“Tiger Woods, Sir Bobby Charlton, Niki Lauda, Monica Seles, Muhammad Ali. To all those names you can now add Mark Cavendish,” says Tom Cary in the Telegraph. The “Manx Missile” pulled off one of sport’s greatest comebacks this week by winning two stages of the Tour de France. Yet just 12 months ago, “the greatest sprinter in cycling history” had no contract, his career having been derailed by a debilitating virus and clinical depression. Then the 36-year-old’s former team, Deceuninck Quick-Step, offered him a chance – and he seized it.
His first triumph, at Fougères on Tuesday, was “vintage”: he used the experience gained from his 30 previous stage victories to snake and power his way ahead of the pack, winning by a bike’s length after 152km of racing. What happened next is “the most joyous way of understanding the story”, says David Walsh in The Times. Not just his team-mates, but his rivals – three-time world champion Peter Sagan, his old sprinting foe André Greipel and many others – mobbed the sobbing Cavendish while he was still on his bike. “They came to genuflect at the altar of greatness.” Then he did it all over again at Châteauroux on Thursday.
Five of the remaining stages on the Tour are sprint finishes. You can’t help but wonder how close Cavendish believes he might get to Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 stage victories – because Cav’s gift for winning “is as much spiritual as physical”.
Watch Cavendish’s victory in Fougères here.
What I think about Wimbledon’s stars
Nick Kyrgios is the most mercurial figure in tennis, says Simon Briggs in the Telegraph. The 26-year-old Australian, currently ranked 60th in the world, vacillated over playing at Wimbledon this year. He turned up in the UK a few days before the start date – and now he’s through to the third round. “I want to go out there and have some fun,” he tells Briggs. “I never played this game for the money, or the fame, or any s**t like that.”
Kyrgios is famous for his candour. Tennis is tight-lipped, but he can’t keep his mouth shut. He loathes Novak Djokovic, who “has a sick obsession with wanting to be liked”; is iffy about Rafael Nadal (“he’s super salty”), loves Andy Murray (“he’s hilarious”) and respects Roger Federer, “the greatest of all time”. His playing style is similarly volatile, filled with racket-smashing, umpire abuse, underarm serves and ’tweeners – shots hit between his legs. The sport’s governing body has twice told him to seek therapy. “I am not going to conform,” he says. “What am I, a robot?”
Off the court, his life is just as unpredictable. The son of a Malaysian princess and a Greek house painter, Kyrgios was a wild child – he wanted to be a basketball player, but switched to tennis at 14. If I could go back, I would never pick up a racket, he says. These days he’s a keen clubber with a complicated love life. He’s rumoured to have dated singer Rita Ora and, this February, his on-off girlfriend Chiara Passari published screenshots of their angry texts to her 42,300 Instagram followers. “Look, it has its ups and downs,” he says of their relationship. “Like life.”
Ukraine’s real victory is over Russia
Ukraine’s face-off against England in the Euro 2020 quarter-final tomorrow is one in the eye for Russia, says Con Coughlin in the Telegraph. Ukraine’s unfriendly neighbour was knocked out in the tournament’s group stages, “a source of enormous irritation in Moscow”. For Vladimir Putin, a man who never fails to show off about his judo black belt, sporting and political prowess are inextricably linked.
Russia had already complained to Uefa about the Ukrainian team’s shirts, emblazoned with a map of the country that included Crimea. As part of a well-orchestrated disinformation campaign, the Russians even objected to the innocuous phrase “Glory to Ukraine!” printed in small lettering above the players’ names on the back of the shirts, making the improbable claim that the term was linked to the Nazis. Pathetically, Uefa capitulated.
But Ukraine has always been a sporting powerhouse that’s the envy of Moscow. During the Soviet era, its footballers regularly formed the backbone of USSR teams. So let’s not think about tomorrow’s result for now. If, as Putin clearly believes, sporting status equates to political success, “Ukraine’s footballers have succeeded in achieving a stunning victory over their Russian tormentors”.
The Hundred makes a mockery of cricket
“I have always been sceptical of the Hundred as a concept,” says comedian and Test Match Special statistician Andy Zaltzman in The Guardian. The controversial format of the tournament, which starts this month, is 100 balls per team – whoever gets the most runs wins.
It’s all far too simple. The best thing about traditional cricket is how long it is and how frightfully complicated its rules are. “Most cricket lovers are drawn into the game by people who love explaining it to them – a parent, family member, friend or TV and radio commentators.”
And it’s not as if our attention spans are as frazzled as people like to make out. The video games my teenage children enjoy are the ones that are the most complicated and require a significant investment of time. The most successful children’s book series are long, multilayered epics. On telly, elongated series with challenging subplots are all the rage. “Test cricket is like the ultimate box set.”
Shrink the game down and it loses its sparkle. “The philosophy behind the Hundred seems to see the complexity of cricket as a drawback, rather than one of its greatest strengths.”