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FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Japan News Conference - U Arena, Nanterre, France - November 24, 2017. Japan's head coach Jamie Joseph during the news conference. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
Rugby Union - Japan News Conference
FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Japan News Conference - U Arena, Nanterre, France - November 24, 2017. Japan's head coach Jamie Joseph during the news conference. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
7. Robin Soderling defeats Rafael Nadal, 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-4, 7-6 (2) - 2009 fourth round In every sport, there are upsets so profoundly shocking that they become the benchmark for any future surprise result. Boxing has Mike Tyson losing to Buster Douglas, rugby union has Japan's defeat of South Africa, while football in 2016 added Leicester winning the Premier League to its canon. In tennis, there are few, if any, greater upsets than Robin Soderling's win against Rafael Nadal at the French Open in 2009. Nadal was considered unbeatable at the French Open where he never lost a match and prowled the baseline like a predator mercilessly defending his territory. Aged 22, he was already a four-time Roland Garros champion, and had not dropped so much as a set in his previous 10 matches there. Coming into the fourth round match against Soderling, Nadal looked set fair for a fifth straight title. He had cruised through his first three matches - taking his win-loss record in Paris to 31-0 - including a demolition job of former world No 1 Lleyton Hewitt whom he had beaten for the loss of just five games. In January, Nadal had won his first hard-court major at the Australian Open, and he had completely dominated the start of the clay-court season by winning the titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome. When the players took to the Phillipe Chatrier court on a cloudy Parisian afternoon, no-one gave Soderling a hope of upsetting the King of Clay in his unbreachable fortress. Soderling interview Soderling though had two things in his favour. The first was a huge all or nothing game that meant he could beat anyone on his day, and the second was that he knew how to get under Nadal's skin. The Swede was something of an outsider in the locker room, and he revelled in antagonising his opponents, especially Nadal. The pair's previous two meetings had been fractious, with Soderling angering Nadal and the Rome crowd a month earlier when he swore at the umpire over a disputed line call despite it being himself who had clearly pointed to the wrong mark on the court. The rivalry really intensified though at Wimbledon in 2007 when the two players' third-round five-set match stretched over five days due to rain and became a tetchy and testy slugfest. Nadal was enraged at the constant delays, and Soderling sought to wind him up further, behaving like an annoying sibling who knew exactly what buttons to press. He mimicked Nadal's habit of fiddling with his shorts and to poke fun at of how long Nadal took between points, he would deliberately stall the Spaniard and offer his hand in mock-apology. Taking to the role of pantomime villain perfectly, Soderling eschewed the tennis etiquette of aplogising after a dead net cord, and instead celebrated such a point in the fifth set with a fist pump. After the match he said: "Why should I say I’m sorry when it’s the happiest moment of my life?" The handshake at the end of the match was frostier than the unseasonally cold temperatures at SW19, and Nadal pulled no punches in his post-match interview. “I have said hello to him seven times to his face, and he has never said hello to me," he said. "I asked around the locker room; almost nobody had anything nice to say about him.” Robin Soderling celebrates beating Rafael Nadal at the French Open in 2009 Soderling responded: "Personally, if I have a problem with a player I go and talk to him face-to-face." Of his reputation as a loner, he added: "Do I have any friends on tour? Not many. I used to hang around with other Swedes, but there are fewer now." In the highly sanitised world of the ATP Tour where everyone seemed to get along, this was genuine needle and made for an intriguing pre-match sub-plot. But despite Nadal's open distaste for his opponent, there was little to suggest that he would have too many problems in beating Soderling. As well as his formidable record at Roland Garros and on clay in general, Nadal had won all three of his previous matches against Soderling, and hammered him 6-1, 6-0 in that Rome meeting a month earlier. Soderling, the world No 25, had been having a mixed year and had gone out early in all of the clay-court tournaments leading up to the French Open. Once in Paris though, he began to play with more authority and took out the 14th seed David Ferrer in four sets to reach the last 16 - his first fourth-round appearance at a major. In the first set against Nadal, Soderling was, to use tennis parlance, red lining. Nadal looked utterly powerless, failing to get a grip in the match as if he was being tossed around in a washing machine. Soderling's forehand was an inelegant slap that could often go awry, but suddenly he could not miss with it and he was sending Nadal so far behind the baseline that he was almost in Belgium. Nadal was left floundering in an opening set that went the Swede's way 6-2. Nadal sits on the clay after falling against Soderling When you watch the match back, one of the striking things is how loud and desperate Nadal's grunting quickly becomes. He sounds almost strangled by the exertion of what he's up against and the shock of getting so badly beaten up on his favourite court. Nadal took the second set on a tie-break, but still something was not right. The Spaniard's snarl had become an anxious furrowed brow, and Soderling was feeding off his tension. The more Nadal hoped his rival would take a backwards step, the more Soderling went for the jugular - battering down aces and big forehands, and picking off volleys at the net like a Scandinavian Pete Sampras. Nadal began to look frazzled, with his sweat-drenched hair creeping down into his narrowed eyes. In the seventh game of the third set, Soderling screamed a backhand at Nadal to earn a crucial break of serve. Shortly after Nadal collapsed to the floor like a giant tree felled by a lumberjack as he lost his footing hitting a backhand. The symbolism of the fall was obvious, and John McEnroe remarked in commentary: "He just doesn’t know what to do out there." Soderling took the set 6-4 to leave Nadal on the brink of elimination. The Spaniard though did not give up - his ferocious competitiveness never left him and he took an early break in the fourth set to regain a semblance of control. It would prove to be an illusion however, as Soderling broke back and took the fourth set on a tie-break to win the match. The crowd, desperate for a Roger Federer win at the tournament, had been resolutely in favour of Soderling throughout the match and roared their approval at seeing Nadal finally beaten at Roland Garros. The tennis world scrambled around for an explanation, and they received one of sorts a few weeks later when Nadal pulled out of Wimbledon due to tendonitis in both knees. It would later emerge that the Spaniard was also suffering severe distress from the divorce of his parents. But it is too easy to attribute the defeat to one or both of these factors. Yes, they may have contributed but Nadal had still been in sensational form at the time, and it took a player with the courage and self-belief of Soderling to take advantage. The way Soderling was playing that day - hitting 61 winners to Nadal's 33 - he would have beaten Rafa at any stage of his career. The scale of the shock was only added to in the subsequent years, as Nadal won the next five French Opens and his following 39 matches at Roland Garros, include a straight-sets win over Soderling in the 2010 final. Even now, nine years on Nadal has only been beaten once in Paris since the Soderling upset. The victory was the launchpad for Soderling's career, as he reached consecutive French Open finals and a career-high ranking of No 4. Sadly he was forced to retire in 2015 having not played since 2011 due to a severe and long-running bout of glandular fever. Nadal of course quickly re-established himself as the King of Clay, and is currently playing some of the best tennis of his career as he targets an 11th French Open title. But he will never forget that Sunday in May eight years ago when he was dethroned so brutally by the player he disliked the most. 6. Andre Agassi defeats Andrei Medvedev 1–6, 2–6, 6–4, 6–3, 6–4 - 1999 Final The story of Andre Agassi's rise and fall and then rise again was like something out of a Hollywood script. The glamorous, exciting young Las Vegan with the mullet and neon spandex who had too much too young before plumbing the depths and taking crystal meth as his world crumbled around him. Then the rise from the ashes that saw a redeemed, more mature version of his younger self gain some much needed perspective and come back stronger than ever before. The fall in 1997 had seen Agassi, shaken by his failed marriage to American actress Brooke Shields, plummet to a world ranking of 141 and fail a doping test (which was later dropped by the authorities when he claimed to have ingested crystal meth accidentally) . By the time of the 1999 French Open, Agassi was back in the world's top 20 after close to 18 months spent finding his feet again,but he was not yet considered a serious contender for grand slams, least of all the French Open, which he had never won. But at Roland Garros that year, Agassi battled his way to the final - his first at a slam for almost four years. A win for the American would see him complete the career Grand Slam at the age of 29 and cap a remarkable turnaround from the dark days of two years before. He had twice been a losing finalist in Paris, but was odds on to finally claim the title against the unfancied Ukrainian Andrei Medvedev, whose lowly ranking of 100 meant he only just made the cut for the tournament. Medvedev though had been in sensational form in Paris, taking out Pete Sampras and former champion Gustavo Kuerten en route to the final. Ironically, it had been a chat with Agassi in Monte Carlo a few weeks earlier that had inspired the turnaround. In his autobiography, Open, Agassi recalled how he had spotted Medvedev drinking alone in a Monte Carlo bar after another damaging defeat. The 24-year-old Medvedev told Agassi he was considering retiring - in his own words he was old and he couldn’t play "this f---ing game anymore." "How dare you," Agassi responded. "Here I am, 29, injured, divorced, and you’re [complaining] about being washed up at 24? Your future is bright." Buoyed by the pep talk and by his blossoming romance with German player Anke Huber (they have subsequently split), Medvedev was a new player in Paris and his feather-light drop shots and clinical backhands down the line took him all the way to the final. On the eve of the final, Agassi was racked by anxiety and shocked coach Brad Gilbert by necking a vodka from the hotel minibar to soothe his nerves. "He has my game," Agassi fretted. "I gave it to him. He even has my first name." Andre Agassi celebrates beating Andrei Medvedev in the 1999 French Open final By the time the players took to the court, Agassi was still tormented with self-doubt, and he lost the first set 6-1 in 19 humiliating minutes. The second was scarcely much better, as Medvedev prevailed 6-2, with Agassi later describing his performance in the opening stages as "embarrassing". Midway through the second set though, a rain delay forced the players off court and prompted Gilbert to shake some sense into Agassi. Gilbert opened a locker and slammed it shut, before unleashing a volley of criticism at his player, where he told Agassi exactly what he was doing wrong and that at the very least he had to "go down with both guns blazing". Agassi belatedly got the message, and in the third set hauled himself from off the canvas. Serving at 4-4, 30-15 he double faulted on consecutive points to hand Medvedev a break point that had he taken would have left him serving for the match. The American saved it with a drop volley, and from there did not look back, coming to the net more and taking his opponent's rhythm away from him. After 2 hours and 42 minutes, Agassi secured the victory when a Medvedev forehand sailed long. He dropped his racket instantly, turned to his box and after covering his face began to cry uncontrollably. "Winning isn’t supposed to feel this good," Agassi said. "But it does." Agassi had metamorphosed from hirsute teenager in denim shorts to balding elder statesman, and after his annus horribilis he had found the purest form of redemption. 5. Chris Evert defeats Martina Navratilova 6–3, 6–7(4), 7–5 - 1985 final Sixteen years, 80 matches, and 60 finals. There has never been a rivalry like the one between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, and there were few contests between the two as riveting as the 1985 French Open final. From 1974 to 1986, the two players duopolised the year-end world No 1 ranking, and had finished No 1 and No 2 in every year between 1982 and 1986. Between them they were the dominant forces in the sport, and by the time of the 1985 French Open final Evert had 16 singles slams to Navratilova's 12. Evert had initially dominated meetings between the two, winning 20 of their first 25 matches, but when they met at Roland Garros 22 years ago, Navratilova led the head to head 33-31 and was the world No 1. The stats though don't tell anything like the full story of a rivalry that in the public's eyes pitted the charming American girl next door in Evert against the rugged, outspoken Czechoslovakian outsider in Navratilova. Evert later said this perception was totally wrong, explaining that people would often approach her and say, "You know, I never liked that Martina. She's so tough. "I'd say, 'You know what? She's a kitten. She really is. I'm the hard one.' They'd say 'no, no, no - not you. You're so frail and feminine; we always felt sorry for you.' It was as if Martina became the bully to some people. And I was the person who could silence the bully." The pair were actually great friends and had played doubles together in the mid-1970s until Evert felt that doing so gave Navratilova too good a read on her game. Navratilova would never forget the kindness Evert and her mother had shown her when she was starting out on the lonely grind of professional tennis. Evert had always liked and admired Navratilova, and was among the first to defend her when she was outed as a lesbian by a New York newspaper in 1981. By the time of the 1985 French Open final, Navratilova, now 28, was at her formidable best and exercised a vice-like grip over the rest of the Tour - friends and foes. She was the current holder of all four of the slams and had won a staggering nine of the previous 13 majors. Evert, now 30, had won the other four and was the world No 2, but anyone playing against Navratilova at that time was a major underdog. Both players were in excellent form when they met in Paris. They had reached the final with contemptuous ease- neither had dropped a set, and Navratilova had dished out bagel sets to half of her opponents en route to meeting Evert. The final proved to be one of the high points in a rivalry that transcended sport. In 2 hours 40 minutes of relentless tension and drama, Evert eventually won out in three epic sets. She had led by a set and a break, and served for the match in the second set but Navratilova had clung on. It was a fascinating clash of styles, with Navratilova rushing to the net at every opportunity, and Evert doing all she could to find angles and lobs to outfox her opponent. In the final set, Navratilova missed four break points on her opponent's serve at 5-5 and then moments later found herself down championship point on her own serve. She saved it when Evert sent a lob just long, but it turned out to be a stay of execution as on the second one, the American somehow got to a Navratilova smash and screamed a backhand passing shot winner up the line. Evert later described the win as her "most satisfying", while reflecting on the pair's rivalry, Navratilova said: "We brought out the best in each other. It's almost not right to say who's better. If you tried to make the perfect rivalry, we were it." 4. Ivan Lendl defeats John McEnroe 3-6, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, 7-5 - 1984 final In his 2002 autobiography Serious, John McEnroe openly admits that there are few events that haunt him as much as his 1984 French Open final defeat to Ivan Lendl. As McEnroe laments of the match: "Lendl got his first major, and I took his title, choker-in-chief, away from him." McEnroe, 25, entered the match in the form of his life, having begun 1984 with 42 straight wins. It was a record start to a year that stands to this day, and meant the American, who already had five majors to his name, was the red hot favourite to pick up his first French Open title. His opponent, the 24-year-old Czech Lendl was tennis's perennial bridesmaid. The nearly man, the choker. He had reached four slam finals and lost them all - an unwanted sequence since equalled by his former protege Andy Murray. It was little surprise then when McEnroe cruised through the first two sets 6-3, 6-2 to leave Lendl staring at the prospect of losing his first five slam finals. Simon Briggs ranks the 20 male clay-court players of all time Fortunately for the Czech, McEnroe had one glaring weakness: his temperament. In a manner that Murray fans will identify with, McEnroe could become enraged by something seemingly innocuous. Early on in the third set, the whirring of a cameraman's headset set him off and soon after McEnroe was in full meltdown mode. He berated the cameraman for causing him to lose his focus, and all of a sudden he had lost the third set 6-4 and was up against a crowd now fiercely in favour of Lendl. Despite their taunting, McEnroe led 4-2 in the fourth, but his energy was being sapped by the burning French sun and Lendl roared back to pinch it 7-5 and take the match into a decider. From there the Czech grew in confidence and took the final set 7-5 as McEnroe grappled unsuccessfully with the inner demons that had taken hold. After the match, which had lasted 4 hours and 8 minutes, McEnroe was so incandescent with rage at the crowd and himself that he refused to give an on-court interview. The defeat was one of just three losses in 85 matches for McEnroe that year and stung him more than almost any other setback in his career. After breaking his grand slam duck, Lendl ended his career with eight slams, one more than McEnroe. 3. Rafael Nadal defeats Novak Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7, (3-7), 9-7​ - 2013 semi-final Nadal won 70 of his first 71 matches at Roland Garros, and surely none were as dramatic as the semi-final four years ago against his great rival Novak Djokovic, which is amazingly one of only two five-setters that the Spaniard has ever played at Roland Garros. Nadal was the tournament holder and seven-time French Open champion, but his ranking was down at No 4 after a horrible run of injuries. Djokovic, as the Australian Open champion and world No 1, was the man to beat, though Nadal's clay-court pedigree made the Spaniard the favourite in many people's eyes. The pair had met in the previous year's French Open, with Nadal winning in four sets, and 18 months earlier Djokovic had edged a bruising six-hour long epic in the Australian Open final. In total this was the 35th meeting between two players who had between them won 10 of the previous 12 majors. A great deal was expected of what was a de facto final - the winner was to face David Ferrer or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - and no-one on a broiling Paris afternoon was left disappointed. After splitting the first two sets, Nadal romped through the third 6-1, whipping that lasso-like forehand and not allowing Djokovic to settle into a rhythm. The Spaniard looked on course for a four-sets win but failed to serve out the match at 6-5 up, and after Djokovic nicked the tie-break, the players headed into a decider. As the temperature cranked up and the match headed for its fifth hour, Djokovic began to edge what was becoming a war of attrition, and grabbed an early break in the final set. The Serb held the break all the way to 4-3, but he made the grave error at deuce of unnecessarily touching the net after hitting a winning smash and thereby forefeited the point. Nadal broke back that game, and held his nerve to tough out the decider 9-7. The memories of losing that Melbourne final were still raw for Nadal, and he said afterwards: "I was ready for the fight and had a little bit of luck at 4-3. In Australia in 2012 it was similar but he won. Everybody knows Novak is a fighter. That's why this is a special sport. During [my] seven months out there were a lot of low moments but people supported me, made me work hard every day, and I want to thank them for that." Nadal cruised to his eighth title two days later by thumping David Ferrer in the final, while Djokovic would have to wait until 2016 before finally getting his hands on the Coupe des Mousquetaires. 2. Steffi Graf defeats Martina Hingis 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 - 1999 Final The 1999 final was a fractious, ill-tempered encounter that pitted the old against the new. Steffi Graf had dominated the women's Tour in the 1990s until injuries and the emergence of the 'Swiss Miss' Martina Hingis knocked her off her perch in 1997. A 16-year-old Hingis hoovered up three of the four slams that year to take the No 1 ranking from Graf, who by 1999 was 29 and playing in her final year on the Tour. Hingis had dismissed Graf as past her best a year earlier, and now the two came head to head in Paris for Graf's final match at Roland Garros. Hingis, 18, needed the French Open to complete the career Grand Slam, and having won five grand slams in the previous couple of years, including the Australian Open that January, was the favourite to win the final. Graf for her part had not won a major since 1996 and had admitted she was mainly using the tournament as a way of improving her fitness ahead of one last crack at an eighth Wimbledon title. For the first set and a bit, Hingis was in control. She took the opener 6-4 and was up 2-0 when it all began to unravel. The French crowd were already heavily behind the five-time Roland Garros champion Graf when Hingis crossed tennis's equivalent of the Rubicon, by walking over to the other side of the court to dispute a forehand that was called out. Farewell Martina Hingis - a retrospective The whistles and cat-calls were deafening as the supporters reacted to what they saw as another example of Hingis's preening precocity. Hingis was so enraged that she called the tournament referee onto the court, all the while grinning disingenuously with increasingly simmering menace. It was little wonder that she had been nicknamed the "smiling assassin". Not only did Hingis not get the overrule she wanted, she was given a point penalty for crossing the net, and found herself down 30-0 in a game she felt she should have been 15-0 up in. The rest of the second set undulated with breaks for each player, before Hingis found herself serving for the match at 5-4 against not just one of the greatest players of all time, but also an increasingly vicious crowd. Graf broke back and took the set 7-5, before romping to a 5-2 lead in the decider. In an act of desperation, Hingis served under-arm when down match point, and the surprise tactic worked to keep her in the match. The crowd roared their disapproval, and when Hingis complained at their heckling Graf retorted: ''Can we just play tennis, O.K?" After Graf took the title on her second match point as the match clock showed 2 hours 25 minutes, Hingis left the court and had to be led back on in tears by her mother Melanie Molitor. When asked about the crowd afterwards, Hingis admitted that ''I let it get to me.'' She pledged to not stop until she had won the French Open, but was never able to get her hands on the title or reach another Paris final. Graf made good on her promise to retire at the end of the year, and the 1999 French Open would turn out to be her 22nd and final grand slam singles title. 1. Michael Chang defeats Ivan Lendl, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 - 1989 Fourth Round As well as being one of the most extraordinary matches in the history of tennis, Michael Chang's 1989 French Open fourth-round match against Ivan Lendl also featured one of its most memorable moments. Leading 4-3 in the final set but down 15-30 and suffering severe cramps, Chang took the almost unprecedented step of serving under-arm. The reaction from everyone on the Philippe Chatrier court is sensational. The commentator laughs in disbelief and shouts "extraordinaire...ooh la la!" as the crowd cover their mouths in astonishment at what they have just seen. The former American player Todd Martin later described Chang's underhand serve as "the last stone that felled Goliath". The tactic flummoxed Lendl, and Chang won the point and the match two games later. It was a fitting end to a remarkable match that had seen the world No 1 and three-time French Open champion Lendl upset by the 17-year-old naturalised American who was playing for only the second time at Roland Garros. Lendl by contrast was the reigning Australian Open champion, the world's No 1 for almost all of the previous three years and a seven-time major winner. A baseline behemoth, Lendl had not dropped a set all tournament and looked set for a seventh straight French Open quarter-final when he took a two sets to love lead against Chang. Chang though had also been in excellent form in the tournament, winning his previous nine sets for the loss of 17 games, and despite his tender years he did already have some pedigree. He was the 15th seed at the tournament and had won an ATP Tournament the year before in San Francisco. Against Lendl, he was given additional motivation by the possibility of bringing hope to his homeland of China. Only a day earlier, Chang had spent the day glued to television screens horrified at images of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing. He later admitted that: "What [the Lendl match] was really about was an opportunity to bring a smile upon Chinese people's faces around the world when there wasn't a whole lot to smile about. I honestly feel that that was God's purpose for allowing me to be able to get through those matches." From two sets to love down, Chang started to frustrated his illustrious opponent. After the 17-year-old had taken the third set with a beguiling mix of awkward spins and angles, Lendl began to rage at the conditions and what he perceived to be bad line calls. His anger cost him a penalty point and a game in the fourth set. But when severe cramps struck Chang in the fourth set, a victory for Lendl looked a formality. Still, his opponent would not go away though, employing a befuddling tactic of slow, arcing moonballs that drove Lendl to distraction and saw Chang take the fourth set 6-3. Into a decider, and the pain became too much for Chang. In the third game of the set, he could not move and had resorted to guzzling water and consuming bananas at an alarming rate. He could not even sit down at change of ends, such was the all-consuming pain of the cramp he was suffering. At 2-1 up he walked to the service box to retire from the match, but at that point he claims to have benefitted from divine intervention. He later recalled: "When I got to the service line, I got an unbelievable conviction of heart. Looking back, I really feel like it was the Lord kind of telling me: 'Michael, what do you think you're doing here?' If I quit once, the second, third, fourth or fifth time that I am faced with that kind of circumstance, that kind of difficulty, I'm going to quit again." Four games later, Chang employed the under-arm serve trick as one last throw of the dice. He remembers: "At 15-30, spur of the moment, I was just like, I'm going to throw an underhand serve in here, cause I'm not doing anything off my first serve anyways. Let's see if maybe I can scrape a point. I hit the underhand serve, Ivan was kind of surprised about it, moved, kind of got squeezed in because of the spin and had to come in because the serve was so short. I hit a passing shot, clipped the tape and it went off the top of his racket and the crowd went absolutely nuts." In the final game, there was time for one last party piece as Chang slowly walked forward to the service line on match point as Lendl prepared to serve. It drew a double fault, and Chang has somehow done it. After four hours and 37 minutes of the most excruciating competition, Chang had completed the equivalent of a tennis ultra-marathon and defeated the world No 1. He went on to beat Stefan Edberg in the final as he claimed his one and only grand slam title.
The seven greatest ever French Open matches
7. Robin Soderling defeats Rafael Nadal, 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-4, 7-6 (2) - 2009 fourth round In every sport, there are upsets so profoundly shocking that they become the benchmark for any future surprise result. Boxing has Mike Tyson losing to Buster Douglas, rugby union has Japan's defeat of South Africa, while football in 2016 added Leicester winning the Premier League to its canon. In tennis, there are few, if any, greater upsets than Robin Soderling's win against Rafael Nadal at the French Open in 2009. Nadal was considered unbeatable at the French Open where he never lost a match and prowled the baseline like a predator mercilessly defending his territory. Aged 22, he was already a four-time Roland Garros champion, and had not dropped so much as a set in his previous 10 matches there. Coming into the fourth round match against Soderling, Nadal looked set fair for a fifth straight title. He had cruised through his first three matches - taking his win-loss record in Paris to 31-0 - including a demolition job of former world No 1 Lleyton Hewitt whom he had beaten for the loss of just five games. In January, Nadal had won his first hard-court major at the Australian Open, and he had completely dominated the start of the clay-court season by winning the titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome. When the players took to the Phillipe Chatrier court on a cloudy Parisian afternoon, no-one gave Soderling a hope of upsetting the King of Clay in his unbreachable fortress. Soderling interview Soderling though had two things in his favour. The first was a huge all or nothing game that meant he could beat anyone on his day, and the second was that he knew how to get under Nadal's skin. The Swede was something of an outsider in the locker room, and he revelled in antagonising his opponents, especially Nadal. The pair's previous two meetings had been fractious, with Soderling angering Nadal and the Rome crowd a month earlier when he swore at the umpire over a disputed line call despite it being himself who had clearly pointed to the wrong mark on the court. The rivalry really intensified though at Wimbledon in 2007 when the two players' third-round five-set match stretched over five days due to rain and became a tetchy and testy slugfest. Nadal was enraged at the constant delays, and Soderling sought to wind him up further, behaving like an annoying sibling who knew exactly what buttons to press. He mimicked Nadal's habit of fiddling with his shorts and to poke fun at of how long Nadal took between points, he would deliberately stall the Spaniard and offer his hand in mock-apology. Taking to the role of pantomime villain perfectly, Soderling eschewed the tennis etiquette of aplogising after a dead net cord, and instead celebrated such a point in the fifth set with a fist pump. After the match he said: "Why should I say I’m sorry when it’s the happiest moment of my life?" The handshake at the end of the match was frostier than the unseasonally cold temperatures at SW19, and Nadal pulled no punches in his post-match interview. “I have said hello to him seven times to his face, and he has never said hello to me," he said. "I asked around the locker room; almost nobody had anything nice to say about him.” Robin Soderling celebrates beating Rafael Nadal at the French Open in 2009 Soderling responded: "Personally, if I have a problem with a player I go and talk to him face-to-face." Of his reputation as a loner, he added: "Do I have any friends on tour? Not many. I used to hang around with other Swedes, but there are fewer now." In the highly sanitised world of the ATP Tour where everyone seemed to get along, this was genuine needle and made for an intriguing pre-match sub-plot. But despite Nadal's open distaste for his opponent, there was little to suggest that he would have too many problems in beating Soderling. As well as his formidable record at Roland Garros and on clay in general, Nadal had won all three of his previous matches against Soderling, and hammered him 6-1, 6-0 in that Rome meeting a month earlier. Soderling, the world No 25, had been having a mixed year and had gone out early in all of the clay-court tournaments leading up to the French Open. Once in Paris though, he began to play with more authority and took out the 14th seed David Ferrer in four sets to reach the last 16 - his first fourth-round appearance at a major. In the first set against Nadal, Soderling was, to use tennis parlance, red lining. Nadal looked utterly powerless, failing to get a grip in the match as if he was being tossed around in a washing machine. Soderling's forehand was an inelegant slap that could often go awry, but suddenly he could not miss with it and he was sending Nadal so far behind the baseline that he was almost in Belgium. Nadal was left floundering in an opening set that went the Swede's way 6-2. Nadal sits on the clay after falling against Soderling When you watch the match back, one of the striking things is how loud and desperate Nadal's grunting quickly becomes. He sounds almost strangled by the exertion of what he's up against and the shock of getting so badly beaten up on his favourite court. Nadal took the second set on a tie-break, but still something was not right. The Spaniard's snarl had become an anxious furrowed brow, and Soderling was feeding off his tension. The more Nadal hoped his rival would take a backwards step, the more Soderling went for the jugular - battering down aces and big forehands, and picking off volleys at the net like a Scandinavian Pete Sampras. Nadal began to look frazzled, with his sweat-drenched hair creeping down into his narrowed eyes. In the seventh game of the third set, Soderling screamed a backhand at Nadal to earn a crucial break of serve. Shortly after Nadal collapsed to the floor like a giant tree felled by a lumberjack as he lost his footing hitting a backhand. The symbolism of the fall was obvious, and John McEnroe remarked in commentary: "He just doesn’t know what to do out there." Soderling took the set 6-4 to leave Nadal on the brink of elimination. The Spaniard though did not give up - his ferocious competitiveness never left him and he took an early break in the fourth set to regain a semblance of control. It would prove to be an illusion however, as Soderling broke back and took the fourth set on a tie-break to win the match. The crowd, desperate for a Roger Federer win at the tournament, had been resolutely in favour of Soderling throughout the match and roared their approval at seeing Nadal finally beaten at Roland Garros. The tennis world scrambled around for an explanation, and they received one of sorts a few weeks later when Nadal pulled out of Wimbledon due to tendonitis in both knees. It would later emerge that the Spaniard was also suffering severe distress from the divorce of his parents. But it is too easy to attribute the defeat to one or both of these factors. Yes, they may have contributed but Nadal had still been in sensational form at the time, and it took a player with the courage and self-belief of Soderling to take advantage. The way Soderling was playing that day - hitting 61 winners to Nadal's 33 - he would have beaten Rafa at any stage of his career. The scale of the shock was only added to in the subsequent years, as Nadal won the next five French Opens and his following 39 matches at Roland Garros, include a straight-sets win over Soderling in the 2010 final. Even now, nine years on Nadal has only been beaten once in Paris since the Soderling upset. The victory was the launchpad for Soderling's career, as he reached consecutive French Open finals and a career-high ranking of No 4. Sadly he was forced to retire in 2015 having not played since 2011 due to a severe and long-running bout of glandular fever. Nadal of course quickly re-established himself as the King of Clay, and is currently playing some of the best tennis of his career as he targets an 11th French Open title. But he will never forget that Sunday in May eight years ago when he was dethroned so brutally by the player he disliked the most. 6. Andre Agassi defeats Andrei Medvedev 1–6, 2–6, 6–4, 6–3, 6–4 - 1999 Final The story of Andre Agassi's rise and fall and then rise again was like something out of a Hollywood script. The glamorous, exciting young Las Vegan with the mullet and neon spandex who had too much too young before plumbing the depths and taking crystal meth as his world crumbled around him. Then the rise from the ashes that saw a redeemed, more mature version of his younger self gain some much needed perspective and come back stronger than ever before. The fall in 1997 had seen Agassi, shaken by his failed marriage to American actress Brooke Shields, plummet to a world ranking of 141 and fail a doping test (which was later dropped by the authorities when he claimed to have ingested crystal meth accidentally) . By the time of the 1999 French Open, Agassi was back in the world's top 20 after close to 18 months spent finding his feet again,but he was not yet considered a serious contender for grand slams, least of all the French Open, which he had never won. But at Roland Garros that year, Agassi battled his way to the final - his first at a slam for almost four years. A win for the American would see him complete the career Grand Slam at the age of 29 and cap a remarkable turnaround from the dark days of two years before. He had twice been a losing finalist in Paris, but was odds on to finally claim the title against the unfancied Ukrainian Andrei Medvedev, whose lowly ranking of 100 meant he only just made the cut for the tournament. Medvedev though had been in sensational form in Paris, taking out Pete Sampras and former champion Gustavo Kuerten en route to the final. Ironically, it had been a chat with Agassi in Monte Carlo a few weeks earlier that had inspired the turnaround. In his autobiography, Open, Agassi recalled how he had spotted Medvedev drinking alone in a Monte Carlo bar after another damaging defeat. The 24-year-old Medvedev told Agassi he was considering retiring - in his own words he was old and he couldn’t play "this f---ing game anymore." "How dare you," Agassi responded. "Here I am, 29, injured, divorced, and you’re [complaining] about being washed up at 24? Your future is bright." Buoyed by the pep talk and by his blossoming romance with German player Anke Huber (they have subsequently split), Medvedev was a new player in Paris and his feather-light drop shots and clinical backhands down the line took him all the way to the final. On the eve of the final, Agassi was racked by anxiety and shocked coach Brad Gilbert by necking a vodka from the hotel minibar to soothe his nerves. "He has my game," Agassi fretted. "I gave it to him. He even has my first name." Andre Agassi celebrates beating Andrei Medvedev in the 1999 French Open final By the time the players took to the court, Agassi was still tormented with self-doubt, and he lost the first set 6-1 in 19 humiliating minutes. The second was scarcely much better, as Medvedev prevailed 6-2, with Agassi later describing his performance in the opening stages as "embarrassing". Midway through the second set though, a rain delay forced the players off court and prompted Gilbert to shake some sense into Agassi. Gilbert opened a locker and slammed it shut, before unleashing a volley of criticism at his player, where he told Agassi exactly what he was doing wrong and that at the very least he had to "go down with both guns blazing". Agassi belatedly got the message, and in the third set hauled himself from off the canvas. Serving at 4-4, 30-15 he double faulted on consecutive points to hand Medvedev a break point that had he taken would have left him serving for the match. The American saved it with a drop volley, and from there did not look back, coming to the net more and taking his opponent's rhythm away from him. After 2 hours and 42 minutes, Agassi secured the victory when a Medvedev forehand sailed long. He dropped his racket instantly, turned to his box and after covering his face began to cry uncontrollably. "Winning isn’t supposed to feel this good," Agassi said. "But it does." Agassi had metamorphosed from hirsute teenager in denim shorts to balding elder statesman, and after his annus horribilis he had found the purest form of redemption. 5. Chris Evert defeats Martina Navratilova 6–3, 6–7(4), 7–5 - 1985 final Sixteen years, 80 matches, and 60 finals. There has never been a rivalry like the one between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, and there were few contests between the two as riveting as the 1985 French Open final. From 1974 to 1986, the two players duopolised the year-end world No 1 ranking, and had finished No 1 and No 2 in every year between 1982 and 1986. Between them they were the dominant forces in the sport, and by the time of the 1985 French Open final Evert had 16 singles slams to Navratilova's 12. Evert had initially dominated meetings between the two, winning 20 of their first 25 matches, but when they met at Roland Garros 22 years ago, Navratilova led the head to head 33-31 and was the world No 1. The stats though don't tell anything like the full story of a rivalry that in the public's eyes pitted the charming American girl next door in Evert against the rugged, outspoken Czechoslovakian outsider in Navratilova. Evert later said this perception was totally wrong, explaining that people would often approach her and say, "You know, I never liked that Martina. She's so tough. "I'd say, 'You know what? She's a kitten. She really is. I'm the hard one.' They'd say 'no, no, no - not you. You're so frail and feminine; we always felt sorry for you.' It was as if Martina became the bully to some people. And I was the person who could silence the bully." The pair were actually great friends and had played doubles together in the mid-1970s until Evert felt that doing so gave Navratilova too good a read on her game. Navratilova would never forget the kindness Evert and her mother had shown her when she was starting out on the lonely grind of professional tennis. Evert had always liked and admired Navratilova, and was among the first to defend her when she was outed as a lesbian by a New York newspaper in 1981. By the time of the 1985 French Open final, Navratilova, now 28, was at her formidable best and exercised a vice-like grip over the rest of the Tour - friends and foes. She was the current holder of all four of the slams and had won a staggering nine of the previous 13 majors. Evert, now 30, had won the other four and was the world No 2, but anyone playing against Navratilova at that time was a major underdog. Both players were in excellent form when they met in Paris. They had reached the final with contemptuous ease- neither had dropped a set, and Navratilova had dished out bagel sets to half of her opponents en route to meeting Evert. The final proved to be one of the high points in a rivalry that transcended sport. In 2 hours 40 minutes of relentless tension and drama, Evert eventually won out in three epic sets. She had led by a set and a break, and served for the match in the second set but Navratilova had clung on. It was a fascinating clash of styles, with Navratilova rushing to the net at every opportunity, and Evert doing all she could to find angles and lobs to outfox her opponent. In the final set, Navratilova missed four break points on her opponent's serve at 5-5 and then moments later found herself down championship point on her own serve. She saved it when Evert sent a lob just long, but it turned out to be a stay of execution as on the second one, the American somehow got to a Navratilova smash and screamed a backhand passing shot winner up the line. Evert later described the win as her "most satisfying", while reflecting on the pair's rivalry, Navratilova said: "We brought out the best in each other. It's almost not right to say who's better. If you tried to make the perfect rivalry, we were it." 4. Ivan Lendl defeats John McEnroe 3-6, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, 7-5 - 1984 final In his 2002 autobiography Serious, John McEnroe openly admits that there are few events that haunt him as much as his 1984 French Open final defeat to Ivan Lendl. As McEnroe laments of the match: "Lendl got his first major, and I took his title, choker-in-chief, away from him." McEnroe, 25, entered the match in the form of his life, having begun 1984 with 42 straight wins. It was a record start to a year that stands to this day, and meant the American, who already had five majors to his name, was the red hot favourite to pick up his first French Open title. His opponent, the 24-year-old Czech Lendl was tennis's perennial bridesmaid. The nearly man, the choker. He had reached four slam finals and lost them all - an unwanted sequence since equalled by his former protege Andy Murray. It was little surprise then when McEnroe cruised through the first two sets 6-3, 6-2 to leave Lendl staring at the prospect of losing his first five slam finals. Simon Briggs ranks the 20 male clay-court players of all time Fortunately for the Czech, McEnroe had one glaring weakness: his temperament. In a manner that Murray fans will identify with, McEnroe could become enraged by something seemingly innocuous. Early on in the third set, the whirring of a cameraman's headset set him off and soon after McEnroe was in full meltdown mode. He berated the cameraman for causing him to lose his focus, and all of a sudden he had lost the third set 6-4 and was up against a crowd now fiercely in favour of Lendl. Despite their taunting, McEnroe led 4-2 in the fourth, but his energy was being sapped by the burning French sun and Lendl roared back to pinch it 7-5 and take the match into a decider. From there the Czech grew in confidence and took the final set 7-5 as McEnroe grappled unsuccessfully with the inner demons that had taken hold. After the match, which had lasted 4 hours and 8 minutes, McEnroe was so incandescent with rage at the crowd and himself that he refused to give an on-court interview. The defeat was one of just three losses in 85 matches for McEnroe that year and stung him more than almost any other setback in his career. After breaking his grand slam duck, Lendl ended his career with eight slams, one more than McEnroe. 3. Rafael Nadal defeats Novak Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7, (3-7), 9-7​ - 2013 semi-final Nadal won 70 of his first 71 matches at Roland Garros, and surely none were as dramatic as the semi-final four years ago against his great rival Novak Djokovic, which is amazingly one of only two five-setters that the Spaniard has ever played at Roland Garros. Nadal was the tournament holder and seven-time French Open champion, but his ranking was down at No 4 after a horrible run of injuries. Djokovic, as the Australian Open champion and world No 1, was the man to beat, though Nadal's clay-court pedigree made the Spaniard the favourite in many people's eyes. The pair had met in the previous year's French Open, with Nadal winning in four sets, and 18 months earlier Djokovic had edged a bruising six-hour long epic in the Australian Open final. In total this was the 35th meeting between two players who had between them won 10 of the previous 12 majors. A great deal was expected of what was a de facto final - the winner was to face David Ferrer or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - and no-one on a broiling Paris afternoon was left disappointed. After splitting the first two sets, Nadal romped through the third 6-1, whipping that lasso-like forehand and not allowing Djokovic to settle into a rhythm. The Spaniard looked on course for a four-sets win but failed to serve out the match at 6-5 up, and after Djokovic nicked the tie-break, the players headed into a decider. As the temperature cranked up and the match headed for its fifth hour, Djokovic began to edge what was becoming a war of attrition, and grabbed an early break in the final set. The Serb held the break all the way to 4-3, but he made the grave error at deuce of unnecessarily touching the net after hitting a winning smash and thereby forefeited the point. Nadal broke back that game, and held his nerve to tough out the decider 9-7. The memories of losing that Melbourne final were still raw for Nadal, and he said afterwards: "I was ready for the fight and had a little bit of luck at 4-3. In Australia in 2012 it was similar but he won. Everybody knows Novak is a fighter. That's why this is a special sport. During [my] seven months out there were a lot of low moments but people supported me, made me work hard every day, and I want to thank them for that." Nadal cruised to his eighth title two days later by thumping David Ferrer in the final, while Djokovic would have to wait until 2016 before finally getting his hands on the Coupe des Mousquetaires. 2. Steffi Graf defeats Martina Hingis 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 - 1999 Final The 1999 final was a fractious, ill-tempered encounter that pitted the old against the new. Steffi Graf had dominated the women's Tour in the 1990s until injuries and the emergence of the 'Swiss Miss' Martina Hingis knocked her off her perch in 1997. A 16-year-old Hingis hoovered up three of the four slams that year to take the No 1 ranking from Graf, who by 1999 was 29 and playing in her final year on the Tour. Hingis had dismissed Graf as past her best a year earlier, and now the two came head to head in Paris for Graf's final match at Roland Garros. Hingis, 18, needed the French Open to complete the career Grand Slam, and having won five grand slams in the previous couple of years, including the Australian Open that January, was the favourite to win the final. Graf for her part had not won a major since 1996 and had admitted she was mainly using the tournament as a way of improving her fitness ahead of one last crack at an eighth Wimbledon title. For the first set and a bit, Hingis was in control. She took the opener 6-4 and was up 2-0 when it all began to unravel. The French crowd were already heavily behind the five-time Roland Garros champion Graf when Hingis crossed tennis's equivalent of the Rubicon, by walking over to the other side of the court to dispute a forehand that was called out. Farewell Martina Hingis - a retrospective The whistles and cat-calls were deafening as the supporters reacted to what they saw as another example of Hingis's preening precocity. Hingis was so enraged that she called the tournament referee onto the court, all the while grinning disingenuously with increasingly simmering menace. It was little wonder that she had been nicknamed the "smiling assassin". Not only did Hingis not get the overrule she wanted, she was given a point penalty for crossing the net, and found herself down 30-0 in a game she felt she should have been 15-0 up in. The rest of the second set undulated with breaks for each player, before Hingis found herself serving for the match at 5-4 against not just one of the greatest players of all time, but also an increasingly vicious crowd. Graf broke back and took the set 7-5, before romping to a 5-2 lead in the decider. In an act of desperation, Hingis served under-arm when down match point, and the surprise tactic worked to keep her in the match. The crowd roared their disapproval, and when Hingis complained at their heckling Graf retorted: ''Can we just play tennis, O.K?" After Graf took the title on her second match point as the match clock showed 2 hours 25 minutes, Hingis left the court and had to be led back on in tears by her mother Melanie Molitor. When asked about the crowd afterwards, Hingis admitted that ''I let it get to me.'' She pledged to not stop until she had won the French Open, but was never able to get her hands on the title or reach another Paris final. Graf made good on her promise to retire at the end of the year, and the 1999 French Open would turn out to be her 22nd and final grand slam singles title. 1. Michael Chang defeats Ivan Lendl, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 - 1989 Fourth Round As well as being one of the most extraordinary matches in the history of tennis, Michael Chang's 1989 French Open fourth-round match against Ivan Lendl also featured one of its most memorable moments. Leading 4-3 in the final set but down 15-30 and suffering severe cramps, Chang took the almost unprecedented step of serving under-arm. The reaction from everyone on the Philippe Chatrier court is sensational. The commentator laughs in disbelief and shouts "extraordinaire...ooh la la!" as the crowd cover their mouths in astonishment at what they have just seen. The former American player Todd Martin later described Chang's underhand serve as "the last stone that felled Goliath". The tactic flummoxed Lendl, and Chang won the point and the match two games later. It was a fitting end to a remarkable match that had seen the world No 1 and three-time French Open champion Lendl upset by the 17-year-old naturalised American who was playing for only the second time at Roland Garros. Lendl by contrast was the reigning Australian Open champion, the world's No 1 for almost all of the previous three years and a seven-time major winner. A baseline behemoth, Lendl had not dropped a set all tournament and looked set for a seventh straight French Open quarter-final when he took a two sets to love lead against Chang. Chang though had also been in excellent form in the tournament, winning his previous nine sets for the loss of 17 games, and despite his tender years he did already have some pedigree. He was the 15th seed at the tournament and had won an ATP Tournament the year before in San Francisco. Against Lendl, he was given additional motivation by the possibility of bringing hope to his homeland of China. Only a day earlier, Chang had spent the day glued to television screens horrified at images of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing. He later admitted that: "What [the Lendl match] was really about was an opportunity to bring a smile upon Chinese people's faces around the world when there wasn't a whole lot to smile about. I honestly feel that that was God's purpose for allowing me to be able to get through those matches." From two sets to love down, Chang started to frustrated his illustrious opponent. After the 17-year-old had taken the third set with a beguiling mix of awkward spins and angles, Lendl began to rage at the conditions and what he perceived to be bad line calls. His anger cost him a penalty point and a game in the fourth set. But when severe cramps struck Chang in the fourth set, a victory for Lendl looked a formality. Still, his opponent would not go away though, employing a befuddling tactic of slow, arcing moonballs that drove Lendl to distraction and saw Chang take the fourth set 6-3. Into a decider, and the pain became too much for Chang. In the third game of the set, he could not move and had resorted to guzzling water and consuming bananas at an alarming rate. He could not even sit down at change of ends, such was the all-consuming pain of the cramp he was suffering. At 2-1 up he walked to the service box to retire from the match, but at that point he claims to have benefitted from divine intervention. He later recalled: "When I got to the service line, I got an unbelievable conviction of heart. Looking back, I really feel like it was the Lord kind of telling me: 'Michael, what do you think you're doing here?' If I quit once, the second, third, fourth or fifth time that I am faced with that kind of circumstance, that kind of difficulty, I'm going to quit again." Four games later, Chang employed the under-arm serve trick as one last throw of the dice. He remembers: "At 15-30, spur of the moment, I was just like, I'm going to throw an underhand serve in here, cause I'm not doing anything off my first serve anyways. Let's see if maybe I can scrape a point. I hit the underhand serve, Ivan was kind of surprised about it, moved, kind of got squeezed in because of the spin and had to come in because the serve was so short. I hit a passing shot, clipped the tape and it went off the top of his racket and the crowd went absolutely nuts." In the final game, there was time for one last party piece as Chang slowly walked forward to the service line on match point as Lendl prepared to serve. It drew a double fault, and Chang has somehow done it. After four hours and 37 minutes of the most excruciating competition, Chang had completed the equivalent of a tennis ultra-marathon and defeated the world No 1. He went on to beat Stefan Edberg in the final as he claimed his one and only grand slam title.
