Rafael Nadal Wins 12th French Open Championship Title

(PARIS) — For a few, fleeting moments Sunday, Rafael Nadal found his French Open supremacy seemingly threatened by Dominic Thiem, a younger, talented opponent challenging him in the final for the second consecutive year.

A poor game from Nadal allowed Thiem to break him and even things at a set apiece. That development brought fans to their feet in Court Philippe Chatrier, roaring and clapping and, above all, wondering: Was this, now, a real contest? Could Thiem push Nadal more? Could he make this surge last? Would Nadal falter?

That the questions arose at all was significant. The answers arrived swiftly. Nadal reasserted himself, as he usually does at Roland Garros, by grabbing 16 of the next 17 points and 12 of the remaining 14 games, pulling away to beat Thiem 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 for his record-extending 12th championship at the French Open.

“I gave everything I had,” Thiem said. “It’s amazing: 12 times here. It’s unreal.”

No one in tennis ever has won any major tournament that many times. Then again, no one ever has been as suited for success on any of the sport’s surfaces as this 33-year-old Spaniard is on red clay: Nadal is 93-2 for his career at Roland Garros, winning four in a row from 2005-08, five in a row from 2010-14, and now three in a row.

“I can’t explain my emotions,” said the No. 2-seeded Nadal, who dropped to his back after the final point, getting that rust-colored dirt all over his neon yellow shirt, then wiped away tears during the trophy ceremony.

Looking at the bigger picture, he is now up to 18 Grand Slam trophies, moving within two of Roger Federer’s men’s record of 20.

Thiem, a 25-year-old Austrian who was seeded No. 4 and upset No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the semifinals, was eyeing his first major title in this rematch of the 2018 final in Paris. But again, he couldn’t solve Nadal.

“First thing that I want to say is congrats to Dominic. I feel sorry, because he deserves it here, too,” Nadal said. “He has an unbelievable intensity.”

So, of course, does Nadal. This had been, by his lofty standards, a rough season, from the most lopsided Grand Slam final loss of his career — against Djokovic at the Australian Open — to entering May without a title for the first year since 2004.

He started to right himself by taking the title on clay in Rome last month, then found himself in a familiar position in Paris: playing in the final, and winning it.

This one began on a cloudy afternoon, with the temperature in the low 60s (mid-teens Celsius) and only a slight breeze. In the initial game — interrupted briefly by a baby wailing in the stands, drawing a laugh from other spectators and prompting Nadal to back away from the baseline between serves — three of the five points lasted at least 11 strokes.

And, thereby, a pattern was established: By the end of the 3-hour, 1-minute match, a total of 46 points went 10 strokes or more. Each man claimed half.

Both would station themselves along the baseline and sprint, scramble, slide, stretch to somehow reach just about every ball, not merely putting a racket on it but conjuring a booming reply. It was an impressive display of athleticism, skill and will, with Thiem managing to give just as good as he got, particularly with his ferocious backhand.

From the get-go, it was such a physical grind that Nadal was soaked with sweat and changed neon yellow shirts after seven games and 45 minutes, eliciting catcalls from the stands.

Early on, there were no signs of fatigue for Thiem, even though he was competing for a fourth straight day, because of rain that jumbled the schedule. Nadal, meanwhile, entered Sunday having played just once in the previous four days.

Not only that, but while Nadal dismissed Federer with relative ease in a straight-set semifinal that concluded Friday, Thiem was forced to work overtime, eliminating Djokovic in a five-setter that wrapped up less than 24 hours before the final began.

Thiem showed he can play defense. Showed he can flip to offense in a blink. Showed power off both sides. Showed precision, too, making only three of the match’s first 12 unforced errors.

Indeed, it was Thiem who nosed ahead first, closing a 12-stroke exchange by ripping a forehand to earn the first break point of the final, then converting it with an overhead to cap a 20-stroke point for a 3-2 edge. He turned with a clenched right hand to face his guest box, where all of his supporters were yelling and shaking fists, too, including his girlfriend, French tennis player Kristina Mladenovic, who won the women’s doubles championship earlier in the day.

Nadal immediately responded. He grabbed the next four games with elan, using a drop shot to help break for a 5-3 lead, then a serve-and-volley to help hold for the set.

