Jack Grealish has hailed new Manchester City team-mate Erling Haaland as "probably the best striker in the world".

The Norwegian has agreed a deal with the Premier League champions to sign from Borussia Dortmund for a reported fee of £51million (€60m).

Haaland scored 86 goals in 89 games for Dortmund in his time in Germany, and Grealish - who himself signed for City for a club-record £100m from Aston Villa last year - is looking forward to linking up with the 21-year old.

Speaking to Mirror Football, Grealish also outlined his desire to improve his own output at the Etihad Stadium, saying: "I wish I had scored and assisted more but at the end of the day, I didn't say that at the start of the season when I came here.

"The one thing I said was that I wanted to win stuff and the main thing I wanted to win was the Premier League. That was my main target and I've done that. I know personally I can push on next year and hopefully I do.

"We've signed a top striker, probably the best striker in the world in Haaland, so I'm sure he will contribute. It will be a season to look forward to.

"I'm looking forward to playing with him. Who wouldn't be? As a number nine, he's definitely in the top two, top one in the world."

Grealish recorded just 10 goal involvements (six goals, four assists) in 39 appearances (31 starts) in all competitions last season, though only Kevin De Bruyne (94) created more than his 76 chances from open play for Pep Guardiola's team.

City won one trophy in 2021-22, pipping Liverpool to the Premier League title on the final day of the season after a 3-2 comeback against Grealish's former team, Villa, and the England international wants to add to that haul next season. 

"You can imagine what the critics would have said; if I would have went for the price tag that I went for and then not won anything in my first season," he said.

"To be able to prove them wrong and even just sit at home with my Premier League medal is a dream come true. I just want to win everything that I play in. We want to win. At the end of your career, you look back on your medals and what you've won.

"I'm not saying I just want to win the Champions League next year. I want to win everything. I want to win the FA Cup, the Carabao Cup, the Premier League. That's what I've come here to do.

"I think I will improve next year, I know I will. I know there will be even more pressure on me next year than there was this year."

The Boston Celtics stole home-court advantage with their impressive win against the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals – but it is a long series, and both teams have some adjustments to make.

In the Celtics' 120-108 victory, Jayson Tatum did not shoot the ball well (three-of-17 from the field), but made up for it with his playmaking, dishing a career-high 13 assists to take advantage of an outlier shooting performance from the rest of his team.

For the Warriors, a dynamic 38-24 third period had them leading by 12 heading into the last, before a fourth-quarter bombardment saw a 103-100 lead turn into a 117-103 deficit courtesy of a 17-0 run.

Stephen Curry was spectacular, with 21 points and a Finals-record six three-pointers in just the first quarter, going on to finish with 34 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals.

With Game 2 scheduled for Sunday night, here is one key adjustment we could see from both teams as the series progresses, and a storyline to watch.

 

Warriors play no more than one big at a time

When the Warriors were at the peak of their dynasty, Draymond Green would play center, surrounded by four perimeter players.

Due to his excellent play this postseason – as well as playing all 82 regular season games, starting 80 – center Kevon Looney has earned a significant playoff role. 

He was the difference-maker when trusted with an extended run in his side's Game 6 closeout against the Memphis Grizzlies, collecting 22 rebounds, and he was terrific against a Dallas Mavericks side lacking a true center, averaging 10.6 points, 10.6 rebounds and three assists per game for the series.

To put the blame of the Game 1 loss on Looney is simply wrong. He was not just serviceable, he was good, with nine rebounds, five assists and three blocks in his 25 minutes – but the Warriors are simply not the same beast on the offensive end when he and Green are on the floor at the same time.

However, this does not mean they must bench Looney, but instead the Warriors may be forced into some difficult conversations about the effectiveness of Green in this series.

Green is no longer the explosive athlete he was at the peak of his powers – when he was clearly the best defensive player in the NBA – and without that athleticism he begins to feel like the 6'6 center that he is.