7. Robin Soderling defeats Rafael Nadal, 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-4, 7-6 (2) - 2009 fourth round In every sport, there are upsets so profoundly shocking that they become the benchmark for any future surprise result. Boxing has Mike Tyson losing to Buster Douglas, rugby union has Japan's defeat of South Africa, while football in 2016 added Leicester winning the Premier League to its canon. In tennis, there are few, if any, greater upsets than Robin Soderling's win against Rafael Nadal at the French Open in 2009. Nadal was considered unbeatable at the French Open where he never lost a match and prowled the baseline like a predator mercilessly defending his territory. Aged 22, he was already a four-time Roland Garros champion, and had not dropped so much as a set in his previous 10 matches there. Coming into the fourth round match against Soderling, Nadal looked set fair for a fifth straight title. He had cruised through his first three matches - taking his win-loss record in Paris to 31-0 - including a demolition job of former world No 1 Lleyton Hewitt whom he had beaten for the loss of just five games. In January, Nadal had won his first hard-court major at the Australian Open, and he had completely dominated the start of the clay-court season by winning the titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome. When the players took to the Phillipe Chatrier court on a cloudy Parisian afternoon, no-one gave Soderling a hope of upsetting the King of Clay in his unbreachable fortress. Soderling interview Soderling though had two things in his favour. The first was a huge all or nothing game that meant he could beat anyone on his day, and the second was that he knew how to get under Nadal's skin. The Swede was something of an outsider in the locker room, and he revelled in antagonising his opponents, especially Nadal. The pair's previous two meetings had been fractious, with Soderling angering Nadal and the Rome crowd a month earlier when he swore at the umpire over a disputed line call despite it being himself who had clearly pointed to the wrong mark on the court. The rivalry really intensified though at Wimbledon in 2007 when the two players' third-round five-set match stretched over five days due to rain and became a tetchy and testy slugfest. Nadal was enraged at the constant delays, and Soderling sought to wind him up further, behaving like an annoying sibling who knew exactly what buttons to press. He mimicked Nadal's habit of fiddling with his shorts and to poke fun at of how long Nadal took between points, he would deliberately stall the Spaniard and offer his hand in mock-apology. Taking to the role of pantomime villain perfectly, Soderling eschewed the tennis etiquette of aplogising after a dead net cord, and instead celebrated such a point in the fifth set with a fist pump. After the match he said: "Why should I say I’m sorry when it’s the happiest moment of my life?" The handshake at the end of the match was frostier than the unseasonally cold temperatures at SW19, and Nadal pulled no punches in his post-match interview. “I have said hello to him seven times to his face, and he has never said hello to me," he said. "I asked around the locker room; almost nobody had anything nice to say about him.” Robin Soderling celebrates beating Rafael Nadal at the French Open in 2009 Soderling responded: "Personally, if I have a problem with a player I go and talk to him face-to-face." Of his reputation as a loner, he added: "Do I have any friends on tour? Not many. I used to hang around with other Swedes, but there are fewer now." In the highly sanitised world of the ATP Tour where everyone seemed to get along, this was genuine needle and made for an intriguing pre-match sub-plot. But despite Nadal's open distaste for his opponent, there was little to suggest that he would have too many problems in beating Soderling. As well as his formidable record at Roland Garros and on clay in general, Nadal had won all three of his previous matches against Soderling, and hammered him 6-1, 6-0 in that Rome meeting a month earlier. Soderling, the world No 25, had been having a mixed year and had gone out early in all of the clay-court tournaments leading up to the French Open. Once in Paris though, he began to play with more authority and took out the 14th seed David Ferrer in four sets to reach the last 16 - his first fourth-round appearance at a major. In the first set against Nadal, Soderling was, to use tennis parlance, red lining. Nadal looked utterly powerless, failing to get a grip in the match as if he was being tossed around in a washing machine. Soderling's forehand was an inelegant slap that could often go awry, but suddenly he could not miss with it and he was sending Nadal so far behind the baseline that he was almost in Belgium. Nadal was left floundering in an opening set that went the Swede's way 6-2. Nadal sits on the clay after falling against Soderling When you watch the match back, one of the striking things is how loud and desperate Nadal's grunting quickly becomes. He sounds almost strangled by the exertion of what he's up against and the shock of getting so badly beaten up on his favourite court. Nadal took the second set on a tie-break, but still something was not right. The Spaniard's snarl had become an anxious furrowed brow, and Soderling was feeding off his tension. The more Nadal hoped his rival would take a backwards step, the more Soderling went for the jugular - battering down aces and big forehands, and picking off volleys at the net like a Scandinavian Pete Sampras. Nadal began to look frazzled, with his sweat-drenched hair creeping down into his narrowed eyes. In the seventh game of the third set, Soderling screamed a backhand at Nadal to earn a crucial break of serve. Shortly after Nadal collapsed to the floor like a giant tree felled by a lumberjack as he lost his footing hitting a backhand. The symbolism of the fall was obvious, and John McEnroe remarked in commentary: "He just doesn’t know what to do out there." Soderling took the set 6-4 to leave Nadal on the brink of elimination. The Spaniard though did not give up - his ferocious competitiveness never left him and he took an early break in the fourth set to regain a semblance of control. It would prove to be an illusion however, as Soderling broke back and took the fourth set on a tie-break to win the match. The crowd, desperate for a Roger Federer win at the tournament, had been resolutely in favour of Soderling throughout the match and roared their approval at seeing Nadal finally beaten at Roland Garros. The tennis world scrambled around for an explanation, and they received one of sorts a few weeks later when Nadal pulled out of Wimbledon due to tendonitis in both knees. It would later emerge that the Spaniard was also suffering severe distress from the divorce of his parents. But it is too easy to attribute the defeat to one or both of these factors. Yes, they may have contributed but Nadal had still been in sensational form at the time, and it took a player with the courage and self-belief of Soderling to take advantage. The way Soderling was playing that day - hitting 61 winners to Nadal's 33 - he would have beaten Rafa at any stage of his career. The scale of the shock was only added to in the subsequent years, as Nadal won the next five French Opens and his following 39 matches at Roland Garros, include a straight-sets win over Soderling in the 2010 final. Even now, nine years on Nadal has only been beaten once in Paris since the Soderling upset. The victory was the launchpad for Soderling's career, as he reached consecutive French Open finals and a career-high ranking of No 4. Sadly he was forced to retire in 2015 having not played since 2011 due to a severe and long-running bout of glandular fever. Nadal of course quickly re-established himself as the King of Clay, and is currently playing some of the best tennis of his career as he targets an 11th French Open title. But he will never forget that Sunday in May eight years ago when he was dethroned so brutally by the player he disliked the most. 6. Andre Agassi defeats Andrei Medvedev 1–6, 2–6, 6–4, 6–3, 6–4 - 1999 Final The story of Andre Agassi's rise and fall and then rise again was like something out of a Hollywood script. The glamorous, exciting young Las Vegan with the mullet and neon spandex who had too much too young before plumbing the depths and taking crystal meth as his world crumbled around him. Then the rise from the ashes that saw a redeemed, more mature version of his younger self gain some much needed perspective and come back stronger than ever before. The fall in 1997 had seen Agassi, shaken by his failed marriage to American actress Brooke Shields, plummet to a world ranking of 141 and fail a doping test (which was later dropped by the authorities when he claimed to have ingested crystal meth accidentally) . By the time of the 1999 French Open, Agassi was back in the world's top 20 after close to 18 months spent finding his feet again,but he was not yet considered a serious contender for grand slams, least of all the French Open, which he had never won. But at Roland Garros that year, Agassi battled his way to the final - his first at a slam for almost four years. A win for the American would see him complete the career Grand Slam at the age of 29 and cap a remarkable turnaround from the dark days of two years before. He had twice been a losing finalist in Paris, but was odds on to finally claim the title against the unfancied Ukrainian Andrei Medvedev, whose lowly ranking of 100 meant he only just made the cut for the tournament. Medvedev though had been in sensational form in Paris, taking out Pete Sampras and former champion Gustavo Kuerten en route to the final. Ironically, it had been a chat with Agassi in Monte Carlo a few weeks earlier that had inspired the turnaround. In his autobiography, Open, Agassi recalled how he had spotted Medvedev drinking alone in a Monte Carlo bar after another damaging defeat. The 24-year-old Medvedev told Agassi he was considering retiring - in his own words he was old and he couldn’t play "this f---ing game anymore." "How dare you," Agassi responded. "Here I am, 29, injured, divorced, and you’re [complaining] about being washed up at 24? Your future is bright." Buoyed by the pep talk and by his blossoming romance with German player Anke Huber (they have subsequently split), Medvedev was a new player in Paris and his feather-light drop shots and clinical backhands down the line took him all the way to the final. On the eve of the final, Agassi was racked by anxiety and shocked coach Brad Gilbert by necking a vodka from the hotel minibar to soothe his nerves. "He has my game," Agassi fretted. "I gave it to him. He even has my first name." Andre Agassi celebrates beating Andrei Medvedev in the 1999 French Open final By the time the players took to the court, Agassi was still tormented with self-doubt, and he lost the first set 6-1 in 19 humiliating minutes. The second was scarcely much better, as Medvedev prevailed 6-2, with Agassi later describing his performance in the opening stages as "embarrassing". Midway through the second set though, a rain delay forced the players off court and prompted Gilbert to shake some sense into Agassi. Gilbert opened a locker and slammed it shut, before unleashing a volley of criticism at his player, where he told Agassi exactly what he was doing wrong and that at the very least he had to "go down with both guns blazing". Agassi belatedly got the message, and in the third set hauled himself from off the canvas. Serving at 4-4, 30-15 he double faulted on consecutive points to hand Medvedev a break point that had he taken would have left him serving for the match. The American saved it with a drop volley, and from there did not look back, coming to the net more and taking his opponent's rhythm away from him. After 2 hours and 42 minutes, Agassi secured the victory when a Medvedev forehand sailed long. He dropped his racket instantly, turned to his box and after covering his face began to cry uncontrollably. "Winning isn’t supposed to feel this good," Agassi said. "But it does." Agassi had metamorphosed from hirsute teenager in denim shorts to balding elder statesman, and after his annus horribilis he had found the purest form of redemption. 5. Chris Evert defeats Martina Navratilova 6–3, 6–7(4), 7–5 - 1985 final Sixteen years, 80 matches, and 60 finals. There has never been a rivalry like the one between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, and there were few contests between the two as riveting as the 1985 French Open final. From 1974 to 1986, the two players duopolised the year-end world No 1 ranking, and had finished No 1 and No 2 in every year between 1982 and 1986. Between them they were the dominant forces in the sport, and by the time of the 1985 French Open final Evert had 16 singles slams to Navratilova's 12. Evert had initially dominated meetings between the two, winning 20 of their first 25 matches, but when they met at Roland Garros 22 years ago, Navratilova led the head to head 33-31 and was the world No 1. The stats though don't tell anything like the full story of a rivalry that in the public's eyes pitted the charming American girl next door in Evert against the rugged, outspoken Czechoslovakian outsider in Navratilova. Evert later said this perception was totally wrong, explaining that people would often approach her and say, "You know, I never liked that Martina. She's so tough. "I'd say, 'You know what? She's a kitten. She really is. I'm the hard one.' They'd say 'no, no, no - not you. You're so frail and feminine; we always felt sorry for you.' It was as if Martina became the bully to some people. And I was the person who could silence the bully." The pair were actually great friends and had played doubles together in the mid-1970s until Evert felt that doing so gave Navratilova too good a read on her game. Navratilova would never forget the kindness Evert and her mother had shown her when she was starting out on the lonely grind of professional tennis. Evert had always liked and admired Navratilova, and was among the first to defend her when she was outed as a lesbian by a New York newspaper in 1981. By the time of the 1985 French Open final, Navratilova, now 28, was at her formidable best and exercised a vice-like grip over the rest of the Tour - friends and foes. She was the current holder of all four of the slams and had won a staggering nine of the previous 13 majors. Evert, now 30, had won the other four and was the world No 2, but anyone playing against Navratilova at that time was a major underdog. Both players were in excellent form when they met in Paris. They had reached the final with contemptuous ease- neither had dropped a set, and Navratilova had dished out bagel sets to half of her opponents en route to meeting Evert. The final proved to be one of the high points in a rivalry that transcended sport. In 2 hours 40 minutes of relentless tension and drama, Evert eventually won out in three epic sets. She had led by a set and a break, and served for the match in the second set but Navratilova had clung on. It was a fascinating clash of styles, with Navratilova rushing to the net at every opportunity, and Evert doing all she could to find angles and lobs to outfox her opponent. In the final set, Navratilova missed four break points on her opponent's serve at 5-5 and then moments later found herself down championship point on her own serve. She saved it when Evert sent a lob just long, but it turned out to be a stay of execution as on the second one, the American somehow got to a Navratilova smash and screamed a backhand passing shot winner up the line. Evert later described the win as her "most satisfying", while reflecting on the pair's rivalry, Navratilova said: "We brought out the best in each other. It's almost not right to say who's better. If you tried to make the perfect rivalry, we were it." 4. Ivan Lendl defeats John McEnroe 3-6, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, 7-5 - 1984 final In his 2002 autobiography Serious, John McEnroe openly admits that there are few events that haunt him as much as his 1984 French Open final defeat to Ivan Lendl. As McEnroe laments of the match: "Lendl got his first major, and I took his title, choker-in-chief, away from him." McEnroe, 25, entered the match in the form of his life, having begun 1984 with 42 straight wins. It was a record start to a year that stands to this day, and meant the American, who already had five majors to his name, was the red hot favourite to pick up his first French Open title. His opponent, the 24-year-old Czech Lendl was tennis's perennial bridesmaid. The nearly man, the choker. He had reached four slam finals and lost them all - an unwanted sequence since equalled by his former protege Andy Murray. It was little surprise then when McEnroe cruised through the first two sets 6-3, 6-2 to leave Lendl staring at the prospect of losing his first five slam finals. Simon Briggs ranks the 20 male clay-court players of all time Fortunately for the Czech, McEnroe had one glaring weakness: his temperament. In a manner that Murray fans will identify with, McEnroe could become enraged by something seemingly innocuous. Early on in the third set, the whirring of a cameraman's headset set him off and soon after McEnroe was in full meltdown mode. He berated the cameraman for causing him to lose his focus, and all of a sudden he had lost the third set 6-4 and was up against a crowd now fiercely in favour of Lendl. Despite their taunting, McEnroe led 4-2 in the fourth, but his energy was being sapped by the burning French sun and Lendl roared back to pinch it 7-5 and take the match into a decider. From there the Czech grew in confidence and took the final set 7-5 as McEnroe grappled unsuccessfully with the inner demons that had taken hold. After the match, which had lasted 4 hours and 8 minutes, McEnroe was so incandescent with rage at the crowd and himself that he refused to give an on-court interview. The defeat was one of just three losses in 85 matches for McEnroe that year and stung him more than almost any other setback in his career. After breaking his grand slam duck, Lendl ended his career with eight slams, one more than McEnroe. 3. Rafael Nadal defeats Novak Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7, (3-7), 9-7​ - 2013 semi-final Nadal won 70 of his first 71 matches at Roland Garros, and surely none were as dramatic as the semi-final four years ago against his great rival Novak Djokovic, which is amazingly one of only two five-setters that the Spaniard has ever played at Roland Garros. Nadal was the tournament holder and seven-time French Open champion, but his ranking was down at No 4 after a horrible run of injuries. Djokovic, as the Australian Open champion and world No 1, was the man to beat, though Nadal's clay-court pedigree made the Spaniard the favourite in many people's eyes. The pair had met in the previous year's French Open, with Nadal winning in four sets, and 18 months earlier Djokovic had edged a bruising six-hour long epic in the Australian Open final. In total this was the 35th meeting between two players who had between them won 10 of the previous 12 majors. A great deal was expected of what was a de facto final - the winner was to face David Ferrer or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - and no-one on a broiling Paris afternoon was left disappointed. After splitting the first two sets, Nadal romped through the third 6-1, whipping that lasso-like forehand and not allowing Djokovic to settle into a rhythm. The Spaniard looked on course for a four-sets win but failed to serve out the match at 6-5 up, and after Djokovic nicked the tie-break, the players headed into a decider. As the temperature cranked up and the match headed for its fifth hour, Djokovic began to edge what was becoming a war of attrition, and grabbed an early break in the final set. The Serb held the break all the way to 4-3, but he made the grave error at deuce of unnecessarily touching the net after hitting a winning smash and thereby forefeited the point. Nadal broke back that game, and held his nerve to tough out the decider 9-7. The memories of losing that Melbourne final were still raw for Nadal, and he said afterwards: "I was ready for the fight and had a little bit of luck at 4-3. In Australia in 2012 it was similar but he won. Everybody knows Novak is a fighter. That's why this is a special sport. During [my] seven months out there were a lot of low moments but people supported me, made me work hard every day, and I want to thank them for that." Nadal cruised to his eighth title two days later by thumping David Ferrer in the final, while Djokovic would have to wait until 2016 before finally getting his hands on the Coupe des Mousquetaires. 2. Steffi Graf defeats Martina Hingis 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 - 1999 Final The 1999 final was a fractious, ill-tempered encounter that pitted the old against the new. Steffi Graf had dominated the women's Tour in the 1990s until injuries and the emergence of the 'Swiss Miss' Martina Hingis knocked her off her perch in 1997. A 16-year-old Hingis hoovered up three of the four slams that year to take the No 1 ranking from Graf, who by 1999 was 29 and playing in her final year on the Tour. Hingis had dismissed Graf as past her best a year earlier, and now the two came head to head in Paris for Graf's final match at Roland Garros. Hingis, 18, needed the French Open to complete the career Grand Slam, and having won five grand slams in the previous couple of years, including the Australian Open that January, was the favourite to win the final. Graf for her part had not won a major since 1996 and had admitted she was mainly using the tournament as a way of improving her fitness ahead of one last crack at an eighth Wimbledon title. For the first set and a bit, Hingis was in control. She took the opener 6-4 and was up 2-0 when it all began to unravel. The French crowd were already heavily behind the five-time Roland Garros champion Graf when Hingis crossed tennis's equivalent of the Rubicon, by walking over to the other side of the court to dispute a forehand that was called out. Farewell Martina Hingis - a retrospective The whistles and cat-calls were deafening as the supporters reacted to what they saw as another example of Hingis's preening precocity. Hingis was so enraged that she called the tournament referee onto the court, all the while grinning disingenuously with increasingly simmering menace. It was little wonder that she had been nicknamed the "smiling assassin". Not only did Hingis not get the overrule she wanted, she was given a point penalty for crossing the net, and found herself down 30-0 in a game she felt she should have been 15-0 up in. The rest of the second set undulated with breaks for each player, before Hingis found herself serving for the match at 5-4 against not just one of the greatest players of all time, but also an increasingly vicious crowd. Graf broke back and took the set 7-5, before romping to a 5-2 lead in the decider. In an act of desperation, Hingis served under-arm when down match point, and the surprise tactic worked to keep her in the match. The crowd roared their disapproval, and when Hingis complained at their heckling Graf retorted: ''Can we just play tennis, O.K?" After Graf took the title on her second match point as the match clock showed 2 hours 25 minutes, Hingis left the court and had to be led back on in tears by her mother Melanie Molitor. When asked about the crowd afterwards, Hingis admitted that ''I let it get to me.'' She pledged to not stop until she had won the French Open, but was never able to get her hands on the title or reach another Paris final. Graf made good on her promise to retire at the end of the year, and the 1999 French Open would turn out to be her 22nd and final grand slam singles title. 1. Michael Chang defeats Ivan Lendl, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 - 1989 Fourth Round As well as being one of the most extraordinary matches in the history of tennis, Michael Chang's 1989 French Open fourth-round match against Ivan Lendl also featured one of its most memorable moments. Leading 4-3 in the final set but down 15-30 and suffering severe cramps, Chang took the almost unprecedented step of serving under-arm. The reaction from everyone on the Philippe Chatrier court is sensational. The commentator laughs in disbelief and shouts "extraordinaire...ooh la la!" as the crowd cover their mouths in astonishment at what they have just seen. The former American player Todd Martin later described Chang's underhand serve as "the last stone that felled Goliath". The tactic flummoxed Lendl, and Chang won the point and the match two games later. It was a fitting end to a remarkable match that had seen the world No 1 and three-time French Open champion Lendl upset by the 17-year-old naturalised American who was playing for only the second time at Roland Garros. Lendl by contrast was the reigning Australian Open champion, the world's No 1 for almost all of the previous three years and a seven-time major winner. A baseline behemoth, Lendl had not dropped a set all tournament and looked set for a seventh straight French Open quarter-final when he took a two sets to love lead against Chang. Chang though had also been in excellent form in the tournament, winning his previous nine sets for the loss of 17 games, and despite his tender years he did already have some pedigree. He was the 15th seed at the tournament and had won an ATP Tournament the year before in San Francisco. Against Lendl, he was given additional motivation by the possibility of bringing hope to his homeland of China. Only a day earlier, Chang had spent the day glued to television screens horrified at images of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing. He later admitted that: "What [the Lendl match] was really about was an opportunity to bring a smile upon Chinese people's faces around the world when there wasn't a whole lot to smile about. I honestly feel that that was God's purpose for allowing me to be able to get through those matches." From two sets to love down, Chang started to frustrated his illustrious opponent. After the 17-year-old had taken the third set with a beguiling mix of awkward spins and angles, Lendl began to rage at the conditions and what he perceived to be bad line calls. His anger cost him a penalty point and a game in the fourth set. But when severe cramps struck Chang in the fourth set, a victory for Lendl looked a formality. Still, his opponent would not go away though, employing a befuddling tactic of slow, arcing moonballs that drove Lendl to distraction and saw Chang take the fourth set 6-3. Into a decider, and the pain became too much for Chang. In the third game of the set, he could not move and had resorted to guzzling water and consuming bananas at an alarming rate. He could not even sit down at change of ends, such was the all-consuming pain of the cramp he was suffering. At 2-1 up he walked to the service box to retire from the match, but at that point he claims to have benefitted from divine intervention. He later recalled: "When I got to the service line, I got an unbelievable conviction of heart. Looking back, I really feel like it was the Lord kind of telling me: 'Michael, what do you think you're doing here?' If I quit once, the second, third, fourth or fifth time that I am faced with that kind of circumstance, that kind of difficulty, I'm going to quit again." Four games later, Chang employed the under-arm serve trick as one last throw of the dice. He remembers: "At 15-30, spur of the moment, I was just like, I'm going to throw an underhand serve in here, cause I'm not doing anything off my first serve anyways. Let's see if maybe I can scrape a point. I hit the underhand serve, Ivan was kind of surprised about it, moved, kind of got squeezed in because of the spin and had to come in because the serve was so short. I hit a passing shot, clipped the tape and it went off the top of his racket and the crowd went absolutely nuts." In the final game, there was time for one last party piece as Chang slowly walked forward to the service line on match point as Lendl prepared to serve. It drew a double fault, and Chang has somehow done it. After four hours and 37 minutes of the most excruciating competition, Chang had completed the equivalent of a tennis ultra-marathon and defeated the world No 1. He went on to beat Stefan Edberg in the final as he claimed his one and only grand slam title.