That must have been demoralizing for Thiem. But at the ensuing changeover, he didn’t whack a ball toward the stands, as Federer memorably did during his semifinal loss. He didn’t spike a racket or kick a ball. He casually sat in his gray sideline seat, bounced his legs and chewed on an energy bar, furtively glancing to his left at Nadal.

Thiem bounced back, if only briefly. Talk about a stunning shift: Nadal won 25 of 26 points on his serve before — with spectators trading between-point chants of nicknames, “Ra-fa!” and “Do-mi!” — he got broken to cede the second set. That was the only set he’d managed to steal from Nadal in four career meetings at Roland Garros.

Maybe this was going to be a long one.

But Thiem, put simply, wilted a bit. He made three unforced errors in the next set’s opening game to get broken at love, creating an opening that Nadal barged through. By now, Nadal was creating magic at the net, and he won the point on 23 of 27 times he went forward. One drop volley was spun so marvelously that it landed on Thiem’s side, then bounced back toward the net. All Thiem could do was watch — and offer an appreciative thumbs-up.

Soon enough, it was over. The King of Clay, as Nadal is known, still reigns.

Sports – TIME

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Brooks Koepka finally kisses Jena Sims after PGA Championship win

Brooks Koepka got his championship and Jena Sims got her kiss. Koepka, who twice shutdown his girlfriend’s attempts at a smooch before the final round of the PGA Championship, won the event – after a little bit of on-course drama – at Bethpage Black on Sunday. Once Koepka finished off shooting 8-under for the tournament…
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Ty Jerome, the ‘Herky-Jerky’ Underdog, May Win Virginia the NCAA National Championship

The number of people who’ve failed the Ty Jerome “eye test” could fill an arena or three. Take one quick glance at Jerome, the 6’5″ Virginia point guard, and you might not think he’s one game away from a potential national championship, and a reasonable bet to win the Most Outstanding Player award at the Final Four. Jerome’s not dunking on anyone, not overwhelming opponents with his physicality, not blowing by everyone on the court with his blazing speed. “Not athletic,” says Jerome in Minneapolis, where Virginia will play Texas Tech on Monday night in the national championship game. He’s listing reasons, with a slight grin, on why he’s failed the so-called “eye-test” so many times. “Not long. Doesn’t look strong.” He’s been listening to this stuff his whole life. And while other players may underestimate his ability, he’ll happily keep kicking their ass.

“He’s the kind of guy who will rip your heart out,” says Virginia radio announcer Dave Koehn, “and smile while doing it.”

Just ask Auburn. Jerome filled the box score against the Tigers in Saturday’s first national semifinal, scoring 21 points, grabbing 9 rebounds and dishing out 6 assists. When he had to leave the game with four-and-a-half minutes left after picking up a silly fourth foul, Virginia couldn’t subsist without him. Auburn began cutting into the Cavaliers’ nine-point advantage, and eventually took the lead before Virginia won the game on a mini-miracle: shooting guard Kyle Guy was fouled, barely, on a last-second three-point shot. He made all three free throws, giving Virginia a 63-62 win.

And while the refs may have missed a Jerome double dribble in the waning seconds — a turnover would have essentially clinched the game for the Tigers — Jerome points out that an Auburn player grabbed his shirt on the play. To Jerome, the violations cancelled each other out. “I knew they weren’t going to call a double dribble after they let that one go right in front of them,” he says.

Jerome unveiled his entire arsenal against Auburn. Deep threes at opportune moments. Little leaners that had no business going in the basket. Jerome stops, and starts, and stops, and starts, calling to mind the inferior athlete who’ll eventually score on you, since he tests your patience and wears you down. When asked to describe Jerome’s game, Virginia associate head coach Jason Williford offers up “Herky-jerky. Old man. YMCAish.”

Almost from the time Jerome arrived home from the hospital to a basketball in his crib — his father, Mark Jerome, put it there -— he’s heard the doubters. “Guard him!” his mom, Melanie Walker, remembers other parents shouting at youth basketball tournaments in the New York City area, where Jerome grew up. “He can’t go past you! He’s not fast enough!” (“As Mark can attest,” Melanie says. “I got in a couple of fights.”) Mark, who played college basketball at Lafayette — Melanie played at Brandeis — doubled as Jerome’s AAU coach, and was tough on his son. He said some things to young Ty he regretted, and would rather not repeat. “Often times I’d look in front of the mirror and say how could I have done that?” says Mark. “How would I have treated him that way?”