Calling him a non-factor on the offensive end is disrespectful due to his incredible basketball IQ and the value he adds with his ball-movement, passing and screening – but these are areas Looney has quietly excelled in as well.

Looney, significantly bigger at 6'9, matched Green with five assists, showing plenty of similar reads and the ability to function in a largely similar role on the offensive end. He also grabbed six offensive rebounds, providing serious tangible value in the form of extra possessions, while also being the Warriors' only real rim protector.

Green will likely not shoot two-of-12 from the field again – missing all four of his three-point attempts and all three of his free throws – but if he is weighing you down offensively while not bringing his once-outlier defensive ability, it just may be a Looney series against the real size of Al Horford and Robert Williams III.

For Wales, the wait is nearly over.

After a delay of more than two months owing to the horrific events that have unfolded in Ukraine, Wales finally get a shot at ending their long wait for a place at the World Cup.

With their opponents now known following Ukraine's impressive victory against Scotland in midweek, the Dragons' date with destiny finally arrives in Cardiff this Sunday.

And after a wait of some six-and-a-half decades since last appearing at the biggest football tournament of them all, the excitement could not be any higher.

If Wales are to jump the final hurdle and make it to Qatar 2022, though, they must do something no side has achieved since Croatia in October 2017 – beat Ukraine in a qualifier.

Ukraine have proved their resolve in more ways than one and now, spurred on by most of the world, Oleksandr Petrakov's battlers are potentially 90 minutes from the World Cup.

Stats Perform looks at how both sides shape up ahead of the showdown at Cardiff City Stadium.


QUALIFYING RECORDS

While Wales have enjoyed runs to the semi-finals and last 16 of the past two European Championships, not since 1958 have they competed on the grandest stage of them all.

Should they reach Qatar 2022, that gap of 64 years would surpass the record jointly held by Egypt and Norway of 56 years between tournament participations.

To put into context just how long ago Wales' only previous World Cup outing was, Brazil great Pele scored the only goal against them in that year's quarter-final.

At 17 years and 239 days, he still holds the record of being the tournament's youngest-ever goalscorer.

 

Ukraine have themselves competed at the World Cup just once, albeit having only had six previous attempts at qualifying as an independent nation.

The Eastern European country reached the quarter-finals in Germany 16 years ago, where they were beaten 3-0 by eventual winners Italy.

Like opponents Wales, they have twice qualified for the European Championship, as well as being given direct entry to the tournament as joint-hosts with Poland in 2012.

 

PREVIOUS MEETINGS

The two teams' pedigree is pretty similar, then, as is their record against one another down the years.

Only three times have they previously met, with two of those finishing all square in World Cup 2002 qualifying, and Ukraine winning the other 1-0 in a pre-Euro 2016 friendly.

Incidentally, current Wales boss Rob Page played the full 90 minutes in Ukraine's only previous outing on Welsh soil, with that contest ending in a 1-1 draw 20 years ago.

 

PLAY-OFF PEDRIGREE

Wales' record when it comes down to crunch fixtures down the years has been pretty impressive, having won all three of their previous World Cup qualifying play-off games.

The Dragons beat Israel over both legs in qualifying for the 1958 edition and saw off Austria 2-1 in March to set up their clash with Ukraine, who beat Scotland in the other semi.

History is not exactly on Ukraine's side in that regard, though, as they have failed to reach the tournament in each of their previous four play-offs – in 1997, 2001, 2009 and 2013.

 

If it is to be fourth time lucky, the Blue and Yellow will have to breach Wales' Cardiff City Stadium fortress, where Page's side are unbeaten in 17 matches since November 2018.

But Ukraine certainly know how to grind out results on their travels, having won each of their past three away competitive matches, including that 3-1 win in Glasgow this week.

In fact, Petrakov's side have gone unbeaten home and away throughout Qatar qualifying, as was the case en route to reaching Euro 2020.

That run of 18 games without losing in qualifying is a record only Belgium can match among European nations.

