travis Head (274 points).  The Trinidadian previously clinched the award in 2012 and 2018. He is also the first player to win the IPL MVP three times.

The MVP award, formerly known as the Player of the Tournament, was renamed in 2013. It is awarded based on a player's performance across various metrics, including runs, wickets, boundaries, catches, run-outs, and dot balls. The calculation is as follows: 3.5 points for each wicket and six hit, 2.5 points for each boundary, catch, run-out, and stumping, and one point for each dot ball bowled.

Narine’s unprecedented third MVP win highlights his all-around abilities and consistency over the years, cementing his status as one of the IPL’s greatest players. As KKR celebrates their triumph, Narine’s remarkable season stands as a testament to his enduring skill and dedication to the game.

 

Rafael Nadal's possible French Open swansong came to an end following a straight-sets defeat by Alexander Zverev.

The German came out on top 6-3 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 in just over three hours on an emotional Court Philippe-Chatrier.

It is widely believed this will be the Spaniard's final appearance at Roland Garros, where he has won a record 14 titles, though the 37-year-old acknowledged he is not yet certain on his future.

The two players were back on Chatrier two years after their notorious semi-final showdown, which was curtailed when Zverev suffering a horrifying ankle injury that ruled him out for the remainder of the season.

However, fresh from his ATP Masters triumph at the Italian Open, the German was quickly into his stride this time around, winning 12 of his last 13 service points on the way to taking the first set.

The fourth seed, who has reached three successive French Open semi-finals, then prevailed in a nail-biting second-set tie-break, before a couple of breaks in the third paved the way for him to seal a commanding win.

Data Debrief: Third time lucky for Zverev

Whether or not that was Nadal's final match at the French Open remains to be seen.

What is certain is that his 14 titles are the most by any player in a single tournament in the Open Era, and his 112 match wins are the highest tally in men's singles draws in a single major event.

Of the 74 different opponents he has faced at Roland Garros, Zverev is only the third to defeat the Spaniard after Robin Soderling and Novak Djokovic.

Unai Emery has signed a new five-year deal with Aston Villa after guiding the club into the Champions League last season.

The Spaniard, whose existing deal still had another three years to run, has put pen to paper on fresh terms that will keep him at Villa Park until 2029.

Villa were 17th in the Premier League when Emery succeeded Steven Gerrard in November 2022, but he dragged them away from danger to a seventh-place finish.

The former Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain head coach then oversaw a memorable 2023-24 season, in which the Villans finished fourth and qualified for Europe's premier club competition for the first time in 41 years.

Villa also reached the Europa Conference League semi-finals, losing out to Olympiacos, and Emery is thrilled to extend his stay at Villa Park.

"I am very happy to take this step and the responsibility of leading this club," he said.

"There’s great chemistry at Aston Villa, and the element of the fans’ support also makes the difference to feel like home. We are really excited to continue this journey with no limits to our dreams."

"We are building something special here at Aston Villa with Unai at its core, and we are delighted that he has signed a new deal with the club until 2029," chairman Nassef Sawiris added.

"As we move into our historic, 150th anniversary year, there is a lot to look forward to with Unai at the helm."

Coco Gauff made a statement of intent as she steamrollered grand slam debutant Julia Avdeeva in the French Open first round.

The world number three needed just 52 minutes to complete a comprehensive 6-1 6-1 rout on Court Suzanne-Lenglen.

Runner-up to Iga Swiatek two years ago, Gauff has also reached a further two quarter-finals in her four previous appearances at Roland Garros

The reigning US Open champion, who reached the Italian Open semi-finals last time out on clay, wasted little time in launching her quest for another deep run in the French capital.

Avdeeva had come through three qualifying matches to secure her maiden appearance in the main draw of a major.

However, the world number 208 simply had no answer for a relentless Gauff, who did not face a single break point and lost just eight points in her seven service games.

Sealing her biggest victory in a completed match at Roland Garros, the 20-year-old set up a second-round clash with 2021 semi-finalist Tamara Zidansek.

Data Debrief: 50 up for Gauff

An Australian Open semi-finalist in January, Gauff's quickfire victory was also her 50th match win in the main draw of a grand slam, becoming the ninth American woman to reach that milestone before turning 21.

The 20-year-old lost just one point off her own serve, and is now 16-3 in first-round major matches (5-0 at Roland Garros).

Jos Buttler will miss England's third T20 against Pakistan in Cardiff on Tuesday, with his wife due to give birth.

The skipper has left the squad to be with wife Louise for the birth of their third child.