Read more: Why Telling the NCAA to Pay Players Is the Wrong Way to Help College Athletes

Still, Ty remained utterly committed to basketball. His parents couldn’t get him out of the gym. The problem: he was small and skinny.

“He entered his freshman year of high school about 5’10” with no signs of puberty,” says Melanie. “Not a single hair under his arms.” After his first year at Iona Prep in New Rochelle, N.Y., a doctor told Ty he still had some growing to do. His eyes lit up. “How much?”Ty asked. About another inch.

Fortunately for Jerome and Virginia, that prediction stunk. He sprouted up about a half-foot in high school. Virginia coach Tony Bennett kept seeing Jerome on the summer hoops circuit (while scouting other higher-rated prospects, naturally). But Bennett couldn’t get Jerome out of his head. So he recruited Jerome, who committed to Virginia before his junior year at Iona. Still, the questions wouldn’t stop. Could Jerome do the things he did in high school — take over games, throw magical passes — at the college level, lest at Virginia and in the ACC, where he’d be facing the likes of Duke and North Carolina? Koehn, the Virginia radio announcer, recalls a mid-major college head coach telling him that Jerome would have thrived at his school, but he’d struggle at Virginia.

“That stuff would bring a lot of kids down,” says Vic Quirolo, Jerome’s high school coach. “But it seemed to energize him.”

Once he got to Virginia, Jerome hit the weight room hard with strength coach Mike Curtis. “He’s not the most genetically gifted athlete in college basketball,” says Curtis. “But he’s phenomenal at doing the little things that can level the playing field for him.” Virginia tracks things it calls KPIs — Key Performance Indicators. When it comes to things like sleep, hydration, and nutrition, Jerome hits the marks.

His defense has improved under Bennett, one of the most demanding defensive coaches in the country. Jerome also got better at shooting on the move. So now, one year removed from Virginia’s historic loss to UMBC —- the top-seeded Cavaliers became the only school in NCAA tournament history to lose to a No. 16 seed — Virginia sits one game away from a national championship, with its point guard a potential first round NBA draft pick.

Bennett calls that loss a “painful gift,” and it’s clear that Jerome takes the negativity personally. On Sunday, his emotions almost boiled over as he cited a news article from the UMBC aftermath that demeaned the program.

“All the outside noise has made us so much stronger, so much more unified, and brought us together,” says Jerome. Making fools of the doubters has defined Jerome’s entire basketball life. Why not a national title to top it all off?

Sports – TIME

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Here’s Why There Was A Flying Tortilla During the National Championship

Leave it to a piece of food to crash the national championship game.

Someone flung a tortilla onto the court during the national championship in Minneapolis on Monday night, and apparently it’s not the first time an incident like this has gone down.

As the Virginia Cavaliers faced off against the Red Raiders on the hardwood during the first half, a tortilla landed in the Texas Tech section to be picked up by Virginia’s Kyle Guy who gave it to a referee. The game even had to be paused.

People were – it may not surprise – surprised to see the tortilla enter the arena.

Who throws a tortilla? And why?

Here’s why tortilla throwing at Texas Tech is a thing.

The genesis of the obscure tortilla toss fan “sport” began when Texas Tech football students started flinging the plastic tops to their sodas on the field back in 1989, according to Viva the Matadors.

Tortilla throwing at Texas Tech endures

Then the tradition morphed into tortillas for a

“in a little bit of cheeky fun, tortillas were thrown before the game. The Red Raiders went on to upset the Aggies, and we just kind of kept on doing it before games after that.”

Evidently, the flat tortillas were “cheap, and fairly easy to hide on your person.”

But the disruptive tortilla wasn’t the only flatbread in the house. And multiple tortilla-holding fans had their traditional tokens confiscated.

The Virginia Cavaliers defeated the Red Raiders 85 to 77. But shout out to the tortilla, a real most valuable player shaking up the night.

Sports – TIME

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