 

KEY MEN

When it comes down to the individual battles, at full strength there is very little between two nations separated by just nine places in the latest FIFA rankings.

For Wales, Bale undoubtedly remains the focal point of the side in what could reportedly be his final ever game in professional football should his side taste defeat.

The free agent has only played six games in qualifying, totalling 488 minutes, yet only five European players have been involved in more than his eight goals.

With those five goals and three assists, Bale is averaging a goal or assist every 61 minutes for his country on the road to Qatar.

 

There is not one standout star in the Ukrainian ranks, as such, but plenty of focus will be on Roman Yaremchuk, who was on the scoresheet at Hampden Park.

The Benfica attacker is Ukraine's top scorer this qualifying campaign with four goals, the past three of those coming in away matches.

This run to the qualifying play-off final has very much been built on unity, though, which will again be on show in the Welsh capital on Sunday.

Yet whether it is the chance to put history right, make a nation of people proud or anything in between, the end goal for Wales and Ukraine is ultimately the same.

The New York Rangers held serve at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday, holding on for a 3-2 win to take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals.

It was the Lightning who struck first, with Nikita Kucherov taking advantage of an early power play to put the reigning back-to-back Stanley Cup champions ahead 1-0 less than three minutes in.

But the lead would be short-lived, with K'Andre Miller squaring the ledger less than five minutes later, before Kaapo Kakko gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead heading into the second period.

In a clash between arguably the two greatest goaltenders in the game – New York's Igor Shesterkin and Tampa Bay's Andrei Vasilevskiy – the second period was a 20-minute scoreless stalemate, setting up a thrilling third frame.

However, much of the drama was sucked out of the contest when New York's Mika Zibanejad gave the Rangers a 3-1 buffer just two minutes into the period, and Shesterkin was determined to see it out.

A late Nicholas Paul goal set up a frantic final two minutes, but the Rangers' defense held firm, securing the win.

With the win, the Rangers snapped a streak of 17 consecutive Lightning wins following a playoff loss, with their last back-to-back playoff losses coming in April, 2019.

Speaking to the media after the win, Rangers defenseman Adam Fox – who had two assists – said his side are good at playing spoiler.

"We heard all year that [we weren't] really going to have playoff success," he said. 

"We’ve said it all year, the belief in the room is high and the outside opinions isn’t really affecting anyone. 

"Coming from down 3-1 [against the Pittsburgh Penguins], down 2-0 [against the Carolina Hurricanes] and [the Lightning] obviously had a good playoff streak of not losing back-to-back games, but that’s not really in our minds coming into the games.

"We're not thinking about what streaks teams have or how they've done earlier. It's right now, and we're just trying to bring it day in and day out.

"We did a great job limiting them, especially in the first two periods. We didn't make too many mistakes… [and] when we needed those big saves, we got them at the end, as usual."

Rangers coach Gerard Gallant called it "a huge win".

"It's a huge win for us, but we just get ready for the next one," he said. 

"The way we played the last two games, that's the way we're going to have to play to win the series. We want to battle hard, we want to compete hard and we've been a tough out so far.

"We knew they were going to push real hard... [but] we battled, we found a way. We're playing against a real good team over there. They pushed it, we made some key saves at the end."

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said his side was punished for their mistakes, but he hopes they will carry some momentum into the next fixture back in Tampa Bay after dominating the last 15 minutes.

"We haven’t executed the proper way that got us here," he said. 

"They are a skilled team and make you pay. We found some momentum at the end – we have to carry that over."

The best team in baseball put on a show for their home fans on Friday as the New York Yankees hammered the Detroit Tigers 13-0.

The Yankees did it with bat and ball, with ace pitcher Gerrit Cole taking a perfect game into the seventh inning before it was finally broken up by a Jonathan Schoop single.

Cole finished with nine strikeouts, no walks and just two hits in seven full innings, while with the bat the Yankees hit four big home runs.

