The kid beat the maestro in the match everyone had waited for here at the French Open. Rafael Nadal advanced to the final at his first attempt, defeating Roger Federer 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. The fourth-seeded Spaniard will play the unseeded Mariano Puerta, of Argentina, ranked 37th, in tomorrow's final. Nadal became only the third player to find a way past Federer this year, following Marat Safin, of Russia, in the semi-finals at the Australian Open, and Richard Gasquet, of France, at the Monte Carlo Masters.Although there were lots of errors on both sides, frequently caused by the pressure exerted by the man at the other end, the match lived up to its billing as a mighty struggle between the world No 1 and the latest prodigy in the men's game."I started badly and finished badly and played good in the middle," Federer said. "But I was advised to consult one of the experts working with Paula Radcliffe, who was training in Limerick for the London Marathon, and I gave it a go."As far as I can tell, my recovery is complete.
Having come so close to missing the tour - what he thought was a strained medial ligament in his knee turned out to be a torn cruciate ligament, and he was within a dozen hours of undergoing surgery that would have incapacitated him for a minimum of six months - the sporting gods may just decide to give him a leg-up."Had I gone through with the knee reconstruction, I'd have missed the tour for sure," he said. To get a place in the Test team, I'll have to prove myself the better man, and that will be tough. But while I respect the guy, I feel I'm in a better position this time round to challenge him.'And anyway, there's a chance the selectors will play him in a different position, and that would change a lot of things. Until I'm told otherwise, I'll consider myself a contender."It is indeed possible, if a trifle unlikely, that Woodward will run Wilkinson at inside-centre.
If the All Blacks can consider playing Mils Muliaina, that wonderful full-back from Auckland, as an outside-centre in this series, there is no reason on earth why the Lions coaches should not think outside the box.Injuries will also have their say in the coming weeks, so O'Gara is perfectly entitled to chase his dream until, as he says, someone very high up the tourists' chain of command informs him he is wasting his time.Certainly, it would be good to see him fulfil himself, for at his best he can manage a game as well as the next man, even if the next man happens to be a genius of an oval-ball marksman from Newcastle. I have 50 Tests behind me now" [52, actually] "and the so-called stars of the world game don't faze me."Jonny opened my eyes with the things he was doing in 2001 and to be sure, he's still the standard-bearer. I have my own strengths, I'm more up to scratch in more areas of my game and I'm more confident as a result. Four years ago, I was not a contender for the Test position - not even in my own head - because Jonny was so far ahead of me."Back then, he was looking to improve in small percentages because his game was already outstanding, while I was looking at much bigger percentages It's different now.