The seven greatest ever French Open matches
7. Robin Soderling defeats Rafael Nadal, 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-4, 7-6 (2) - 2009 fourth round In every sport, there are upsets so profoundly shocking that they become the benchmark for any future surprise result. Boxing has Mike Tyson losing to Buster Douglas, rugby union has Japan's defeat of South Africa, while football in 2016 added Leicester winning the Premier League to its canon. In tennis, there are few, if any, greater upsets than Robin Soderling's win against Rafael Nadal at the French Open in 2009. Nadal was considered unbeatable at the French Open where he never lost a match and prowled the baseline like a predator mercilessly defending his territory. Aged 22, he was already a four-time Roland Garros champion, and had not dropped so much as a set in his previous 10 matches there. Coming into the fourth round match against Soderling, Nadal looked set fair for a fifth straight title. He had cruised through his first three matches - taking his win-loss record in Paris to 31-0 - including a demolition job of former world No 1 Lleyton Hewitt whom he had beaten for the loss of just five games. In January, Nadal had won his first hard-court major at the Australian Open, and he had completely dominated the start of the clay-court season by winning the titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome. When the players took to the Phillipe Chatrier court on a cloudy Parisian afternoon, no-one gave Soderling a hope of upsetting the King of Clay in his unbreachable fortress. Soderling interview Soderling though had two things in his favour. The first was a huge all or nothing game that meant he could beat anyone on his day, and the second was that he knew how to get under Nadal's skin. The Swede was something of an outsider in the locker room, and he revelled in antagonising his opponents, especially Nadal. The pair's previous two meetings had been fractious, with Soderling angering Nadal and the Rome crowd a month earlier when he swore at the umpire over a disputed line call despite it being himself who had clearly pointed to the wrong mark on the court. The rivalry really intensified though at Wimbledon in 2007 when the two players' third-round five-set match stretched over five days due to rain and became a tetchy and testy slugfest. Nadal was enraged at the constant delays, and Soderling sought to wind him up further, behaving like an annoying sibling who knew exactly what buttons to press. He mimicked Nadal's habit of fiddling with his shorts and to poke fun at of how long Nadal took between points, he would deliberately stall the Spaniard and offer his hand in mock-apology. Taking to the role of pantomime villain perfectly, Soderling eschewed the tennis etiquette of aplogising after a dead net cord, and instead celebrated such a point in the fifth set with a fist pump. After the match he said: "Why should I say I’m sorry when it’s the happiest moment of my life?" The handshake at the end of the match was frostier than the unseasonally cold temperatures at SW19, and Nadal pulled no punches in his post-match interview. “I have said hello to him seven times to his face, and he has never said hello to me," he said. "I asked around the locker room; almost nobody had anything nice to say about him.” Robin Soderling celebrates beating Rafael Nadal at the French Open in 2009 Soderling responded: "Personally, if I have a problem with a player I go and talk to him face-to-face." Of his reputation as a loner, he added: "Do I have any friends on tour? Not many. I used to hang around with other Swedes, but there are fewer now." In the highly sanitised world of the ATP Tour where everyone seemed to get along, this was genuine needle and made for an intriguing pre-match sub-plot. But despite Nadal's open distaste for his opponent, there was little to suggest that he would have too many problems in beating Soderling. As well as his formidable record at Roland Garros and on clay in general, Nadal had won all three of his previous matches against Soderling, and hammered him 6-1, 6-0 in that Rome meeting a month earlier. Soderling, the world No 25, had been having a mixed year and had gone out early in all of the clay-court tournaments leading up to the French Open. Once in Paris though, he began to play with more authority and took out the 14th seed David Ferrer in four sets to reach the last 16 - his first fourth-round appearance at a major. In the first set against Nadal, Soderling was, to use tennis parlance, red lining. Nadal looked utterly powerless, failing to get a grip in the match as if he was being tossed around in a washing machine. Soderling's forehand was an inelegant slap that could often go awry, but suddenly he could not miss with it and he was sending Nadal so far behind the baseline that he was almost in Belgium. Nadal was left floundering in an opening set that went the Swede's way 6-2. Nadal sits on the clay after falling against Soderling When you watch the match back, one of the striking things is how loud and desperate Nadal's grunting quickly becomes. He sounds almost strangled by the exertion of what he's up against and the shock of getting so badly beaten up on his favourite court. Nadal took the second set on a tie-break, but still something was not right. The Spaniard's snarl had become an anxious furrowed brow, and Soderling was feeding off his tension. The more Nadal hoped his rival would take a backwards step, the more Soderling went for the jugular - battering down aces and big forehands, and picking off volleys at the net like a Scandinavian Pete Sampras. Nadal began to look frazzled, with his sweat-drenched hair creeping down into his narrowed eyes. In the seventh game of the third set, Soderling screamed a backhand at Nadal to earn a crucial break of serve. Shortly after Nadal collapsed to the floor like a giant tree felled by a lumberjack as he lost his footing hitting a backhand. The symbolism of the fall was obvious, and John McEnroe remarked in commentary: "He just doesn’t know what to do out there." Soderling took the set 6-4 to leave Nadal on the brink of elimination. The Spaniard though did not give up - his ferocious competitiveness never left him and he took an early break in the fourth set to regain a semblance of control. It would prove to be an illusion however, as Soderling broke back and took the fourth set on a tie-break to win the match. The crowd, desperate for a Roger Federer win at the tournament, had been resolutely in favour of Soderling throughout the match and roared their approval at seeing Nadal finally beaten at Roland Garros. The tennis world scrambled around for an explanation, and they received one of sorts a few weeks later when Nadal pulled out of Wimbledon due to tendonitis in both knees. It would later emerge that the Spaniard was also suffering severe distress from the divorce of his parents. But it is too easy to attribute the defeat to one or both of these factors. Yes, they may have contributed but Nadal had still been in sensational form at the time, and it took a player with the courage and self-belief of Soderling to take advantage. The way Soderling was playing that day - hitting 61 winners to Nadal's 33 - he would have beaten Rafa at any stage of his career. The scale of the shock was only added to in the subsequent years, as Nadal won the next five French Opens and his following 39 matches at Roland Garros, include a straight-sets win over Soderling in the 2010 final. Even now, nine years on Nadal has only been beaten once in Paris since the Soderling upset. The victory was the launchpad for Soderling's career, as he reached consecutive French Open finals and a career-high ranking of No 4. Sadly he was forced to retire in 2015 having not played since 2011 due to a severe and long-running bout of glandular fever. Nadal of course quickly re-established himself as the King of Clay, and is currently playing some of the best tennis of his career as he targets an 11th French Open title. But he will never forget that Sunday in May eight years ago when he was dethroned so brutally by the player he disliked the most. 6. Andre Agassi defeats Andrei Medvedev 1–6, 2–6, 6–4, 6–3, 6–4 - 1999 Final The story of Andre Agassi's rise and fall and then rise again was like something out of a Hollywood script. The glamorous, exciting young Las Vegan with the mullet and neon spandex who had too much too young before plumbing the depths and taking crystal meth as his world crumbled around him. Then the rise from the ashes that saw a redeemed, more mature version of his younger self gain some much needed perspective and come back stronger than ever before. The fall in 1997 had seen Agassi, shaken by his failed marriage to American actress Brooke Shields, plummet to a world ranking of 141 and fail a doping test (which was later dropped by the authorities when he claimed to have ingested crystal meth accidentally) . By the time of the 1999 French Open, Agassi was back in the world's top 20 after close to 18 months spent finding his feet again,but he was not yet considered a serious contender for grand slams, least of all the French Open, which he had never won. But at Roland Garros that year, Agassi battled his way to the final - his first at a slam for almost four years. A win for the American would see him complete the career Grand Slam at the age of 29 and cap a remarkable turnaround from the dark days of two years before. He had twice been a losing finalist in Paris, but was odds on to finally claim the title against the unfancied Ukrainian Andrei Medvedev, whose lowly ranking of 100 meant he only just made the cut for the tournament. Medvedev though had been in sensational form in Paris, taking out Pete Sampras and former champion Gustavo Kuerten en route to the final. Ironically, it had been a chat with Agassi in Monte Carlo a few weeks earlier that had inspired the turnaround. In his autobiography, Open, Agassi recalled how he had spotted Medvedev drinking alone in a Monte Carlo bar after another damaging defeat. The 24-year-old Medvedev told Agassi he was considering retiring - in his own words he was old and he couldn’t play "this f---ing game anymore." "How dare you," Agassi responded. "Here I am, 29, injured, divorced, and you’re [complaining] about being washed up at 24? Your future is bright." Buoyed by the pep talk and by his blossoming romance with German player Anke Huber (they have subsequently split), Medvedev was a new player in Paris and his feather-light drop shots and clinical backhands down the line took him all the way to the final. On the eve of the final, Agassi was racked by anxiety and shocked coach Brad Gilbert by necking a vodka from the hotel minibar to soothe his nerves. "He has my game," Agassi fretted. "I gave it to him. He even has my first name." Andre Agassi celebrates beating Andrei Medvedev in the 1999 French Open final By the time the players took to the court, Agassi was still tormented with self-doubt, and he lost the first set 6-1 in 19 humiliating minutes. The second was scarcely much better, as Medvedev prevailed 6-2, with Agassi later describing his performance in the opening stages as "embarrassing". Midway through the second set though, a rain delay forced the players off court and prompted Gilbert to shake some sense into Agassi. Gilbert opened a locker and slammed it shut, before unleashing a volley of criticism at his player, where he told Agassi exactly what he was doing wrong and that at the very least he had to "go down with both guns blazing". Agassi belatedly got the message, and in the third set hauled himself from off the canvas. Serving at 4-4, 30-15 he double faulted on consecutive points to hand Medvedev a break point that had he taken would have left him serving for the match. The American saved it with a drop volley, and from there did not look back, coming to the net more and taking his opponent's rhythm away from him. After 2 hours and 42 minutes, Agassi secured the victory when a Medvedev forehand sailed long. He dropped his racket instantly, turned to his box and after covering his face began to cry uncontrollably. "Winning isn’t supposed to feel this good," Agassi said. "But it does." Agassi had metamorphosed from hirsute teenager in denim shorts to balding elder statesman, and after his annus horribilis he had found the purest form of redemption. 5. Chris Evert defeats Martina Navratilova 6–3, 6–7(4), 7–5 - 1985 final Sixteen years, 80 matches, and 60 finals. There has never been a rivalry like the one between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, and there were few contests between the two as riveting as the 1985 French Open final. From 1974 to 1986, the two players duopolised the year-end world No 1 ranking, and had finished No 1 and No 2 in every year between 1982 and 1986. Between them they were the dominant forces in the sport, and by the time of the 1985 French Open final Evert had 16 singles slams to Navratilova's 12. Evert had initially dominated meetings between the two, winning 20 of their first 25 matches, but when they met at Roland Garros 22 years ago, Navratilova led the head to head 33-31 and was the world No 1. The stats though don't tell anything like the full story of a rivalry that in the public's eyes pitted the charming American girl next door in Evert against the rugged, outspoken Czechoslovakian outsider in Navratilova. Evert later said this perception was totally wrong, explaining that people would often approach her and say, "You know, I never liked that Martina. She's so tough. "I'd say, 'You know what? She's a kitten. She really is. I'm the hard one.' They'd say 'no, no, no - not you. You're so frail and feminine; we always felt sorry for you.' It was as if Martina became the bully to some people. And I was the person who could silence the bully." The pair were actually great friends and had played doubles together in the mid-1970s until Evert felt that doing so gave Navratilova too good a read on her game. Navratilova would never forget the kindness Evert and her mother had shown her when she was starting out on the lonely grind of professional tennis. Evert had always liked and admired Navratilova, and was among the first to defend her when she was outed as a lesbian by a New York newspaper in 1981. By the time of the 1985 French Open final, Navratilova, now 28, was at her formidable best and exercised a vice-like grip over the rest of the Tour - friends and foes. She was the current holder of all four of the slams and had won a staggering nine of the previous 13 majors. Evert, now 30, had won the other four and was the world No 2, but anyone playing against Navratilova at that time was a major underdog. Both players were in excellent form when they met in Paris. They had reached the final with contemptuous ease- neither had dropped a set, and Navratilova had dished out bagel sets to half of her opponents en route to meeting Evert. The final proved to be one of the high points in a rivalry that transcended sport. In 2 hours 40 minutes of relentless tension and drama, Evert eventually won out in three epic sets. She had led by a set and a break, and served for the match in the second set but Navratilova had clung on. It was a fascinating clash of styles, with Navratilova rushing to the net at every opportunity, and Evert doing all she could to find angles and lobs to outfox her opponent. In the final set, Navratilova missed four break points on her opponent's serve at 5-5 and then moments later found herself down championship point on her own serve. She saved it when Evert sent a lob just long, but it turned out to be a stay of execution as on the second one, the American somehow got to a Navratilova smash and screamed a backhand passing shot winner up the line. Evert later described the win as her "most satisfying", while reflecting on the pair's rivalry, Navratilova said: "We brought out the best in each other. It's almost not right to say who's better. If you tried to make the perfect rivalry, we were it." 4. Ivan Lendl defeats John McEnroe 3-6, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, 7-5 - 1984 final In his 2002 autobiography Serious, John McEnroe openly admits that there are few events that haunt him as much as his 1984 French Open final defeat to Ivan Lendl. As McEnroe laments of the match: "Lendl got his first major, and I took his title, choker-in-chief, away from him." McEnroe, 25, entered the match in the form of his life, having begun 1984 with 42 straight wins. It was a record start to a year that stands to this day, and meant the American, who already had five majors to his name, was the red hot favourite to pick up his first French Open title. His opponent, the 24-year-old Czech Lendl was tennis's perennial bridesmaid. The nearly man, the choker. He had reached four slam finals and lost them all - an unwanted sequence since equalled by his former protege Andy Murray. It was little surprise then when McEnroe cruised through the first two sets 6-3, 6-2 to leave Lendl staring at the prospect of losing his first five slam finals. Simon Briggs ranks the 20 male clay-court players of all time Fortunately for the Czech, McEnroe had one glaring weakness: his temperament. In a manner that Murray fans will identify with, McEnroe could become enraged by something seemingly innocuous. Early on in the third set, the whirring of a cameraman's headset set him off and soon after McEnroe was in full meltdown mode. He berated the cameraman for causing him to lose his focus, and all of a sudden he had lost the third set 6-4 and was up against a crowd now fiercely in favour of Lendl. Despite their taunting, McEnroe led 4-2 in the fourth, but his energy was being sapped by the burning French sun and Lendl roared back to pinch it 7-5 and take the match into a decider. From there the Czech grew in confidence and took the final set 7-5 as McEnroe grappled unsuccessfully with the inner demons that had taken hold. After the match, which had lasted 4 hours and 8 minutes, McEnroe was so incandescent with rage at the crowd and himself that he refused to give an on-court interview. The defeat was one of just three losses in 85 matches for McEnroe that year and stung him more than almost any other setback in his career. After breaking his grand slam duck, Lendl ended his career with eight slams, one more than McEnroe. 3. Rafael Nadal defeats Novak Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7, (3-7), 9-7​ - 2013 semi-final Nadal won 70 of his first 71 matches at Roland Garros, and surely none were as dramatic as the semi-final four years ago against his great rival Novak Djokovic, which is amazingly one of only two five-setters that the Spaniard has ever played at Roland Garros. Nadal was the tournament holder and seven-time French Open champion, but his ranking was down at No 4 after a horrible run of injuries. Djokovic, as the Australian Open champion and world No 1, was the man to beat, though Nadal's clay-court pedigree made the Spaniard the favourite in many people's eyes. The pair had met in the previous year's French Open, with Nadal winning in four sets, and 18 months earlier Djokovic had edged a bruising six-hour long epic in the Australian Open final. In total this was the 35th meeting between two players who had between them won 10 of the previous 12 majors. A great deal was expected of what was a de facto final - the winner was to face David Ferrer or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - and no-one on a broiling Paris afternoon was left disappointed. After splitting the first two sets, Nadal romped through the third 6-1, whipping that lasso-like forehand and not allowing Djokovic to settle into a rhythm. The Spaniard looked on course for a four-sets win but failed to serve out the match at 6-5 up, and after Djokovic nicked the tie-break, the players headed into a decider. As the temperature cranked up and the match headed for its fifth hour, Djokovic began to edge what was becoming a war of attrition, and grabbed an early break in the final set. The Serb held the break all the way to 4-3, but he made the grave error at deuce of unnecessarily touching the net after hitting a winning smash and thereby forefeited the point. Nadal broke back that game, and held his nerve to tough out the decider 9-7. The memories of losing that Melbourne final were still raw for Nadal, and he said afterwards: "I was ready for the fight and had a little bit of luck at 4-3. In Australia in 2012 it was similar but he won. Everybody knows Novak is a fighter. That's why this is a special sport. During [my] seven months out there were a lot of low moments but people supported me, made me work hard every day, and I want to thank them for that." Nadal cruised to his eighth title two days later by thumping David Ferrer in the final, while Djokovic would have to wait until 2016 before finally getting his hands on the Coupe des Mousquetaires. 2. Steffi Graf defeats Martina Hingis 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 - 1999 Final The 1999 final was a fractious, ill-tempered encounter that pitted the old against the new. Steffi Graf had dominated the women's Tour in the 1990s until injuries and the emergence of the 'Swiss Miss' Martina Hingis knocked her off her perch in 1997. A 16-year-old Hingis hoovered up three of the four slams that year to take the No 1 ranking from Graf, who by 1999 was 29 and playing in her final year on the Tour. Hingis had dismissed Graf as past her best a year earlier, and now the two came head to head in Paris for Graf's final match at Roland Garros. Hingis, 18, needed the French Open to complete the career Grand Slam, and having won five grand slams in the previous couple of years, including the Australian Open that January, was the favourite to win the final. Graf for her part had not won a major since 1996 and had admitted she was mainly using the tournament as a way of improving her fitness ahead of one last crack at an eighth Wimbledon title. For the first set and a bit, Hingis was in control. She took the opener 6-4 and was up 2-0 when it all began to unravel. The French crowd were already heavily behind the five-time Roland Garros champion Graf when Hingis crossed tennis's equivalent of the Rubicon, by walking over to the other side of the court to dispute a forehand that was called out. Farewell Martina Hingis - a retrospective The whistles and cat-calls were deafening as the supporters reacted to what they saw as another example of Hingis's preening precocity. Hingis was so enraged that she called the tournament referee onto the court, all the while grinning disingenuously with increasingly simmering menace. It was little wonder that she had been nicknamed the "smiling assassin". Not only did Hingis not get the overrule she wanted, she was given a point penalty for crossing the net, and found herself down 30-0 in a game she felt she should have been 15-0 up in. The rest of the second set undulated with breaks for each player, before Hingis found herself serving for the match at 5-4 against not just one of the greatest players of all time, but also an increasingly vicious crowd. Graf broke back and took the set 7-5, before romping to a 5-2 lead in the decider. In an act of desperation, Hingis served under-arm when down match point, and the surprise tactic worked to keep her in the match. The crowd roared their disapproval, and when Hingis complained at their heckling Graf retorted: ''Can we just play tennis, O.K?" After Graf took the title on her second match point as the match clock showed 2 hours 25 minutes, Hingis left the court and had to be led back on in tears by her mother Melanie Molitor. When asked about the crowd afterwards, Hingis admitted that ''I let it get to me.'' She pledged to not stop until she had won the French Open, but was never able to get her hands on the title or reach another Paris final. Graf made good on her promise to retire at the end of the year, and the 1999 French Open would turn out to be her 22nd and final grand slam singles title. 1. Michael Chang defeats Ivan Lendl, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 - 1989 Fourth Round As well as being one of the most extraordinary matches in the history of tennis, Michael Chang's 1989 French Open fourth-round match against Ivan Lendl also featured one of its most memorable moments. Leading 4-3 in the final set but down 15-30 and suffering severe cramps, Chang took the almost unprecedented step of serving under-arm. The reaction from everyone on the Philippe Chatrier court is sensational. The commentator laughs in disbelief and shouts "extraordinaire...ooh la la!" as the crowd cover their mouths in astonishment at what they have just seen. The former American player Todd Martin later described Chang's underhand serve as "the last stone that felled Goliath". The tactic flummoxed Lendl, and Chang won the point and the match two games later. It was a fitting end to a remarkable match that had seen the world No 1 and three-time French Open champion Lendl upset by the 17-year-old naturalised American who was playing for only the second time at Roland Garros. Lendl by contrast was the reigning Australian Open champion, the world's No 1 for almost all of the previous three years and a seven-time major winner. A baseline behemoth, Lendl had not dropped a set all tournament and looked set for a seventh straight French Open quarter-final when he took a two sets to love lead against Chang. Chang though had also been in excellent form in the tournament, winning his previous nine sets for the loss of 17 games, and despite his tender years he did already have some pedigree. He was the 15th seed at the tournament and had won an ATP Tournament the year before in San Francisco. Against Lendl, he was given additional motivation by the possibility of bringing hope to his homeland of China. Only a day earlier, Chang had spent the day glued to television screens horrified at images of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing. He later admitted that: "What [the Lendl match] was really about was an opportunity to bring a smile upon Chinese people's faces around the world when there wasn't a whole lot to smile about. I honestly feel that that was God's purpose for allowing me to be able to get through those matches." From two sets to love down, Chang started to frustrated his illustrious opponent. After the 17-year-old had taken the third set with a beguiling mix of awkward spins and angles, Lendl began to rage at the conditions and what he perceived to be bad line calls. His anger cost him a penalty point and a game in the fourth set. But when severe cramps struck Chang in the fourth set, a victory for Lendl looked a formality. Still, his opponent would not go away though, employing a befuddling tactic of slow, arcing moonballs that drove Lendl to distraction and saw Chang take the fourth set 6-3. Into a decider, and the pain became too much for Chang. In the third game of the set, he could not move and had resorted to guzzling water and consuming bananas at an alarming rate. He could not even sit down at change of ends, such was the all-consuming pain of the cramp he was suffering. At 2-1 up he walked to the service box to retire from the match, but at that point he claims to have benefitted from divine intervention. He later recalled: "When I got to the service line, I got an unbelievable conviction of heart. Looking back, I really feel like it was the Lord kind of telling me: 'Michael, what do you think you're doing here?' If I quit once, the second, third, fourth or fifth time that I am faced with that kind of circumstance, that kind of difficulty, I'm going to quit again." Four games later, Chang employed the under-arm serve trick as one last throw of the dice. He remembers: "At 15-30, spur of the moment, I was just like, I'm going to throw an underhand serve in here, cause I'm not doing anything off my first serve anyways. Let's see if maybe I can scrape a point. I hit the underhand serve, Ivan was kind of surprised about it, moved, kind of got squeezed in because of the spin and had to come in because the serve was so short. I hit a passing shot, clipped the tape and it went off the top of his racket and the crowd went absolutely nuts." In the final game, there was time for one last party piece as Chang slowly walked forward to the service line on match point as Lendl prepared to serve. It drew a double fault, and Chang has somehow done it. After four hours and 37 minutes of the most excruciating competition, Chang had completed the equivalent of a tennis ultra-marathon and defeated the world No 1. He went on to beat Stefan Edberg in the final as he claimed his one and only grand slam title.
7. Robin Soderling defeats Rafael Nadal, 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-4, 7-6 (2) - 2009 fourth round In every sport, there are upsets so profoundly shocking that they become the benchmark for any future surprise result. Boxing has Mike Tyson losing to Buster Douglas, rugby union has Japan's defeat of South Africa, while football in 2016 added Leicester winning the Premier League to its canon. In tennis, there are few, if any, greater upsets than Robin Soderling's win against Rafael Nadal at the French Open in 2009. Nadal was considered unbeatable at the French Open where he never lost a match and prowled the baseline like a predator mercilessly defending his territory. Aged 22, he was already a four-time Roland Garros champion, and had not dropped so much as a set in his previous 10 matches there. Coming into the fourth round match against Soderling, Nadal looked set fair for a fifth straight title. He had cruised through his first three matches - taking his win-loss record in Paris to 31-0 - including a demolition job of former world No 1 Lleyton Hewitt whom he had beaten for the loss of just five games. In January, Nadal had won his first hard-court major at the Australian Open, and he had completely dominated the start of the clay-court season by winning the titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome. When the players took to the Phillipe Chatrier court on a cloudy Parisian afternoon, no-one gave Soderling a hope of upsetting the King of Clay in his unbreachable fortress. Soderling interview Soderling though had two things in his favour. The first was a huge all or nothing game that meant he could beat anyone on his day, and the second was that he knew how to get under Nadal's skin. The Swede was something of an outsider in the locker room, and he revelled in antagonising his opponents, especially Nadal. The pair's previous two meetings had been fractious, with Soderling angering Nadal and the Rome crowd a month earlier when he swore at the umpire over a disputed line call despite it being himself who had clearly pointed to the wrong mark on the court. The rivalry really intensified though at Wimbledon in 2007 when the two players' third-round five-set match stretched over five days due to rain and became a tetchy and testy slugfest. Nadal was enraged at the constant delays, and Soderling sought to wind him up further, behaving like an annoying sibling who knew exactly what buttons to press. He mimicked Nadal's habit of fiddling with his shorts and to poke fun at of how long Nadal took between points, he would deliberately stall the Spaniard and offer his hand in mock-apology. Taking to the role of pantomime villain perfectly, Soderling eschewed the tennis etiquette of aplogising after a dead net cord, and instead celebrated such a point in the fifth set with a fist pump. After the match he said: "Why should I say I’m sorry when it’s the happiest moment of my life?" The handshake at the end of the match was frostier than the unseasonally cold temperatures at SW19, and Nadal pulled no punches in his post-match interview. “I have said hello to him seven times to his face, and he has never said hello to me," he said. "I asked around the locker room; almost nobody had anything nice to say about him.” Robin Soderling celebrates beating Rafael Nadal at the French Open in 2009 Soderling responded: "Personally, if I have a problem with a player I go and talk to him face-to-face." Of his reputation as a loner, he added: "Do I have any friends on tour? Not many. I used to hang around with other Swedes, but there are fewer now." In the highly sanitised world of the ATP Tour where everyone seemed to get along, this was genuine needle and made for an intriguing pre-match sub-plot. But despite Nadal's open distaste for his opponent, there was little to suggest that he would have too many problems in beating Soderling. As well as his formidable record at Roland Garros and on clay in general, Nadal had won all three of his previous matches against Soderling, and hammered him 6-1, 6-0 in that Rome meeting a month earlier. Soderling, the world No 25, had been having a mixed year and had gone out early in all of the clay-court tournaments leading up to the French Open. Once in Paris though, he began to play with more authority and took out the 14th seed David Ferrer in four sets to reach the last 16 - his first fourth-round appearance at a major. In the first set against Nadal, Soderling was, to use tennis parlance, red lining. Nadal looked utterly powerless, failing to get a grip in the match as if he was being tossed around in a washing machine. Soderling's forehand was an inelegant slap that could often go awry, but suddenly he could not miss with it and he was sending Nadal so far behind the baseline that he was almost in Belgium. Nadal was left floundering in an opening set that went the Swede's way 6-2. Nadal sits on the clay after falling against Soderling When you watch the match back, one of the striking things is how loud and desperate Nadal's grunting quickly becomes. He sounds almost strangled by the exertion of what he's up against and the shock of getting so badly beaten up on his favourite court. Nadal took the second set on a tie-break, but still something was not right. The Spaniard's snarl had become an anxious furrowed brow, and Soderling was feeding off his tension. The more Nadal hoped his rival would take a backwards step, the more Soderling went for the jugular - battering down aces and big forehands, and picking off volleys at the net like a Scandinavian Pete Sampras. Nadal began to look frazzled, with his sweat-drenched hair creeping down into his narrowed eyes. In the seventh game of the third set, Soderling screamed a backhand at Nadal to earn a crucial break of serve. Shortly after Nadal collapsed to the floor like a giant tree felled by a lumberjack as he lost his footing hitting a backhand. The symbolism of the fall was obvious, and John McEnroe remarked in commentary: "He just doesn’t know what to do out there." Soderling took the set 6-4 to leave Nadal on the brink of elimination. The Spaniard though did not give up - his ferocious competitiveness never left him and he took an early break in the fourth set to regain a semblance of control. It would prove to be an illusion however, as Soderling broke back and took the fourth set on a tie-break to win the match. The crowd, desperate for a Roger Federer win at the tournament, had been resolutely in favour of Soderling throughout the match and roared their approval at seeing Nadal finally beaten at Roland Garros. The tennis world scrambled around for an explanation, and they received one of sorts a few weeks later when Nadal pulled out of Wimbledon due to tendonitis in both knees. It would later emerge that the Spaniard was also suffering severe distress from the divorce of his parents. But it is too easy to attribute the defeat to one or both of these factors. Yes, they may have contributed but Nadal had still been in sensational form at the time, and it took a player with the courage and self-belief of Soderling to take advantage. The way Soderling was playing that day - hitting 61 winners to Nadal's 33 - he would have beaten Rafa at any stage of his career. The scale of the shock was only added to in the subsequent years, as Nadal won the next five French Opens and his following 39 matches at Roland Garros, include a straight-sets win over Soderling in the 2010 final. Even now, nine years on Nadal has only been beaten once in Paris since the Soderling upset. The victory was the launchpad for Soderling's career, as he reached consecutive French Open finals and a career-high ranking of No 4. Sadly he was forced to retire in 2015 having not played since 2011 due to a severe and long-running bout of glandular fever. Nadal of course quickly re-established himself as the King of Clay, and is currently playing some of the best tennis of his career as he targets an 11th French Open title. But he will never forget that Sunday in May eight years ago when he was dethroned so brutally by the player he disliked the most. 6. Andre Agassi defeats Andrei Medvedev 1–6, 2–6, 6–4, 6–3, 6–4 - 1999 Final The story of Andre Agassi's rise and fall and then rise again was like something out of a Hollywood script. The glamorous, exciting young Las Vegan with the mullet and neon spandex who had too much too young before plumbing the depths and taking crystal meth as his world crumbled around him. Then the rise from the ashes that saw a redeemed, more mature version of his younger self gain some much needed perspective and come back stronger than ever before. The fall in 1997 had seen Agassi, shaken by his failed marriage to American actress Brooke Shields, plummet to a world ranking of 141 and fail a doping test (which was later dropped by the authorities when he claimed to have ingested crystal meth accidentally) . By the time of the 1999 French Open, Agassi was back in the world's top 20 after close to 18 months spent finding his feet again,but he was not yet considered a serious contender for grand slams, least of all the French Open, which he had never won. But at Roland Garros that year, Agassi battled his way to the final - his first at a slam for almost four years. A win for the American would see him complete the career Grand Slam at the age of 29 and cap a remarkable turnaround from the dark days of two years before. He had twice been a losing finalist in Paris, but was odds on to finally claim the title against the unfancied Ukrainian Andrei Medvedev, whose lowly ranking of 100 meant he only just made the cut for the tournament. Medvedev though had been in sensational form in Paris, taking out Pete Sampras and former champion Gustavo Kuerten en route to the final. Ironically, it had been a chat with Agassi in Monte Carlo a few weeks earlier that had inspired the turnaround. In his autobiography, Open, Agassi recalled how he had spotted Medvedev drinking alone in a Monte Carlo bar after another damaging defeat. The 24-year-old Medvedev told Agassi he was considering retiring - in his own words he was old and he couldn’t play "this f---ing game anymore." "How dare you," Agassi responded. "Here I am, 29, injured, divorced, and you’re [complaining] about being washed up at 24? Your future is bright." Buoyed by the pep talk and by his blossoming romance with German player Anke Huber (they have subsequently split), Medvedev was a new player in Paris and his feather-light drop shots and clinical backhands down the line took him all the way to the final. On the eve of the final, Agassi was racked by anxiety and shocked coach Brad Gilbert by necking a vodka from the hotel minibar to soothe his nerves. "He has my game," Agassi fretted. "I gave it to him. He even has my first name." Andre Agassi celebrates beating Andrei Medvedev in the 1999 French Open final By the time the players took to the court, Agassi was still tormented with self-doubt, and he lost the first set 6-1 in 19 humiliating minutes. The second was scarcely much better, as Medvedev prevailed 6-2, with Agassi later describing his performance in the opening stages as "embarrassing". Midway through the second set though, a rain delay forced the players off court and prompted Gilbert to shake some sense into Agassi. Gilbert opened a locker and slammed it shut, before unleashing a volley of criticism at his player, where he told Agassi exactly what he was doing wrong and that at the very least he had to "go down with both guns blazing". Agassi belatedly got the message, and in the third set hauled himself from off the canvas. Serving at 4-4, 30-15 he double faulted on consecutive points to hand Medvedev a break point that had he taken would have left him serving for the match. The American saved it with a drop volley, and from there did not look back, coming to the net more and taking his opponent's rhythm away from him. After 2 hours and 42 minutes, Agassi secured the victory when a Medvedev forehand sailed long. He dropped his racket instantly, turned to his box and after covering his face began to cry uncontrollably. "Winning isn’t supposed to feel this good," Agassi said. "But it does." Agassi had metamorphosed from hirsute teenager in denim shorts to balding elder statesman, and after his annus horribilis he had found the purest form of redemption. 5. Chris Evert defeats Martina Navratilova 6–3, 6–7(4), 7–5 - 1985 final Sixteen years, 80 matches, and 60 finals. There has never been a rivalry like the one between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, and there were few contests between the two as riveting as the 1985 French Open final. From 1974 to 1986, the two players duopolised the year-end world No 1 ranking, and had finished No 1 and No 2 in every year between 1982 and 1986. Between them they were the dominant forces in the sport, and by the time of the 1985 French Open final Evert had 16 singles slams to Navratilova's 12. Evert had initially dominated meetings between the two, winning 20 of their first 25 matches, but when they met at Roland Garros 22 years ago, Navratilova led the head to head 33-31 and was the world No 1. The stats though don't tell anything like the full story of a rivalry that in the public's eyes pitted the charming American girl next door in Evert against the rugged, outspoken Czechoslovakian outsider in Navratilova. Evert later said this perception was totally wrong, explaining that people would often approach her and say, "You know, I never liked that Martina. She's so tough. "I'd say, 'You know what? She's a kitten. She really is. I'm the hard one.' They'd say 'no, no, no - not you. You're so frail and feminine; we always felt sorry for you.' It was as if Martina became the bully to some people. And I was the person who could silence the bully." The pair were actually great friends and had played doubles together in the mid-1970s until Evert felt that doing so gave Navratilova too good a read on her game. Navratilova would never forget the kindness Evert and her mother had shown her when she was starting out on the lonely grind of professional tennis. Evert had always liked and admired Navratilova, and was among the first to defend her when she was outed as a lesbian by a New York newspaper in 1981. By the time of the 1985 French Open final, Navratilova, now 28, was at her formidable best and exercised a vice-like grip over the rest of the Tour - friends and foes. She was the current holder of all four of the slams and had won a staggering nine of the previous 13 majors. Evert, now 30, had won the other four and was the world No 2, but anyone playing against Navratilova at that time was a major underdog. Both players were in excellent form when they met in Paris. They had reached the final with contemptuous ease- neither had dropped a set, and Navratilova had dished out bagel sets to half of her opponents en route to meeting Evert. The final proved to be one of the high points in a rivalry that transcended sport. In 2 hours 40 minutes of relentless tension and drama, Evert eventually won out in three epic sets. She had led by a set and a break, and served for the match in the second set but Navratilova had clung on. It was a fascinating clash of styles, with Navratilova rushing to the net at every opportunity, and Evert doing all she could to find angles and lobs to outfox her opponent. In the final set, Navratilova missed four break points on her opponent's serve at 5-5 and then moments later found herself down championship point on her own serve. She saved it when Evert sent a lob just long, but it turned out to be a stay of execution as on the second one, the American somehow got to a Navratilova smash and screamed a backhand passing shot winner up the line. Evert later described the win as her "most satisfying", while reflecting on the pair's rivalry, Navratilova said: "We brought out the best in each other. It's almost not right to say who's better. If you tried to make the perfect rivalry, we were it." 4. Ivan Lendl defeats John McEnroe 3-6, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, 7-5 - 1984 final In his 2002 autobiography Serious, John McEnroe openly admits that there are few events that haunt him as much as his 1984 French Open final defeat to Ivan Lendl. As McEnroe laments of the match: "Lendl got his first major, and I took his title, choker-in-chief, away from him." McEnroe, 25, entered the match in the form of his life, having begun 1984 with 42 straight wins. It was a record start to a year that stands to this day, and meant the American, who already had five majors to his name, was the red hot favourite to pick up his first French Open title. His opponent, the 24-year-old Czech Lendl was tennis's perennial bridesmaid. The nearly man, the choker. He had reached four slam finals and lost them all - an unwanted sequence since equalled by his former protege Andy Murray. It was little surprise then when McEnroe cruised through the first two sets 6-3, 6-2 to leave Lendl staring at the prospect of losing his first five slam finals. Simon Briggs ranks the 20 male clay-court players of all time Fortunately for the Czech, McEnroe had one glaring weakness: his temperament. In a manner that Murray fans will identify with, McEnroe could become enraged by something seemingly innocuous. Early on in the third set, the whirring of a cameraman's headset set him off and soon after McEnroe was in full meltdown mode. He berated the cameraman for causing him to lose his focus, and all of a sudden he had lost the third set 6-4 and was up against a crowd now fiercely in favour of Lendl. Despite their taunting, McEnroe led 4-2 in the fourth, but his energy was being sapped by the burning French sun and Lendl roared back to pinch it 7-5 and take the match into a decider. From there the Czech grew in confidence and took the final set 7-5 as McEnroe grappled unsuccessfully with the inner demons that had taken hold. After the match, which had lasted 4 hours and 8 minutes, McEnroe was so incandescent with rage at the crowd and himself that he refused to give an on-court interview. The defeat was one of just three losses in 85 matches for McEnroe that year and stung him more than almost any other setback in his career. After breaking his grand slam duck, Lendl ended his career with eight slams, one more than McEnroe. 3. Rafael Nadal defeats Novak Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7, (3-7), 9-7​ - 2013 semi-final Nadal won 70 of his first 71 matches at Roland Garros, and surely none were as dramatic as the semi-final four years ago against his great rival Novak Djokovic, which is amazingly one of only two five-setters that the Spaniard has ever played at Roland Garros. Nadal was the tournament holder and seven-time French Open champion, but his ranking was down at No 4 after a horrible run of injuries. Djokovic, as the Australian Open champion and world No 1, was the man to beat, though Nadal's clay-court pedigree made the Spaniard the favourite in many people's eyes. The pair had met in the previous year's French Open, with Nadal winning in four sets, and 18 months earlier Djokovic had edged a bruising six-hour long epic in the Australian Open final. In total this was the 35th meeting between two players who had between them won 10 of the previous 12 majors. A great deal was expected of what was a de facto final - the winner was to face David Ferrer or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - and no-one on a broiling Paris afternoon was left disappointed. After splitting the first two sets, Nadal romped through the third 6-1, whipping that lasso-like forehand and not allowing Djokovic to settle into a rhythm. The Spaniard looked on course for a four-sets win but failed to serve out the match at 6-5 up, and after Djokovic nicked the tie-break, the players headed into a decider. As the temperature cranked up and the match headed for its fifth hour, Djokovic began to edge what was becoming a war of attrition, and grabbed an early break in the final set. The Serb held the break all the way to 4-3, but he made the grave error at deuce of unnecessarily touching the net after hitting a winning smash and thereby forefeited the point. Nadal broke back that game, and held his nerve to tough out the decider 9-7. The memories of losing that Melbourne final were still raw for Nadal, and he said afterwards: "I was ready for the fight and had a little bit of luck at 4-3. In Australia in 2012 it was similar but he won. Everybody knows Novak is a fighter. That's why this is a special sport. During [my] seven months out there were a lot of low moments but people supported me, made me work hard every day, and I want to thank them for that." Nadal cruised to his eighth title two days later by thumping David Ferrer in the final, while Djokovic would have to wait until 2016 before finally getting his hands on the Coupe des Mousquetaires. 2. Steffi Graf defeats Martina Hingis 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 - 1999 Final The 1999 final was a fractious, ill-tempered encounter that pitted the old against the new. Steffi Graf had dominated the women's Tour in the 1990s until injuries and the emergence of the 'Swiss Miss' Martina Hingis knocked her off her perch in 1997. A 16-year-old Hingis hoovered up three of the four slams that year to take the No 1 ranking from Graf, who by 1999 was 29 and playing in her final year on the Tour. Hingis had dismissed Graf as past her best a year earlier, and now the two came head to head in Paris for Graf's final match at Roland Garros. Hingis, 18, needed the French Open to complete the career Grand Slam, and having won five grand slams in the previous couple of years, including the Australian Open that January, was the favourite to win the final. Graf for her part had not won a major since 1996 and had admitted she was mainly using the tournament as a way of improving her fitness ahead of one last crack at an eighth Wimbledon title. For the first set and a bit, Hingis was in control. She took the opener 6-4 and was up 2-0 when it all began to unravel. The French crowd were already heavily behind the five-time Roland Garros champion Graf when Hingis crossed tennis's equivalent of the Rubicon, by walking over to the other side of the court to dispute a forehand that was called out. Farewell Martina Hingis - a retrospective The whistles and cat-calls were deafening as the supporters reacted to what they saw as another example of Hingis's preening precocity. Hingis was so enraged that she called the tournament referee onto the court, all the while grinning disingenuously with increasingly simmering menace. It was little wonder that she had been nicknamed the "smiling assassin". Not only did Hingis not get the overrule she wanted, she was given a point penalty for crossing the net, and found herself down 30-0 in a game she felt she should have been 15-0 up in. The rest of the second set undulated with breaks for each player, before Hingis found herself serving for the match at 5-4 against not just one of the greatest players of all time, but also an increasingly vicious crowd. Graf broke back and took the set 7-5, before romping to a 5-2 lead in the decider. In an act of desperation, Hingis served under-arm when down match point, and the surprise tactic worked to keep her in the match. The crowd roared their disapproval, and when Hingis complained at their heckling Graf retorted: ''Can we just play tennis, O.K?" After Graf took the title on her second match point as the match clock showed 2 hours 25 minutes, Hingis left the court and had to be led back on in tears by her mother Melanie Molitor. When asked about the crowd afterwards, Hingis admitted that ''I let it get to me.'' She pledged to not stop until she had won the French Open, but was never able to get her hands on the title or reach another Paris final. Graf made good on her promise to retire at the end of the year, and the 1999 French Open would turn out to be her 22nd and final grand slam singles title. 1. Michael Chang defeats Ivan Lendl, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 - 1989 Fourth Round As well as being one of the most extraordinary matches in the history of tennis, Michael Chang's 1989 French Open fourth-round match against Ivan Lendl also featured one of its most memorable moments. Leading 4-3 in the final set but down 15-30 and suffering severe cramps, Chang took the almost unprecedented step of serving under-arm. The reaction from everyone on the Philippe Chatrier court is sensational. The commentator laughs in disbelief and shouts "extraordinaire...ooh la la!" as the crowd cover their mouths in astonishment at what they have just seen. The former American player Todd Martin later described Chang's underhand serve as "the last stone that felled Goliath". The tactic flummoxed Lendl, and Chang won the point and the match two games later. It was a fitting end to a remarkable match that had seen the world No 1 and three-time French Open champion Lendl upset by the 17-year-old naturalised American who was playing for only the second time at Roland Garros. Lendl by contrast was the reigning Australian Open champion, the world's No 1 for almost all of the previous three years and a seven-time major winner. A baseline behemoth, Lendl had not dropped a set all tournament and looked set for a seventh straight French Open quarter-final when he took a two sets to love lead against Chang. Chang though had also been in excellent form in the tournament, winning his previous nine sets for the loss of 17 games, and despite his tender years he did already have some pedigree. He was the 15th seed at the tournament and had won an ATP Tournament the year before in San Francisco. Against Lendl, he was given additional motivation by the possibility of bringing hope to his homeland of China. Only a day earlier, Chang had spent the day glued to television screens horrified at images of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing. He later admitted that: "What [the Lendl match] was really about was an opportunity to bring a smile upon Chinese people's faces around the world when there wasn't a whole lot to smile about. I honestly feel that that was God's purpose for allowing me to be able to get through those matches." From two sets to love down, Chang started to frustrated his illustrious opponent. After the 17-year-old had taken the third set with a beguiling mix of awkward spins and angles, Lendl began to rage at the conditions and what he perceived to be bad line calls. His anger cost him a penalty point and a game in the fourth set. But when severe cramps struck Chang in the fourth set, a victory for Lendl looked a formality. Still, his opponent would not go away though, employing a befuddling tactic of slow, arcing moonballs that drove Lendl to distraction and saw Chang take the fourth set 6-3. Into a decider, and the pain became too much for Chang. In the third game of the set, he could not move and had resorted to guzzling water and consuming bananas at an alarming rate. He could not even sit down at change of ends, such was the all-consuming pain of the cramp he was suffering. At 2-1 up he walked to the service box to retire from the match, but at that point he claims to have benefitted from divine intervention. He later recalled: "When I got to the service line, I got an unbelievable conviction of heart. Looking back, I really feel like it was the Lord kind of telling me: 'Michael, what do you think you're doing here?' If I quit once, the second, third, fourth or fifth time that I am faced with that kind of circumstance, that kind of difficulty, I'm going to quit again." Four games later, Chang employed the under-arm serve trick as one last throw of the dice. He remembers: "At 15-30, spur of the moment, I was just like, I'm going to throw an underhand serve in here, cause I'm not doing anything off my first serve anyways. Let's see if maybe I can scrape a point. I hit the underhand serve, Ivan was kind of surprised about it, moved, kind of got squeezed in because of the spin and had to come in because the serve was so short. I hit a passing shot, clipped the tape and it went off the top of his racket and the crowd went absolutely nuts." In the final game, there was time for one last party piece as Chang slowly walked forward to the service line on match point as Lendl prepared to serve. It drew a double fault, and Chang has somehow done it. After four hours and 37 minutes of the most excruciating competition, Chang had completed the equivalent of a tennis ultra-marathon and defeated the world No 1. He went on to beat Stefan Edberg in the final as he claimed his one and only grand slam title.