After a couple of scoreless innings to begin the game, Jose Trevino got things started with a 405-foot homer in the third inning, with MVP candidate Aaron Judge knocking his own 378-footer just three batters later to make it 2-0.

Trevino stayed hot with a two-run triple in the fourth inning, before Anthony Rizzo crushed the biggest hit of the game with a three-run, 430-foot home run to right-field to make it 8-0 in the fifth.

Recent signing Matt Carpenter got in on the fun as well, hitting a 386-foot blast later in the fifth inning. For Carpenter, it was his fourth home run for the Yankees in just seven appearances.

Judge finished with four hits from five at-bats, and the home run was his 20th of the season. Nobody else in the majors has more than Mookie Betts' 16.

Machado shows MVP power

In a battle between the National League's top MVP and Cy Young candidates, San Diego Padres slugger Manny Machado got the better of Milwaukee Brewers ace Corbin Burnes in a 7-0 win.

With the Padres leading 2-0 in the fourth inning, Machado put his stamp on the game by taking Burnes deep, connecting on a three-run home run to make it 5-0 and signal the end of Burnes' night, getting pulled just two batters later.

Joe Musgrove was the real star for the Padres, though, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning before it was finally broken up. He finished with six strikeouts in eight innings, giving up one hit and three walks.

Twins order homers with extra Garlick

Jose Miranda and Kyle Garlick hit two home runs each for the Minnesota Twins in their 9-3 away win against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Garlick hit his first as the third batter of the game, giving the Twins a 2-0 lead in the first inning, and as soon as the Blue Jays were able to tie it back up, it was Miranda's turn, putting Minnesota back up 3-2 in the second frame.

Garlick's second came in the third inning, with Toronto's Vladimir Guerrero answering in the same frame, before Miranda finally gave the Twins some breathing room with his two-run blast in the sixth, pulling ahead 6-3 to grab a winning buffer.

Australian Minjee Lee and American Mina Harigae are tied for the lead at nine under after two rounds of the U.S. Women's Open played at Pine Needles.

Harigae was tied for the lead after Thursday's first round, and followed it up her 64 with a solid 69, while Lee posted a 67 on Thursday and then followed it with Friday's second-best round of the day, shooting a 66.

The actual round of the day went to South Korea's Choi Hye-jin, who shot a seven-under 64 after entering the day at even par to sit in a tie for third heading into the weekend.

She is tied two shots back from the lead at seven under with Sweden's Anna Nordqvist, one shot ahead of fellow Swede, amateur Ingrid Lindblad, who posted a one under score on Friday after setting the U.S. Women's Open record for lowest score by an amateur with her opening round 65.

Lindblad is tied with world number one Ko Jin-young at six under, with South Korea's Kim Sei-young and Thailand's Moriya Jatanugarn one stroke back at five under.

Rounding out the top-10 are the American trio of Ryann O'Toole, Megan Khang and Andrea Lee, along with England's Bronte Law and South Korea's Park Sung-hyun, tied for ninth at four under.

Former Manchester United manager Ralf Rangnick made a positive start to his tenure in charge of the Austrian national team, defeating Croatia 3-0 in their Nations League opener.

It was Croatia who enjoyed most of the possession early, controlling 60 per cent in the first half, but it would be the Austrians heading into the break as the happier side after Marko Arnautovic tucked his strike into the bottom corner 41 minutes in.

After being out-shot by the Croatians 10-4 in the first half – with Austria's only shot on target finding the back of the net – the second half was a much different story.

Of the seven shots on target in the second 45, all seven belonged to Austria, and they were rewarded with two more quick goals as Michael Gregoritsch made it 2-0 in the 54th minute, before Marcel Sabitzer struck from long-range to cap off the win in stunning style three minutes later.

With the win, Rangnick became the first manager to guide Austria to a win and a clean sheet in their debut since Hans Krankl in 2002.

Speaking after the game, Rangnick said he was pleased with how his side navigated some early pressure to come out on top.

"We had problems in the first 25 minutes, but getting the lead just before the break did us good," he said.

