Germany’s Daniel Altmaier knocked out Italian eight seed Jannik Sinner in the longest match so far at the French Open this year. Altmaier won the five-set tie in five hours and 26 minutes, the fifth longest match in Roland Garros history.
In football, Lionel Messi’s return to Barcelona is in doubt as the Catalan giants still haven’t overcome financial strains that saw the Argentine leave the club in the first place. Cristiano Ronaldo though has decided to stay another year in the Saudi League.
Meanwhile, England’s Test team got off to a solid start in the one-off match against Ireland.
Here’s a look at the key stories from international sporting events through the day for 2 June, 2023:
Altmaier stuns Sinner
Germany’s Daniel Altmaier won the fifth longest ever French Open match on Thursday, while 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva made the last 32, providing a tantalising glimpse into the sport’s future.
Altmaier saved two match points and then held his nerve on a fifth match point of his own to knock out Italian eighth seed Jannik Sinner 6-7 (0), 7-6 (7), 1-6, 7-6 (4), 7-5 after five hours and 26 minutes of breathless action on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
“I don’t know if you can call it a historical match, but it was one to remember,” said Altmaier, ranked 79 in the world who broke down in tears at the end of the match. “Playing every point you can with the best effort, that’s what keeps you in reality.”
The longest ever match at Roland Garros remains the six hours and 33 minutes it took Fabrice Santoro to beat fellow Frenchman Arnaud Clement in 2004.
Next up for the German is a clash with Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov for a place in the last 16.
In the women’s singles draw, Andreeva became just the seventh player under the age of 17 to make the third round in Paris in 30 years – joining the likes of Serena Williams and Martina Hingis – with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Diane Parry of France.
Andreeva, ranked at 143 and making her Grand Slam debut after coming through the qualifiers, will face Coco Gauff in the next round.
The 19-year-old Gauff, the runner-up to Iga Swiatek last year, defeated Julia Grabher of Austria 6-2, 6-3.
Swiatek maintained her bid to become the first woman to successfully defend the French Open title in 16 years by cruising into the third round with a 6-4, 6-0 win over American Claire Liu.
The Polish star could lose her world No 1 ranking for the first time in over a year next week if she fails to lift a fourth Grand Slam singles title. She faces China’s Wang Xinyu next.
One year after suffering a season-ending ankle ligament injury in the semi-final against Rafael Nadal, Germany’s Alexander Zverev made a winning return to Court Philippe Chatrier.
Zverev, who was taken off court in a wheelchair in that 2022 tie, buried the misery with a confident 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 win over Alex Molcan.
Messi’s Barcelona return in doubt
With Lionel Messi’s time at Paris Saint-Germain drawing to a close, the Argentine forward will soon reveal his future – but hopes of a romantic return to Barcelona are fading.
Messi, who turns 36 in June, is Barcelona’s all-time record goalscorer and biggest icon and was forced to wave a tearful goodbye in 2021 at the end of his contract, with the club unable to afford to keep him.
Coach Xavi Hernandez has been pushing hard for the World Cup winner to come back, but Messi’s camp has told Spanish media no offer from Barcelona has arrived yet.
“For me there is no doubt that if Messi comes back he will help us on a footballing level, that’s what I’ve let the president know,” Xavi told Spanish daily Diario Sport.
Barcelona are waiting for La Liga to approve a financial viability plan ahead of spending in the summer transfer window.
“At the moment it seems difficult for Messi to return to Barca,” said La Liga president Javier Tebas in April.
“Barca are not like PSG, who have a fuel tap and money for a big salary.”
La Liga’s financial fair play rules currently limit Barcelona to spending 40 percent of any savings made through salary cuts or player sales, because of the club’s losses.
Even if they bring in enough new income to break free of the league’s financial handcuffs, what they can offer Messi would be modest.
By contrast, elsewhere Messi will be paid a king’s ransom, into the hundreds of millions.
A source close to the deal told AFP in May the forward has an agreement to move to the Saudi Arabian league, joining his former Real Madrid sparring partner Cristiano Ronaldo in the Gulf state.
Many Barcelona fans and coach Xavi would like Messi to add a much-needed coda to a story left incomplete by his shock departure.
The forward arrived at Barcelona at 13 years old and departed without a proper goodbye to supporters, who at that point were still shut out of stadiums because of the pandemic.
Messi showed by leading Argentina to World Cup glory in Qatar that he can still deliver at the elite level when motivated.
The forward is favourite to win the Ballon d’Or and remains sublime at breaking down stubborn defences, something Barca have struggled with even on their way to winning La Liga this season.
Ronaldo to stay in Saudi
Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo pledged to remain in Saudi Arabia next season on Thursday despite failing to land any silverware since his lucrative move to the oil-rich kingdom.
Ronaldo’s January signing for Al Nassr has been followed by speculation about how long he will stay, including reports of a swap deal with Saudi-owned Newcastle United who have now qualified for next season’s Champions League.
But the 38-year-old said in an official Saudi Pro League interview: “I am happy here, I want to continue here, I will continue here.
“And in my opinion if they continue to do the work that they want to do here, for the next five years, I think the Saudi league can be a top five league in the world.”
Ronaldo’s 14 goals in 16 league appearances were only enough for a second-place finish for the Riyadh club, a favourite of some senior Saudi royals.
In January, the former Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus marksman signed a two-and-a-half year deal said to be worth more than 400 million euros.
England start well against Ireland
Stuart Broad said things could have hardly gone better for England after he helped launch their home season by taking five-wickets on Thursday’s opening day of an Ashes warm-up against Ireland at Lord’s.
The veteran seamer led the way with 5-51 as Ireland were bowled out for 172 in a one-off Test.
England then reached stumps just 20 runs behind on 152-1 following a dashing century opening stand between Ben Duckett (60 not out) and Zak Crawley (56)
“When you win the toss and bowl, your aim is to bowl the team out in a day so to have done that was a big tick,” Broad said.
Friday will see England mark the first anniversary of the partnership between captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum, with the dynamic ‘Bazball’ having so far yielded 10 wins from 12 Tests.
“I thought the way the three guys (batters) played this evening was exactly the mindset that Baz and Stokesy want,” said Broad.
“It was positive, aggressive, put the bowlers under pressure and we’ll hopefully see a bit more of that tomorrow... It is almost the perfect start to a big summer.”
With text inputs from AFP
Updated through the day