The seven greatest ever French Open matches
7. Robin Soderling defeats Rafael Nadal, 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-4, 7-6 (2) - 2009 fourth round In every sport, there are upsets so profoundly shocking that they become the benchmark for any future surprise result. Boxing has Mike Tyson losing to Buster Douglas, rugby union has Japan's defeat of South Africa, while football in 2016 added Leicester winning the Premier League to its canon. In tennis, there are few, if any, greater upsets than Robin Soderling's win against Rafael Nadal at the French Open in 2009. Nadal was considered unbeatable at the French Open where he never lost a match and prowled the baseline like a predator mercilessly defending his territory. Aged 22, he was already a four-time Roland Garros champion, and had not dropped so much as a set in his previous 10 matches there. Coming into the fourth round match against Soderling, Nadal looked set fair for a fifth straight title. He had cruised through his first three matches - taking his win-loss record in Paris to 31-0 - including a demolition job of former world No 1 Lleyton Hewitt whom he had beaten for the loss of just five games. In January, Nadal had won his first hard-court major at the Australian Open, and he had completely dominated the start of the clay-court season by winning the titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome. When the players took to the Phillipe Chatrier court on a cloudy Parisian afternoon, no-one gave Soderling a hope of upsetting the King of Clay in his unbreachable fortress. Soderling interview Soderling though had two things in his favour. The first was a huge all or nothing game that meant he could beat anyone on his day, and the second was that he knew how to get under Nadal's skin. The Swede was something of an outsider in the locker room, and he revelled in antagonising his opponents, especially Nadal. The pair's previous two meetings had been fractious, with Soderling angering Nadal and the Rome crowd a month earlier when he swore at the umpire over a disputed line call despite it being himself who had clearly pointed to the wrong mark on the court. The rivalry really intensified though at Wimbledon in 2007 when the two players' third-round five-set match stretched over five days due to rain and became a tetchy and testy slugfest. Nadal was enraged at the constant delays, and Soderling sought to wind him up further, behaving like an annoying sibling who knew exactly what buttons to press. He mimicked Nadal's habit of fiddling with his shorts and to poke fun at of how long Nadal took between points, he would deliberately stall the Spaniard and offer his hand in mock-apology. Taking to the role of pantomime villain perfectly, Soderling eschewed the tennis etiquette of aplogising after a dead net cord, and instead celebrated such a point in the fifth set with a fist pump. After the match he said: "Why should I say I’m sorry when it’s the happiest moment of my life?" The handshake at the end of the match was frostier than the unseasonally cold temperatures at SW19, and Nadal pulled no punches in his post-match interview. “I have said hello to him seven times to his face, and he has never said hello to me," he said. "I asked around the locker room; almost nobody had anything nice to say about him.” Robin Soderling celebrates beating Rafael Nadal at the French Open in 2009 Soderling responded: "Personally, if I have a problem with a player I go and talk to him face-to-face." Of his reputation as a loner, he added: "Do I have any friends on tour? Not many. I used to hang around with other Swedes, but there are fewer now." In the highly sanitised world of the ATP Tour where everyone seemed to get along, this was genuine needle and made for an intriguing pre-match sub-plot. But despite Nadal's open distaste for his opponent, there was little to suggest that he would have too many problems in beating Soderling. As well as his formidable record at Roland Garros and on clay in general, Nadal had won all three of his previous matches against Soderling, and hammered him 6-1, 6-0 in that Rome meeting a month earlier. Soderling, the world No 25, had been having a mixed year and had gone out early in all of the clay-court tournaments leading up to the French Open. Once in Paris though, he began to play with more authority and took out the 14th seed David Ferrer in four sets to reach the last 16 - his first fourth-round appearance at a major. In the first set against Nadal, Soderling was, to use tennis parlance, red lining. Nadal looked utterly powerless, failing to get a grip in the match as if he was being tossed around in a washing machine. Soderling's forehand was an inelegant slap that could often go awry, but suddenly he could not miss with it and he was sending Nadal so far behind the baseline that he was almost in Belgium. Nadal was left floundering in an opening set that went the Swede's way 6-2. Nadal sits on the clay after falling against Soderling When you watch the match back, one of the striking things is how loud and desperate Nadal's grunting quickly becomes. He sounds almost strangled by the exertion of what he's up against and the shock of getting so badly beaten up on his favourite court. Nadal took the second set on a tie-break, but still something was not right. The Spaniard's snarl had become an anxious furrowed brow, and Soderling was feeding off his tension. The more Nadal hoped his rival would take a backwards step, the more Soderling went for the jugular - battering down aces and big forehands, and picking off volleys at the net like a Scandinavian Pete Sampras. Nadal began to look frazzled, with his sweat-drenched hair creeping down into his narrowed eyes. In the seventh game of the third set, Soderling screamed a backhand at Nadal to earn a crucial break of serve. Shortly after Nadal collapsed to the floor like a giant tree felled by a lumberjack as he lost his footing hitting a backhand. The symbolism of the fall was obvious, and John McEnroe remarked in commentary: "He just doesn’t know what to do out there." Soderling took the set 6-4 to leave Nadal on the brink of elimination. The Spaniard though did not give up - his ferocious competitiveness never left him and he took an early break in the fourth set to regain a semblance of control. It would prove to be an illusion however, as Soderling broke back and took the fourth set on a tie-break to win the match. The crowd, desperate for a Roger Federer win at the tournament, had been resolutely in favour of Soderling throughout the match and roared their approval at seeing Nadal finally beaten at Roland Garros. The tennis world scrambled around for an explanation, and they received one of sorts a few weeks later when Nadal pulled out of Wimbledon due to tendonitis in both knees. It would later emerge that the Spaniard was also suffering severe distress from the divorce of his parents. But it is too easy to attribute the defeat to one or both of these factors. Yes, they may have contributed but Nadal had still been in sensational form at the time, and it took a player with the courage and self-belief of Soderling to take advantage. The way Soderling was playing that day - hitting 61 winners to Nadal's 33 - he would have beaten Rafa at any stage of his career. The scale of the shock was only added to in the subsequent years, as Nadal won the next five French Opens and his following 39 matches at Roland Garros, include a straight-sets win over Soderling in the 2010 final. Even now, nine years on Nadal has only been beaten once in Paris since the Soderling upset. The victory was the launchpad for Soderling's career, as he reached consecutive French Open finals and a career-high ranking of No 4. Sadly he was forced to retire in 2015 having not played since 2011 due to a severe and long-running bout of glandular fever. Nadal of course quickly re-established himself as the King of Clay, and is currently playing some of the best tennis of his career as he targets an 11th French Open title. But he will never forget that Sunday in May eight years ago when he was dethroned so brutally by the player he disliked the most. 6. Andre Agassi defeats Andrei Medvedev 1–6, 2–6, 6–4, 6–3, 6–4 - 1999 Final The story of Andre Agassi's rise and fall and then rise again was like something out of a Hollywood script. The glamorous, exciting young Las Vegan with the mullet and neon spandex who had too much too young before plumbing the depths and taking crystal meth as his world crumbled around him. Then the rise from the ashes that saw a redeemed, more mature version of his younger self gain some much needed perspective and come back stronger than ever before. The fall in 1997 had seen Agassi, shaken by his failed marriage to American actress Brooke Shields, plummet to a world ranking of 141 and fail a doping test (which was later dropped by the authorities when he claimed to have ingested crystal meth accidentally) . By the time of the 1999 French Open, Agassi was back in the world's top 20 after close to 18 months spent finding his feet again,but he was not yet considered a serious contender for grand slams, least of all the French Open, which he had never won. But at Roland Garros that year, Agassi battled his way to the final - his first at a slam for almost four years. A win for the American would see him complete the career Grand Slam at the age of 29 and cap a remarkable turnaround from the dark days of two years before. He had twice been a losing finalist in Paris, but was odds on to finally claim the title against the unfancied Ukrainian Andrei Medvedev, whose lowly ranking of 100 meant he only just made the cut for the tournament. Medvedev though had been in sensational form in Paris, taking out Pete Sampras and former champion Gustavo Kuerten en route to the final. Ironically, it had been a chat with Agassi in Monte Carlo a few weeks earlier that had inspired the turnaround. In his autobiography, Open, Agassi recalled how he had spotted Medvedev drinking alone in a Monte Carlo bar after another damaging defeat. The 24-year-old Medvedev told Agassi he was considering retiring - in his own words he was old and he couldn’t play "this f---ing game anymore." "How dare you," Agassi responded. "Here I am, 29, injured, divorced, and you’re [complaining] about being washed up at 24? Your future is bright." Buoyed by the pep talk and by his blossoming romance with German player Anke Huber (they have subsequently split), Medvedev was a new player in Paris and his feather-light drop shots and clinical backhands down the line took him all the way to the final. On the eve of the final, Agassi was racked by anxiety and shocked coach Brad Gilbert by necking a vodka from the hotel minibar to soothe his nerves. "He has my game," Agassi fretted. "I gave it to him. He even has my first name." Andre Agassi celebrates beating Andrei Medvedev in the 1999 French Open final By the time the players took to the court, Agassi was still tormented with self-doubt, and he lost the first set 6-1 in 19 humiliating minutes. The second was scarcely much better, as Medvedev prevailed 6-2, with Agassi later describing his performance in the opening stages as "embarrassing". Midway through the second set though, a rain delay forced the players off court and prompted Gilbert to shake some sense into Agassi. Gilbert opened a locker and slammed it shut, before unleashing a volley of criticism at his player, where he told Agassi exactly what he was doing wrong and that at the very least he had to "go down with both guns blazing". Agassi belatedly got the message, and in the third set hauled himself from off the canvas. Serving at 4-4, 30-15 he double faulted on consecutive points to hand Medvedev a break point that had he taken would have left him serving for the match. The American saved it with a drop volley, and from there did not look back, coming to the net more and taking his opponent's rhythm away from him. After 2 hours and 42 minutes, Agassi secured the victory when a Medvedev forehand sailed long. He dropped his racket instantly, turned to his box and after covering his face began to cry uncontrollably. "Winning isn’t supposed to feel this good," Agassi said. "But it does." Agassi had metamorphosed from hirsute teenager in denim shorts to balding elder statesman, and after his annus horribilis he had found the purest form of redemption. 5. Chris Evert defeats Martina Navratilova 6–3, 6–7(4), 7–5 - 1985 final Sixteen years, 80 matches, and 60 finals. There has never been a rivalry like the one between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, and there were few contests between the two as riveting as the 1985 French Open final. From 1974 to 1986, the two players duopolised the year-end world No 1 ranking, and had finished No 1 and No 2 in every year between 1982 and 1986. Between them they were the dominant forces in the sport, and by the time of the 1985 French Open final Evert had 16 singles slams to Navratilova's 12. Evert had initially dominated meetings between the two, winning 20 of their first 25 matches, but when they met at Roland Garros 22 years ago, Navratilova led the head to head 33-31 and was the world No 1. The stats though don't tell anything like the full story of a rivalry that in the public's eyes pitted the charming American girl next door in Evert against the rugged, outspoken Czechoslovakian outsider in Navratilova. Evert later said this perception was totally wrong, explaining that people would often approach her and say, "You know, I never liked that Martina. She's so tough. "I'd say, 'You know what? She's a kitten. She really is. I'm the hard one.' They'd say 'no, no, no - not you. You're so frail and feminine; we always felt sorry for you.' It was as if Martina became the bully to some people. And I was the person who could silence the bully." The pair were actually great friends and had played doubles together in the mid-1970s until Evert felt that doing so gave Navratilova too good a read on her game. Navratilova would never forget the kindness Evert and her mother had shown her when she was starting out on the lonely grind of professional tennis. Evert had always liked and admired Navratilova, and was among the first to defend her when she was outed as a lesbian by a New York newspaper in 1981. By the time of the 1985 French Open final, Navratilova, now 28, was at her formidable best and exercised a vice-like grip over the rest of the Tour - friends and foes. She was the current holder of all four of the slams and had won a staggering nine of the previous 13 majors. Evert, now 30, had won the other four and was the world No 2, but anyone playing against Navratilova at that time was a major underdog. Both players were in excellent form when they met in Paris. They had reached the final with contemptuous ease- neither had dropped a set, and Navratilova had dished out bagel sets to half of her opponents en route to meeting Evert. The final proved to be one of the high points in a rivalry that transcended sport. In 2 hours 40 minutes of relentless tension and drama, Evert eventually won out in three epic sets. She had led by a set and a break, and served for the match in the second set but Navratilova had clung on. It was a fascinating clash of styles, with Navratilova rushing to the net at every opportunity, and Evert doing all she could to find angles and lobs to outfox her opponent. In the final set, Navratilova missed four break points on her opponent's serve at 5-5 and then moments later found herself down championship point on her own serve. She saved it when Evert sent a lob just long, but it turned out to be a stay of execution as on the second one, the American somehow got to a Navratilova smash and screamed a backhand passing shot winner up the line. Evert later described the win as her "most satisfying", while reflecting on the pair's rivalry, Navratilova said: "We brought out the best in each other. It's almost not right to say who's better. If you tried to make the perfect rivalry, we were it." 4. Ivan Lendl defeats John McEnroe 3-6, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, 7-5 - 1984 final In his 2002 autobiography Serious, John McEnroe openly admits that there are few events that haunt him as much as his 1984 French Open final defeat to Ivan Lendl. As McEnroe laments of the match: "Lendl got his first major, and I took his title, choker-in-chief, away from him." McEnroe, 25, entered the match in the form of his life, having begun 1984 with 42 straight wins. It was a record start to a year that stands to this day, and meant the American, who already had five majors to his name, was the red hot favourite to pick up his first French Open title. His opponent, the 24-year-old Czech Lendl was tennis's perennial bridesmaid. The nearly man, the choker. He had reached four slam finals and lost them all - an unwanted sequence since equalled by his former protege Andy Murray. It was little surprise then when McEnroe cruised through the first two sets 6-3, 6-2 to leave Lendl staring at the prospect of losing his first five slam finals. Simon Briggs ranks the 20 male clay-court players of all time Fortunately for the Czech, McEnroe had one glaring weakness: his temperament. In a manner that Murray fans will identify with, McEnroe could become enraged by something seemingly innocuous. Early on in the third set, the whirring of a cameraman's headset set him off and soon after McEnroe was in full meltdown mode. He berated the cameraman for causing him to lose his focus, and all of a sudden he had lost the third set 6-4 and was up against a crowd now fiercely in favour of Lendl. Despite their taunting, McEnroe led 4-2 in the fourth, but his energy was being sapped by the burning French sun and Lendl roared back to pinch it 7-5 and take the match into a decider. From there the Czech grew in confidence and took the final set 7-5 as McEnroe grappled unsuccessfully with the inner demons that had taken hold. After the match, which had lasted 4 hours and 8 minutes, McEnroe was so incandescent with rage at the crowd and himself that he refused to give an on-court interview. The defeat was one of just three losses in 85 matches for McEnroe that year and stung him more than almost any other setback in his career. After breaking his grand slam duck, Lendl ended his career with eight slams, one more than McEnroe. 3. Rafael Nadal defeats Novak Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7, (3-7), 9-7​ - 2013 semi-final Nadal won 70 of his first 71 matches at Roland Garros, and surely none were as dramatic as the semi-final four years ago against his great rival Novak Djokovic, which is amazingly one of only two five-setters that the Spaniard has ever played at Roland Garros. Nadal was the tournament holder and seven-time French Open champion, but his ranking was down at No 4 after a horrible run of injuries. Djokovic, as the Australian Open champion and world No 1, was the man to beat, though Nadal's clay-court pedigree made the Spaniard the favourite in many people's eyes. The pair had met in the previous year's French Open, with Nadal winning in four sets, and 18 months earlier Djokovic had edged a bruising six-hour long epic in the Australian Open final. In total this was the 35th meeting between two players who had between them won 10 of the previous 12 majors. A great deal was expected of what was a de facto final - the winner was to face David Ferrer or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - and no-one on a broiling Paris afternoon was left disappointed. After splitting the first two sets, Nadal romped through the third 6-1, whipping that lasso-like forehand and not allowing Djokovic to settle into a rhythm. The Spaniard looked on course for a four-sets win but failed to serve out the match at 6-5 up, and after Djokovic nicked the tie-break, the players headed into a decider. As the temperature cranked up and the match headed for its fifth hour, Djokovic began to edge what was becoming a war of attrition, and grabbed an early break in the final set. The Serb held the break all the way to 4-3, but he made the grave error at deuce of unnecessarily touching the net after hitting a winning smash and thereby forefeited the point. Nadal broke back that game, and held his nerve to tough out the decider 9-7. The memories of losing that Melbourne final were still raw for Nadal, and he said afterwards: "I was ready for the fight and had a little bit of luck at 4-3. In Australia in 2012 it was similar but he won. Everybody knows Novak is a fighter. That's why this is a special sport. During [my] seven months out there were a lot of low moments but people supported me, made me work hard every day, and I want to thank them for that." Nadal cruised to his eighth title two days later by thumping David Ferrer in the final, while Djokovic would have to wait until 2016 before finally getting his hands on the Coupe des Mousquetaires. 2. Steffi Graf defeats Martina Hingis 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 - 1999 Final The 1999 final was a fractious, ill-tempered encounter that pitted the old against the new. Steffi Graf had dominated the women's Tour in the 1990s until injuries and the emergence of the 'Swiss Miss' Martina Hingis knocked her off her perch in 1997. A 16-year-old Hingis hoovered up three of the four slams that year to take the No 1 ranking from Graf, who by 1999 was 29 and playing in her final year on the Tour. Hingis had dismissed Graf as past her best a year earlier, and now the two came head to head in Paris for Graf's final match at Roland Garros. Hingis, 18, needed the French Open to complete the career Grand Slam, and having won five grand slams in the previous couple of years, including the Australian Open that January, was the favourite to win the final. Graf for her part had not won a major since 1996 and had admitted she was mainly using the tournament as a way of improving her fitness ahead of one last crack at an eighth Wimbledon title. For the first set and a bit, Hingis was in control. She took the opener 6-4 and was up 2-0 when it all began to unravel. The French crowd were already heavily behind the five-time Roland Garros champion Graf when Hingis crossed tennis's equivalent of the Rubicon, by walking over to the other side of the court to dispute a forehand that was called out. Farewell Martina Hingis - a retrospective The whistles and cat-calls were deafening as the supporters reacted to what they saw as another example of Hingis's preening precocity. Hingis was so enraged that she called the tournament referee onto the court, all the while grinning disingenuously with increasingly simmering menace. It was little wonder that she had been nicknamed the "smiling assassin". Not only did Hingis not get the overrule she wanted, she was given a point penalty for crossing the net, and found herself down 30-0 in a game she felt she should have been 15-0 up in. The rest of the second set undulated with breaks for each player, before Hingis found herself serving for the match at 5-4 against not just one of the greatest players of all time, but also an increasingly vicious crowd. Graf broke back and took the set 7-5, before romping to a 5-2 lead in the decider. In an act of desperation, Hingis served under-arm when down match point, and the surprise tactic worked to keep her in the match. The crowd roared their disapproval, and when Hingis complained at their heckling Graf retorted: ''Can we just play tennis, O.K?" After Graf took the title on her second match point as the match clock showed 2 hours 25 minutes, Hingis left the court and had to be led back on in tears by her mother Melanie Molitor. When asked about the crowd afterwards, Hingis admitted that ''I let it get to me.'' She pledged to not stop until she had won the French Open, but was never able to get her hands on the title or reach another Paris final. Graf made good on her promise to retire at the end of the year, and the 1999 French Open would turn out to be her 22nd and final grand slam singles title. 1. Michael Chang defeats Ivan Lendl, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 - 1989 Fourth Round As well as being one of the most extraordinary matches in the history of tennis, Michael Chang's 1989 French Open fourth-round match against Ivan Lendl also featured one of its most memorable moments. Leading 4-3 in the final set but down 15-30 and suffering severe cramps, Chang took the almost unprecedented step of serving under-arm. The reaction from everyone on the Philippe Chatrier court is sensational. The commentator laughs in disbelief and shouts "extraordinaire...ooh la la!" as the crowd cover their mouths in astonishment at what they have just seen. The former American player Todd Martin later described Chang's underhand serve as "the last stone that felled Goliath". The tactic flummoxed Lendl, and Chang won the point and the match two games later. It was a fitting end to a remarkable match that had seen the world No 1 and three-time French Open champion Lendl upset by the 17-year-old naturalised American who was playing for only the second time at Roland Garros. Lendl by contrast was the reigning Australian Open champion, the world's No 1 for almost all of the previous three years and a seven-time major winner. A baseline behemoth, Lendl had not dropped a set all tournament and looked set for a seventh straight French Open quarter-final when he took a two sets to love lead against Chang. Chang though had also been in excellent form in the tournament, winning his previous nine sets for the loss of 17 games, and despite his tender years he did already have some pedigree. He was the 15th seed at the tournament and had won an ATP Tournament the year before in San Francisco. Against Lendl, he was given additional motivation by the possibility of bringing hope to his homeland of China. Only a day earlier, Chang had spent the day glued to television screens horrified at images of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing. He later admitted that: "What [the Lendl match] was really about was an opportunity to bring a smile upon Chinese people's faces around the world when there wasn't a whole lot to smile about. I honestly feel that that was God's purpose for allowing me to be able to get through those matches." From two sets to love down, Chang started to frustrated his illustrious opponent. After the 17-year-old had taken the third set with a beguiling mix of awkward spins and angles, Lendl began to rage at the conditions and what he perceived to be bad line calls. His anger cost him a penalty point and a game in the fourth set. But when severe cramps struck Chang in the fourth set, a victory for Lendl looked a formality. Still, his opponent would not go away though, employing a befuddling tactic of slow, arcing moonballs that drove Lendl to distraction and saw Chang take the fourth set 6-3. Into a decider, and the pain became too much for Chang. In the third game of the set, he could not move and had resorted to guzzling water and consuming bananas at an alarming rate. He could not even sit down at change of ends, such was the all-consuming pain of the cramp he was suffering. At 2-1 up he walked to the service box to retire from the match, but at that point he claims to have benefitted from divine intervention. He later recalled: "When I got to the service line, I got an unbelievable conviction of heart. Looking back, I really feel like it was the Lord kind of telling me: 'Michael, what do you think you're doing here?' If I quit once, the second, third, fourth or fifth time that I am faced with that kind of circumstance, that kind of difficulty, I'm going to quit again." Four games later, Chang employed the under-arm serve trick as one last throw of the dice. He remembers: "At 15-30, spur of the moment, I was just like, I'm going to throw an underhand serve in here, cause I'm not doing anything off my first serve anyways. Let's see if maybe I can scrape a point. I hit the underhand serve, Ivan was kind of surprised about it, moved, kind of got squeezed in because of the spin and had to come in because the serve was so short. I hit a passing shot, clipped the tape and it went off the top of his racket and the crowd went absolutely nuts." In the final game, there was time for one last party piece as Chang slowly walked forward to the service line on match point as Lendl prepared to serve. It drew a double fault, and Chang has somehow done it. After four hours and 37 minutes of the most excruciating competition, Chang had completed the equivalent of a tennis ultra-marathon and defeated the world No 1. He went on to beat Stefan Edberg in the final as he claimed his one and only grand slam title.
7. Robin Soderling defeats Rafael Nadal, 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-4, 7-6 (2) - 2009 fourth round In every sport, there are upsets so profoundly shocking that they become the benchmark for any future surprise result. Boxing has Mike Tyson losing to Buster Douglas, rugby union has Japan's defeat of South Africa, while football in 2016 added Leicester winning the Premier League to its canon. In tennis, there are few, if any, greater upsets than Robin Soderling's win against Rafael Nadal at the French Open in 2009. Nadal was considered unbeatable at the French Open where he never lost a match and prowled the baseline like a predator mercilessly defending his territory. Aged 22, he was already a four-time Roland Garros champion, and had not dropped so much as a set in his previous 10 matches there. Coming into the fourth round match against Soderling, Nadal looked set fair for a fifth straight title. He had cruised through his first three matches - taking his win-loss record in Paris to 31-0 - including a demolition job of former world No 1 Lleyton Hewitt whom he had beaten for the loss of just five games. In January, Nadal had won his first hard-court major at the Australian Open, and he had completely dominated the start of the clay-court season by winning the titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome. When the players took to the Phillipe Chatrier court on a cloudy Parisian afternoon, no-one gave Soderling a hope of upsetting the King of Clay in his unbreachable fortress. Soderling interview Soderling though had two things in his favour. The first was a huge all or nothing game that meant he could beat anyone on his day, and the second was that he knew how to get under Nadal's skin. The Swede was something of an outsider in the locker room, and he revelled in antagonising his opponents, especially Nadal. The pair's previous two meetings had been fractious, with Soderling angering Nadal and the Rome crowd a month earlier when he swore at the umpire over a disputed line call despite it being himself who had clearly pointed to the wrong mark on the court. The rivalry really intensified though at Wimbledon in 2007 when the two players' third-round five-set match stretched over five days due to rain and became a tetchy and testy slugfest. Nadal was enraged at the constant delays, and Soderling sought to wind him up further, behaving like an annoying sibling who knew exactly what buttons to press. He mimicked Nadal's habit of fiddling with his shorts and to poke fun at of how long Nadal took between points, he would deliberately stall the Spaniard and offer his hand in mock-apology. Taking to the role of pantomime villain perfectly, Soderling eschewed the tennis etiquette of aplogising after a dead net cord, and instead celebrated such a point in the fifth set with a fist pump. After the match he said: "Why should I say I’m sorry when it’s the happiest moment of my life?" The handshake at the end of the match was frostier than the unseasonally cold temperatures at SW19, and Nadal pulled no punches in his post-match interview. “I have said hello to him seven times to his face, and he has never said hello to me," he said. "I asked around the locker room; almost nobody had anything nice to say about him.” Robin Soderling celebrates beating Rafael Nadal at the French Open in 2009 Soderling responded: "Personally, if I have a problem with a player I go and talk to him face-to-face." Of his reputation as a loner, he added: "Do I have any friends on tour? Not many. I used to hang around with other Swedes, but there are fewer now." In the highly sanitised world of the ATP Tour where everyone seemed to get along, this was genuine needle and made for an intriguing pre-match sub-plot. But despite Nadal's open distaste for his opponent, there was little to suggest that he would have too many problems in beating Soderling. As well as his formidable record at Roland Garros and on clay in general, Nadal had won all three of his previous matches against Soderling, and hammered him 6-1, 6-0 in that Rome meeting a month earlier. Soderling, the world No 25, had been having a mixed year and had gone out early in all of the clay-court tournaments leading up to the French Open. Once in Paris though, he began to play with more authority and took out the 14th seed David Ferrer in four sets to reach the last 16 - his first fourth-round appearance at a major. In the first set against Nadal, Soderling was, to use tennis parlance, red lining. Nadal looked utterly powerless, failing to get a grip in the match as if he was being tossed around in a washing machine. Soderling's forehand was an inelegant slap that could often go awry, but suddenly he could not miss with it and he was sending Nadal so far behind the baseline that he was almost in Belgium. Nadal was left floundering in an opening set that went the Swede's way 6-2. Nadal sits on the clay after falling against Soderling When you watch the match back, one of the striking things is how loud and desperate Nadal's grunting quickly becomes. He sounds almost strangled by the exertion of what he's up against and the shock of getting so badly beaten up on his favourite court. Nadal took the second set on a tie-break, but still something was not right. The Spaniard's snarl had become an anxious furrowed brow, and Soderling was feeding off his tension. The more Nadal hoped his rival would take a backwards step, the more Soderling went for the jugular - battering down aces and big forehands, and picking off volleys at the net like a Scandinavian Pete Sampras. Nadal began to look frazzled, with his sweat-drenched hair creeping down into his narrowed eyes. In the seventh game of the third set, Soderling screamed a backhand at Nadal to earn a crucial break of serve. Shortly after Nadal collapsed to the floor like a giant tree felled by a lumberjack as he lost his footing hitting a backhand. The symbolism of the fall was obvious, and John McEnroe remarked in commentary: "He just doesn’t know what to do out there." Soderling took the set 6-4 to leave Nadal on the brink of elimination. The Spaniard though did not give up - his ferocious competitiveness never left him and he took an early break in the fourth set to regain a semblance of control. It would prove to be an illusion however, as Soderling broke back and took the fourth set on a tie-break to win the match. The crowd, desperate for a Roger Federer win at the tournament, had been resolutely in favour of Soderling throughout the match and roared their approval at seeing Nadal finally beaten at Roland Garros. The tennis world scrambled around for an explanation, and they received one of sorts a few weeks later when Nadal pulled out of Wimbledon due to tendonitis in both knees. It would later emerge that the Spaniard was also suffering severe distress from the divorce of his parents. But it is too easy to attribute the defeat to one or both of these factors. Yes, they may have contributed but Nadal had still been in sensational form at the time, and it took a player with the courage and self-belief of Soderling to take advantage. The way Soderling was playing that day - hitting 61 winners to Nadal's 33 - he would have beaten Rafa at any stage of his career. The scale of the shock was only added to in the subsequent years, as Nadal won the next five French Opens and his following 39 matches at Roland Garros, include a straight-sets win over Soderling in the 2010 final. Even now, nine years on Nadal has only been beaten once in Paris since the Soderling upset. The victory was the launchpad for Soderling's career, as he reached consecutive French Open finals and a career-high ranking of No 4. Sadly he was forced to retire in 2015 having not played since 2011 due to a severe and long-running bout of glandular fever. Nadal of course quickly re-established himself as the King of Clay, and is currently playing some of the best tennis of his career as he targets an 11th French Open title. But he will never forget that Sunday in May eight years ago when he was dethroned so brutally by the player he disliked the most. 6. Andre Agassi defeats Andrei Medvedev 1–6, 2–6, 6–4, 6–3, 6–4 - 1999 Final The story of Andre Agassi's rise and fall and then rise again was like something out of a Hollywood script. The glamorous, exciting young Las Vegan with the mullet and neon spandex who had too much too young before plumbing the depths and taking crystal meth as his world crumbled around him. Then the rise from the ashes that saw a redeemed, more mature version of his younger self gain some much needed perspective and come back stronger than ever before. The fall in 1997 had seen Agassi, shaken by his failed marriage to American actress Brooke Shields, plummet to a world ranking of 141 and fail a doping test (which was later dropped by the authorities when he claimed to have ingested crystal meth accidentally) . By the time of the 1999 French Open, Agassi was back in the world's top 20 after close to 18 months spent finding his feet again,but he was not yet considered a serious contender for grand slams, least of all the French Open, which he had never won. But at Roland Garros that year, Agassi battled his way to the final - his first at a slam for almost four years. A win for the American would see him complete the career Grand Slam at the age of 29 and cap a remarkable turnaround from the dark days of two years before. He had twice been a losing finalist in Paris, but was odds on to finally claim the title against the unfancied Ukrainian Andrei Medvedev, whose lowly ranking of 100 meant he only just made the cut for the tournament. Medvedev though had been in sensational form in Paris, taking out Pete Sampras and former champion Gustavo Kuerten en route to the final. Ironically, it had been a chat with Agassi in Monte Carlo a few weeks earlier that had inspired the turnaround. In his autobiography, Open, Agassi recalled how he had spotted Medvedev drinking alone in a Monte Carlo bar after another damaging defeat. The 24-year-old Medvedev told Agassi he was considering retiring - in his own words he was old and he couldn’t play "this f---ing game anymore." "How dare you," Agassi responded. "Here I am, 29, injured, divorced, and you’re [complaining] about being washed up at 24? Your future is bright." Buoyed by the pep talk and by his blossoming romance with German player Anke Huber (they have subsequently split), Medvedev was a new player in Paris and his feather-light drop shots and clinical backhands down the line took him all the way to the final. On the eve of the final, Agassi was racked by anxiety and shocked coach Brad Gilbert by necking a vodka from the hotel minibar to soothe his nerves. "He has my game," Agassi fretted. "I gave it to him. He even has my first name." Andre Agassi celebrates beating Andrei Medvedev in the 1999 French Open final By the time the players took to the court, Agassi was still tormented with self-doubt, and he lost the first set 6-1 in 19 humiliating minutes. The second was scarcely much better, as Medvedev prevailed 6-2, with Agassi later describing his performance in the opening stages as "embarrassing". Midway through the second set though, a rain delay forced the players off court and prompted Gilbert to shake some sense into Agassi. Gilbert opened a locker and slammed it shut, before unleashing a volley of criticism at his player, where he told Agassi exactly what he was doing wrong and that at the very least he had to "go down with both guns blazing". Agassi belatedly got the message, and in the third set hauled himself from off the canvas. Serving at 4-4, 30-15 he double faulted on consecutive points to hand Medvedev a break point that had he taken would have left him serving for the match. The American saved it with a drop volley, and from there did not look back, coming to the net more and taking his opponent's rhythm away from him. After 2 hours and 42 minutes, Agassi secured the victory when a Medvedev forehand sailed long. He dropped his racket instantly, turned to his box and after covering his face began to cry uncontrollably. "Winning isn’t supposed to feel this good," Agassi said. "But it does." Agassi had metamorphosed from hirsute teenager in denim shorts to balding elder statesman, and after his annus horribilis he had found the purest form of redemption. 5. Chris Evert defeats Martina Navratilova 6–3, 6–7(4), 7–5 - 1985 final Sixteen years, 80 matches, and 60 finals. There has never been a rivalry like the one between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, and there were few contests between the two as riveting as the 1985 French Open final. From 1974 to 1986, the two players duopolised the year-end world No 1 ranking, and had finished No 1 and No 2 in every year between 1982 and 1986. Between them they were the dominant forces in the sport, and by the time of the 1985 French Open final Evert had 16 singles slams to Navratilova's 12. Evert had initially dominated meetings between the two, winning 20 of their first 25 matches, but when they met at Roland Garros 22 years ago, Navratilova led the head to head 33-31 and was the world No 1. The stats though don't tell anything like the full story of a rivalry that in the public's eyes pitted the charming American girl next door in Evert against the rugged, outspoken Czechoslovakian outsider in Navratilova. Evert later said this perception was totally wrong, explaining that people would often approach her and say, "You know, I never liked that Martina. She's so tough. "I'd say, 'You know what? She's a kitten. She really is. I'm the hard one.' They'd say 'no, no, no - not you. You're so frail and feminine; we always felt sorry for you.' It was as if Martina became the bully to some people. And I was the person who could silence the bully." The pair were actually great friends and had played doubles together in the mid-1970s until Evert felt that doing so gave Navratilova too good a read on her game. Navratilova would never forget the kindness Evert and her mother had shown her when she was starting out on the lonely grind of professional tennis. Evert had always liked and admired Navratilova, and was among the first to defend her when she was outed as a lesbian by a New York newspaper in 1981. By the time of the 1985 French Open final, Navratilova, now 28, was at her formidable best and exercised a vice-like grip over the rest of the Tour - friends and foes. She was the current holder of all four of the slams and had won a staggering nine of the previous 13 majors. Evert, now 30, had won the other four and was the world No 2, but anyone playing against Navratilova at that time was a major underdog. Both players were in excellent form when they met in Paris. They had reached the final with contemptuous ease- neither had dropped a set, and Navratilova had dished out bagel sets to half of her opponents en route to meeting Evert. The final proved to be one of the high points in a rivalry that transcended sport. In 2 hours 40 minutes of relentless tension and drama, Evert eventually won out in three epic sets. She had led by a set and a break, and served for the match in the second set but Navratilova had clung on. It was a fascinating clash of styles, with Navratilova rushing to the net at every opportunity, and Evert doing all she could to find angles and lobs to outfox her opponent. In the final set, Navratilova missed four break points on her opponent's serve at 5-5 and then moments later found herself down championship point on her own serve. She saved it when Evert sent a lob just long, but it turned out to be a stay of execution as on the second one, the American somehow got to a Navratilova smash and screamed a backhand passing shot winner up the line. Evert later described the win as her "most satisfying", while reflecting on the pair's rivalry, Navratilova said: "We brought out the best in each other. It's almost not right to say who's better. If you tried to make the perfect rivalry, we were it." 4. Ivan Lendl defeats John McEnroe 3-6, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, 7-5 - 1984 final In his 2002 autobiography Serious, John McEnroe openly admits that there are few events that haunt him as much as his 1984 French Open final defeat to Ivan Lendl. As McEnroe laments of the match: "Lendl got his first major, and I took his title, choker-in-chief, away from him." McEnroe, 25, entered the match in the form of his life, having begun 1984 with 42 straight wins. It was a record start to a year that stands to this day, and meant the American, who already had five majors to his name, was the red hot favourite to pick up his first French Open title. His opponent, the 24-year-old Czech Lendl was tennis's perennial bridesmaid. The nearly man, the choker. He had reached four slam finals and lost them all - an unwanted sequence since equalled by his former protege Andy Murray. It was little surprise then when McEnroe cruised through the first two sets 6-3, 6-2 to leave Lendl staring at the prospect of losing his first five slam finals. Simon Briggs ranks the 20 male clay-court players of all time Fortunately for the Czech, McEnroe had one glaring weakness: his temperament. In a manner that Murray fans will identify with, McEnroe could become enraged by something seemingly innocuous. Early on in the third set, the whirring of a cameraman's headset set him off and soon after McEnroe was in full meltdown mode. He berated the cameraman for causing him to lose his focus, and all of a sudden he had lost the third set 6-4 and was up against a crowd now fiercely in favour of Lendl. Despite their taunting, McEnroe led 4-2 in the fourth, but his energy was being sapped by the burning French sun and Lendl roared back to pinch it 7-5 and take the match into a decider. From there the Czech grew in confidence and took the final set 7-5 as McEnroe grappled unsuccessfully with the inner demons that had taken hold. After the match, which had lasted 4 hours and 8 minutes, McEnroe was so incandescent with rage at the crowd and himself that he refused to give an on-court interview. The defeat was one of just three losses in 85 matches for McEnroe that year and stung him more than almost any other setback in his career. After breaking his grand slam duck, Lendl ended his career with eight slams, one more than McEnroe. 3. Rafael Nadal defeats Novak Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7, (3-7), 9-7​ - 2013 semi-final Nadal won 70 of his first 71 matches at Roland Garros, and surely none were as dramatic as the semi-final four years ago against his great rival Novak Djokovic, which is amazingly one of only two five-setters that the Spaniard has ever played at Roland Garros. Nadal was the tournament holder and seven-time French Open champion, but his ranking was down at No 4 after a horrible run of injuries. Djokovic, as the Australian Open champion and world No 1, was the man to beat, though Nadal's clay-court pedigree made the Spaniard the favourite in many people's eyes. The pair had met in the previous year's French Open, with Nadal winning in four sets, and 18 months earlier Djokovic had edged a bruising six-hour long epic in the Australian Open final. In total this was the 35th meeting between two players who had between them won 10 of the previous 12 majors. A great deal was expected of what was a de facto final - the winner was to face David Ferrer or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - and no-one on a broiling Paris afternoon was left disappointed. After splitting the first two sets, Nadal romped through the third 6-1, whipping that lasso-like forehand and not allowing Djokovic to settle into a rhythm. The Spaniard looked on course for a four-sets win but failed to serve out the match at 6-5 up, and after Djokovic nicked the tie-break, the players headed into a decider. As the temperature cranked up and the match headed for its fifth hour, Djokovic began to edge what was becoming a war of attrition, and grabbed an early break in the final set. The Serb held the break all the way to 4-3, but he made the grave error at deuce of unnecessarily touching the net after hitting a winning smash and thereby forefeited the point. Nadal broke back that game, and held his nerve to tough out the decider 9-7. The memories of losing that Melbourne final were still raw for Nadal, and he said afterwards: "I was ready for the fight and had a little bit of luck at 4-3. In Australia in 2012 it was similar but he won. Everybody knows Novak is a fighter. That's why this is a special sport. During [my] seven months out there were a lot of low moments but people supported me, made me work hard every day, and I want to thank them for that." Nadal cruised to his eighth title two days later by thumping David Ferrer in the final, while Djokovic would have to wait until 2016 before finally getting his hands on the Coupe des Mousquetaires. 2. Steffi Graf defeats Martina Hingis 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 - 1999 Final The 1999 final was a fractious, ill-tempered encounter that pitted the old against the new. Steffi Graf had dominated the women's Tour in the 1990s until injuries and the emergence of the 'Swiss Miss' Martina Hingis knocked her off her perch in 1997. A 16-year-old Hingis hoovered up three of the four slams that year to take the No 1 ranking from Graf, who by 1999 was 29 and playing in her final year on the Tour. Hingis had dismissed Graf as past her best a year earlier, and now the two came head to head in Paris for Graf's final match at Roland Garros. Hingis, 18, needed the French Open to complete the career Grand Slam, and having won five grand slams in the previous couple of years, including the Australian Open that January, was the favourite to win the final. Graf for her part had not won a major since 1996 and had admitted she was mainly using the tournament as a way of improving her fitness ahead of one last crack at an eighth Wimbledon title. For the first set and a bit, Hingis was in control. She took the opener 6-4 and was up 2-0 when it all began to unravel. The French crowd were already heavily behind the five-time Roland Garros champion Graf when Hingis crossed tennis's equivalent of the Rubicon, by walking over to the other side of the court to dispute a forehand that was called out. Farewell Martina Hingis - a retrospective The whistles and cat-calls were deafening as the supporters reacted to what they saw as another example of Hingis's preening precocity. Hingis was so enraged that she called the tournament referee onto the court, all the while grinning disingenuously with increasingly simmering menace. It was little wonder that she had been nicknamed the "smiling assassin". Not only did Hingis not get the overrule she wanted, she was given a point penalty for crossing the net, and found herself down 30-0 in a game she felt she should have been 15-0 up in. The rest of the second set undulated with breaks for each player, before Hingis found herself serving for the match at 5-4 against not just one of the greatest players of all time, but also an increasingly vicious crowd. Graf broke back and took the set 7-5, before romping to a 5-2 lead in the decider. In an act of desperation, Hingis served under-arm when down match point, and the surprise tactic worked to keep her in the match. The crowd roared their disapproval, and when Hingis complained at their heckling Graf retorted: ''Can we just play tennis, O.K?" After Graf took the title on her second match point as the match clock showed 2 hours 25 minutes, Hingis left the court and had to be led back on in tears by her mother Melanie Molitor. When asked about the crowd afterwards, Hingis admitted that ''I let it get to me.'' She pledged to not stop until she had won the French Open, but was never able to get her hands on the title or reach another Paris final. Graf made good on her promise to retire at the end of the year, and the 1999 French Open would turn out to be her 22nd and final grand slam singles title. 1. Michael Chang defeats Ivan Lendl, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 - 1989 Fourth Round As well as being one of the most extraordinary matches in the history of tennis, Michael Chang's 1989 French Open fourth-round match against Ivan Lendl also featured one of its most memorable moments. Leading 4-3 in the final set but down 15-30 and suffering severe cramps, Chang took the almost unprecedented step of serving under-arm. The reaction from everyone on the Philippe Chatrier court is sensational. The commentator laughs in disbelief and shouts "extraordinaire...ooh la la!" as the crowd cover their mouths in astonishment at what they have just seen. The former American player Todd Martin later described Chang's underhand serve as "the last stone that felled Goliath". The tactic flummoxed Lendl, and Chang won the point and the match two games later. It was a fitting end to a remarkable match that had seen the world No 1 and three-time French Open champion Lendl upset by the 17-year-old naturalised American who was playing for only the second time at Roland Garros. Lendl by contrast was the reigning Australian Open champion, the world's No 1 for almost all of the previous three years and a seven-time major winner. A baseline behemoth, Lendl had not dropped a set all tournament and looked set for a seventh straight French Open quarter-final when he took a two sets to love lead against Chang. Chang though had also been in excellent form in the tournament, winning his previous nine sets for the loss of 17 games, and despite his tender years he did already have some pedigree. He was the 15th seed at the tournament and had won an ATP Tournament the year before in San Francisco. Against Lendl, he was given additional motivation by the possibility of bringing hope to his homeland of China. Only a day earlier, Chang had spent the day glued to television screens horrified at images of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing. He later admitted that: "What [the Lendl match] was really about was an opportunity to bring a smile upon Chinese people's faces around the world when there wasn't a whole lot to smile about. I honestly feel that that was God's purpose for allowing me to be able to get through those matches." From two sets to love down, Chang started to frustrated his illustrious opponent. After the 17-year-old had taken the third set with a beguiling mix of awkward spins and angles, Lendl began to rage at the conditions and what he perceived to be bad line calls. His anger cost him a penalty point and a game in the fourth set. But when severe cramps struck Chang in the fourth set, a victory for Lendl looked a formality. Still, his opponent would not go away though, employing a befuddling tactic of slow, arcing moonballs that drove Lendl to distraction and saw Chang take the fourth set 6-3. Into a decider, and the pain became too much for Chang. In the third game of the set, he could not move and had resorted to guzzling water and consuming bananas at an alarming rate. He could not even sit down at change of ends, such was the all-consuming pain of the cramp he was suffering. At 2-1 up he walked to the service box to retire from the match, but at that point he claims to have benefitted from divine intervention. He later recalled: "When I got to the service line, I got an unbelievable conviction of heart. Looking back, I really feel like it was the Lord kind of telling me: 'Michael, what do you think you're doing here?' If I quit once, the second, third, fourth or fifth time that I am faced with that kind of circumstance, that kind of difficulty, I'm going to quit again." Four games later, Chang employed the under-arm serve trick as one last throw of the dice. He remembers: "At 15-30, spur of the moment, I was just like, I'm going to throw an underhand serve in here, cause I'm not doing anything off my first serve anyways. Let's see if maybe I can scrape a point. I hit the underhand serve, Ivan was kind of surprised about it, moved, kind of got squeezed in because of the spin and had to come in because the serve was so short. I hit a passing shot, clipped the tape and it went off the top of his racket and the crowd went absolutely nuts." In the final game, there was time for one last party piece as Chang slowly walked forward to the service line on match point as Lendl prepared to serve. It drew a double fault, and Chang has somehow done it. After four hours and 37 minutes of the most excruciating competition, Chang had completed the equivalent of a tennis ultra-marathon and defeated the world No 1. He went on to beat Stefan Edberg in the final as he claimed his one and only grand slam title.