"In the second half we played really well and scored two wonderful goals – we could even have scored more. 

"I am very satisfied."

Striker Arnautovic added: "The players were full of energy. Croatia are an excellent team, but we played a great match. 

"We turned our chances to goals and deserved this win. We want to return to the top."

Austria continues their Nations League campaign against Denmark on Monday.

Cameron Smith continued his strong start to the Memorial Tournament on Friday, sitting alone atop the leaderboard on eight under after being one of three players to shoot under 70 on back-to-back days.

The Australian was in a six-way tie for the lead after round one, and pushed on well his second time around, finishing with just one bogey – on the sixth hole – which was sandwiched by birdies on the fifth and seventh.

Smith then birdied the par-five 11th, and the par-three 12th, showing his impressive touch over long and short distances, but where he really made his money was around the greens.

According to Data Golf, Smith had negative strokes-gained off the tee and with his approach shots in round two, but was second overall in strokes-gained around the greens (plus 3.55), trailing only Beau Hossler (plus 4.25). They gapped the field, with nobody else gaining more than plus 2.83 in that shot category.

Sitting one stroke off the lead is American Denny McCarthy and South Korea's Lee Kyoung-hoon, while one stroke further back at six under are round one's joint-leaders Davis Riley, Cameron Young and Luke List, along with Jhonattan Vegas and Billy Horschel.

McCarthy and Vegas joined Smith as the only players to shoot sub-70 in the opening two rounds.

Rory McIlroy headlines the group at five under in a tie for ninth, along with Francesco Molinari, still well within striking distance heading into the weekend.

A strong international group is at four under, including Canada's Mackenzie Hughes, Chile's Joaquin Niemann and South Korea's Im Sung-jae, and they are one stroke ahead of Ireland's Shane Lowry, Mexico's Abraham Ancer and American Will Zalatoris.

Jon Rahm and Corey Conners will still feel like they have a chance at two under, Max Homa and Xander Schauffele finished well inside the cut-line at one under, and Jordan Spieth shot a disappointing 74 on Friday to take an even par score into the weekend.

England's Aaron Rai – who was number one in strokes-gained off the tee on Friday – along with Australian Adam Scott finished right on the cut-line, making it through at two over, but Matt Fitzpatrick (three over) and Collin Morikawa (four over) were not so lucky.

Casper Ruud knows he will have to play his "best tennis ever" if he is to have "any chance" against his idol Rafael Nadal in the French Open final.

Ruud defeated Marin Cilic 3-6 6-4 6-2 6-2 in his semi-final on Friday to join Nadal in the Roland Garros decider.

This will be Ruud's first grand slam final, while Nadal is preparing for his 30th – and 14th in Paris alone.

Each of the previous 13 on the red clay have ended in Nadal wins, and his opponent is well aware of the task before him.

"To play Rafa in a Roland Garros final is probably the greatest challenge there is in this sport," Ruud said. "I believe he's 13-0 in the finals, so that just shows that it might sound like an impossible task.

"But of course I will give it a shot like the other 13 people before me have done.

"It's obviously going to be tough. We all know what a great champion he is and how well he plays in the biggest moments and the biggest matches. I'm just going to try to enjoy it.

"I will be the underdog, and I will try to tonight and tomorrow night dream about great winners and unbelievable rallies, because that's what it's going to take if I want to have any chance, and I will need to play my best tennis ever.

"But I still have to believe that I can do it, and I think part of my game today was working very well. In the end, I was playing great in the third and fourth set."

Ruud is not shying away from the challenge, even if he is happy simply to join the likes of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in playing Nadal in a final, describing it as "something I can always brag about after my career".

He added: "It would be nicer to be able to brag about the title as well after my career."

Ruud has never played Nadal on the ATP Tour, but that does not mean this is their first meeting, as the Norwegian was part of the Rafa Nadal Academy.

The pair have faced one another in private – not that those encounters can offer Ruud much encouragement.

