- June 8 down the years
Nadal proves he rules the jungle
If Roger Federer's the greatest tennis player of all time, explain this. For the third year in a row, he reached the French Open singles final. For the third year in a row, he lost to Rafael Nadal. This time he won a total of four games. We're talking capitulation here, admitting you're helpless against a certain opponent on a certain surface. Nadal won 6-1 6-3 6-0 to take the title for the fourth year in a row. He'd only just turned 22, Federer was nearly 27. The following year, Federer won the French for the first time - because Nadal missed it through injury. Later in 2008, he beat Federer to win Wimbledon (July 6). There's an old joke about the lion asking the elephant who's the king of the beasts, then being thrown against the trunk of a tree by the trunk of the animal he asked. When the elephant kept stamping him into the clay, Federer stopped roaring.
Another overrated lion? Lennox Lewis beat Mike Tyson - or what was left of him. Lewis made a big thing about it afterwards, but what had he beaten? Someone who was a better fighter outside the ring by then. After a fight on June 24 two years earlier, Tyson had announced his desire to remove Lewis's heart and eat his children. Very classy. At the press conference to launch this 2002 fight, he and Lewis got into a scuffle that ended with them rolling around on the floor. Very elegant. Tyson later paid Lewis hundreds of thousands for biting his leg! In the ring, he was infinitely less threatening. This wasn't Iron Mike any more. He was very nearly 36 and just a shell of the monster who once terrorised the heavyweight division. Early in their fight, Lewis kept his distance. When he saw there was nothing to fear, he beat up a shot fighter, though it took until the eighth round to finish him. Danny Williams later knocked Tyson out in the fourth and Kevin McBride stopped him in the sixth, after which Tyson mercifully retired at last - with a lot less to prove than Lewis. Lions slaying dragons who can't breathe fire doesn't count.
Another fighter who beat the remains of a great one - though this dragon was still snorting. At QPR football ground in London, Ireland's Barry McGuigan took the WBA featherweight title from the legendary Eusebio Pedroza, who'd held it since 1978. Smart as a fox, Pedroza gave McGuigan a boxing lesson for half the fight, but he was 32 by now and had trouble making the weight. McGuigan was 24 and hungry and very strong for a featherweight. Keeping his cool, he forced the pace, tired the champion out, and knocked him down in the seventh. Pedroza, classy to the end, won the next round, but the points decision was easy to make. People predicted a long reign for McGuigan, but it lasted only a year (June 23).
The first Polish driver to compete in Formula 1 now became the first to win a race. Robert Kubica took the Canadian Grand Prix when Lewis Hamilton crashed out after starting on pole. It was Sauber's first Formula 1 race win. At 23, Kubica was one of the youngest drivers to win a Grand Prix, though not as young as Sebastian Vettel on September 14 later that year. In Bahrain earlier on, Kubica had become (there's no avoiding it) the first Pole on pole.
In rugby union's inaugural World Cup, England played Wales in the quarter-finals in Brisbane. 'Played' is stretching it a bit. They were a shambles. Wales had already profited from a bad display by Ireland (May 25); now a modicum of passion saw them past a team with no spirit or leadership. Just one example: Wales had a great lineout jumper in Robert Norster. He had a bad leg but still outjumped Nigel Redman - who should never have been marking him. Big Wade Dooley was the obvious man for the job - but he'd clashed with Norster in the Five Nations match in March, and the RFU hierarchy didn't want a repeat of the confrontation! If rugby isn't about confrontation, what's the point? So Wales dominated the lineout. Then they kicked the ball they won, and waited for English mistakes. They were lucky that their first try was scored when England were down to seven forwards after prop Paul Rendall had his eye gouged. Their second came from a kick-ahead by scrum-half Robert Jones, and England's talented fly-half Peter Williams gifted them their third in injury time, with a long pass straight to John Devereux. Williams wasn't capped again, and coach Martin Green went with him. England's only points came from a Jon Webb penalty near the end. They went away to repair the damage in time for the next World Cup at home. Wales went on to meet more damage from New Zealand on June 14.
Ali v Frazier IV. Leila Ali, daughter of Muhammad, outpointed Jackie Frazier, daughter of Joe, after eight rounds.
Kim Clijsters was born in Belgium. She won an ATP singles tournament when she was only 15, then won the Wimbledon doubles in 2003 and the US Open singles in 2005. She also reached two singles Finals at the French Open and another at the Australian before retiring in 2007. In 2009 she completed a remarkable comeback by winning the US Open again. She was the first mother to win a Grand Slam singles title since July 4, 1980. She got her strong legs, she said, from her footballer dad Leo, who scored for Belgium in the 1990 World Cup finals and captained Mechelen when they won the 1988 Cup-Winners Cup Final.
Lorraine Shaw threw the hammer 68.93 metres to set her 11th British record and the one that still stands. She broke the 68.15 she set two years earlier.
Michael Owen (no, not that one) became the 1,000th player to be capped by Wales at rugby union. South Africa's never an easy place to make your debut, and although Wales scored two tries and were only 15-11 down at half-time, they lost 34-19.
For the second year in a row, Steffi Graf beat Arantxa Sánchez Vicario to win the French Open, this time in the longest women's Final in the history of the event. As in 1995, Graf won the first set and lost the second, this time after leading 4-1 in a tie-break. Whereas Sánchez Vicario had lost last year's decider 6-0, this year her famous stickability was back in place, and the match lasted more than three hours. But the former champion couldn't finish things off. She served for the title at 5-4 and 7-6 but Graf won it 10-8.
On the same day in 1997, Brazil's Gustavo Kuerten was a shock winner of the French Open. By beating the 1993 and 1994 champion Sergi Bruguera in straight sets, he won an ATP tournament for the first time.
In 2002, the Williams sisters met in the French Open, one of the four consecutive grand slam finals they reached together. Serena won them all, including today's error-encrusted match. There were 13 breaks of serve, eight against Venus, who double-faulted nine times and hit only four winners. She made 47 errors to Serena's 54 but lost 7-5 6-3. Not the sisters' favourite surface or venue: this was the only French singles Final either of them ever reached.