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From Madrid to Kentucky

Every generation or so, there is a changing of the guard moment when we realise that one all-time great is making way for another. One of the last times this happened in one match was at Wimbledon in 2001, when Roger Federer bested Pete Sampras. At the time, Sampras had won 56 of his last 57 matches at Wimbledon, including 31 in a row. Federer was only 19 years old and ranked a respectable 15 in the rankings, but he had only one title to his name. It was not just that Federer beat Sampras, it was how he did it; he produced exceptional tennis far beyond what his peers were capable of, and he played excellently during the match’s most crucial moments. That same feeling happened not once, but twice last week in Madrid. Carlos Alcaraz, a 19-year-old from Spain, defeated both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic to claim his fourth title of the year. Like with Federer over Sampras, it was the way that Alcaraz played that impressed the tennis world the most. Nadal and Djokovic are past their primes, and both are recovering from extended layoffs, but they did not just lose to Alcaraz; they were beaten. They may lose from time to time, but these champions almost never get beaten, except by each other. But Alcaraz played flawless, fearless tennis at the biggest moments, which is the hallmark of a great champion. Time will tell just how great Alcaraz will be, but if this kid stays healthy, he has all the tools to be an all-time great.

Real Madrid’s Epic Comeback

Real Madrid battled back from the brink of elimination to overcome Manchester City and book its place in the Champions League final. For the third knockout tie in a row, Real looked down and out. However, this is a team that has become accustomed to improbable heroics, even by its own absurd standards. With City leading 4-3 from the first leg, Riyad Mahrez’s second-half goal had seemingly booked his team passage through to the Champion’s League final in Paris. However, two goals on either side of the 90-minute mark from substitute Rodrygo turned the game on its head and sent the match to extra time. Just three minutes into extra time, Karim Benzema – who had been rather anonymous all game by his own high standards – was fouled by Ruben Dias inside the box and made no mistake dispatching the penalty. That goal secured Real’s 6-5 aggregate victory. No matter how deep of a hole Real seems to find itself in, the magic inside the Bernabeu always seems to pull the team out.

For three successive rounds, Carlo Ancelotti’s side has been on the verge of elimination. Now, somehow, it finds itself with a chance to win a record-extending 14th title when it takes on Liverpool in Paris’ Stade de France on May 28. It will be the fifth time Ancelotti has reached the Champions League final as a manager, the only man to have ever achieved that feat. “A por la 14,” read the writing on the back of Real’s celebratory shirts. “Let’s go for number 14.”

Kentucky Derby – Against All Oddsmakers

The most-heavily-bet Kentucky Derby ever was won by the biggest long shot in the field.
A record 179.0 million USD was bet in the pari-mutuel pool on Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, a 17% increase over last year and 8% greater than the previous record set in 2019, according to the Churchill Downs. Only 501,135 USD of the total amount wagered on the win pool was on Rich Strike, the lowest of any horse in the field, according to figures released by the track. Rich Strike, who went off at 80-1, sprinted past favourites Epicenter and Zandon in the final moments to pull off the second-largest upset in the race’s 148-year history Saturday at Churchill Downs.

Rich Strike was an even bigger long shot in Nevada, where sportsbooks had offered odds on the Kentucky Derby winner since early in the year. Rich Strike could be found as long as 300-1 in March and at 200-1 on Saturday at Las Vegas sportsbook Circa. The long odds attracted a flurry of late bets on Rich Strike, turning what a big win for most Nevada bookmakers into a small loser for Circa was. Rich Strike wasn’t even in the Derby field until Friday after a late scratch.