"He pretty much has always beaten me," he said. "There's been some close sets, 7-6, 7-5, but it always goes his favour.

"But it's because we are playing in the academy and I want to be nice to him..."

Louis van Gaal cannot understand why Steven Bergwijn has been used so sparingly by Tottenham, with the forward again highly influential for the Netherlands on Friday.

Bergwijn made only four Premier League starts this season, restricted to 547 minutes across 25 appearances while scoring three times.

It appears as though this could have been Bergwijn's last campaign at Spurs, given Ajax are said to be looking to bring the Oranje front man back to the Eredivisie.

On his form at international level, it is easy to see why Ajax would be interested.

Bergwijn scored the Netherlands' first goal in a 4-1 win in Belgium in the Nations League, having a hand in six of his side's 15 attempts.

The former PSV man has scored five goals and assisted another for his country since Van Gaal returned as coach last year.

And Bergwijn, along with Frenkie de Jong, was picked out for special praise for their roles in a "collective victory".

"You always have players who can excel in the collective," Van Gaal told NOS. "In this match, it was again Frenkie de Jong and Steven Bergwijn.

"Bergwijn played incredibly well. I don't understand why he never plays at Spurs, that's all I can say. Of course, they have a lot of choice there, but for us he is worth his weight in gold.

"Today he played his best game, and with Frenkie, in Oranje, he is always a hit."

This was the Netherlands' first win against Belgium – the world's second-ranked team – since September 1997, before the first of Van Gaal's three stints as coach.

But he is not getting carried away, explaining: "It may have seemed easy, but it wasn't that easy.

"We deserved to win, we created the most chances, but Belgium also had chances – if the first one goes in, you get a completely different game. We must not forget that.

"We are in a process towards the World Cup. I want to see a lot of players at work in the coming matches. A game against Belgium is the best game to judge players."

France's surprise 2-1 loss to Denmark in the opening game of their Nations League title defence was down to a lack of sharpness, according to assistant boss Guy Stephan.

Substitute Andreas Cornelius scored twice for Denmark in Friday's contest at Stade de France, where Les Blues had taken the lead through Karim Benzema's 51st-minute strike.

The defeat is France's first inside 90 minutes in a competitive game on home soil since losing 1-0 to Spain in March 2013.

It is also the first time the reigning World Cup winners have lost a game in which they have led since going down 3-2 to Colombia in a friendly a little over four years ago.

And at the end of a long season, France coach Stephan – filling in for Didier Deschamps, who is mourning the passing of his father – believes fatigue played a big part.

"We knew that Denmark were a good team, with a very good structure," Stephan told M6. 

"Without looking for an excuse, we're coming to the end of a season in which the players have played a lot. I have nothing to blame them for.

"It was a match between two good teams. We had some good spells and some less good spells.

"We just needed some freshness to be able to express ourselves and we didn't have that today."

 

The hosts had 19 shots to Denmark's eight, yet Cornelius' double – making him the first substitute to score twice against France – earned his side a shock win in Paris.

Cornelius volleyed in from a fine Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg pass for his opener and then thumped a winner past Hugo Lloris at his near post two minutes from time.

"There are never good times to suffer defeats," Lloris told M6. "There's still a long time to go until the World Cup, though of course it's never good to start a campaign with a defeat.

"We fell against a good, well-organised team. At 1-0 we had chances for a second, but we were so committed to the attack that there were also risks that Denmark exploited."

France replaced Kylian Mbappe with Christopher Nkunku at half-time, which Stephan confirmed was a precautionary measure after the Paris Saint-Germain star injured his knee.

Raphael Varane also hobbled off in the second half and will undergo a scan on his thigh ahead of Monday's trip to Croatia in Les Blues' second Group A1 outing.

Deschamps is set to return to the France camp on Saturday ahead of that game, which takes on added importance following Croatia's 3-0 loss to Austria elsewhere on Friday.