The seven greatest ever French Open matches
7. Robin Soderling defeats Rafael Nadal, 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-4, 7-6 (2) - 2009 fourth round In every sport, there are upsets so profoundly shocking that they become the benchmark for any future surprise result. Boxing has Mike Tyson losing to Buster Douglas, rugby union has Japan's defeat of South Africa, while football in 2016 added Leicester winning the Premier League to its canon. In tennis, there are few, if any, greater upsets than Robin Soderling's win against Rafael Nadal at the French Open in 2009. Nadal was considered unbeatable at the French Open where he never lost a match and prowled the baseline like a predator mercilessly defending his territory. Aged 22, he was already a four-time Roland Garros champion, and had not dropped so much as a set in his previous 10 matches there. Coming into the fourth round match against Soderling, Nadal looked set fair for a fifth straight title. He had cruised through his first three matches - taking his win-loss record in Paris to 31-0 - including a demolition job of former world No 1 Lleyton Hewitt whom he had beaten for the loss of just five games. In January, Nadal had won his first hard-court major at the Australian Open, and he had completely dominated the start of the clay-court season by winning the titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome. When the players took to the Phillipe Chatrier court on a cloudy Parisian afternoon, no-one gave Soderling a hope of upsetting the King of Clay in his unbreachable fortress. Soderling interview Soderling though had two things in his favour. The first was a huge all or nothing game that meant he could beat anyone on his day, and the second was that he knew how to get under Nadal's skin. The Swede was something of an outsider in the locker room, and he revelled in antagonising his opponents, especially Nadal. The pair's previous two meetings had been fractious, with Soderling angering Nadal and the Rome crowd a month earlier when he swore at the umpire over a disputed line call despite it being himself who had clearly pointed to the wrong mark on the court. The rivalry really intensified though at Wimbledon in 2007 when the two players' third-round five-set match stretched over five days due to rain and became a tetchy and testy slugfest. Nadal was enraged at the constant delays, and Soderling sought to wind him up further, behaving like an annoying sibling who knew exactly what buttons to press. He mimicked Nadal's habit of fiddling with his shorts and to poke fun at of how long Nadal took between points, he would deliberately stall the Spaniard and offer his hand in mock-apology. Taking to the role of pantomime villain perfectly, Soderling eschewed the tennis etiquette of aplogising after a dead net cord, and instead celebrated such a point in the fifth set with a fist pump. After the match he said: "Why should I say I’m sorry when it’s the happiest moment of my life?" The handshake at the end of the match was frostier than the unseasonally cold temperatures at SW19, and Nadal pulled no punches in his post-match interview. “I have said hello to him seven times to his face, and he has never said hello to me," he said. "I asked around the locker room; almost nobody had anything nice to say about him.” Robin Soderling celebrates beating Rafael Nadal at the French Open in 2009 Soderling responded: "Personally, if I have a problem with a player I go and talk to him face-to-face." Of his reputation as a loner, he added: "Do I have any friends on tour? Not many. I used to hang around with other Swedes, but there are fewer now." In the highly sanitised world of the ATP Tour where everyone seemed to get along, this was genuine needle and made for an intriguing pre-match sub-plot. But despite Nadal's open distaste for his opponent, there was little to suggest that he would have too many problems in beating Soderling. As well as his formidable record at Roland Garros and on clay in general, Nadal had won all three of his previous matches against Soderling, and hammered him 6-1, 6-0 in that Rome meeting a month earlier. Soderling, the world No 25, had been having a mixed year and had gone out early in all of the clay-court tournaments leading up to the French Open. Once in Paris though, he began to play with more authority and took out the 14th seed David Ferrer in four sets to reach the last 16 - his first fourth-round appearance at a major. In the first set against Nadal, Soderling was, to use tennis parlance, red lining. Nadal looked utterly powerless, failing to get a grip in the match as if he was being tossed around in a washing machine. Soderling's forehand was an inelegant slap that could often go awry, but suddenly he could not miss with it and he was sending Nadal so far behind the baseline that he was almost in Belgium. Nadal was left floundering in an opening set that went the Swede's way 6-2. Nadal sits on the clay after falling against Soderling When you watch the match back, one of the striking things is how loud and desperate Nadal's grunting quickly becomes. He sounds almost strangled by the exertion of what he's up against and the shock of getting so badly beaten up on his favourite court. Nadal took the second set on a tie-break, but still something was not right. The Spaniard's snarl had become an anxious furrowed brow, and Soderling was feeding off his tension. The more Nadal hoped his rival would take a backwards step, the more Soderling went for the jugular - battering down aces and big forehands, and picking off volleys at the net like a Scandinavian Pete Sampras. Nadal began to look frazzled, with his sweat-drenched hair creeping down into his narrowed eyes. In the seventh game of the third set, Soderling screamed a backhand at Nadal to earn a crucial break of serve. Shortly after Nadal collapsed to the floor like a giant tree felled by a lumberjack as he lost his footing hitting a backhand. The symbolism of the fall was obvious, and John McEnroe remarked in commentary: "He just doesn’t know what to do out there." Soderling took the set 6-4 to leave Nadal on the brink of elimination. The Spaniard though did not give up - his ferocious competitiveness never left him and he took an early break in the fourth set to regain a semblance of control. It would prove to be an illusion however, as Soderling broke back and took the fourth set on a tie-break to win the match. The crowd, desperate for a Roger Federer win at the tournament, had been resolutely in favour of Soderling throughout the match and roared their approval at seeing Nadal finally beaten at Roland Garros. The tennis world scrambled around for an explanation, and they received one of sorts a few weeks later when Nadal pulled out of Wimbledon due to tendonitis in both knees. It would later emerge that the Spaniard was also suffering severe distress from the divorce of his parents. But it is too easy to attribute the defeat to one or both of these factors. Yes, they may have contributed but Nadal had still been in sensational form at the time, and it took a player with the courage and self-belief of Soderling to take advantage. The way Soderling was playing that day - hitting 61 winners to Nadal's 33 - he would have beaten Rafa at any stage of his career. The scale of the shock was only added to in the subsequent years, as Nadal won the next five French Opens and his following 39 matches at Roland Garros, include a straight-sets win over Soderling in the 2010 final. Even now, nine years on Nadal has only been beaten once in Paris since the Soderling upset. The victory was the launchpad for Soderling's career, as he reached consecutive French Open finals and a career-high ranking of No 4. Sadly he was forced to retire in 2015 having not played since 2011 due to a severe and long-running bout of glandular fever. Nadal of course quickly re-established himself as the King of Clay, and is currently playing some of the best tennis of his career as he targets an 11th French Open title. But he will never forget that Sunday in May eight years ago when he was dethroned so brutally by the player he disliked the most. 6. Andre Agassi defeats Andrei Medvedev 1–6, 2–6, 6–4, 6–3, 6–4 - 1999 Final The story of Andre Agassi's rise and fall and then rise again was like something out of a Hollywood script. The glamorous, exciting young Las Vegan with the mullet and neon spandex who had too much too young before plumbing the depths and taking crystal meth as his world crumbled around him. Then the rise from the ashes that saw a redeemed, more mature version of his younger self gain some much needed perspective and come back stronger than ever before. The fall in 1997 had seen Agassi, shaken by his failed marriage to American actress Brooke Shields, plummet to a world ranking of 141 and fail a doping test (which was later dropped by the authorities when he claimed to have ingested crystal meth accidentally) . By the time of the 1999 French Open, Agassi was back in the world's top 20 after close to 18 months spent finding his feet again,but he was not yet considered a serious contender for grand slams, least of all the French Open, which he had never won. But at Roland Garros that year, Agassi battled his way to the final - his first at a slam for almost four years. A win for the American would see him complete the career Grand Slam at the age of 29 and cap a remarkable turnaround from the dark days of two years before. He had twice been a losing finalist in Paris, but was odds on to finally claim the title against the unfancied Ukrainian Andrei Medvedev, whose lowly ranking of 100 meant he only just made the cut for the tournament. Medvedev though had been in sensational form in Paris, taking out Pete Sampras and former champion Gustavo Kuerten en route to the final. Ironically, it had been a chat with Agassi in Monte Carlo a few weeks earlier that had inspired the turnaround. In his autobiography, Open, Agassi recalled how he had spotted Medvedev drinking alone in a Monte Carlo bar after another damaging defeat. The 24-year-old Medvedev told Agassi he was considering retiring - in his own words he was old and he couldn’t play "this f---ing game anymore." "How dare you," Agassi responded. "Here I am, 29, injured, divorced, and you’re [complaining] about being washed up at 24? Your future is bright." Buoyed by the pep talk and by his blossoming romance with German player Anke Huber (they have subsequently split), Medvedev was a new player in Paris and his feather-light drop shots and clinical backhands down the line took him all the way to the final. On the eve of the final, Agassi was racked by anxiety and shocked coach Brad Gilbert by necking a vodka from the hotel minibar to soothe his nerves. "He has my game," Agassi fretted. "I gave it to him. He even has my first name." Andre Agassi celebrates beating Andrei Medvedev in the 1999 French Open final By the time the players took to the court, Agassi was still tormented with self-doubt, and he lost the first set 6-1 in 19 humiliating minutes. The second was scarcely much better, as Medvedev prevailed 6-2, with Agassi later describing his performance in the opening stages as "embarrassing". Midway through the second set though, a rain delay forced the players off court and prompted Gilbert to shake some sense into Agassi. Gilbert opened a locker and slammed it shut, before unleashing a volley of criticism at his player, where he told Agassi exactly what he was doing wrong and that at the very least he had to "go down with both guns blazing". Agassi belatedly got the message, and in the third set hauled himself from off the canvas. Serving at 4-4, 30-15 he double faulted on consecutive points to hand Medvedev a break point that had he taken would have left him serving for the match. The American saved it with a drop volley, and from there did not look back, coming to the net more and taking his opponent's rhythm away from him. After 2 hours and 42 minutes, Agassi secured the victory when a Medvedev forehand sailed long. He dropped his racket instantly, turned to his box and after covering his face began to cry uncontrollably. "Winning isn’t supposed to feel this good," Agassi said. "But it does." Agassi had metamorphosed from hirsute teenager in denim shorts to balding elder statesman, and after his annus horribilis he had found the purest form of redemption. 5. Chris Evert defeats Martina Navratilova 6–3, 6–7(4), 7–5 - 1985 final Sixteen years, 80 matches, and 60 finals. There has never been a rivalry like the one between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, and there were few contests between the two as riveting as the 1985 French Open final. From 1974 to 1986, the two players duopolised the year-end world No 1 ranking, and had finished No 1 and No 2 in every year between 1982 and 1986. Between them they were the dominant forces in the sport, and by the time of the 1985 French Open final Evert had 16 singles slams to Navratilova's 12. Evert had initially dominated meetings between the two, winning 20 of their first 25 matches, but when they met at Roland Garros 22 years ago, Navratilova led the head to head 33-31 and was the world No 1. The stats though don't tell anything like the full story of a rivalry that in the public's eyes pitted the charming American girl next door in Evert against the rugged, outspoken Czechoslovakian outsider in Navratilova. Evert later said this perception was totally wrong, explaining that people would often approach her and say, "You know, I never liked that Martina. She's so tough. "I'd say, 'You know what? She's a kitten. She really is. I'm the hard one.' They'd say 'no, no, no - not you. You're so frail and feminine; we always felt sorry for you.' It was as if Martina became the bully to some people. And I was the person who could silence the bully." The pair were actually great friends and had played doubles together in the mid-1970s until Evert felt that doing so gave Navratilova too good a read on her game. Navratilova would never forget the kindness Evert and her mother had shown her when she was starting out on the lonely grind of professional tennis. Evert had always liked and admired Navratilova, and was among the first to defend her when she was outed as a lesbian by a New York newspaper in 1981. By the time of the 1985 French Open final, Navratilova, now 28, was at her formidable best and exercised a vice-like grip over the rest of the Tour - friends and foes. She was the current holder of all four of the slams and had won a staggering nine of the previous 13 majors. Evert, now 30, had won the other four and was the world No 2, but anyone playing against Navratilova at that time was a major underdog. Both players were in excellent form when they met in Paris. They had reached the final with contemptuous ease- neither had dropped a set, and Navratilova had dished out bagel sets to half of her opponents en route to meeting Evert. The final proved to be one of the high points in a rivalry that transcended sport. In 2 hours 40 minutes of relentless tension and drama, Evert eventually won out in three epic sets. She had led by a set and a break, and served for the match in the second set but Navratilova had clung on. It was a fascinating clash of styles, with Navratilova rushing to the net at every opportunity, and Evert doing all she could to find angles and lobs to outfox her opponent. In the final set, Navratilova missed four break points on her opponent's serve at 5-5 and then moments later found herself down championship point on her own serve. She saved it when Evert sent a lob just long, but it turned out to be a stay of execution as on the second one, the American somehow got to a Navratilova smash and screamed a backhand passing shot winner up the line. Evert later described the win as her "most satisfying", while reflecting on the pair's rivalry, Navratilova said: "We brought out the best in each other. It's almost not right to say who's better. If you tried to make the perfect rivalry, we were it." 4. Ivan Lendl defeats John McEnroe 3-6, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, 7-5 - 1984 final In his 2002 autobiography Serious, John McEnroe openly admits that there are few events that haunt him as much as his 1984 French Open final defeat to Ivan Lendl. As McEnroe laments of the match: "Lendl got his first major, and I took his title, choker-in-chief, away from him." McEnroe, 25, entered the match in the form of his life, having begun 1984 with 42 straight wins. It was a record start to a year that stands to this day, and meant the American, who already had five majors to his name, was the red hot favourite to pick up his first French Open title. His opponent, the 24-year-old Czech Lendl was tennis's perennial bridesmaid. The nearly man, the choker. He had reached four slam finals and lost them all - an unwanted sequence since equalled by his former protege Andy Murray. It was little surprise then when McEnroe cruised through the first two sets 6-3, 6-2 to leave Lendl staring at the prospect of losing his first five slam finals. Simon Briggs ranks the 20 male clay-court players of all time Fortunately for the Czech, McEnroe had one glaring weakness: his temperament. In a manner that Murray fans will identify with, McEnroe could become enraged by something seemingly innocuous. Early on in the third set, the whirring of a cameraman's headset set him off and soon after McEnroe was in full meltdown mode. He berated the cameraman for causing him to lose his focus, and all of a sudden he had lost the third set 6-4 and was up against a crowd now fiercely in favour of Lendl. Despite their taunting, McEnroe led 4-2 in the fourth, but his energy was being sapped by the burning French sun and Lendl roared back to pinch it 7-5 and take the match into a decider. From there the Czech grew in confidence and took the final set 7-5 as McEnroe grappled unsuccessfully with the inner demons that had taken hold. After the match, which had lasted 4 hours and 8 minutes, McEnroe was so incandescent with rage at the crowd and himself that he refused to give an on-court interview. The defeat was one of just three losses in 85 matches for McEnroe that year and stung him more than almost any other setback in his career. After breaking his grand slam duck, Lendl ended his career with eight slams, one more than McEnroe. 3. Rafael Nadal defeats Novak Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7, (3-7), 9-7​ - 2013 semi-final Nadal won 70 of his first 71 matches at Roland Garros, and surely none were as dramatic as the semi-final four years ago against his great rival Novak Djokovic, which is amazingly one of only two five-setters that the Spaniard has ever played at Roland Garros. Nadal was the tournament holder and seven-time French Open champion, but his ranking was down at No 4 after a horrible run of injuries. Djokovic, as the Australian Open champion and world No 1, was the man to beat, though Nadal's clay-court pedigree made the Spaniard the favourite in many people's eyes. The pair had met in the previous year's French Open, with Nadal winning in four sets, and 18 months earlier Djokovic had edged a bruising six-hour long epic in the Australian Open final. In total this was the 35th meeting between two players who had between them won 10 of the previous 12 majors. A great deal was expected of what was a de facto final - the winner was to face David Ferrer or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - and no-one on a broiling Paris afternoon was left disappointed. After splitting the first two sets, Nadal romped through the third 6-1, whipping that lasso-like forehand and not allowing Djokovic to settle into a rhythm. The Spaniard looked on course for a four-sets win but failed to serve out the match at 6-5 up, and after Djokovic nicked the tie-break, the players headed into a decider. As the temperature cranked up and the match headed for its fifth hour, Djokovic began to edge what was becoming a war of attrition, and grabbed an early break in the final set. The Serb held the break all the way to 4-3, but he made the grave error at deuce of unnecessarily touching the net after hitting a winning smash and thereby forefeited the point. Nadal broke back that game, and held his nerve to tough out the decider 9-7. The memories of losing that Melbourne final were still raw for Nadal, and he said afterwards: "I was ready for the fight and had a little bit of luck at 4-3. In Australia in 2012 it was similar but he won. Everybody knows Novak is a fighter. That's why this is a special sport. During [my] seven months out there were a lot of low moments but people supported me, made me work hard every day, and I want to thank them for that." Nadal cruised to his eighth title two days later by thumping David Ferrer in the final, while Djokovic would have to wait until 2016 before finally getting his hands on the Coupe des Mousquetaires. 2. Steffi Graf defeats Martina Hingis 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 - 1999 Final The 1999 final was a fractious, ill-tempered encounter that pitted the old against the new. Steffi Graf had dominated the women's Tour in the 1990s until injuries and the emergence of the 'Swiss Miss' Martina Hingis knocked her off her perch in 1997. A 16-year-old Hingis hoovered up three of the four slams that year to take the No 1 ranking from Graf, who by 1999 was 29 and playing in her final year on the Tour. Hingis had dismissed Graf as past her best a year earlier, and now the two came head to head in Paris for Graf's final match at Roland Garros. Hingis, 18, needed the French Open to complete the career Grand Slam, and having won five grand slams in the previous couple of years, including the Australian Open that January, was the favourite to win the final. Graf for her part had not won a major since 1996 and had admitted she was mainly using the tournament as a way of improving her fitness ahead of one last crack at an eighth Wimbledon title. For the first set and a bit, Hingis was in control. She took the opener 6-4 and was up 2-0 when it all began to unravel. The French crowd were already heavily behind the five-time Roland Garros champion Graf when Hingis crossed tennis's equivalent of the Rubicon, by walking over to the other side of the court to dispute a forehand that was called out. Farewell Martina Hingis - a retrospective The whistles and cat-calls were deafening as the supporters reacted to what they saw as another example of Hingis's preening precocity. Hingis was so enraged that she called the tournament referee onto the court, all the while grinning disingenuously with increasingly simmering menace. It was little wonder that she had been nicknamed the "smiling assassin". Not only did Hingis not get the overrule she wanted, she was given a point penalty for crossing the net, and found herself down 30-0 in a game she felt she should have been 15-0 up in. The rest of the second set undulated with breaks for each player, before Hingis found herself serving for the match at 5-4 against not just one of the greatest players of all time, but also an increasingly vicious crowd. Graf broke back and took the set 7-5, before romping to a 5-2 lead in the decider. In an act of desperation, Hingis served under-arm when down match point, and the surprise tactic worked to keep her in the match. The crowd roared their disapproval, and when Hingis complained at their heckling Graf retorted: ''Can we just play tennis, O.K?" After Graf took the title on her second match point as the match clock showed 2 hours 25 minutes, Hingis left the court and had to be led back on in tears by her mother Melanie Molitor. When asked about the crowd afterwards, Hingis admitted that ''I let it get to me.'' She pledged to not stop until she had won the French Open, but was never able to get her hands on the title or reach another Paris final. Graf made good on her promise to retire at the end of the year, and the 1999 French Open would turn out to be her 22nd and final grand slam singles title. 1. Michael Chang defeats Ivan Lendl, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 - 1989 Fourth Round As well as being one of the most extraordinary matches in the history of tennis, Michael Chang's 1989 French Open fourth-round match against Ivan Lendl also featured one of its most memorable moments. Leading 4-3 in the final set but down 15-30 and suffering severe cramps, Chang took the almost unprecedented step of serving under-arm. The reaction from everyone on the Philippe Chatrier court is sensational. The commentator laughs in disbelief and shouts "extraordinaire...ooh la la!" as the crowd cover their mouths in astonishment at what they have just seen. The former American player Todd Martin later described Chang's underhand serve as "the last stone that felled Goliath". The tactic flummoxed Lendl, and Chang won the point and the match two games later. It was a fitting end to a remarkable match that had seen the world No 1 and three-time French Open champion Lendl upset by the 17-year-old naturalised American who was playing for only the second time at Roland Garros. Lendl by contrast was the reigning Australian Open champion, the world's No 1 for almost all of the previous three years and a seven-time major winner. A baseline behemoth, Lendl had not dropped a set all tournament and looked set for a seventh straight French Open quarter-final when he took a two sets to love lead against Chang. Chang though had also been in excellent form in the tournament, winning his previous nine sets for the loss of 17 games, and despite his tender years he did already have some pedigree. He was the 15th seed at the tournament and had won an ATP Tournament the year before in San Francisco. Against Lendl, he was given additional motivation by the possibility of bringing hope to his homeland of China. Only a day earlier, Chang had spent the day glued to television screens horrified at images of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing. He later admitted that: "What [the Lendl match] was really about was an opportunity to bring a smile upon Chinese people's faces around the world when there wasn't a whole lot to smile about. I honestly feel that that was God's purpose for allowing me to be able to get through those matches." From two sets to love down, Chang started to frustrated his illustrious opponent. After the 17-year-old had taken the third set with a beguiling mix of awkward spins and angles, Lendl began to rage at the conditions and what he perceived to be bad line calls. His anger cost him a penalty point and a game in the fourth set. But when severe cramps struck Chang in the fourth set, a victory for Lendl looked a formality. Still, his opponent would not go away though, employing a befuddling tactic of slow, arcing moonballs that drove Lendl to distraction and saw Chang take the fourth set 6-3. Into a decider, and the pain became too much for Chang. In the third game of the set, he could not move and had resorted to guzzling water and consuming bananas at an alarming rate. He could not even sit down at change of ends, such was the all-consuming pain of the cramp he was suffering. At 2-1 up he walked to the service box to retire from the match, but at that point he claims to have benefitted from divine intervention. He later recalled: "When I got to the service line, I got an unbelievable conviction of heart. Looking back, I really feel like it was the Lord kind of telling me: 'Michael, what do you think you're doing here?' If I quit once, the second, third, fourth or fifth time that I am faced with that kind of circumstance, that kind of difficulty, I'm going to quit again." Four games later, Chang employed the under-arm serve trick as one last throw of the dice. He remembers: "At 15-30, spur of the moment, I was just like, I'm going to throw an underhand serve in here, cause I'm not doing anything off my first serve anyways. Let's see if maybe I can scrape a point. I hit the underhand serve, Ivan was kind of surprised about it, moved, kind of got squeezed in because of the spin and had to come in because the serve was so short. I hit a passing shot, clipped the tape and it went off the top of his racket and the crowd went absolutely nuts." In the final game, there was time for one last party piece as Chang slowly walked forward to the service line on match point as Lendl prepared to serve. It drew a double fault, and Chang has somehow done it. After four hours and 37 minutes of the most excruciating competition, Chang had completed the equivalent of a tennis ultra-marathon and defeated the world No 1. He went on to beat Stefan Edberg in the final as he claimed his one and only grand slam title.
New Zealand is deploying 'rugby diplomacy' in the southern Pacific with plans to use the sport to unlock development in the region and ward off growing Chinese influence. Wellington is seeking to establish a joint team from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga that would join the Super Rugby club competition, which is contested by 15 teams from southern hemisphere nations and Japan. The involvement of a new Pacific islands team - called Pacific Force - is being seen as a potential catalyst for development in the region at a time when China is seeking to gain a foothold through massive investment. "Part of the plan is that rugby can be a diplomatic force to counter China's influence in the Pacific," said New Zealand media outlet Newshub, who first reported the plan. "The idea is that rugby will help keep hearts and minds away from China, which is saturating the region with money to obtain influence." New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters earlier this year expressed "strategic anxiety" over the Pacific. Beijing is being seen as using its economic muscle to gain influence in South Pacific countries. Australia's Lowy Institute estimates China provided US$1.78 billion in aid, including concessional loans, to Pacific nations between 2006-16. Samoa's lock and captain Chris Vui is tackled during the autumn international rugby union test match between Scotland and Samoa at Murrayfield stadium Credit: AFP China has built a presidential palace and government buildings in East Timor and invested heavily in Vanuatu, a tiny island 1,200 miles north-east from Brisbane where reports last month suggested Beijing was eyeing a military base. A New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman said officials had commissioned an NZ$80,000 (£41,000) report into a Pacific Island Super Rugby franchise. The spokeswoman said: "The establishment of a regional fully professional rugby team in the Pacific Islands has the potential to deliver economic and social benefits to individual players, their families and communities, Pacific Island national rugby unions and teams, and to Pacific Island economies." Fiji, Samoa and Tonga are long-established rugby nations, but players often opt to play for foreign teams at an early stage in their careers. A strong home-based team would help keep star players within the islands, and boost the development of the sport and wider investment. Super Rugby officials are currently exploring plans to restructure the competition from 2021 to 2030. There is speculation that South African teams might opt to join European rugby sides in alternative competitions.
New Zealand deploys ‘rugby diplomacy’ amid scrum with China over Pacific islands
New Zealand is deploying 'rugby diplomacy' in the southern Pacific with plans to use the sport to unlock development in the region and ward off growing Chinese influence. Wellington is seeking to establish a joint team from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga that would join the Super Rugby club competition, which is contested by 15 teams from southern hemisphere nations and Japan. The involvement of a new Pacific islands team - called Pacific Force - is being seen as a potential catalyst for development in the region at a time when China is seeking to gain a foothold through massive investment. "Part of the plan is that rugby can be a diplomatic force to counter China's influence in the Pacific," said New Zealand media outlet Newshub, who first reported the plan. "The idea is that rugby will help keep hearts and minds away from China, which is saturating the region with money to obtain influence." New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters earlier this year expressed "strategic anxiety" over the Pacific. Beijing is being seen as using its economic muscle to gain influence in South Pacific countries. Australia's Lowy Institute estimates China provided US$1.78 billion in aid, including concessional loans, to Pacific nations between 2006-16. Samoa's lock and captain Chris Vui is tackled during the autumn international rugby union test match between Scotland and Samoa at Murrayfield stadium Credit: AFP China has built a presidential palace and government buildings in East Timor and invested heavily in Vanuatu, a tiny island 1,200 miles north-east from Brisbane where reports last month suggested Beijing was eyeing a military base. A New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman said officials had commissioned an NZ$80,000 (£41,000) report into a Pacific Island Super Rugby franchise. The spokeswoman said: "The establishment of a regional fully professional rugby team in the Pacific Islands has the potential to deliver economic and social benefits to individual players, their families and communities, Pacific Island national rugby unions and teams, and to Pacific Island economies." Fiji, Samoa and Tonga are long-established rugby nations, but players often opt to play for foreign teams at an early stage in their careers. A strong home-based team would help keep star players within the islands, and boost the development of the sport and wider investment. Super Rugby officials are currently exploring plans to restructure the competition from 2021 to 2030. There is speculation that South African teams might opt to join European rugby sides in alternative competitions.
New Zealand is deploying 'rugby diplomacy' in the southern Pacific with plans to use the sport to unlock development in the region and ward off growing Chinese influence. Wellington is seeking to establish a joint team from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga that would join the Super Rugby club competition, which is contested by 15 teams from southern hemisphere nations and Japan. The involvement of a new Pacific islands team - called Pacific Force - is being seen as a potential catalyst for development in the region at a time when China is seeking to gain a foothold through massive investment. "Part of the plan is that rugby can be a diplomatic force to counter China's influence in the Pacific," said New Zealand media outlet Newshub, who first reported the plan. "The idea is that rugby will help keep hearts and minds away from China, which is saturating the region with money to obtain influence." New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters earlier this year expressed "strategic anxiety" over the Pacific. Beijing is being seen as using its economic muscle to gain influence in South Pacific countries. Australia's Lowy Institute estimates China provided US$1.78 billion in aid, including concessional loans, to Pacific nations between 2006-16. Samoa's lock and captain Chris Vui is tackled during the autumn international rugby union test match between Scotland and Samoa at Murrayfield stadium Credit: AFP China has built a presidential palace and government buildings in East Timor and invested heavily in Vanuatu, a tiny island 1,200 miles north-east from Brisbane where reports last month suggested Beijing was eyeing a military base. A New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman said officials had commissioned an NZ$80,000 (£41,000) report into a Pacific Island Super Rugby franchise. The spokeswoman said: "The establishment of a regional fully professional rugby team in the Pacific Islands has the potential to deliver economic and social benefits to individual players, their families and communities, Pacific Island national rugby unions and teams, and to Pacific Island economies." Fiji, Samoa and Tonga are long-established rugby nations, but players often opt to play for foreign teams at an early stage in their careers. A strong home-based team would help keep star players within the islands, and boost the development of the sport and wider investment. Super Rugby officials are currently exploring plans to restructure the competition from 2021 to 2030. There is speculation that South African teams might opt to join European rugby sides in alternative competitions.
New Zealand deploys ‘rugby diplomacy’ amid scrum with China over Pacific islands
New Zealand is deploying 'rugby diplomacy' in the southern Pacific with plans to use the sport to unlock development in the region and ward off growing Chinese influence. Wellington is seeking to establish a joint team from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga that would join the Super Rugby club competition, which is contested by 15 teams from southern hemisphere nations and Japan. The involvement of a new Pacific islands team - called Pacific Force - is being seen as a potential catalyst for development in the region at a time when China is seeking to gain a foothold through massive investment. "Part of the plan is that rugby can be a diplomatic force to counter China's influence in the Pacific," said New Zealand media outlet Newshub, who first reported the plan. "The idea is that rugby will help keep hearts and minds away from China, which is saturating the region with money to obtain influence." New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters earlier this year expressed "strategic anxiety" over the Pacific. Beijing is being seen as using its economic muscle to gain influence in South Pacific countries. Australia's Lowy Institute estimates China provided US$1.78 billion in aid, including concessional loans, to Pacific nations between 2006-16. Samoa's lock and captain Chris Vui is tackled during the autumn international rugby union test match between Scotland and Samoa at Murrayfield stadium Credit: AFP China has built a presidential palace and government buildings in East Timor and invested heavily in Vanuatu, a tiny island 1,200 miles north-east from Brisbane where reports last month suggested Beijing was eyeing a military base. A New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman said officials had commissioned an NZ$80,000 (£41,000) report into a Pacific Island Super Rugby franchise. The spokeswoman said: "The establishment of a regional fully professional rugby team in the Pacific Islands has the potential to deliver economic and social benefits to individual players, their families and communities, Pacific Island national rugby unions and teams, and to Pacific Island economies." Fiji, Samoa and Tonga are long-established rugby nations, but players often opt to play for foreign teams at an early stage in their careers. A strong home-based team would help keep star players within the islands, and boost the development of the sport and wider investment. Super Rugby officials are currently exploring plans to restructure the competition from 2021 to 2030. There is speculation that South African teams might opt to join European rugby sides in alternative competitions.
FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Japan News Conference - U Arena, Nanterre, France - November 24, 2017. Japan's head coach Jamie Joseph during the news conference. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
Rugby Union - Japan News Conference
FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Japan News Conference - U Arena, Nanterre, France - November 24, 2017. Japan's head coach Jamie Joseph during the news conference. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - IRB Rugby World Cup 2019 Press Conference - The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Westminster, London - 27/10/15 (From L-R) Noriyuki Sakamoto, Chairman of The Japan Rugby Football Union, Akira Shimazu, CEO of Rugby World Cup 2019 Organising Comittee, Brett Gosper, Rugby World Cup Limited Managing Director and Alan Gilpin, Head of Rugby World Cup, pose or a photograph with The Webb Ellis Rugby World Cup Trophy Action Images via Reuters / Paul Childs Livepic
FILE PHOTO: IRB Rugby World Cup 2019 Press Conference
FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - IRB Rugby World Cup 2019 Press Conference - The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Westminster, London - 27/10/15 (From L-R) Noriyuki Sakamoto, Chairman of The Japan Rugby Football Union, Akira Shimazu, CEO of Rugby World Cup 2019 Organising Comittee, Brett Gosper, Rugby World Cup Limited Managing Director and Alan Gilpin, Head of Rugby World Cup, pose or a photograph with The Webb Ellis Rugby World Cup Trophy Action Images via Reuters / Paul Childs Livepic
Michael Little of the Sunwolves (C) dives to score a try during the Super Rugby union match between the Sunwolves of Japan and the Waratahs of Australia
Michael Little of the Sunwolves (C) dives to score a try during the Super Rugby union match between the Sunwolves of Japan and the Waratahs of Australia
Michael Little of the Sunwolves (C) dives to score a try during the Super Rugby union match between the Sunwolves of Japan and the Waratahs of Australia
Michael Little of the Sunwolves (C) dives to score a try during the Super Rugby union match between the Sunwolves of Japan and the Waratahs of Australia (AFP Photo/Toshifumi KITAMURA)
Michael Little of the Sunwolves (C) dives to score a try during the Super Rugby union match between the Sunwolves of Japan and the Waratahs of Australia
Michael Little of the Sunwolves (C) dives to score a try during the Super Rugby union match between the Sunwolves of Japan and the Waratahs of Australia (AFP Photo/Toshifumi KITAMURA)
Michael Little of the Sunwolves (C) dives to score a try during the Super Rugby union match between the Sunwolves of Japan and the Waratahs of Australia
Michael Little of the Sunwolves (C) dives to score a try during the Super Rugby union match between the Sunwolves of Japan and the Waratahs of Australia
Michael Little of the Sunwolves (C) dives to score a try during the Super Rugby union match between the Sunwolves of Japan and the Waratahs of Australia
Thursday 5 April The Investigator: A British Crime Story ITV, 9.00pm “I have investigated some of the UK’s most infamous crimes but I’ve never encountered anything as sinister as this,” says cop turned investigative reporter Mark Williams-Thomas of this series in which he turns his attention to the disappearance of Polegate teenager Louise Kay in 1988. Which is quite a claim, coming as it does from the man who broke the Jimmy Savile story, among others. But when the Kay family turned to him for help after three decades of getting nowhere via the police, Williams Thomas says his own investigation turned up a great deal more than he was expecting, including links to a number of other missing persons cases and the possibility that he might have uncovered “the undetected crimes of a serial killer who has got away with murder for decades”. In this first episode, though, the focus is firmly on the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of 18-year-old Louise, who was last seen driving towards Beachy Head after a night out clubbing in Eastbourne, East Sussex, with her best friend, and the fact that her distinctive gold and white Ford Fiesta also vanished that night without trace. Gerard O’Donovan The Cruise: Sailing the Caribbean ITV, 8.30pm More seaborne adventures for the cruise ship Royal Princess, this time as she embarks on an island-hopping tour of such Caribbean destinations as Grenada, the Bahamas and Antigua. If they can get into port, that is, as the ship’s docking winches appear to have failed. Ho-hum. Civilisations BBC Two, 9.00pm David Olusoga takes the reins for a wide-ranging edition exploring how in West Africa, Central America and Japan, art left its own distinctive record of when some great civilisations of the 15th and 16th centuries came into contact for the first time. Indian Summer School Channel 4, 9.00pm The five British boys are now six weeks into their study programme at the Doon School in Uttarakhand, but it’s not easy for them, especially Jack who finds there is a high price to pay for daring to do better than the others. Unsolved: The Man with No Alibi BBC One, 10.45pm; Wales, 11.15pm In the concluding part of this report exploring the July 2002 murder in Bournemouth of Korean student Jong-Ok Shin, Bronagh Munro examines the evidence that convicted Omar Benguit despite the absence of forensics linking him to the crime. GO Deep State Fox, 9.00pm This eight-part British spy thriller gets off to an action packed start, with Mark Strong convincing as ex-MI6 spook Max Easton, unwillingly forced out of retirement by a former intelligence chief in London. It’s not long before he finds himself at the heart of a covert intelligence war and a conspiracy by powerful corporations to foment chaos and revolution in the Middle East. Silicon Valley Sky Atlantic, 10.15pm The popular HBO tech-comedy returns for a fifth series as, despite their record of failure (a video chat app that contravened privacy laws and a partner permanently sozzled in Tibet were just two of their problems), the team at Pied Piper look to be on the verge of success. As Richard’s (Thomas Middleditch) decentralised internet concept approaches launch, there’s ample funding for once and new offices. But the pressure to get things right begins to play on Richard’s mind. GO Nanny McPhee (2015) ★★★☆☆ ITV2, 10.20am Emma Thompson wrote and stars in this sweet and old-fashioned fantasy film, based on Christianna Brand’s Nurse Matilda books. She plays an old nanny who finds that the children of a widower (Colin Firth) are a challenge, even for her. Poised between Lemony Snicket and Mary Poppins, the film has moral messages to impart, but luckily not at the expense of an enjoyable, magical tale. Live and Let Die (1973) ★★★☆☆ ITV4, 9.00pm James Bond (Roger Moore) battles one of his more extraordinary opponents, Kananga (Yaphet Kotto), a Caribbean criminal mastermind masquerading as a Harlem drug baron. The film was given lukewarm reviews on its release, but this is Moore-era Bond at its preposterous best. Highlights include 007’s voodoo snake ordeal and a thrilling speedboat chase through New Orleans. RocknRolla (2008) ★★★☆☆ 5STAR, 10.00pm After the dismal Revolver and Swept Away (which starred his ex-wife Madonna), Guy Ritchie attempts a return to Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels-esque form with another testosterone-heavy, twisty tale set in London’s underworld. The plot moves vaguely around the theft of a painting from a Russian mobster (Karl Roden) while getting tangled up in various sub-plots. Friday 6 April David Morrissey Credit: BBC The City & the City BBC Two, 9.00pm; Northern Ireland, 9.30pm “I knew there was another city I dare not see… Just on the other side of where I was supposed to look.” So states Inspector Tyador Borlú (David Morrissey) midway through this engrossing adaptation of China Miéville’s Borgesian novel, which achieves the apparently impossible by bringing a dense and clever book to brilliant, atmospheric life. Borlú, a detective with the Extreme Crime Squad in the rundown vaguely Eastern European city of Beszul, is handed the task of solving the murder of a foreign student. So far, so standard, but what unfolds turns out to be anything but as scriptwriter Tony Grisoni (Red Riding) expertly captures Miéville’s vision of a world in which a city is divided not by a wall or barricade, but by blurred realities the populace is trained from birth not to see. Thus the two cities of Beszul and Ul Qoma coexist in the same space but without acknowledging each other, the town hall their only shared space. To look directly on the other city is to commit “Breach”, bringing about the wrath of the secret police. Grisoni and director Tom Shankland build the tension inexorably as Borlú’s world is slowly but surely upended. An absolute treat. Sarah Hughes Sounds Like Friday Night BBC One, 7.30pm The BBC’s music TV revival didn’t make a huge splash with its first series but it’s still worth checking out, if only because co-host and Radio 1Xtra presenter Dotty is such a likeable presence. Tonight, she’s on the road, while Greg James anchors from the studio. Professor Green, Snow Patrol and Years & Years perform. Have I Got News for You BBC One, 9.30pm The satirical quiz show returns for a 55th series, with captains Paul Merton and Ian Hislop joined by presenter Steph McGovern and comedian Josh Widdicombe; Jeremy Paxman hosts. The Graham Norton Show BBC One, 10.35pm In an era when the talk show appears tired somehow Graham Norton manages to keep the format enjoyable. Tonight’s episode, the first in a new series, sees husband-and-wife team Emily Blunt and John Krasinski discuss their horror A Quiet Place. Front Row Late BBC Two, 11.05pm; N Ireland, 11.35pm Following the kerfuffle over its poorly received first series, the arts show returns with a rejigged format and Mary Beard in the presenter’s chair. Informed debate is promised, although Beard has said that she won’t simply replicate the notoriously combative Newsnight Review. SH BBC Young Musician 2018 BBC Four, 7.30pm The contest kicks off at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s new concert hall. Presenter Josie d’Arby is joined by 1998 finalist Alison Balsom as we meet the final five: violinists Elodie Chousmer-Howelles and Stephanie Childress, double bassist Will Duerden, guitarist Torrin Williams and cellist Maxim Calver. The judges are double bassist Leon Bosch, classical guitarist Miloš Karadaglić, violinist and previous Young Musician of the Year winner, Jennifer Pike. Composer Kerry Andrew and the contestants will perform works by Bach, Brahms and Stravinsky. The Nineties Sky Arts, 9.00pm There’s nothing like seeing the decade you came of age in co-opted for nostalgic TV to make you feel old, but for those who can bear seeing their youth dissected Sky Arts at least does it well. Tonight’s second episode continues the focus on the decade’s TV with The Sopranos and Seinfeld under discussion. SH Fury (2014) ★★★★★ 5STAR, 9.00pm David Ayer’s study of the habits and habitats of the American killer male is an astonishing, stirring drama. It’s Germany 1945, and Sgt Don “Wardaddy” Collie (Brad Pitt) and his team are grinding towards Berlin in a battered M4 Sherman tank. There is no rescue mission, just an agonising rumble from one brush with death to the next. The set-piece battles are gripping, and the raw terror of war is blasted home. Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) ★★★★☆ Film4, 9.00pm The best of Richard Curtis and Hugh Grant’s romcoms about awfully nice chaps dithering over frightfully pretty girls. Grant plays bumbling Charles, who, ah, er, can’t tell what’s, um, going on between him and the scrummy Carrie (Andie MacDowell), who he keeps, gosh, bumping into at weddings. It’s aged pretty well and certainly knocks spots off Love, Actually. Lawless (2012) ★★★☆☆ Channel 4, 12.45am An adaptation of the historical novel The Wettest County in the World, John Hillcoat’s Prohibition-era western follows three brothers (played by Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf and Jason Clarke), who do a tidy business distilling and selling illegal moonshine whiskey. It’s an oddly affectionate clan portrait – the violence the brothers mete out is implicitly forgiven – but the period detail is well observed. Saturday 7 April Saturday night fever: Declan Donnelly presents from Orlando Credit: Rex/Shutterstock Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway ITV, 7.00pm It can’t be easy hosting a show as exuberant as Saturday Night Takeaway on your own but Declan Donnelly made a solid if understandably restrained go of it last week. He ensured that the light entertainment series proceeded pretty much as normal in the absence of long-time work partner Ant McPartlin, whose travails were sensibly referenced only in very brief passing (“I’ve got twice the amount of work to do,” Donnelly noted at one point before mock-berating the production crew that “I’ll have to do it myself, like everything else around here this week”). That said, this final episode ups the ante as Donnelly takes the show on the road to the Universal Orlando Resort in Florida. Once there we’re promised a “super-sized” edition featuring stunts, surprises and “extra-special” guests. No word yet as to who those guests will be but expect Donnelly to continue making the best of a difficult situation, buoyed by extra support from Scarlett Moffatt, who is in charge of ensuring that the Place on the Plane winners have a wonderful time, and Stephen Mulhern, who has the possibly less than enviable task of explaining In for a Penny to an American audience. Sarah Hughes Premier League Football: Everton v Liverpool Sky Sports Main Event, 12.30pm Tired, perhaps, from their Champions League quarter-final first leg against Man City, Liverpool face their bitter local rivals Everton at Goodison Park. The home side, who’ve won three of their last six games, haven’t beaten Liverpool since October 2010, when Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta gave them a 2-0 victory. Premiership Rugby Union: Bath v Leicester Tigers Channel 5, 1.30pm Time was when Bath and Leicester were the titans of English rugby. Currently they are fifth and eighth in the league, respectively. In September, Bath claimed a 27-23 win at Welford Road, as they held on for their first away win at Leicester since 2003, ensuring an unhappy return for George Ford against the club he left in the summer. The two sides also met in the Anglo-Welsh Cup at the Recreation Ground in November, where Bath also emerged victorious, beating Leicester 33-31 on that occasion. Premier League Football: Manchester City v Manchester United Sky Sports Main Event, 5.30pm What better way for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City to clinch the title than by beating second-placed Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium. Sixteen points ahead of them in the table, City have been formidable this season, winning 27 of the 31 league games they’ve played. One of those victories came at Old Trafford, with a goal from Nicolas Otamendi giving City a 2-1 victory when these sides met in December. Britain’s Most Historic Towns Channel 4, 8.00pm Alice Roberts is our guide for this new six-part series, which sees her search the UK for the places that best sum up an historical era. The first era is Roman Britain, so Roberts heads to Chester, where she abseils down walls, hunkers in caves and uncovers the truth about the city. Casualty BBC One, 8.20pm The medical drama’s storyline about Dylan’s (William Beck) alcoholism continues to be sensitively handled as the medic’s ex-wife Sam (Charlotte Salt) worries about whether she can help him. Meanwhile, Ethan (George Hardy) struggles with his own demons as he realises that a patient is related to his brother’s killer. The Voice UK: Live Final ITV, 8.30pm Every reality TV idea has an allotted shelf life and it’s hard not to feel that musical talent contests have come to the end of their run. For those who disagree, The Voice UK’s grand finale is here and the final four battle it out for public approval. Below the Surface BBC Four, 9.00pm & 9.45pm BBC Four’s latest Scandi drama started off tensely but like its predecessor, Modus, it has gone on to become ever more ludicrous. Now it’s the final two episodes, and Philip Norgaard (Johannes Lassen) faces off against Mark (Jakob Oftebro), the man behind the hostage crisis. Much heartfelt talking follows, although you may end up feeling more sympathetic towards the damaged Mark than the chilly Norgaard. Pearl Jam: Let’s Play Two Sky Arts, 9.00pm When is a music documentary not a music documentary? When it’s also a sports film. This exuberant film, which was made following the Chicago Cubs’ victory in baseball’s World Series in 2016, follows die-hard Cubs fan and Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder as he cheers on his team during their championship run while also preparing the band for two August shows at the team’s Wrigley Field Stadium. The result is an affectionate portrait of the singer as fan. SH Troy: Fall of a City BBC One, 9.10pm David Farr’s epic series reaches its climax with the arrival of the most famous horse in history. After an uninspiring start, Troy has picked up in recent weeks and the final episode is a well-handled tale of betrayal and death. It’s a curate’s egg of a series, let down by poor casting. SH X-Men (2000) ★★★★☆ Film4, 7.00pm Bryan Singer directs an all-star cast that includes Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen and Halle Berry, in the first of the X-Men franchise. A group of mutants must decide whether to side with Professor Xavier (Stewart) or the evil Magneto (McKellen) in what is a solid opening to the series and which paved the way for plenty of big-budget sequels. This is followed by X-Men 2 and X-Men 3 at 9.00pm and 11.35pm respectively. Legend (2015) ★★★☆☆ Channel 4, 9.00pm Tom Hardy gives a solid, convincing performance as east London gangster Reggie Kray but his caricatured portrayal of twin brother Ronnie lets him down, and this inconsistency leads to an entertaining though muddled film. Emily Browning, however, gives just the right mix of defiance and despair as Frances Shea, Reggie’s put-upon wife. Watch out for some particularly gory scenes. Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) ★★★☆☆ ITV4, 9.05pm Mel Gibson sports his signature Eighties mullet in the second film of this daft-but-fun action franchise. LAPD officer Riggs (Gibson) teams up once again with his partner Murtaugh (Danny Glover) to track down a band of South African criminals while protecting a painfully frenzied witness (Joe Pesci). Naturally, the pair find themselves drawn into violent action sequences orchestrated by stereotypical bad guys. Sunday 8 April Hostess with the mostest: Catherine Tate presents the awards Credit: ITV The Olivier Awards 2018 ITV, 10.20pm Last year, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child swept the board with nine Olivier Awards, something that looked impossible to top. But then came Lin Manuel Miranda’s blockbuster musical Hamilton, whose West End run has received reviews every bit as rapturous as those from its Broadway debut. The show has a record-breaking 13 nominations, which it is thought will be translated into awards. After being snubbed for Jerusalem, Jez Butterworth will surely be rewarded for his equally magisterial play The Ferryman (its eight nominations include best play and best director for Sam Mendes), while contenders in the acting categories include Bryan Cranston for Network, Andrew Garfield for Angels in America and Lesley Manville for Long Day’s Journey into Night. Catherine Tate will be on hosting duties for the event at the Royal Albert Hall, which will, as usual, feature a crop of stellar performances; this one will include a special tribute to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which turns 50 this year. Let’s hope the organisers bring together Josephs of the past for a big singalong: Jason Donovan, Phillip Schofield, Ian “H” Watkins and Lee Mead will all, one suspects, be available. Gabriel Tate Sex Robots and Us BBC Three, from 10.00am James Young, an amputee who created his own bionic arm, meets the people who design sex robots and hears about their plans for them, from being given to old people’s homes to “employment” in brothels. But is it the harmless, even socially responsible pursuit thatthey claim? Formula 1: The Bahrain Grand Prix Sky Sports F1, 3.30pm After the Australian Grand Prix – in which Sebastian Vettel took advantage of a safety-car blunder to win under pristine Melbourne skies – attention turns to the second round of the season at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir. Another blunder cost Lewis Hamilton on this circuit last year – this time it happened in the pit lane, with Vettel capitalising to win by 6.6 seconds. The Generation Game BBC One, 8.00pm How do you top last week’s cavalcade of silliness in this rebooted game show? You rope in Danny Dyer to join Mel Giedroyc, Sue Perkins and panellists Melvin Odoom and Roisin Conaty for challenges that include cake decorating, balloon modelling and dancing the Argentine Tango. The Durrells ITV, 8.00pm In the fourth episode of the popular drama, Larry (Josh O’Connor) visits Athens with two oddly named guests – Captain Creech (James Cosmo) and Prince Jeejeebuoy (Tanmay Dhanania) – in tow. There, they offer advice to Gerry (Milo Parker), who is applying for a new school. Jesus’ Female Disciples: the New Evidence Channel 4, 8.00pm For centuries, the birth of Christianity was regarded as a largely male affair, with women as only bit-part players. Now, Bible experts Helen Bond and Joan Taylor have discovered evidence that women were involved in everything from preaching and baptising to funding the movement as it grew. This absorbing documentary follows the historians’ progress. Golf: The Masters Sky Sports Main Event, 8.00pm Prepare for a dramatic finale as this year’s first Major – from the Augusta National in Georgia – concludes. Last year, Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the coveted green jacket, beating Justin Rose in a tense play-off. Ordeal by Innocence BBC One, 9.00pm Sarah Phelps’s splendid adaptation continues, as Arthur Calgary (Luke Treadaway) resolves to prove the truth about Jack Argyll’s (Anthony Boyle) alibi by any means necessary. GT Folk Awards 2018 BBC Four, 9.00pm Mark Radcliffe and Julie Fowlis introduce highlights from this year’s Radio 2 Folk Awards in Belfast. It features performances from Cara Dillon, Lankum and Eliza Carthy and the Wayward Band. The great Nick Drake will also be inducted into the Hall of Fame, his genius long-established, even if such recognition eluded him during his short life. Producer Dónal Lunny, meanwhile, receives the Lifetime Achievement Award for decades of tireless work promoting the renaissance in Irish music, plus The Armagh Pipers Club are presented with the Good Tradition Award. GT Emma (1996) ★★★★☆ BBC Two, 3.00pm Gwyneth Paltrow’s American iciness melts in this deft adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic comic romance. She is Emma Woodhouse, spoilt, charming and an inveterate meddler. Only Mr George Knightley (Jeremy Northam) dares challenge her behaviour – but what are his motives? A clever film with a superb supporting cast, including Toni Collette, Alan Cumming and Ewan McGregor. United 93 (2006) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Greats, 9.55pm Director Paul Greengrass’s boneshaking, real-time take on the final hours of the United Airlines plane whose passengers rebelled against their hijackers on September 11, 2001 feels uncomfortably realistic. Greengrass, whose signature rapid cutting made the second and third Bourne films so exciting, proves expert at handling the most infamous atrocity of modern times with intelligence and sobriety. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 11.00pm This superb adaptation of John le Carré’s brilliant, intricate Cold War spy novel is a triumph. The espionage drama follows the hunt for a Soviet double agent at the top of the British secret service, with Gary Oldman spearheading the excellent ensemble cast, which includes Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt and Benedict Cumberbatch. It’s funny, seductive and suspenseful. Monday 9 April I spy: a recruit sees if she’s got what it takes to be an SOE agent Credit: BBC Secret Agent Selection: WW2 BBC Two, 9.00pm Not unlike Channel 4’s SAS: Who Dares Wins and BBC Two’s Astronauts: Do You Have What It Takes?, this absorbing new series puts a group of recruits through a series of gruelling physical and psychological challenges to see if they could make the grade as a secret agent according to an established selection test used during the Second World War. This test was used by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) to determine whether recruits from many different walks of life would be capable of being dropped behind enemy lines and surviving as a covert officer with a brief to cause the maximum disruption possible to the enemy in the territory. As with the original SOE, the 14 candidates come from diverse backgrounds (among them a research scientist, a property developer, former police officer, a drag act performer, a retired investment banker and an Army veteran). In the opening episode, they undergo the initial four-day assessment at a remote Scottish country-house estate. The aim is to winnow out weakness and determine who should win a place on the advanced, and suitably terrifying, course in assassination, sabotage and covert intelligence techniques. Gerard O’Donovan Famalam BBC Three, from 10.00am After a successful pilot last year, Vivienne Acheampong, Gbemisola Ikumelo, Roxanne Sternberg, Tom Moutchi and John MacMillan return with more culturally skewed sketches. Once again, they feature William and Funke’s raunchy chat show, misunderstood superhero Eclipse, Croydon’s voodoo practitioner Professor Lofuko, and a version of Midsomer Murders. 800 Words BBC One, 2.15pm If you like The Durrells you will definitely want to watch hit Australian comedy drama 800 Words. This gently funny series follows George (Erik Thomson), a widower, who horrifies his teenaged children when he moves the entire family to a remote seaside town in New Zealand. Springtime on the Farm Channel 5, 8.00pm This is the first of five shows this week celebrating the “great British farmer”, with the help of Yorkshire Vet stars Peter Wright and Julian Norton, Adam Henson of Countryfile and Springwatch’s Lindsey Chapman. In this programme, they explore how to cope with the stresses of lambing. MasterChef: The Finals BBC One, 9.00pm Oodles of challenges lie ahead for the remaining amateur chefs in the final week, which takes them as far afield as Peru ahead of Friday’s concluding cook-off. First, though, they’re off to North Yorkshire to cater a country-house lunch for local grandees and farmers. Lisbon: An Art Lovers’ Guide BBC Four, 9.00pm Having covered Barcelona, St Petersburg and Amsterdam in their first series of city-break guides, historian Dr Janina Ramirez and art critic Alastair Sooke jet off to explore three less obvious, art-rich destinations. Beirut and Baku are perhaps the more intriguing but it opens in Lisbon, which built up its art reserves during the centuries Portugal was part of one of the world’s great empires, and currently boasts one of the hottest contemporary art scenes in Europe. GO Marcella ITV, 9.00pm This drama’s been a little less fraught the second time round but Marcella still pushes the boundaries of credibility. In this concluding part, the heroine (Anna Friel) tracks down the killer, only to suffer one of her unfortunate episodes. GO The Core (2003) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 6.25pm Rome starts to crumble, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco collapses and pigeons go mental in Trafalgar Square. Something is obviously amiss, and this time it isn’t climate change. In fact, the Earth’s core has stopped rotating and a team of scientists has to build a special burrowing machine to start it spinning again. Hilary Swank, Stanley Tucci and Aaron Eckhart do their best, but the excitement is intermittent. The Emoji Movie (2017) ★☆☆☆☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 6.30pm In this animated comedy set inside a smartphone, Gene (voiced by T J Miller), an emoji with multiple facial features, sets out on a quest to be like his colleagues who have only one. He does so with the help of apps like Spotify and Candy Crush. Sadly, the result is so horrendous that there aren’t enough Patrick Stewart-voiced emojis in the world to express what an ugly, artless exercise this is. Triple 9 (2016) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 9.00pm A gang of criminals and corrupt cops plan to kill a police officer in order to pull off their biggest heist yet in John Hillcoat’s crime thriller. There is a lot to like here: a big opening and a strong cast (with Kate Winslet, Gal Gadot, Anthony Mackie and Chiwetel Ejiofor among them). But it feels like fragments of a great crime drama are missing; it’s enthralling up close, but then the big picture isn’t complete. Tuesday 10 April Back to school: Mark, who has two sons with autism Credit: Channel 4 Class of Mum and Dad Channel 4, 8.00pm Another week, another Channel 4 series about education. Hold off on the black marks, however, because this one is pretty good. The premise is simple: Blackrod Primary School just outside of Bolton has thrown open its doors to a class made up of pupils’ parents (and one grandparent). They’ve agreed to go back to school for the summer term to see what modern education is really like, sports day, Sats tests and all. Naturally, its harder than many of them were expecting – 36-year-old decorator Jonny states early on that he thought he’d be able to slope off for a swift cigarette break rather than having to adhere to strict class rules – but there are some touching stories amid the more obvious moments. Most notably, this opening episode focuses on two parents with challenging home lives – Julia, who is raising her 10-year-old cousin Asha after Asha’s mother died, and Mark, who has two autistic sons. While the parents’ travails are interesting, the children are the real scene-stealers, however, from those delighted that their mothers and fathers are taking part to those who are more sceptical. The pair of five-year-olds who spend their time corpsing in front of the camera are particularly endearing. Sarah Hughes Champions League Football: Manchester City v Liverpool BT Sport 2, 7.45pm The Etihad Stadium is the setting as City and Liverpool fight it out for a place in the semi-finals. Liverpool have the advantage following a 3-0 win at Anfield in the first leg. This Time Next Year ITV, 8.00pm Davina McCall returns with another set of heart-tugging stories of people attempting to transform their lives over the course of a year. First up are two new parents who dream of making life wonderful for their baby girl who has been deaf since birth and a couple desperate to start a family. Come Home BBC One, 9.00pm Danny Brocklehurst’s claustrophobic family drama comes to a head as we flashback to find out exactly what went wrong in Greg (Christopher Eccleston) and Marie’s (Paula Malcomson) marriage. Hospital BBC Two, 9.00pm The engrossing fly-on-the-wall medical series continues with Nottingham University Hospitals Trust struggling to cope with the new NHS ruling regarding the cancellation of all non-urgent surgery. The episode focuses on Val, a 55-year-old with mouth cancer whose surgeon is desperately trying to ensure that her operation goes ahead. Here and Now Sky Atlantic, 9.00pm With only two episodes left to go, Alan Ball’s family drama continues to tread water in the most frustrating ways. On paper, there are a whole bunch of interesting stories in the mix, from Kristen’s (Sosie Bacon) possible relationship with Navid (Marwan Salama) to Ramon’s (Daniel Zovatto) continuing visions, but the problem is nothing much happens with any of them as each story moves on only incrementally each week. In this episode, Audrey (Holly Hunter) finally turns the tables on the perpetually smug Greg (Tim Robbins). Cunk on Britain BBC Two, 10.00pm; NI, 11.15pm Diana Morgan’s pitch-perfect send-up of history programmes moves to the Tudor era and beyond as Cunk takes on Henry VIII, aka “The kingiest king who kinged over Britain” before giving us her unique perspective on “Bloody” Mary Tudor (“horrible like the drink”) and Elizabeth I. SH Divorce Sky Atlantic, 10.10pm The acerbic Sarah Jessica Parker sitcom has been firing on all cylinders throughout its second series – possibly because it’s more interesting watching Frances (Parker) and Robert (the excellent Thomas Haden Church) navigate life after divorce than it was watching them get there. Here, Frances tries to make a new contact in the art world. SH Speed (1994) ★★★★☆ Film4, 9.00pm “There’s a bomb on the bus!” is the most famous line and basically the entire plot of one of the best action thrillers of the Nineties. The sizzling chemistry between LAPD Swat specialist Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) and passenger Annie Porter (Sandra Bullock) sexes up the exhilarating action scenes, while Dennis Hopper is fantastically unhinged as a revenge-driven, retired bomb squad member turned terrorist. Fast & Furious 7 (2015) ★★★☆☆ ITV2, 9.00pm Paul Walker was killed in a car crash part-way through making this film so it was completed with the help of his two younger brothers and some subtle computer graphics. The good news is that this is the best film in the franchise and does justice to Walker. It isn’t polished blockbuster film-making – though if it was, it wouldn’t be Fast & Furious. But it speaks straight to your adrenal glands. The Witches of Eastwick (1987) ★★★☆☆ Syfy, 9.00pm It is remarkable that director George Miller’s daft, unfettered romp of a film works at all. But, thanks to Jack Nicholson’s delicious overacting as Daryl Van Horne, a manic gentleman who closely resembles the devil, and the three gorgeous, single small-town friends, Alexandra (Cher), Jane (Susan Sarandon) and Sukie (Michelle Pfeiffer), who vie for his debased attentions, it somehow does. Wednesday 11 April Family ties: Edgar Ramirez and Penelope Cruz Credit: BBC The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story BBC Two, 9.00pm It’s been fascinating to discover the “true” story behind the 1997 murder of fhion designer Gianni Versace in Ryan Murphy’s glitzy drama, which has expertly depicted the inner world of the perpetrator, a Walter Mitty-style serial killer called Andrew Cunanan (a career-defining role for Darren Criss). This episode, however, has a mid-series lull about it as Cunanan ascends to the higher echelons of gay society, shaping himself meticulously into the posh, preppy eye-candy who saw a sugar daddy (or two) as his way to the top. Elsewhere, the Versace siblings return at last. Gianni (Edgar Ramirez), now in failing health decides to champion his insecure sister Donatella (Penélope Cruz in a frightful wig) and turns her into both designer and muse. Despite a lack of characters to root for – the Versaces’ moments of vulnerability dissolve into tedious histrionics and are eclipsed by Cunanan’s cold-blooded machinations – it’s all quite a fabulous mix of fashion, high society and brutal murder, with some interesting commentary on homophobia in the Nineties as well. Vicki Power The Secret Helpers BBC Two, 8.00pm Watch and weep as timid elderly widow Lesley begins a new life as an out gay woman in this life-affirming docu-series. She’s encouraged with warmth and wisdom by amateur “sages” from abroad, who talk to her secretly through a hidden earpiece. From World War to Cold War Yesterday, 8.00pm As the Second World War drew to a close, Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt met at Yalta in the Crimea to broker post-war peace. This brisk two-part documentary raids the archives for clips and letters from those who attended, and gathers experts and relatives – including FDR’s grandson – to investigate power plays by Stalin that wrong-footed his Allied counterparts. It’s a detailed look at how and why the compromises reached at Yalta were quickly cast aside. Bacchus Uncovered: Ancient God of Ecstasy BBC Four, 9.00pm Historian Bettany Hughes continues to explore ancient civilisations, moving on to Bacchus, the Roman god of wine. Hughes’s odyssey starts under the City of London, where an 1,800-year-old Roman temple to Bacchus was discovered less than 100 years ago, and takes her to Greece, the Middle East and the Caucasus to explore the god’s roots and influence. VP Benidorm ITV, 9.00pm Fluffy as candyfloss, this lewd seaside comedy provides some fun, particularly in the retro casting of stars of yesteryear. This week, an exuberant Sammy (Shane Richie) tries to persuade Monty (John Challis) that, after his successful comeback gig, he is ready for an evening slot. One Born Every Minute Channel 4, 9.00pm This feelgood documentary series brings more poignant tales from a Birmingham labour ward. This week we meet Chantell, about to deliver her third child, who regales us with a moving story of how parenthood with partner Phil has healed the wounds of a traumatic past. First Dates Channel 4, 10.00pm The thoughtful dating show pairs up four more couples, but the road to love is bumpy – septuagenarian Deanna finds her date more interested in the waiter than her. More promising is the match between Bianca and Teza, who allow their vulnerabilities to show. VP The Thin Red Line (1998) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Greats, 3.10pm This lyrical Second World War drama, directed by Terrence Malick, tells the story of a group of young US soldiers fighting the Japanese for control of the island of Guadalcanal. Full of stars such as Sean Penn and George Clooney, it struggles with its own battle to squeeze in so many characters but is still an atmospheric meditation on the nature of war. Nick Nolte and Adrien Brody also star. The Remains of the Day (1993) ★★★★☆ Sony Movie Channel, 3.55pm The success of Merchant Ivory’s adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Thirties-set novel, a well-observed study of regret, is built around its perfectly cast leads: Anthony Hopkins as James, the butler to the doltish aristocrat Lord Darlington (James Fox) and Emma Thompson as a housekeeper who tries to draw him out of his sterile shell. Lush visuals give it an added richness. Transporter 2 (2005) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 9.00pm A martial arts action sequel, in which Jason Statham and Alessandro Gassman are the sporadically thrilling stars. Statham is Frank Martin, who accepts a job as chauffeur to Jack (Hunter Clary), the son of Miami’s politician Jefferson Billings (Matthew Modine). But the local Colombian drug dealers aren’t happy with his boss’s efforts to clean up the city. Cue a kidnapping, and a potentially deadly encounter with a cocaine baron. Thursday 12 April Changing attitudes: Holly and Hollie Credit: BBC Living with the Brainy Bunch BBC Two, 8.00pm Enterprising, PR-conscious Ash Ali is headmaster of Chessington Community College, a fast-improving school with a few problem pupils. Among them are Jack and Hollie who, on the surface, are comically awful teenagers. Hollie gripes constantly, throws strops and storms out of classrooms if things aren’t going her way. Jack is sullen, lazy and has clocked up 15 suspensions in the past year. It will come as no surprise to regular viewers of such documentaries that their behaviour is rooted in low self-esteem, although their parents unquestionably indulge their foibles. Ali’s novel solution is to place Hollie with Holly, tapdancing head girl and gregarious boffin, and Jack with Tharush, a Sri Lankan immigrant by way of Italy, whose talents are only matched by his work ethic. Now that Jack and Hollie are in the bosom of new families for six weeks, it’s hoped that a new environment, greater discipline and rigid routines will see their results improve and attitudes pick up. There are setbacks on the largely familiar narrative trajectory, but it’s cast to perfection and, as a demonstration of the importance of parenting in academic achievement, the experiment gets an A-star. Gabriel Tate European Tour Golf: The Open de Espana Sky Sports Golf, 11.00am The opening day’s play of the event from the Centro Nacional de Golf in Madrid, which was won by Andrew Johnston the last time it was held in 2016. War Above the Trenches Yesterday, 8.00pm This decent two-parter tells the story of the Royal Flying Corps and their battle to win control of the air in the First World War. Based on Peter Hart’s book Bloody April, it draws affectingly on the testimony of veterans to show there was more to the Western Front than trench warfare. Civilisations BBC Two, 9.00pm The modern age draws closer, as Simon Schama tackles the theme of radiance, guiding us through Gothic cathedrals, Baroque Venetian masterpieces and dazzling Japanese woodblock prints. The Investigator: A British Crime Story ITV, 9.00pm The second real-life case of the series sees Mark Williams-Thomas investigating the 1977 murders of three women in Glasgow. The suspect is Angus Sinclair, who is currently serving a life sentence for killing two other women that same year. We hear from his ex-wife, and learn how he was a prime suspect but escaped charges for the first killings when key evidence went missing. Indian Summer School Channel 4, 9.00pm This diverting documentary series concludes with a Himalayan trek, a controversial article in the school newspaper and the GCSE retakes that were the goal of the entire enterprise. Will Alfie, Harry, Jack and co see their grades improve? Urban Myths: Marilyn Monroe and Billy Wilder Sky Arts, 9.00pm Sky Arts’ boldly cast series of vaguely apocryphal tales from the pop-culture frontlines returns with a dispatch from the set of Some Like It Hot, the magnificent 1959 comedy that is almost certainly more fun to watch than it was to make. In this minor but entertaining reimagining, Tony Curtis (Alex Pettyfer) is threatening to cuckold Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott) by making off with Marilyn Monroe (Gemma Arterton), whose caprice, drinking and sensitivity is driving director Billy Wilder (James Purefoy) to distraction. GT Still Game BBC One, 9.30pm; BBC Two Wales, 10.00pm Justifying its prime-time BBC One slot, the Scottish sitcom bows out in triumph with a typically well-wrought farce involving a Hollywood stuntman, a disastrous driving lesson and romance for the widowed Isa (Jane McCarry). GT The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) ★★★★☆ ITV4, 9.00pm Christopher Lee steals the show as the titular assassin, Francisco Scaramanga, in this classic Bond adventure. Roger Moore’s secret agent, in his second outing as 007, must pursue him, with the help of sidekick Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland), to the villain’s island lair in order to prevent him harnessing the power of the Sun for evil. The confrontations between Moore and Lee are easily the film’s highlights. Swordfish (2001) ★★☆☆☆ TCM, 9.00pm The most often quoted bit of trivia about this film is that Halle Berry was paid an additional £500,000 to go topless. It’s rather lucky she agreed because she’s probably the most appealing aspect of this frenetic thriller. John Travolta and Hugh Jackman put on testosterone-fuelled displays as a morally dubious counter-terrorist agent and the hacker he blackmails into accessing billions of dollars of government money. Some Like It Hot (1959, b/w) ★★★★★ Sky Arts, 9.30pm When two musicians (Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis) witness a mob hit, they flee the state disguised as women in an all-female band, but further complications arise in the form of demure ukulele player Sugar Kane, superbly played by Marilyn Monroe. Billy Wilder’s classic comedy is effortlessly wacky and clever. Before, at 9pm, is Urban Myths, which imagines what happened on the set of this romcom. Friday 13 April Dishing out opinions: John Torode and Gregg Wallace Credit: BBC MasterChef: The Final BBC One, 8.30pm It has taken 25 episodes over seven weeks to whittle down the 56 amateur contestants to three finalists, and in the process, MasterChef 2018 has produced some of the best cooking – and some of the toughest competition – in the series’ long history. (It has been running in one form or another since 1990; and since 2005 in, roughly, its current format with judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode presenting.) This last week has been no exception, with the finalists having to dig deeper than ever to produce the best dishes of their lives and some great moments – notably during the spectacular trip to South America when they met Peruvian superchef Gaston Acurio and took on a service at the fifth best restaurant in the world, the Central in Lima, under Michelin-starred maestro Virgilio Martínez Véliz. In the finale, it’s all about who cooks the best food, though, as the final three return to the studio kitchen to undergo a test of culinary skills and nerve as they set about creating the most important three-course meal of their lives – in the hope of being judged worthy of a title that has launched many a great career: MasterChef champion. Gerard O’Donovan Chef’s Table: Pastry Netflix, from today This mouth-watering spin-off from Netflix’s popular global foodie series Chef’s Table puts the focus entirely on sweet stuff, talking the cameras inside the kitchens of some of the world’s best pastry chefs, among them Christina Tosi’s Milk Bar in New York, Corrado Assenza’s Caffé Sicilia in Noto, Sicily, Jordi Roca’s El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, and Will Goldfarb’s Room4Dessert in Bali. Lost in Space Netflix, from today Not so much a rerun as a spectacular new take on the classic Sixties sci-fi series about a family marooned in space when their ship runs into difficulty on their way to a new colony and crashes on an unknown and surprisingly hostile planet. There are plenty of thrills and impressive visual effects, and Toby Stephens and Molly Parker are excellent as the pioneering Robinson parents John and Judy, while Parker Posey is an enigmatic (and now female) Dr Smith. GO The City & The City BBC Two, 9.00pm; Wales, 9.30pm Cop thrillers don’t come much more weirdly dystopian than China Miéville’s award-winning 2009 novel and this ultra-stylish adaptation serves its source material very well. In episode two, Inspector Borlú (David Morrissey) ventures back across the border while investigating the murder of a foreign student. Episodes BBC Two, 10.00pm; Wales, 11.05pm Having overcome last week’s unfortunate episode in this sitcom, Matt (Matt LeBlanc) is back on top and leveraging his spurt in the ratings for all it’s worth, handing Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly (Tamsin Greig) a welcome opportunity for escape. Lee and Dean Channel 4, 10.00pm More rough charm, as life gets complicated for Stevenage’s very own Dumb and Dumber when Lee’s (Miles Chapman) financial worries mount and Dean (Mark O’Sullivan) is persuaded to premiere his poetry at the local arts club. Front Row Late BBC Two, 11.05pm; Wales, 11.35pm Freedom of speech and censorship are under the spotlight as host Mary Beard and guests discuss Theatre Clwyd’s production The Assassination of Katie Hopkins and former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s new book Fascism: A Warning. GO Alien: Covenant (2017) ★★★★★ Sky Cinema Premiere, 8.00pm The latest film in the Alien saga from Ridley Scott is arguably a mad scientist movie. It follows the crew of the colony ship Covenant (including Katherine Waterson) as they discover what they think is an uncharted paradise, but what they uncover a threat beyond their imagination. Michael Fassbender puts in a spectacular turn as kindly robot David and his twisted “brother” Walter. Invictus (2009) ★★★★☆ ITV, 10.45pm Following the death of Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife Winnie last week, aged 81, here’s Clint Eastwood’s take on South Africa’s World Cup victory in 1995. As the country emerges from apartheid, the newly elected President Mandela (an uncanny Morgan Freeman) sees the potential for the national rugby team, led by François Pienaar (Matt Damon), to be a catalyst for harmony. This is a polished and uplifting film. Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl (1982) ★★★★☆ Gold, 1.40am Much like the Secret Policeman’s Ball, this comedy performance film sees the Monty Python gang take to the stage, but this time they’re in Hollywood. Among the sketches are the Silly Olympics, where athletes compete in absurd sports, The Lumberjack Song, and The Ministry of Silly Walks. This film also features Carol Cleveland in numerous supporting roles. Television previewers Toby Dantzic, Sarah Hughes, Gerard O'Donovan, Vicki Power and Gabriel Tate