Buttler produced an inspired performance in the second T20 at Edgebaston on Saturday, with his contribution of 84 from 54 deliveries helping the hosts to a 23-run victory.

The 33-year-old's knock, which included eight fours and three sixes, marked the second-highest score by an England captain in a T20I, behind Eoin Morgan's 91 against New Zealand in 2019.

However, the hosts will have to make do without their white-ball skipper in Cardiff, while he could potentially miss the fourth T20 at The Oval on Thursday and some matches at the T20 World Cup, which begins on Sunday.

Moeen Ali will captain England in Buttler's absence, with either Phil Salt or Jonny Bairstow set to deputise as wicketkeeper. 

England will begin the defence of their T20 World Cup title against Scotland in the Caribbean on June 4.

Iga Swiatek insists it is "too early" for her to be compared with Rafael Nadal, despite her impressive record at the French Open.

The three-time champion, who lifted Coupe Suzanne Lenglen in 2020, 2022 and 2023, began her quest for a third successive Roland Garros title with a dominant 6-1 6-2 victory over Leolia Jeanjean on Monday.

Swiatek took just 61 minutes to wrap up her 15th straight win at the season's second major, becoming the first player to enjoy such a streak since Justine Henin's run of 24 straight victories between 2005 and 2010.

The Pole has now won 29 of her first 31 matches at the French Open, with only Chris Evert and Monica Seles (both 30) triumphing more often.

Her exploits on clay have drawn comparisons to those of 14-time men's singles champion Rafael Nadal, but the world number one still feels she has a long way to go before those can be made.

"I think it's too early [to be called Queen of clay]," she told Eurosport. "Comparing myself to [Nadal], I don't think I'm at that level yet. I still have many things to prove.

"He's a great person and a great athlete; I think he's shown that for many, many years. I'm just at the beginning. I'll do my best to take some lessons from him on being a good person and a good player."

"I'm really proud of my achievements and this has always been my favourite surface," added Swiatek, who will play Naomi Osaka in a blockbuster second-round showdown. 

"It feels like home here. Hopefully, I'm going to be here as long as possible."

Iga Swiatek set up a mouth-watering second-round showdown with Naomi Osaka at the French Open, after storming past Leolia Jeanjean 6-1 6-2 on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

The world number one - champion here in 2020, 2022 and 2023 - made a strong start in her quest for a third straight Roland Garros title, taking just 61 minutes to wrap up her 15th successive win in Paris.

Swiatek had also won each of her last 12 matches on clay ahead of this contest, having gone back-to-back in Madrid and Rome.

And the Pole picked up from where she left off, breaking in her opponent's opening service game as she came flying out of the blocks before taking the first set in just 29 minutes.

Jeanjean broke in the opening game of the second set, but it proved a false dawn for the French qualifier, who was broken a further three times herself as Swiatek soared through.

Next up for her will be fellow four-time major winner Osaka in what promises to be a blockbuster second-round clash at Roland Garros.

Data Debrief: Swiatek matches Henin, Evert, Seles and Graf

Winning 15 consecutive matches at the French Open, Swiatek is the fifth player to do so and first since Justine Henin's streak of 24 straight victories between 2005 and 2010.

Chris Evert, Monica Seles and Steffi Graf are the other three players to win 15 on the spin at Roland Garros.

Meanwhile, only Evert and Seles (both 30) have won more of their first 31 matches at the season's second major than the Pole (29).

Carlo Ancelotti encouraged Real Madrid to enjoy the build-up to this weekend's Champions League final, when Los Blancos will battle Borussia Dortmund for the title.

Madrid are seeking a record-extending 15th triumph in Europe's premier club competition, having seen off the likes of Manchester City and Bayern Munich to reach the showpiece at Wembley.

Ancelotti knows the drill inside out. This is his ninth final overall and sixth as a coach, winning four of the previous five (two with Milan, two with Madrid). 

Although, the Italian knows he and his players cannot underestimate Dortmund, who have defeated Atletico Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain to reach their third final.

"It is a week to enjoy," he told reporters on Monday. "The challenge, the opponent. We're going to enjoy it until Friday.

"Reaching a final is always a success. As for being favourites, we don't think about that. We have to play against a team that has done very well. They have shown commitment and attitude.

"The build-up to the big game is always the same, happiness and then worry. The fear will come, but before it does, I'm going to enjoy it.

"The cold sweat comes on Saturday afternoon. It's quite normal, it comes every match and I have experience. I have a lot of confidence in my team. They are in Champions League mode."

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