Roberto Martinez had reassuring words on Romelu Lukaku's status and even attempted to put a positive spin on Belgium's 4-1 defeat to the Netherlands following the stunning reverse.

Belgium are the world's second-ranked side but were completely outclassed on home turf by a team they had not lost to since 1997.

It had still been 0-0 when Lukaku hobbled off in the first half, however, with the Chelsea forward trying and failing to play on after sustaining an injury in a tangle with Nathan Ake.

However, with three more Nations League matches to come this month, Martinez could at least inform fans Lukaku's ailment was not as serious as might have been feared.

"Lukaku's problem was a knock," he said, although he accepted: "From then on, it became a more difficult match."

This was far from an ideal result in Belgium's first competitive match of a World Cup year, but Martinez believes his side can benefit from the experience.

"This is what we needed to prepare for the World Cup," he said. "It's a hard result, but it's clear what we need to work on.

"The World Cup does not start until November, but with the national team it is already within 17 days. We will have to work in a specific way."

 

The former Everton manager added: "It is clear what we need to work on. We have to use the Nations League to prepare for the World Cup.

"We started well and found spaces. After that, it became physically difficult for players who didn't play much. The result is the result of all these aspects."

Jan Vertonghen disagreed, however, with the Belgium defender identifying issues that were not purely physical.

"It's a very painful defeat," he said. "We didn't get off to a bad start, though. We made it through a few times, especially via the left side.

"We lacked momentum after Romelu's substitution. The Dutch have had just as tough a season as we have. That shouldn't be an excuse. The physical part is not tonight's shortcoming.

"In particular, we had difficulties controlling the deep striker.

"This defeat puts us with both feet on the ground. It is clear that we will have to keep working hard."

At the end of a week in which Amelie Mauresmo said there is "more attraction and appeal" in the modern men's game, Iga Swiatek and Coco Gauff get a showpiece stage to show the rising stars of the WTA Tour can be box office too.

Former women's number one Mauresmo, who is now tournament director at the French Open, sparked upset for many when she explained why nine out of 10 evening session matches at Roland Garros were men's clashes.

The lone exception was the second-round match between France's Alize Cornet and Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko, but on Saturday the women are at the heart of the action as world number one Swiatek, on a 34-match winning streak, tackles the exceptional American Gauff, the youngest Roland Garros finalist since Kim Clijsters 20 years ago.

Saturday's title contenders have a combined age of 39 – Swiatek turned 21 this week and Gauff is 18 – making it the 'youngest' Roland Garros final since 19-year-old Iva Majoli stunned 16-year-old favourite Martina Hingis in the 1997 trophy match.

The only grand slam final in the 21st century to feature two players with a lower combined age than the Swiatek-Gauff pairing was last year's US Open trophy match between Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez.

Both have plenty to gain, with heavy favourite Swiatek arguably having the most to lose. Ahead of their showdown, Stats Perform looks at two players who belong in the spotlight, day or night.


Super Swiatek will be hard to stop

In terms of the head-to-head between these two, we are in the early stages. While Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have fought out an epochal 59-match rivalry on the men's tour, this is just meeting number three between Swiatek and Gauff, with Swiatek winning both to date, including a 6-3 6-1 trouncing in Miami in March.

Swiatek would become just the fifth top seed in 25 years to triumph in the women's singles if she gets the job done. She triumphed in 2020 when ranked a lowly 54th and as a relative unknown.

If she gets the win and improves to 9-1 in singles finals across her career, Swiatek will achieve the longest streak of victories on the women's tour since Venus Williams also strung together 35 in 2000. The young Polish player would also become the youngest winner of two or more grand slams since Maria Sharapova, at 19, added the 2006 US Open title to the Wimbledon crown she secured as a 17-year-old.

Swiatek has won 15 matches in a row on clay, the most consecutive successes by a WTA Tour player since Serena Williams strung together 20 from 2015 to 2016.