What's on TV tonight: The Investigator: A British Crime Story and Civilisations
Thursday 5 April The Investigator: A British Crime Story ITV, 9.00pm “I have investigated some of the UK’s most infamous crimes but I’ve never encountered anything as sinister as this,” says cop turned investigative reporter Mark Williams-Thomas of this series in which he turns his attention to the disappearance of Polegate teenager Louise Kay in 1988. Which is quite a claim, coming as it does from the man who broke the Jimmy Savile story, among others. But when the Kay family turned to him for help after three decades of getting nowhere via the police, Williams Thomas says his own investigation turned up a great deal more than he was expecting, including links to a number of other missing persons cases and the possibility that he might have uncovered “the undetected crimes of a serial killer who has got away with murder for decades”. In this first episode, though, the focus is firmly on the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of 18-year-old Louise, who was last seen driving towards Beachy Head after a night out clubbing in Eastbourne, East Sussex, with her best friend, and the fact that her distinctive gold and white Ford Fiesta also vanished that night without trace. Gerard O’Donovan The Cruise: Sailing the Caribbean ITV, 8.30pm More seaborne adventures for the cruise ship Royal Princess, this time as she embarks on an island-hopping tour of such Caribbean destinations as Grenada, the Bahamas and Antigua. If they can get into port, that is, as the ship’s docking winches appear to have failed. Ho-hum. Civilisations BBC Two, 9.00pm David Olusoga takes the reins for a wide-ranging edition exploring how in West Africa, Central America and Japan, art left its own distinctive record of when some great civilisations of the 15th and 16th centuries came into contact for the first time. Indian Summer School Channel 4, 9.00pm The five British boys are now six weeks into their study programme at the Doon School in Uttarakhand, but it’s not easy for them, especially Jack who finds there is a high price to pay for daring to do better than the others. Unsolved: The Man with No Alibi BBC One, 10.45pm; Wales, 11.15pm In the concluding part of this report exploring the July 2002 murder in Bournemouth of Korean student Jong-Ok Shin, Bronagh Munro examines the evidence that convicted Omar Benguit despite the absence of forensics linking him to the crime. GO Deep State Fox, 9.00pm This eight-part British spy thriller gets off to an action packed start, with Mark Strong convincing as ex-MI6 spook Max Easton, unwillingly forced out of retirement by a former intelligence chief in London. It’s not long before he finds himself at the heart of a covert intelligence war and a conspiracy by powerful corporations to foment chaos and revolution in the Middle East. Silicon Valley Sky Atlantic, 10.15pm The popular HBO tech-comedy returns for a fifth series as, despite their record of failure (a video chat app that contravened privacy laws and a partner permanently sozzled in Tibet were just two of their problems), the team at Pied Piper look to be on the verge of success. As Richard’s (Thomas Middleditch) decentralised internet concept approaches launch, there’s ample funding for once and new offices. But the pressure to get things right begins to play on Richard’s mind. GO Nanny McPhee (2015) ★★★☆☆ ITV2, 10.20am Emma Thompson wrote and stars in this sweet and old-fashioned fantasy film, based on Christianna Brand’s Nurse Matilda books. She plays an old nanny who finds that the children of a widower (Colin Firth) are a challenge, even for her. Poised between Lemony Snicket and Mary Poppins, the film has moral messages to impart, but luckily not at the expense of an enjoyable, magical tale. Live and Let Die (1973) ★★★☆☆ ITV4, 9.00pm James Bond (Roger Moore) battles one of his more extraordinary opponents, Kananga (Yaphet Kotto), a Caribbean criminal mastermind masquerading as a Harlem drug baron. The film was given lukewarm reviews on its release, but this is Moore-era Bond at its preposterous best. Highlights include 007’s voodoo snake ordeal and a thrilling speedboat chase through New Orleans. RocknRolla (2008) ★★★☆☆ 5STAR, 10.00pm After the dismal Revolver and Swept Away (which starred his ex-wife Madonna), Guy Ritchie attempts a return to Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels-esque form with another testosterone-heavy, twisty tale set in London’s underworld. The plot moves vaguely around the theft of a painting from a Russian mobster (Karl Roden) while getting tangled up in various sub-plots. Friday 6 April David Morrissey Credit: BBC The City & the City BBC Two, 9.00pm; Northern Ireland, 9.30pm “I knew there was another city I dare not see… Just on the other side of where I was supposed to look.” So states Inspector Tyador Borlú (David Morrissey) midway through this engrossing adaptation of China Miéville’s Borgesian novel, which achieves the apparently impossible by bringing a dense and clever book to brilliant, atmospheric life. Borlú, a detective with the Extreme Crime Squad in the rundown vaguely Eastern European city of Beszul, is handed the task of solving the murder of a foreign student. So far, so standard, but what unfolds turns out to be anything but as scriptwriter Tony Grisoni (Red Riding) expertly captures Miéville’s vision of a world in which a city is divided not by a wall or barricade, but by blurred realities the populace is trained from birth not to see. Thus the two cities of Beszul and Ul Qoma coexist in the same space but without acknowledging each other, the town hall their only shared space. To look directly on the other city is to commit “Breach”, bringing about the wrath of the secret police. Grisoni and director Tom Shankland build the tension inexorably as Borlú’s world is slowly but surely upended. An absolute treat. Sarah Hughes Sounds Like Friday Night BBC One, 7.30pm The BBC’s music TV revival didn’t make a huge splash with its first series but it’s still worth checking out, if only because co-host and Radio 1Xtra presenter Dotty is such a likeable presence. Tonight, she’s on the road, while Greg James anchors from the studio. Professor Green, Snow Patrol and Years & Years perform. Have I Got News for You BBC One, 9.30pm The satirical quiz show returns for a 55th series, with captains Paul Merton and Ian Hislop joined by presenter Steph McGovern and comedian Josh Widdicombe; Jeremy Paxman hosts. The Graham Norton Show BBC One, 10.35pm In an era when the talk show appears tired somehow Graham Norton manages to keep the format enjoyable. Tonight’s episode, the first in a new series, sees husband-and-wife team Emily Blunt and John Krasinski discuss their horror A Quiet Place. Front Row Late BBC Two, 11.05pm; N Ireland, 11.35pm Following the kerfuffle over its poorly received first series, the arts show returns with a rejigged format and Mary Beard in the presenter’s chair. Informed debate is promised, although Beard has said that she won’t simply replicate the notoriously combative Newsnight Review. SH BBC Young Musician 2018 BBC Four, 7.30pm The contest kicks off at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s new concert hall. Presenter Josie d’Arby is joined by 1998 finalist Alison Balsom as we meet the final five: violinists Elodie Chousmer-Howelles and Stephanie Childress, double bassist Will Duerden, guitarist Torrin Williams and cellist Maxim Calver. The judges are double bassist Leon Bosch, classical guitarist Miloš Karadaglić, violinist and previous Young Musician of the Year winner, Jennifer Pike. Composer Kerry Andrew and the contestants will perform works by Bach, Brahms and Stravinsky. The Nineties Sky Arts, 9.00pm There’s nothing like seeing the decade you came of age in co-opted for nostalgic TV to make you feel old, but for those who can bear seeing their youth dissected Sky Arts at least does it well. Tonight’s second episode continues the focus on the decade’s TV with The Sopranos and Seinfeld under discussion. SH Fury (2014) ★★★★★ 5STAR, 9.00pm David Ayer’s study of the habits and habitats of the American killer male is an astonishing, stirring drama. It’s Germany 1945, and Sgt Don “Wardaddy” Collie (Brad Pitt) and his team are grinding towards Berlin in a battered M4 Sherman tank. There is no rescue mission, just an agonising rumble from one brush with death to the next. The set-piece battles are gripping, and the raw terror of war is blasted home. Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) ★★★★☆ Film4, 9.00pm The best of Richard Curtis and Hugh Grant’s romcoms about awfully nice chaps dithering over frightfully pretty girls. Grant plays bumbling Charles, who, ah, er, can’t tell what’s, um, going on between him and the scrummy Carrie (Andie MacDowell), who he keeps, gosh, bumping into at weddings. It’s aged pretty well and certainly knocks spots off Love, Actually. Lawless (2012) ★★★☆☆ Channel 4, 12.45am An adaptation of the historical novel The Wettest County in the World, John Hillcoat’s Prohibition-era western follows three brothers (played by Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf and Jason Clarke), who do a tidy business distilling and selling illegal moonshine whiskey. It’s an oddly affectionate clan portrait – the violence the brothers mete out is implicitly forgiven – but the period detail is well observed. Saturday 7 April Saturday night fever: Declan Donnelly presents from Orlando Credit: Rex/Shutterstock Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway ITV, 7.00pm It can’t be easy hosting a show as exuberant as Saturday Night Takeaway on your own but Declan Donnelly made a solid if understandably restrained go of it last week. He ensured that the light entertainment series proceeded pretty much as normal in the absence of long-time work partner Ant McPartlin, whose travails were sensibly referenced only in very brief passing (“I’ve got twice the amount of work to do,” Donnelly noted at one point before mock-berating the production crew that “I’ll have to do it myself, like everything else around here this week”). That said, this final episode ups the ante as Donnelly takes the show on the road to the Universal Orlando Resort in Florida. Once there we’re promised a “super-sized” edition featuring stunts, surprises and “extra-special” guests. No word yet as to who those guests will be but expect Donnelly to continue making the best of a difficult situation, buoyed by extra support from Scarlett Moffatt, who is in charge of ensuring that the Place on the Plane winners have a wonderful time, and Stephen Mulhern, who has the possibly less than enviable task of explaining In for a Penny to an American audience. Sarah Hughes Premier League Football: Everton v Liverpool Sky Sports Main Event, 12.30pm Tired, perhaps, from their Champions League quarter-final first leg against Man City, Liverpool face their bitter local rivals Everton at Goodison Park. The home side, who’ve won three of their last six games, haven’t beaten Liverpool since October 2010, when Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta gave them a 2-0 victory. Premiership Rugby Union: Bath v Leicester Tigers Channel 5, 1.30pm Time was when Bath and Leicester were the titans of English rugby. Currently they are fifth and eighth in the league, respectively. In September, Bath claimed a 27-23 win at Welford Road, as they held on for their first away win at Leicester since 2003, ensuring an unhappy return for George Ford against the club he left in the summer. The two sides also met in the Anglo-Welsh Cup at the Recreation Ground in November, where Bath also emerged victorious, beating Leicester 33-31 on that occasion. Premier League Football: Manchester City v Manchester United Sky Sports Main Event, 5.30pm What better way for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City to clinch the title than by beating second-placed Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium. Sixteen points ahead of them in the table, City have been formidable this season, winning 27 of the 31 league games they’ve played. One of those victories came at Old Trafford, with a goal from Nicolas Otamendi giving City a 2-1 victory when these sides met in December. Britain’s Most Historic Towns Channel 4, 8.00pm Alice Roberts is our guide for this new six-part series, which sees her search the UK for the places that best sum up an historical era. The first era is Roman Britain, so Roberts heads to Chester, where she abseils down walls, hunkers in caves and uncovers the truth about the city. Casualty BBC One, 8.20pm The medical drama’s storyline about Dylan’s (William Beck) alcoholism continues to be sensitively handled as the medic’s ex-wife Sam (Charlotte Salt) worries about whether she can help him. Meanwhile, Ethan (George Hardy) struggles with his own demons as he realises that a patient is related to his brother’s killer. The Voice UK: Live Final ITV, 8.30pm Every reality TV idea has an allotted shelf life and it’s hard not to feel that musical talent contests have come to the end of their run. For those who disagree, The Voice UK’s grand finale is here and the final four battle it out for public approval. Below the Surface BBC Four, 9.00pm & 9.45pm BBC Four’s latest Scandi drama started off tensely but like its predecessor, Modus, it has gone on to become ever more ludicrous. Now it’s the final two episodes, and Philip Norgaard (Johannes Lassen) faces off against Mark (Jakob Oftebro), the man behind the hostage crisis. Much heartfelt talking follows, although you may end up feeling more sympathetic towards the damaged Mark than the chilly Norgaard. Pearl Jam: Let’s Play Two Sky Arts, 9.00pm When is a music documentary not a music documentary? When it’s also a sports film. This exuberant film, which was made following the Chicago Cubs’ victory in baseball’s World Series in 2016, follows die-hard Cubs fan and Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder as he cheers on his team during their championship run while also preparing the band for two August shows at the team’s Wrigley Field Stadium. The result is an affectionate portrait of the singer as fan. SH Troy: Fall of a City BBC One, 9.10pm David Farr’s epic series reaches its climax with the arrival of the most famous horse in history. After an uninspiring start, Troy has picked up in recent weeks and the final episode is a well-handled tale of betrayal and death. It’s a curate’s egg of a series, let down by poor casting. SH X-Men (2000) ★★★★☆ Film4, 7.00pm Bryan Singer directs an all-star cast that includes Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen and Halle Berry, in the first of the X-Men franchise. A group of mutants must decide whether to side with Professor Xavier (Stewart) or the evil Magneto (McKellen) in what is a solid opening to the series and which paved the way for plenty of big-budget sequels. This is followed by X-Men 2 and X-Men 3 at 9.00pm and 11.35pm respectively. Legend (2015) ★★★☆☆ Channel 4, 9.00pm Tom Hardy gives a solid, convincing performance as east London gangster Reggie Kray but his caricatured portrayal of twin brother Ronnie lets him down, and this inconsistency leads to an entertaining though muddled film. Emily Browning, however, gives just the right mix of defiance and despair as Frances Shea, Reggie’s put-upon wife. Watch out for some particularly gory scenes. Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) ★★★☆☆ ITV4, 9.05pm Mel Gibson sports his signature Eighties mullet in the second film of this daft-but-fun action franchise. LAPD officer Riggs (Gibson) teams up once again with his partner Murtaugh (Danny Glover) to track down a band of South African criminals while protecting a painfully frenzied witness (Joe Pesci). Naturally, the pair find themselves drawn into violent action sequences orchestrated by stereotypical bad guys. Sunday 8 April Hostess with the mostest: Catherine Tate presents the awards Credit: ITV The Olivier Awards 2018 ITV, 10.20pm Last year, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child swept the board with nine Olivier Awards, something that looked impossible to top. But then came Lin Manuel Miranda’s blockbuster musical Hamilton, whose West End run has received reviews every bit as rapturous as those from its Broadway debut. The show has a record-breaking 13 nominations, which it is thought will be translated into awards. After being snubbed for Jerusalem, Jez Butterworth will surely be rewarded for his equally magisterial play The Ferryman (its eight nominations include best play and best director for Sam Mendes), while contenders in the acting categories include Bryan Cranston for Network, Andrew Garfield for Angels in America and Lesley Manville for Long Day’s Journey into Night. Catherine Tate will be on hosting duties for the event at the Royal Albert Hall, which will, as usual, feature a crop of stellar performances; this one will include a special tribute to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which turns 50 this year. Let’s hope the organisers bring together Josephs of the past for a big singalong: Jason Donovan, Phillip Schofield, Ian “H” Watkins and Lee Mead will all, one suspects, be available. Gabriel Tate Sex Robots and Us BBC Three, from 10.00am James Young, an amputee who created his own bionic arm, meets the people who design sex robots and hears about their plans for them, from being given to old people’s homes to “employment” in brothels. But is it the harmless, even socially responsible pursuit thatthey claim? Formula 1: The Bahrain Grand Prix Sky Sports F1, 3.30pm After the Australian Grand Prix – in which Sebastian Vettel took advantage of a safety-car blunder to win under pristine Melbourne skies – attention turns to the second round of the season at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir. Another blunder cost Lewis Hamilton on this circuit last year – this time it happened in the pit lane, with Vettel capitalising to win by 6.6 seconds. The Generation Game BBC One, 8.00pm How do you top last week’s cavalcade of silliness in this rebooted game show? You rope in Danny Dyer to join Mel Giedroyc, Sue Perkins and panellists Melvin Odoom and Roisin Conaty for challenges that include cake decorating, balloon modelling and dancing the Argentine Tango. The Durrells ITV, 8.00pm In the fourth episode of the popular drama, Larry (Josh O’Connor) visits Athens with two oddly named guests – Captain Creech (James Cosmo) and Prince Jeejeebuoy (Tanmay Dhanania) – in tow. There, they offer advice to Gerry (Milo Parker), who is applying for a new school. Jesus’ Female Disciples: the New Evidence Channel 4, 8.00pm For centuries, the birth of Christianity was regarded as a largely male affair, with women as only bit-part players. Now, Bible experts Helen Bond and Joan Taylor have discovered evidence that women were involved in everything from preaching and baptising to funding the movement as it grew. This absorbing documentary follows the historians’ progress. Golf: The Masters Sky Sports Main Event, 8.00pm Prepare for a dramatic finale as this year’s first Major – from the Augusta National in Georgia – concludes. Last year, Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the coveted green jacket, beating Justin Rose in a tense play-off. Ordeal by Innocence BBC One, 9.00pm Sarah Phelps’s splendid adaptation continues, as Arthur Calgary (Luke Treadaway) resolves to prove the truth about Jack Argyll’s (Anthony Boyle) alibi by any means necessary. GT Folk Awards 2018 BBC Four, 9.00pm Mark Radcliffe and Julie Fowlis introduce highlights from this year’s Radio 2 Folk Awards in Belfast. It features performances from Cara Dillon, Lankum and Eliza Carthy and the Wayward Band. The great Nick Drake will also be inducted into the Hall of Fame, his genius long-established, even if such recognition eluded him during his short life. Producer Dónal Lunny, meanwhile, receives the Lifetime Achievement Award for decades of tireless work promoting the renaissance in Irish music, plus The Armagh Pipers Club are presented with the Good Tradition Award. GT Emma (1996) ★★★★☆ BBC Two, 3.00pm Gwyneth Paltrow’s American iciness melts in this deft adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic comic romance. She is Emma Woodhouse, spoilt, charming and an inveterate meddler. Only Mr George Knightley (Jeremy Northam) dares challenge her behaviour – but what are his motives? A clever film with a superb supporting cast, including Toni Collette, Alan Cumming and Ewan McGregor. United 93 (2006) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Greats, 9.55pm Director Paul Greengrass’s boneshaking, real-time take on the final hours of the United Airlines plane whose passengers rebelled against their hijackers on September 11, 2001 feels uncomfortably realistic. Greengrass, whose signature rapid cutting made the second and third Bourne films so exciting, proves expert at handling the most infamous atrocity of modern times with intelligence and sobriety. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 11.00pm This superb adaptation of John le Carré’s brilliant, intricate Cold War spy novel is a triumph. The espionage drama follows the hunt for a Soviet double agent at the top of the British secret service, with Gary Oldman spearheading the excellent ensemble cast, which includes Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt and Benedict Cumberbatch. It’s funny, seductive and suspenseful. Monday 9 April I spy: a recruit sees if she’s got what it takes to be an SOE agent Credit: BBC Secret Agent Selection: WW2 BBC Two, 9.00pm Not unlike Channel 4’s SAS: Who Dares Wins and BBC Two’s Astronauts: Do You Have What It Takes?, this absorbing new series puts a group of recruits through a series of gruelling physical and psychological challenges to see if they could make the grade as a secret agent according to an established selection test used during the Second World War. This test was used by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) to determine whether recruits from many different walks of life would be capable of being dropped behind enemy lines and surviving as a covert officer with a brief to cause the maximum disruption possible to the enemy in the territory. As with the original SOE, the 14 candidates come from diverse backgrounds (among them a research scientist, a property developer, former police officer, a drag act performer, a retired investment banker and an Army veteran). In the opening episode, they undergo the initial four-day assessment at a remote Scottish country-house estate. The aim is to winnow out weakness and determine who should win a place on the advanced, and suitably terrifying, course in assassination, sabotage and covert intelligence techniques. Gerard O’Donovan Famalam BBC Three, from 10.00am After a successful pilot last year, Vivienne Acheampong, Gbemisola Ikumelo, Roxanne Sternberg, Tom Moutchi and John MacMillan return with more culturally skewed sketches. Once again, they feature William and Funke’s raunchy chat show, misunderstood superhero Eclipse, Croydon’s voodoo practitioner Professor Lofuko, and a version of Midsomer Murders. 800 Words BBC One, 2.15pm If you like The Durrells you will definitely want to watch hit Australian comedy drama 800 Words. This gently funny series follows George (Erik Thomson), a widower, who horrifies his teenaged children when he moves the entire family to a remote seaside town in New Zealand. Springtime on the Farm Channel 5, 8.00pm This is the first of five shows this week celebrating the “great British farmer”, with the help of Yorkshire Vet stars Peter Wright and Julian Norton, Adam Henson of Countryfile and Springwatch’s Lindsey Chapman. In this programme, they explore how to cope with the stresses of lambing. MasterChef: The Finals BBC One, 9.00pm Oodles of challenges lie ahead for the remaining amateur chefs in the final week, which takes them as far afield as Peru ahead of Friday’s concluding cook-off. First, though, they’re off to North Yorkshire to cater a country-house lunch for local grandees and farmers. Lisbon: An Art Lovers’ Guide BBC Four, 9.00pm Having covered Barcelona, St Petersburg and Amsterdam in their first series of city-break guides, historian Dr Janina Ramirez and art critic Alastair Sooke jet off to explore three less obvious, art-rich destinations. Beirut and Baku are perhaps the more intriguing but it opens in Lisbon, which built up its art reserves during the centuries Portugal was part of one of the world’s great empires, and currently boasts one of the hottest contemporary art scenes in Europe. GO Marcella ITV, 9.00pm This drama’s been a little less fraught the second time round but Marcella still pushes the boundaries of credibility. In this concluding part, the heroine (Anna Friel) tracks down the killer, only to suffer one of her unfortunate episodes. GO The Core (2003) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 6.25pm Rome starts to crumble, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco collapses and pigeons go mental in Trafalgar Square. Something is obviously amiss, and this time it isn’t climate change. In fact, the Earth’s core has stopped rotating and a team of scientists has to build a special burrowing machine to start it spinning again. Hilary Swank, Stanley Tucci and Aaron Eckhart do their best, but the excitement is intermittent. The Emoji Movie (2017) ★☆☆☆☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 6.30pm In this animated comedy set inside a smartphone, Gene (voiced by T J Miller), an emoji with multiple facial features, sets out on a quest to be like his colleagues who have only one. He does so with the help of apps like Spotify and Candy Crush. Sadly, the result is so horrendous that there aren’t enough Patrick Stewart-voiced emojis in the world to express what an ugly, artless exercise this is. Triple 9 (2016) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 9.00pm A gang of criminals and corrupt cops plan to kill a police officer in order to pull off their biggest heist yet in John Hillcoat’s crime thriller. There is a lot to like here: a big opening and a strong cast (with Kate Winslet, Gal Gadot, Anthony Mackie and Chiwetel Ejiofor among them). But it feels like fragments of a great crime drama are missing; it’s enthralling up close, but then the big picture isn’t complete. Tuesday 10 April Back to school: Mark, who has two sons with autism Credit: Channel 4 Class of Mum and Dad Channel 4, 8.00pm Another week, another Channel 4 series about education. Hold off on the black marks, however, because this one is pretty good. The premise is simple: Blackrod Primary School just outside of Bolton has thrown open its doors to a class made up of pupils’ parents (and one grandparent). They’ve agreed to go back to school for the summer term to see what modern education is really like, sports day, Sats tests and all. Naturally, its harder than many of them were expecting – 36-year-old decorator Jonny states early on that he thought he’d be able to slope off for a swift cigarette break rather than having to adhere to strict class rules – but there are some touching stories amid the more obvious moments. Most notably, this opening episode focuses on two parents with challenging home lives – Julia, who is raising her 10-year-old cousin Asha after Asha’s mother died, and Mark, who has two autistic sons. While the parents’ travails are interesting, the children are the real scene-stealers, however, from those delighted that their mothers and fathers are taking part to those who are more sceptical. The pair of five-year-olds who spend their time corpsing in front of the camera are particularly endearing. Sarah Hughes Champions League Football: Manchester City v Liverpool BT Sport 2, 7.45pm The Etihad Stadium is the setting as City and Liverpool fight it out for a place in the semi-finals. Liverpool have the advantage following a 3-0 win at Anfield in the first leg. This Time Next Year ITV, 8.00pm Davina McCall returns with another set of heart-tugging stories of people attempting to transform their lives over the course of a year. First up are two new parents who dream of making life wonderful for their baby girl who has been deaf since birth and a couple desperate to start a family. Come Home BBC One, 9.00pm Danny Brocklehurst’s claustrophobic family drama comes to a head as we flashback to find out exactly what went wrong in Greg (Christopher Eccleston) and Marie’s (Paula Malcomson) marriage. Hospital BBC Two, 9.00pm The engrossing fly-on-the-wall medical series continues with Nottingham University Hospitals Trust struggling to cope with the new NHS ruling regarding the cancellation of all non-urgent surgery. The episode focuses on Val, a 55-year-old with mouth cancer whose surgeon is desperately trying to ensure that her operation goes ahead. Here and Now Sky Atlantic, 9.00pm With only two episodes left to go, Alan Ball’s family drama continues to tread water in the most frustrating ways. On paper, there are a whole bunch of interesting stories in the mix, from Kristen’s (Sosie Bacon) possible relationship with Navid (Marwan Salama) to Ramon’s (Daniel Zovatto) continuing visions, but the problem is nothing much happens with any of them as each story moves on only incrementally each week. In this episode, Audrey (Holly Hunter) finally turns the tables on the perpetually smug Greg (Tim Robbins). Cunk on Britain BBC Two, 10.00pm; NI, 11.15pm Diana Morgan’s pitch-perfect send-up of history programmes moves to the Tudor era and beyond as Cunk takes on Henry VIII, aka “The kingiest king who kinged over Britain” before giving us her unique perspective on “Bloody” Mary Tudor (“horrible like the drink”) and Elizabeth I. SH Divorce Sky Atlantic, 10.10pm The acerbic Sarah Jessica Parker sitcom has been firing on all cylinders throughout its second series – possibly because it’s more interesting watching Frances (Parker) and Robert (the excellent Thomas Haden Church) navigate life after divorce than it was watching them get there. Here, Frances tries to make a new contact in the art world. SH Speed (1994) ★★★★☆ Film4, 9.00pm “There’s a bomb on the bus!” is the most famous line and basically the entire plot of one of the best action thrillers of the Nineties. The sizzling chemistry between LAPD Swat specialist Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) and passenger Annie Porter (Sandra Bullock) sexes up the exhilarating action scenes, while Dennis Hopper is fantastically unhinged as a revenge-driven, retired bomb squad member turned terrorist. Fast & Furious 7 (2015) ★★★☆☆ ITV2, 9.00pm Paul Walker was killed in a car crash part-way through making this film so it was completed with the help of his two younger brothers and some subtle computer graphics. The good news is that this is the best film in the franchise and does justice to Walker. It isn’t polished blockbuster film-making – though if it was, it wouldn’t be Fast & Furious. But it speaks straight to your adrenal glands. The Witches of Eastwick (1987) ★★★☆☆ Syfy, 9.00pm It is remarkable that director George Miller’s daft, unfettered romp of a film works at all. But, thanks to Jack Nicholson’s delicious overacting as Daryl Van Horne, a manic gentleman who closely resembles the devil, and the three gorgeous, single small-town friends, Alexandra (Cher), Jane (Susan Sarandon) and Sukie (Michelle Pfeiffer), who vie for his debased attentions, it somehow does. Wednesday 11 April Family ties: Edgar Ramirez and Penelope Cruz Credit: BBC The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story BBC Two, 9.00pm It’s been fascinating to discover the “true” story behind the 1997 murder of fhion designer Gianni Versace in Ryan Murphy’s glitzy drama, which has expertly depicted the inner world of the perpetrator, a Walter Mitty-style serial killer called Andrew Cunanan (a career-defining role for Darren Criss). This episode, however, has a mid-series lull about it as Cunanan ascends to the higher echelons of gay society, shaping himself meticulously into the posh, preppy eye-candy who saw a sugar daddy (or two) as his way to the top. Elsewhere, the Versace siblings return at last. Gianni (Edgar Ramirez), now in failing health decides to champion his insecure sister Donatella (Penélope Cruz in a frightful wig) and turns her into both designer and muse. Despite a lack of characters to root for – the Versaces’ moments of vulnerability dissolve into tedious histrionics and are eclipsed by Cunanan’s cold-blooded machinations – it’s all quite a fabulous mix of fashion, high society and brutal murder, with some interesting commentary on homophobia in the Nineties as well. Vicki Power The Secret Helpers BBC Two, 8.00pm Watch and weep as timid elderly widow Lesley begins a new life as an out gay woman in this life-affirming docu-series. She’s encouraged with warmth and wisdom by amateur “sages” from abroad, who talk to her secretly through a hidden earpiece. From World War to Cold War Yesterday, 8.00pm As the Second World War drew to a close, Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt met at Yalta in the Crimea to broker post-war peace. This brisk two-part documentary raids the archives for clips and letters from those who attended, and gathers experts and relatives – including FDR’s grandson – to investigate power plays by Stalin that wrong-footed his Allied counterparts. It’s a detailed look at how and why the compromises reached at Yalta were quickly cast aside. Bacchus Uncovered: Ancient God of Ecstasy BBC Four, 9.00pm Historian Bettany Hughes continues to explore ancient civilisations, moving on to Bacchus, the Roman god of wine. Hughes’s odyssey starts under the City of London, where an 1,800-year-old Roman temple to Bacchus was discovered less than 100 years ago, and takes her to Greece, the Middle East and the Caucasus to explore the god’s roots and influence. VP Benidorm ITV, 9.00pm Fluffy as candyfloss, this lewd seaside comedy provides some fun, particularly in the retro casting of stars of yesteryear. This week, an exuberant Sammy (Shane Richie) tries to persuade Monty (John Challis) that, after his successful comeback gig, he is ready for an evening slot. One Born Every Minute Channel 4, 9.00pm This feelgood documentary series brings more poignant tales from a Birmingham labour ward. This week we meet Chantell, about to deliver her third child, who regales us with a moving story of how parenthood with partner Phil has healed the wounds of a traumatic past. First Dates Channel 4, 10.00pm The thoughtful dating show pairs up four more couples, but the road to love is bumpy – septuagenarian Deanna finds her date more interested in the waiter than her. More promising is the match between Bianca and Teza, who allow their vulnerabilities to show. VP The Thin Red Line (1998) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Greats, 3.10pm This lyrical Second World War drama, directed by Terrence Malick, tells the story of a group of young US soldiers fighting the Japanese for control of the island of Guadalcanal. Full of stars such as Sean Penn and George Clooney, it struggles with its own battle to squeeze in so many characters but is still an atmospheric meditation on the nature of war. Nick Nolte and Adrien Brody also star. The Remains of the Day (1993) ★★★★☆ Sony Movie Channel, 3.55pm The success of Merchant Ivory’s adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Thirties-set novel, a well-observed study of regret, is built around its perfectly cast leads: Anthony Hopkins as James, the butler to the doltish aristocrat Lord Darlington (James Fox) and Emma Thompson as a housekeeper who tries to draw him out of his sterile shell. Lush visuals give it an added richness. Transporter 2 (2005) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 9.00pm A martial arts action sequel, in which Jason Statham and Alessandro Gassman are the sporadically thrilling stars. Statham is Frank Martin, who accepts a job as chauffeur to Jack (Hunter Clary), the son of Miami’s politician Jefferson Billings (Matthew Modine). But the local Colombian drug dealers aren’t happy with his boss’s efforts to clean up the city. Cue a kidnapping, and a potentially deadly encounter with a cocaine baron. Thursday 12 April Changing attitudes: Holly and Hollie Credit: BBC Living with the Brainy Bunch BBC Two, 8.00pm Enterprising, PR-conscious Ash Ali is headmaster of Chessington Community College, a fast-improving school with a few problem pupils. Among them are Jack and Hollie who, on the surface, are comically awful teenagers. Hollie gripes constantly, throws strops and storms out of classrooms if things aren’t going her way. Jack is sullen, lazy and has clocked up 15 suspensions in the past year. It will come as no surprise to regular viewers of such documentaries that their behaviour is rooted in low self-esteem, although their parents unquestionably indulge their foibles. Ali’s novel solution is to place Hollie with Holly, tapdancing head girl and gregarious boffin, and Jack with Tharush, a Sri Lankan immigrant by way of Italy, whose talents are only matched by his work ethic. Now that Jack and Hollie are in the bosom of new families for six weeks, it’s hoped that a new environment, greater discipline and rigid routines will see their results improve and attitudes pick up. There are setbacks on the largely familiar narrative trajectory, but it’s cast to perfection and, as a demonstration of the importance of parenting in academic achievement, the experiment gets an A-star. Gabriel Tate European Tour Golf: The Open de Espana Sky Sports Golf, 11.00am The opening day’s play of the event from the Centro Nacional de Golf in Madrid, which was won by Andrew Johnston the last time it was held in 2016. War Above the Trenches Yesterday, 8.00pm This decent two-parter tells the story of the Royal Flying Corps and their battle to win control of the air in the First World War. Based on Peter Hart’s book Bloody April, it draws affectingly on the testimony of veterans to show there was more to the Western Front than trench warfare. Civilisations BBC Two, 9.00pm The modern age draws closer, as Simon Schama tackles the theme of radiance, guiding us through Gothic cathedrals, Baroque Venetian masterpieces and dazzling Japanese woodblock prints. The Investigator: A British Crime Story ITV, 9.00pm The second real-life case of the series sees Mark Williams-Thomas investigating the 1977 murders of three women in Glasgow. The suspect is Angus Sinclair, who is currently serving a life sentence for killing two other women that same year. We hear from his ex-wife, and learn how he was a prime suspect but escaped charges for the first killings when key evidence went missing. Indian Summer School Channel 4, 9.00pm This diverting documentary series concludes with a Himalayan trek, a controversial article in the school newspaper and the GCSE retakes that were the goal of the entire enterprise. Will Alfie, Harry, Jack and co see their grades improve? Urban Myths: Marilyn Monroe and Billy Wilder Sky Arts, 9.00pm Sky Arts’ boldly cast series of vaguely apocryphal tales from the pop-culture frontlines returns with a dispatch from the set of Some Like It Hot, the magnificent 1959 comedy that is almost certainly more fun to watch than it was to make. In this minor but entertaining reimagining, Tony Curtis (Alex Pettyfer) is threatening to cuckold Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott) by making off with Marilyn Monroe (Gemma Arterton), whose caprice, drinking and sensitivity is driving director Billy Wilder (James Purefoy) to distraction. GT Still Game BBC One, 9.30pm; BBC Two Wales, 10.00pm Justifying its prime-time BBC One slot, the Scottish sitcom bows out in triumph with a typically well-wrought farce involving a Hollywood stuntman, a disastrous driving lesson and romance for the widowed Isa (Jane McCarry). GT The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) ★★★★☆ ITV4, 9.00pm Christopher Lee steals the show as the titular assassin, Francisco Scaramanga, in this classic Bond adventure. Roger Moore’s secret agent, in his second outing as 007, must pursue him, with the help of sidekick Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland), to the villain’s island lair in order to prevent him harnessing the power of the Sun for evil. The confrontations between Moore and Lee are easily the film’s highlights. Swordfish (2001) ★★☆☆☆ TCM, 9.00pm The most often quoted bit of trivia about this film is that Halle Berry was paid an additional £500,000 to go topless. It’s rather lucky she agreed because she’s probably the most appealing aspect of this frenetic thriller. John Travolta and Hugh Jackman put on testosterone-fuelled displays as a morally dubious counter-terrorist agent and the hacker he blackmails into accessing billions of dollars of government money. Some Like It Hot (1959, b/w) ★★★★★ Sky Arts, 9.30pm When two musicians (Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis) witness a mob hit, they flee the state disguised as women in an all-female band, but further complications arise in the form of demure ukulele player Sugar Kane, superbly played by Marilyn Monroe. Billy Wilder’s classic comedy is effortlessly wacky and clever. Before, at 9pm, is Urban Myths, which imagines what happened on the set of this romcom. Friday 13 April Dishing out opinions: John Torode and Gregg Wallace Credit: BBC MasterChef: The Final BBC One, 8.30pm It has taken 25 episodes over seven weeks to whittle down the 56 amateur contestants to three finalists, and in the process, MasterChef 2018 has produced some of the best cooking – and some of the toughest competition – in the series’ long history. (It has been running in one form or another since 1990; and since 2005 in, roughly, its current format with judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode presenting.) This last week has been no exception, with the finalists having to dig deeper than ever to produce the best dishes of their lives and some great moments – notably during the spectacular trip to South America when they met Peruvian superchef Gaston Acurio and took on a service at the fifth best restaurant in the world, the Central in Lima, under Michelin-starred maestro Virgilio Martínez Véliz. In the finale, it’s all about who cooks the best food, though, as the final three return to the studio kitchen to undergo a test of culinary skills and nerve as they set about creating the most important three-course meal of their lives – in the hope of being judged worthy of a title that has launched many a great career: MasterChef champion. Gerard O’Donovan Chef’s Table: Pastry Netflix, from today This mouth-watering spin-off from Netflix’s popular global foodie series Chef’s Table puts the focus entirely on sweet stuff, talking the cameras inside the kitchens of some of the world’s best pastry chefs, among them Christina Tosi’s Milk Bar in New York, Corrado Assenza’s Caffé Sicilia in Noto, Sicily, Jordi Roca’s El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, and Will Goldfarb’s Room4Dessert in Bali. Lost in Space Netflix, from today Not so much a rerun as a spectacular new take on the classic Sixties sci-fi series about a family marooned in space when their ship runs into difficulty on their way to a new colony and crashes on an unknown and surprisingly hostile planet. There are plenty of thrills and impressive visual effects, and Toby Stephens and Molly Parker are excellent as the pioneering Robinson parents John and Judy, while Parker Posey is an enigmatic (and now female) Dr Smith. GO The City & The City BBC Two, 9.00pm; Wales, 9.30pm Cop thrillers don’t come much more weirdly dystopian than China Miéville’s award-winning 2009 novel and this ultra-stylish adaptation serves its source material very well. In episode two, Inspector Borlú (David Morrissey) ventures back across the border while investigating the murder of a foreign student. Episodes BBC Two, 10.00pm; Wales, 11.05pm Having overcome last week’s unfortunate episode in this sitcom, Matt (Matt LeBlanc) is back on top and leveraging his spurt in the ratings for all it’s worth, handing Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly (Tamsin Greig) a welcome opportunity for escape. Lee and Dean Channel 4, 10.00pm More rough charm, as life gets complicated for Stevenage’s very own Dumb and Dumber when Lee’s (Miles Chapman) financial worries mount and Dean (Mark O’Sullivan) is persuaded to premiere his poetry at the local arts club. Front Row Late BBC Two, 11.05pm; Wales, 11.35pm Freedom of speech and censorship are under the spotlight as host Mary Beard and guests discuss Theatre Clwyd’s production The Assassination of Katie Hopkins and former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s new book Fascism: A Warning. GO Alien: Covenant (2017) ★★★★★ Sky Cinema Premiere, 8.00pm The latest film in the Alien saga from Ridley Scott is arguably a mad scientist movie. It follows the crew of the colony ship Covenant (including Katherine Waterson) as they discover what they think is an uncharted paradise, but what they uncover a threat beyond their imagination. Michael Fassbender puts in a spectacular turn as kindly robot David and his twisted “brother” Walter. Invictus (2009) ★★★★☆ ITV, 10.45pm Following the death of Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife Winnie last week, aged 81, here’s Clint Eastwood’s take on South Africa’s World Cup victory in 1995. As the country emerges from apartheid, the newly elected President Mandela (an uncanny Morgan Freeman) sees the potential for the national rugby team, led by François Pienaar (Matt Damon), to be a catalyst for harmony. This is a polished and uplifting film. Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl (1982) ★★★★☆ Gold, 1.40am Much like the Secret Policeman’s Ball, this comedy performance film sees the Monty Python gang take to the stage, but this time they’re in Hollywood. Among the sketches are the Silly Olympics, where athletes compete in absurd sports, The Lumberjack Song, and The Ministry of Silly Walks. This film also features Carol Cleveland in numerous supporting roles. Television previewers Toby Dantzic, Sarah Hughes, Gerard O'Donovan, Vicki Power and Gabriel Tate