The AC/DC and Led Zeppelin fan had won five consecutive titles leading into this fortnight (Doha, Indian Wells, Miami, Stuttgart and Rome) and can become the first woman to land six in a row since Justine Henin reeled off victories in Toronto, at the US Open, Stuttgart, Zurich, the WTA Finals, and Sydney in the latter months of 2007 and beginning of 2008.


Gauff's moment arrives

She was Wimbledon's youngest qualifier of the Open Era in 2019, and ever since that breakthrough moment Gauff has stood out as a player and person of increasingly great stature.

A mature, wise head on her shoulders has seen Gauff make powerful statements on important matters such as police brutality, LGBTQ rights and gun violence, and at the same time her tennis continues to dazzle.

She has been as high as number 15 in the world and is heading towards a low single-digit ranking very soon. In Paris this fortnight, Gauff has yet to drop a set, unlike Swiatek, who lost one to the impressive qualifier Zheng Qinwen in the quarter-finals.

So here's the skinny: Gauff, at 18 years and 84 days, will be the youngest women's grand slam singles finalist since Sharapova at Wimbledon in 2004; she has broken serve 35 times in six matches at this edition of Roland Garros; she is through to the doubles final too, with Jessica Pegula.

She is the third American woman aged under 19 to reach this French Open final, after Chris Evert in 1973 and Andrea Jaeger in 1982, and among all WTA players, only Monica Seles, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario and Steffi Graf have taken the title at a younger age in Paris during the Open Era.

Gauff has such self-belief she will know the number one can be toppled, as history has told us. Since November 1975, when computer rankings were introduced on the women's tour, four teenagers have beaten the WTA number one player in the French Open final.

Should Gauff pull off the shock on Saturday, she will be following in the footsteps of Graf (beat Navratilova, 1987), Sanchez-Vicario (beat Graf, 1989), Monica Seles (beat Graf, 1990) and Majoli (beat Hingis, 1997).

There is a growing sense that, like Swiatek, Gauff will eventually be remembered in the company of such luminaries, and now she has to go out and prove it.

Seven-time French Open winner Evert this week called it "destiny", adding on Twitter: "We saw greatness 3 summers ago. We've all been waiting for this!"

Simon Mignolet hopes Belgium can learn from their shock 4-1 defeat to the Netherlands, who outclassed the world's second-ranked team in Brussels.

The form book was on Belgium's side heading into their Nations League opener at home to the Oranje on Friday.

The Red Devils had not lost to their neighbours since September 1997 and had not lost to any side at home since September 2016.

But both of those runs came to an end as Belgium were blown away, with Mignolet – in for Champions League final hero Thibaut Courtois – left horribly exposed.

Nine of the Netherlands' 15 shots came over a 25-minute first-half stretch in which Belgium did not attempt one.

Steven Bergwijn netted the opener shortly after that onslaught, before Memphis Depay scored twice either side of a simple Denzel Dumfries finish in the second half.

It was the first time Belgium had conceded four goals at home since October 2010, but Mignolet had no complaints about the scoreline.

"There are no excuses for this defeat," the goalkeeper said. "You get the chance to play against the Netherlands and you have to grab that opportunity with both hands.

"In the run-up to the World Cup, tonight's game and the remaining matches in the Nations League were good opportunities to measure ourselves.

"We have to learn from this and take things forward to the preparations for the World Cup in Qatar."

The mood in the Dutch camp was rather more cheerful, as captain Virgil van Dijk told NOS: "It was a good win with good football. Everyone was good today.

"Steven Bergwijn in particular was excellent – they couldn't get a grip on him – but also Steven Berghuis and Frenkie de Jong. Actually, I can be positive about everyone. It was a great team performance.

"We did an excellent job, we forced them to make mistakes and we scored good goals."

Van Dijk came straight from playing against Courtois in the Champions League final and will now bring his long season to an end while the Netherlands turn their focus to further Nations League matches.

"It's time to recover," the centre-back added. "I'm going on holiday now and the rest can prepare for Wales [on Wednesday]."

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