Thursday 5 April The Investigator: A British Crime Story ITV, 9.00pm “I have investigated some of the UK’s most infamous crimes but I’ve never encountered anything as sinister as this,” says cop turned investigative reporter Mark Williams-Thomas of this series in which he turns his attention to the disappearance of Polegate teenager Louise Kay in 1988. Which is quite a claim, coming as it does from the man who broke the Jimmy Savile story, among others. But when the Kay family turned to him for help after three decades of getting nowhere via the police, Williams Thomas says his own investigation turned up a great deal more than he was expecting, including links to a number of other missing persons cases and the possibility that he might have uncovered “the undetected crimes of a serial killer who has got away with murder for decades”. In this first episode, though, the focus is firmly on the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of 18-year-old Louise, who was last seen driving towards Beachy Head after a night out clubbing in Eastbourne, East Sussex, with her best friend, and the fact that her distinctive gold and white Ford Fiesta also vanished that night without trace. Gerard O’Donovan The Cruise: Sailing the Caribbean ITV, 8.30pm More seaborne adventures for the cruise ship Royal Princess, this time as she embarks on an island-hopping tour of such Caribbean destinations as Grenada, the Bahamas and Antigua. If they can get into port, that is, as the ship’s docking winches appear to have failed. Ho-hum. Civilisations BBC Two, 9.00pm David Olusoga takes the reins for a wide-ranging edition exploring how in West Africa, Central America and Japan, art left its own distinctive record of when some great civilisations of the 15th and 16th centuries came into contact for the first time. Indian Summer School Channel 4, 9.00pm The five British boys are now six weeks into their study programme at the Doon School in Uttarakhand, but it’s not easy for them, especially Jack who finds there is a high price to pay for daring to do better than the others. Unsolved: The Man with No Alibi BBC One, 10.45pm; Wales, 11.15pm In the concluding part of this report exploring the July 2002 murder in Bournemouth of Korean student Jong-Ok Shin, Bronagh Munro examines the evidence that convicted Omar Benguit despite the absence of forensics linking him to the crime. GO Deep State Fox, 9.00pm This eight-part British spy thriller gets off to an action packed start, with Mark Strong convincing as ex-MI6 spook Max Easton, unwillingly forced out of retirement by a former intelligence chief in London. It’s not long before he finds himself at the heart of a covert intelligence war and a conspiracy by powerful corporations to foment chaos and revolution in the Middle East. Silicon Valley Sky Atlantic, 10.15pm The popular HBO tech-comedy returns for a fifth series as, despite their record of failure (a video chat app that contravened privacy laws and a partner permanently sozzled in Tibet were just two of their problems), the team at Pied Piper look to be on the verge of success. As Richard’s (Thomas Middleditch) decentralised internet concept approaches launch, there’s ample funding for once and new offices. But the pressure to get things right begins to play on Richard’s mind. GO Nanny McPhee (2015) ★★★☆☆ ITV2, 10.20am Emma Thompson wrote and stars in this sweet and old-fashioned fantasy film, based on Christianna Brand’s Nurse Matilda books. She plays an old nanny who finds that the children of a widower (Colin Firth) are a challenge, even for her. Poised between Lemony Snicket and Mary Poppins, the film has moral messages to impart, but luckily not at the expense of an enjoyable, magical tale. Live and Let Die (1973) ★★★☆☆ ITV4, 9.00pm James Bond (Roger Moore) battles one of his more extraordinary opponents, Kananga (Yaphet Kotto), a Caribbean criminal mastermind masquerading as a Harlem drug baron. The film was given lukewarm reviews on its release, but this is Moore-era Bond at its preposterous best. Highlights include 007’s voodoo snake ordeal and a thrilling speedboat chase through New Orleans. RocknRolla (2008) ★★★☆☆ 5STAR, 10.00pm After the dismal Revolver and Swept Away (which starred his ex-wife Madonna), Guy Ritchie attempts a return to Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels-esque form with another testosterone-heavy, twisty tale set in London’s underworld. The plot moves vaguely around the theft of a painting from a Russian mobster (Karl Roden) while getting tangled up in various sub-plots. Friday 6 April David Morrissey Credit: BBC The City & the City BBC Two, 9.00pm; Northern Ireland, 9.30pm “I knew there was another city I dare not see… Just on the other side of where I was supposed to look.” So states Inspector Tyador Borlú (David Morrissey) midway through this engrossing adaptation of China Miéville’s Borgesian novel, which achieves the apparently impossible by bringing a dense and clever book to brilliant, atmospheric life. Borlú, a detective with the Extreme Crime Squad in the rundown vaguely Eastern European city of Beszul, is handed the task of solving the murder of a foreign student. So far, so standard, but what unfolds turns out to be anything but as scriptwriter Tony Grisoni (Red Riding) expertly captures Miéville’s vision of a world in which a city is divided not by a wall or barricade, but by blurred realities the populace is trained from birth not to see. Thus the two cities of Beszul and Ul Qoma coexist in the same space but without acknowledging each other, the town hall their only shared space. To look directly on the other city is to commit “Breach”, bringing about the wrath of the secret police. Grisoni and director Tom Shankland build the tension inexorably as Borlú’s world is slowly but surely upended. An absolute treat. Sarah Hughes Sounds Like Friday Night BBC One, 7.30pm The BBC’s music TV revival didn’t make a huge splash with its first series but it’s still worth checking out, if only because co-host and Radio 1Xtra presenter Dotty is such a likeable presence. Tonight, she’s on the road, while Greg James anchors from the studio. Professor Green, Snow Patrol and Years & Years perform. Have I Got News for You BBC One, 9.30pm The satirical quiz show returns for a 55th series, with captains Paul Merton and Ian Hislop joined by presenter Steph McGovern and comedian Josh Widdicombe; Jeremy Paxman hosts. The Graham Norton Show BBC One, 10.35pm In an era when the talk show appears tired somehow Graham Norton manages to keep the format enjoyable. Tonight’s episode, the first in a new series, sees husband-and-wife team Emily Blunt and John Krasinski discuss their horror A Quiet Place. Front Row Late BBC Two, 11.05pm; N Ireland, 11.35pm Following the kerfuffle over its poorly received first series, the arts show returns with a rejigged format and Mary Beard in the presenter’s chair. Informed debate is promised, although Beard has said that she won’t simply replicate the notoriously combative Newsnight Review. SH BBC Young Musician 2018 BBC Four, 7.30pm The contest kicks off at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s new concert hall. Presenter Josie d’Arby is joined by 1998 finalist Alison Balsom as we meet the final five: violinists Elodie Chousmer-Howelles and Stephanie Childress, double bassist Will Duerden, guitarist Torrin Williams and cellist Maxim Calver. The judges are double bassist Leon Bosch, classical guitarist Miloš Karadaglić, violinist and previous Young Musician of the Year winner, Jennifer Pike. Composer Kerry Andrew and the contestants will perform works by Bach, Brahms and Stravinsky. The Nineties Sky Arts, 9.00pm There’s nothing like seeing the decade you came of age in co-opted for nostalgic TV to make you feel old, but for those who can bear seeing their youth dissected Sky Arts at least does it well. Tonight’s second episode continues the focus on the decade’s TV with The Sopranos and Seinfeld under discussion. SH Fury (2014) ★★★★★ 5STAR, 9.00pm David Ayer’s study of the habits and habitats of the American killer male is an astonishing, stirring drama. It’s Germany 1945, and Sgt Don “Wardaddy” Collie (Brad Pitt) and his team are grinding towards Berlin in a battered M4 Sherman tank. There is no rescue mission, just an agonising rumble from one brush with death to the next. The set-piece battles are gripping, and the raw terror of war is blasted home. Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) ★★★★☆ Film4, 9.00pm The best of Richard Curtis and Hugh Grant’s romcoms about awfully nice chaps dithering over frightfully pretty girls. Grant plays bumbling Charles, who, ah, er, can’t tell what’s, um, going on between him and the scrummy Carrie (Andie MacDowell), who he keeps, gosh, bumping into at weddings. It’s aged pretty well and certainly knocks spots off Love, Actually. Lawless (2012) ★★★☆☆ Channel 4, 12.45am An adaptation of the historical novel The Wettest County in the World, John Hillcoat’s Prohibition-era western follows three brothers (played by Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf and Jason Clarke), who do a tidy business distilling and selling illegal moonshine whiskey. It’s an oddly affectionate clan portrait – the violence the brothers mete out is implicitly forgiven – but the period detail is well observed. Saturday 7 April Saturday night fever: Declan Donnelly presents from Orlando Credit: Rex/Shutterstock Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway ITV, 7.00pm It can’t be easy hosting a show as exuberant as Saturday Night Takeaway on your own but Declan Donnelly made a solid if understandably restrained go of it last week. He ensured that the light entertainment series proceeded pretty much as normal in the absence of long-time work partner Ant McPartlin, whose travails were sensibly referenced only in very brief passing (“I’ve got twice the amount of work to do,” Donnelly noted at one point before mock-berating the production crew that “I’ll have to do it myself, like everything else around here this week”). That said, this final episode ups the ante as Donnelly takes the show on the road to the Universal Orlando Resort in Florida. Once there we’re promised a “super-sized” edition featuring stunts, surprises and “extra-special” guests. No word yet as to who those guests will be but expect Donnelly to continue making the best of a difficult situation, buoyed by extra support from Scarlett Moffatt, who is in charge of ensuring that the Place on the Plane winners have a wonderful time, and Stephen Mulhern, who has the possibly less than enviable task of explaining In for a Penny to an American audience. Sarah Hughes Premier League Football: Everton v Liverpool Sky Sports Main Event, 12.30pm Tired, perhaps, from their Champions League quarter-final first leg against Man City, Liverpool face their bitter local rivals Everton at Goodison Park. The home side, who’ve won three of their last six games, haven’t beaten Liverpool since October 2010, when Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta gave them a 2-0 victory. Premiership Rugby Union: Bath v Leicester Tigers Channel 5, 1.30pm Time was when Bath and Leicester were the titans of English rugby. Currently they are fifth and eighth in the league, respectively. In September, Bath claimed a 27-23 win at Welford Road, as they held on for their first away win at Leicester since 2003, ensuring an unhappy return for George Ford against the club he left in the summer. The two sides also met in the Anglo-Welsh Cup at the Recreation Ground in November, where Bath also emerged victorious, beating Leicester 33-31 on that occasion. Premier League Football: Manchester City v Manchester United Sky Sports Main Event, 5.30pm What better way for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City to clinch the title than by beating second-placed Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium. Sixteen points ahead of them in the table, City have been formidable this season, winning 27 of the 31 league games they’ve played. One of those victories came at Old Trafford, with a goal from Nicolas Otamendi giving City a 2-1 victory when these sides met in December. Britain’s Most Historic Towns Channel 4, 8.00pm Alice Roberts is our guide for this new six-part series, which sees her search the UK for the places that best sum up an historical era. The first era is Roman Britain, so Roberts heads to Chester, where she abseils down walls, hunkers in caves and uncovers the truth about the city. Casualty BBC One, 8.20pm The medical drama’s storyline about Dylan’s (William Beck) alcoholism continues to be sensitively handled as the medic’s ex-wife Sam (Charlotte Salt) worries about whether she can help him. Meanwhile, Ethan (George Hardy) struggles with his own demons as he realises that a patient is related to his brother’s killer. The Voice UK: Live Final ITV, 8.30pm Every reality TV idea has an allotted shelf life and it’s hard not to feel that musical talent contests have come to the end of their run. For those who disagree, The Voice UK’s grand finale is here and the final four battle it out for public approval. Below the Surface BBC Four, 9.00pm & 9.45pm BBC Four’s latest Scandi drama started off tensely but like its predecessor, Modus, it has gone on to become ever more ludicrous. Now it’s the final two episodes, and Philip Norgaard (Johannes Lassen) faces off against Mark (Jakob Oftebro), the man behind the hostage crisis. Much heartfelt talking follows, although you may end up feeling more sympathetic towards the damaged Mark than the chilly Norgaard. Pearl Jam: Let’s Play Two Sky Arts, 9.00pm When is a music documentary not a music documentary? When it’s also a sports film. This exuberant film, which was made following the Chicago Cubs’ victory in baseball’s World Series in 2016, follows die-hard Cubs fan and Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder as he cheers on his team during their championship run while also preparing the band for two August shows at the team’s Wrigley Field Stadium. The result is an affectionate portrait of the singer as fan. SH Troy: Fall of a City BBC One, 9.10pm David Farr’s epic series reaches its climax with the arrival of the most famous horse in history. After an uninspiring start, Troy has picked up in recent weeks and the final episode is a well-handled tale of betrayal and death. It’s a curate’s egg of a series, let down by poor casting. SH X-Men (2000) ★★★★☆ Film4, 7.00pm Bryan Singer directs an all-star cast that includes Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen and Halle Berry, in the first of the X-Men franchise. A group of mutants must decide whether to side with Professor Xavier (Stewart) or the evil Magneto (McKellen) in what is a solid opening to the series and which paved the way for plenty of big-budget sequels. This is followed by X-Men 2 and X-Men 3 at 9.00pm and 11.35pm respectively. Legend (2015) ★★★☆☆ Channel 4, 9.00pm Tom Hardy gives a solid, convincing performance as east London gangster Reggie Kray but his caricatured portrayal of twin brother Ronnie lets him down, and this inconsistency leads to an entertaining though muddled film. Emily Browning, however, gives just the right mix of defiance and despair as Frances Shea, Reggie’s put-upon wife. Watch out for some particularly gory scenes. Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) ★★★☆☆ ITV4, 9.05pm Mel Gibson sports his signature Eighties mullet in the second film of this daft-but-fun action franchise. LAPD officer Riggs (Gibson) teams up once again with his partner Murtaugh (Danny Glover) to track down a band of South African criminals while protecting a painfully frenzied witness (Joe Pesci). Naturally, the pair find themselves drawn into violent action sequences orchestrated by stereotypical bad guys. Sunday 8 April Hostess with the mostest: Catherine Tate presents the awards Credit: ITV The Olivier Awards 2018 ITV, 10.20pm Last year, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child swept the board with nine Olivier Awards, something that looked impossible to top. But then came Lin Manuel Miranda’s blockbuster musical Hamilton, whose West End run has received reviews every bit as rapturous as those from its Broadway debut. The show has a record-breaking 13 nominations, which it is thought will be translated into awards. After being snubbed for Jerusalem, Jez Butterworth will surely be rewarded for his equally magisterial play The Ferryman (its eight nominations include best play and best director for Sam Mendes), while contenders in the acting categories include Bryan Cranston for Network, Andrew Garfield for Angels in America and Lesley Manville for Long Day’s Journey into Night. Catherine Tate will be on hosting duties for the event at the Royal Albert Hall, which will, as usual, feature a crop of stellar performances; this one will include a special tribute to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which turns 50 this year. Let’s hope the organisers bring together Josephs of the past for a big singalong: Jason Donovan, Phillip Schofield, Ian “H” Watkins and Lee Mead will all, one suspects, be available. Gabriel Tate Sex Robots and Us BBC Three, from 10.00am James Young, an amputee who created his own bionic arm, meets the people who design sex robots and hears about their plans for them, from being given to old people’s homes to “employment” in brothels. But is it the harmless, even socially responsible pursuit thatthey claim? Formula 1: The Bahrain Grand Prix Sky Sports F1, 3.30pm After the Australian Grand Prix – in which Sebastian Vettel took advantage of a safety-car blunder to win under pristine Melbourne skies – attention turns to the second round of the season at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir. Another blunder cost Lewis Hamilton on this circuit last year – this time it happened in the pit lane, with Vettel capitalising to win by 6.6 seconds. The Generation Game BBC One, 8.00pm How do you top last week’s cavalcade of silliness in this rebooted game show? You rope in Danny Dyer to join Mel Giedroyc, Sue Perkins and panellists Melvin Odoom and Roisin Conaty for challenges that include cake decorating, balloon modelling and dancing the Argentine Tango. The Durrells ITV, 8.00pm In the fourth episode of the popular drama, Larry (Josh O’Connor) visits Athens with two oddly named guests – Captain Creech (James Cosmo) and Prince Jeejeebuoy (Tanmay Dhanania) – in tow. There, they offer advice to Gerry (Milo Parker), who is applying for a new school. Jesus’ Female Disciples: the New Evidence Channel 4, 8.00pm For centuries, the birth of Christianity was regarded as a largely male affair, with women as only bit-part players. Now, Bible experts Helen Bond and Joan Taylor have discovered evidence that women were involved in everything from preaching and baptising to funding the movement as it grew. This absorbing documentary follows the historians’ progress. Golf: The Masters Sky Sports Main Event, 8.00pm Prepare for a dramatic finale as this year’s first Major – from the Augusta National in Georgia – concludes. Last year, Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the coveted green jacket, beating Justin Rose in a tense play-off. Ordeal by Innocence BBC One, 9.00pm Sarah Phelps’s splendid adaptation continues, as Arthur Calgary (Luke Treadaway) resolves to prove the truth about Jack Argyll’s (Anthony Boyle) alibi by any means necessary. GT Folk Awards 2018 BBC Four, 9.00pm Mark Radcliffe and Julie Fowlis introduce highlights from this year’s Radio 2 Folk Awards in Belfast. It features performances from Cara Dillon, Lankum and Eliza Carthy and the Wayward Band. The great Nick Drake will also be inducted into the Hall of Fame, his genius long-established, even if such recognition eluded him during his short life. Producer Dónal Lunny, meanwhile, receives the Lifetime Achievement Award for decades of tireless work promoting the renaissance in Irish music, plus The Armagh Pipers Club are presented with the Good Tradition Award. GT Emma (1996) ★★★★☆ BBC Two, 3.00pm Gwyneth Paltrow’s American iciness melts in this deft adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic comic romance. She is Emma Woodhouse, spoilt, charming and an inveterate meddler. Only Mr George Knightley (Jeremy Northam) dares challenge her behaviour – but what are his motives? A clever film with a superb supporting cast, including Toni Collette, Alan Cumming and Ewan McGregor. United 93 (2006) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Greats, 9.55pm Director Paul Greengrass’s boneshaking, real-time take on the final hours of the United Airlines plane whose passengers rebelled against their hijackers on September 11, 2001 feels uncomfortably realistic. Greengrass, whose signature rapid cutting made the second and third Bourne films so exciting, proves expert at handling the most infamous atrocity of modern times with intelligence and sobriety. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 11.00pm This superb adaptation of John le Carré’s brilliant, intricate Cold War spy novel is a triumph. The espionage drama follows the hunt for a Soviet double agent at the top of the British secret service, with Gary Oldman spearheading the excellent ensemble cast, which includes Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt and Benedict Cumberbatch. It’s funny, seductive and suspenseful. Monday 9 April I spy: a recruit sees if she’s got what it takes to be an SOE agent Credit: BBC Secret Agent Selection: WW2 BBC Two, 9.00pm Not unlike Channel 4’s SAS: Who Dares Wins and BBC Two’s Astronauts: Do You Have What It Takes?, this absorbing new series puts a group of recruits through a series of gruelling physical and psychological challenges to see if they could make the grade as a secret agent according to an established selection test used during the Second World War. This test was used by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) to determine whether recruits from many different walks of life would be capable of being dropped behind enemy lines and surviving as a covert officer with a brief to cause the maximum disruption possible to the enemy in the territory. As with the original SOE, the 14 candidates come from diverse backgrounds (among them a research scientist, a property developer, former police officer, a drag act performer, a retired investment banker and an Army veteran). In the opening episode, they undergo the initial four-day assessment at a remote Scottish country-house estate. The aim is to winnow out weakness and determine who should win a place on the advanced, and suitably terrifying, course in assassination, sabotage and covert intelligence techniques. Gerard O’Donovan Famalam BBC Three, from 10.00am After a successful pilot last year, Vivienne Acheampong, Gbemisola Ikumelo, Roxanne Sternberg, Tom Moutchi and John MacMillan return with more culturally skewed sketches. Once again, they feature William and Funke’s raunchy chat show, misunderstood superhero Eclipse, Croydon’s voodoo practitioner Professor Lofuko, and a version of Midsomer Murders. 800 Words BBC One, 2.15pm If you like The Durrells you will definitely want to watch hit Australian comedy drama 800 Words. This gently funny series follows George (Erik Thomson), a widower, who horrifies his teenaged children when he moves the entire family to a remote seaside town in New Zealand. Springtime on the Farm Channel 5, 8.00pm This is the first of five shows this week celebrating the “great British farmer”, with the help of Yorkshire Vet stars Peter Wright and Julian Norton, Adam Henson of Countryfile and Springwatch’s Lindsey Chapman. In this programme, they explore how to cope with the stresses of lambing. MasterChef: The Finals BBC One, 9.00pm Oodles of challenges lie ahead for the remaining amateur chefs in the final week, which takes them as far afield as Peru ahead of Friday’s concluding cook-off. First, though, they’re off to North Yorkshire to cater a country-house lunch for local grandees and farmers. Lisbon: An Art Lovers’ Guide BBC Four, 9.00pm Having covered Barcelona, St Petersburg and Amsterdam in their first series of city-break guides, historian Dr Janina Ramirez and art critic Alastair Sooke jet off to explore three less obvious, art-rich destinations. Beirut and Baku are perhaps the more intriguing but it opens in Lisbon, which built up its art reserves during the centuries Portugal was part of one of the world’s great empires, and currently boasts one of the hottest contemporary art scenes in Europe. GO Marcella ITV, 9.00pm This drama’s been a little less fraught the second time round but Marcella still pushes the boundaries of credibility. In this concluding part, the heroine (Anna Friel) tracks down the killer, only to suffer one of her unfortunate episodes. GO The Core (2003) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 6.25pm Rome starts to crumble, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco collapses and pigeons go mental in Trafalgar Square. Something is obviously amiss, and this time it isn’t climate change. In fact, the Earth’s core has stopped rotating and a team of scientists has to build a special burrowing machine to start it spinning again. Hilary Swank, Stanley Tucci and Aaron Eckhart do their best, but the excitement is intermittent. The Emoji Movie (2017) ★☆☆☆☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 6.30pm In this animated comedy set inside a smartphone, Gene (voiced by T J Miller), an emoji with multiple facial features, sets out on a quest to be like his colleagues who have only one. He does so with the help of apps like Spotify and Candy Crush. Sadly, the result is so horrendous that there aren’t enough Patrick Stewart-voiced emojis in the world to express what an ugly, artless exercise this is. Triple 9 (2016) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 9.00pm A gang of criminals and corrupt cops plan to kill a police officer in order to pull off their biggest heist yet in John Hillcoat’s crime thriller. There is a lot to like here: a big opening and a strong cast (with Kate Winslet, Gal Gadot, Anthony Mackie and Chiwetel Ejiofor among them). But it feels like fragments of a great crime drama are missing; it’s enthralling up close, but then the big picture isn’t complete. Tuesday 10 April Back to school: Mark, who has two sons with autism Credit: Channel 4 Class of Mum and Dad Channel 4, 8.00pm Another week, another Channel 4 series about education. Hold off on the black marks, however, because this one is pretty good. The premise is simple: Blackrod Primary School just outside of Bolton has thrown open its doors to a class made up of pupils’ parents (and one grandparent). They’ve agreed to go back to school for the summer term to see what modern education is really like, sports day, Sats tests and all. Naturally, its harder than many of them were expecting – 36-year-old decorator Jonny states early on that he thought he’d be able to slope off for a swift cigarette break rather than having to adhere to strict class rules – but there are some touching stories amid the more obvious moments. Most notably, this opening episode focuses on two parents with challenging home lives – Julia, who is raising her 10-year-old cousin Asha after Asha’s mother died, and Mark, who has two autistic sons. While the parents’ travails are interesting, the children are the real scene-stealers, however, from those delighted that their mothers and fathers are taking part to those who are more sceptical. The pair of five-year-olds who spend their time corpsing in front of the camera are particularly endearing. Sarah Hughes Champions League Football: Manchester City v Liverpool BT Sport 2, 7.45pm The Etihad Stadium is the setting as City and Liverpool fight it out for a place in the semi-finals. Liverpool have the advantage following a 3-0 win at Anfield in the first leg. This Time Next Year ITV, 8.00pm Davina McCall returns with another set of heart-tugging stories of people attempting to transform their lives over the course of a year. First up are two new parents who dream of making life wonderful for their baby girl who has been deaf since birth and a couple desperate to start a family. Come Home BBC One, 9.00pm Danny Brocklehurst’s claustrophobic family drama comes to a head as we flashback to find out exactly what went wrong in Greg (Christopher Eccleston) and Marie’s (Paula Malcomson) marriage. Hospital BBC Two, 9.00pm The engrossing fly-on-the-wall medical series continues with Nottingham University Hospitals Trust struggling to cope with the new NHS ruling regarding the cancellation of all non-urgent surgery. The episode focuses on Val, a 55-year-old with mouth cancer whose surgeon is desperately trying to ensure that her operation goes ahead. Here and Now Sky Atlantic, 9.00pm With only two episodes left to go, Alan Ball’s family drama continues to tread water in the most frustrating ways. On paper, there are a whole bunch of interesting stories in the mix, from Kristen’s (Sosie Bacon) possible relationship with Navid (Marwan Salama) to Ramon’s (Daniel Zovatto) continuing visions, but the problem is nothing much happens with any of them as each story moves on only incrementally each week. In this episode, Audrey (Holly Hunter) finally turns the tables on the perpetually smug Greg (Tim Robbins). Cunk on Britain BBC Two, 10.00pm; NI, 11.15pm Diana Morgan’s pitch-perfect send-up of history programmes moves to the Tudor era and beyond as Cunk takes on Henry VIII, aka “The kingiest king who kinged over Britain” before giving us her unique perspective on “Bloody” Mary Tudor (“horrible like the drink”) and Elizabeth I. SH Divorce Sky Atlantic, 10.10pm The acerbic Sarah Jessica Parker sitcom has been firing on all cylinders throughout its second series – possibly because it’s more interesting watching Frances (Parker) and Robert (the excellent Thomas Haden Church) navigate life after divorce than it was watching them get there. Here, Frances tries to make a new contact in the art world. SH Speed (1994) ★★★★☆ Film4, 9.00pm “There’s a bomb on the bus!” is the most famous line and basically the entire plot of one of the best action thrillers of the Nineties. The sizzling chemistry between LAPD Swat specialist Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) and passenger Annie Porter (Sandra Bullock) sexes up the exhilarating action scenes, while Dennis Hopper is fantastically unhinged as a revenge-driven, retired bomb squad member turned terrorist. Fast & Furious 7 (2015) ★★★☆☆ ITV2, 9.00pm Paul Walker was killed in a car crash part-way through making this film so it was completed with the help of his two younger brothers and some subtle computer graphics. The good news is that this is the best film in the franchise and does justice to Walker. It isn’t polished blockbuster film-making – though if it was, it wouldn’t be Fast & Furious. But it speaks straight to your adrenal glands. The Witches of Eastwick (1987) ★★★☆☆ Syfy, 9.00pm It is remarkable that director George Miller’s daft, unfettered romp of a film works at all. But, thanks to Jack Nicholson’s delicious overacting as Daryl Van Horne, a manic gentleman who closely resembles the devil, and the three gorgeous, single small-town friends, Alexandra (Cher), Jane (Susan Sarandon) and Sukie (Michelle Pfeiffer), who vie for his debased attentions, it somehow does. Wednesday 11 April Family ties: Edgar Ramirez and Penelope Cruz Credit: BBC The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story BBC Two, 9.00pm It’s been fascinating to discover the “true” story behind the 1997 murder of fhion designer Gianni Versace in Ryan Murphy’s glitzy drama, which has expertly depicted the inner world of the perpetrator, a Walter Mitty-style serial killer called Andrew Cunanan (a career-defining role for Darren Criss). This episode, however, has a mid-series lull about it as Cunanan ascends to the higher echelons of gay society, shaping himself meticulously into the posh, preppy eye-candy who saw a sugar daddy (or two) as his way to the top. Elsewhere, the Versace siblings return at last. Gianni (Edgar Ramirez), now in failing health decides to champion his insecure sister Donatella (Penélope Cruz in a frightful wig) and turns her into both designer and muse. Despite a lack of characters to root for – the Versaces’ moments of vulnerability dissolve into tedious histrionics and are eclipsed by Cunanan’s cold-blooded machinations – it’s all quite a fabulous mix of fashion, high society and brutal murder, with some interesting commentary on homophobia in the Nineties as well. Vicki Power The Secret Helpers BBC Two, 8.00pm Watch and weep as timid elderly widow Lesley begins a new life as an out gay woman in this life-affirming docu-series. She’s encouraged with warmth and wisdom by amateur “sages” from abroad, who talk to her secretly through a hidden earpiece. From World War to Cold War Yesterday, 8.00pm As the Second World War drew to a close, Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt met at Yalta in the Crimea to broker post-war peace. This brisk two-part documentary raids the archives for clips and letters from those who attended, and gathers experts and relatives – including FDR’s grandson – to investigate power plays by Stalin that wrong-footed his Allied counterparts. It’s a detailed look at how and why the compromises reached at Yalta were quickly cast aside. Bacchus Uncovered: Ancient God of Ecstasy BBC Four, 9.00pm Historian Bettany Hughes continues to explore ancient civilisations, moving on to Bacchus, the Roman god of wine. Hughes’s odyssey starts under the City of London, where an 1,800-year-old Roman temple to Bacchus was discovered less than 100 years ago, and takes her to Greece, the Middle East and the Caucasus to explore the god’s roots and influence. VP Benidorm ITV, 9.00pm Fluffy as candyfloss, this lewd seaside comedy provides some fun, particularly in the retro casting of stars of yesteryear. This week, an exuberant Sammy (Shane Richie) tries to persuade Monty (John Challis) that, after his successful comeback gig, he is ready for an evening slot. One Born Every Minute Channel 4, 9.00pm This feelgood documentary series brings more poignant tales from a Birmingham labour ward. This week we meet Chantell, about to deliver her third child, who regales us with a moving story of how parenthood with partner Phil has healed the wounds of a traumatic past. First Dates Channel 4, 10.00pm The thoughtful dating show pairs up four more couples, but the road to love is bumpy – septuagenarian Deanna finds her date more interested in the waiter than her. More promising is the match between Bianca and Teza, who allow their vulnerabilities to show. VP The Thin Red Line (1998) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Greats, 3.10pm This lyrical Second World War drama, directed by Terrence Malick, tells the story of a group of young US soldiers fighting the Japanese for control of the island of Guadalcanal. Full of stars such as Sean Penn and George Clooney, it struggles with its own battle to squeeze in so many characters but is still an atmospheric meditation on the nature of war. Nick Nolte and Adrien Brody also star. The Remains of the Day (1993) ★★★★☆ Sony Movie Channel, 3.55pm The success of Merchant Ivory’s adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Thirties-set novel, a well-observed study of regret, is built around its perfectly cast leads: Anthony Hopkins as James, the butler to the doltish aristocrat Lord Darlington (James Fox) and Emma Thompson as a housekeeper who tries to draw him out of his sterile shell. Lush visuals give it an added richness. Transporter 2 (2005) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 9.00pm A martial arts action sequel, in which Jason Statham and Alessandro Gassman are the sporadically thrilling stars. Statham is Frank Martin, who accepts a job as chauffeur to Jack (Hunter Clary), the son of Miami’s politician Jefferson Billings (Matthew Modine). But the local Colombian drug dealers aren’t happy with his boss’s efforts to clean up the city. Cue a kidnapping, and a potentially deadly encounter with a cocaine baron. Thursday 12 April Changing attitudes: Holly and Hollie Credit: BBC Living with the Brainy Bunch BBC Two, 8.00pm Enterprising, PR-conscious Ash Ali is headmaster of Chessington Community College, a fast-improving school with a few problem pupils. Among them are Jack and Hollie who, on the surface, are comically awful teenagers. Hollie gripes constantly, throws strops and storms out of classrooms if things aren’t going her way. Jack is sullen, lazy and has clocked up 15 suspensions in the past year. It will come as no surprise to regular viewers of such documentaries that their behaviour is rooted in low self-esteem, although their parents unquestionably indulge their foibles. Ali’s novel solution is to place Hollie with Holly, tapdancing head girl and gregarious boffin, and Jack with Tharush, a Sri Lankan immigrant by way of Italy, whose talents are only matched by his work ethic. Now that Jack and Hollie are in the bosom of new families for six weeks, it’s hoped that a new environment, greater discipline and rigid routines will see their results improve and attitudes pick up. There are setbacks on the largely familiar narrative trajectory, but it’s cast to perfection and, as a demonstration of the importance of parenting in academic achievement, the experiment gets an A-star. Gabriel Tate European Tour Golf: The Open de Espana Sky Sports Golf, 11.00am The opening day’s play of the event from the Centro Nacional de Golf in Madrid, which was won by Andrew Johnston the last time it was held in 2016. War Above the Trenches Yesterday, 8.00pm This decent two-parter tells the story of the Royal Flying Corps and their battle to win control of the air in the First World War. Based on Peter Hart’s book Bloody April, it draws affectingly on the testimony of veterans to show there was more to the Western Front than trench warfare. Civilisations BBC Two, 9.00pm The modern age draws closer, as Simon Schama tackles the theme of radiance, guiding us through Gothic cathedrals, Baroque Venetian masterpieces and dazzling Japanese woodblock prints. The Investigator: A British Crime Story ITV, 9.00pm The second real-life case of the series sees Mark Williams-Thomas investigating the 1977 murders of three women in Glasgow. The suspect is Angus Sinclair, who is currently serving a life sentence for killing two other women that same year. We hear from his ex-wife, and learn how he was a prime suspect but escaped charges for the first killings when key evidence went missing. Indian Summer School Channel 4, 9.00pm This diverting documentary series concludes with a Himalayan trek, a controversial article in the school newspaper and the GCSE retakes that were the goal of the entire enterprise. Will Alfie, Harry, Jack and co see their grades improve? Urban Myths: Marilyn Monroe and Billy Wilder Sky Arts, 9.00pm Sky Arts’ boldly cast series of vaguely apocryphal tales from the pop-culture frontlines returns with a dispatch from the set of Some Like It Hot, the magnificent 1959 comedy that is almost certainly more fun to watch than it was to make. In this minor but entertaining reimagining, Tony Curtis (Alex Pettyfer) is threatening to cuckold Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott) by making off with Marilyn Monroe (Gemma Arterton), whose caprice, drinking and sensitivity is driving director Billy Wilder (James Purefoy) to distraction. GT Still Game BBC One, 9.30pm; BBC Two Wales, 10.00pm Justifying its prime-time BBC One slot, the Scottish sitcom bows out in triumph with a typically well-wrought farce involving a Hollywood stuntman, a disastrous driving lesson and romance for the widowed Isa (Jane McCarry). GT The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) ★★★★☆ ITV4, 9.00pm Christopher Lee steals the show as the titular assassin, Francisco Scaramanga, in this classic Bond adventure. Roger Moore’s secret agent, in his second outing as 007, must pursue him, with the help of sidekick Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland), to the villain’s island lair in order to prevent him harnessing the power of the Sun for evil. The confrontations between Moore and Lee are easily the film’s highlights. Swordfish (2001) ★★☆☆☆ TCM, 9.00pm The most often quoted bit of trivia about this film is that Halle Berry was paid an additional £500,000 to go topless. It’s rather lucky she agreed because she’s probably the most appealing aspect of this frenetic thriller. John Travolta and Hugh Jackman put on testosterone-fuelled displays as a morally dubious counter-terrorist agent and the hacker he blackmails into accessing billions of dollars of government money. Some Like It Hot (1959, b/w) ★★★★★ Sky Arts, 9.30pm When two musicians (Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis) witness a mob hit, they flee the state disguised as women in an all-female band, but further complications arise in the form of demure ukulele player Sugar Kane, superbly played by Marilyn Monroe. Billy Wilder’s classic comedy is effortlessly wacky and clever. Before, at 9pm, is Urban Myths, which imagines what happened on the set of this romcom. Friday 13 April Dishing out opinions: John Torode and Gregg Wallace Credit: BBC MasterChef: The Final BBC One, 8.30pm It has taken 25 episodes over seven weeks to whittle down the 56 amateur contestants to three finalists, and in the process, MasterChef 2018 has produced some of the best cooking – and some of the toughest competition – in the series’ long history. (It has been running in one form or another since 1990; and since 2005 in, roughly, its current format with judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode presenting.) This last week has been no exception, with the finalists having to dig deeper than ever to produce the best dishes of their lives and some great moments – notably during the spectacular trip to South America when they met Peruvian superchef Gaston Acurio and took on a service at the fifth best restaurant in the world, the Central in Lima, under Michelin-starred maestro Virgilio Martínez Véliz. In the finale, it’s all about who cooks the best food, though, as the final three return to the studio kitchen to undergo a test of culinary skills and nerve as they set about creating the most important three-course meal of their lives – in the hope of being judged worthy of a title that has launched many a great career: MasterChef champion. Gerard O’Donovan Chef’s Table: Pastry Netflix, from today This mouth-watering spin-off from Netflix’s popular global foodie series Chef’s Table puts the focus entirely on sweet stuff, talking the cameras inside the kitchens of some of the world’s best pastry chefs, among them Christina Tosi’s Milk Bar in New York, Corrado Assenza’s Caffé Sicilia in Noto, Sicily, Jordi Roca’s El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, and Will Goldfarb’s Room4Dessert in Bali. Lost in Space Netflix, from today Not so much a rerun as a spectacular new take on the classic Sixties sci-fi series about a family marooned in space when their ship runs into difficulty on their way to a new colony and crashes on an unknown and surprisingly hostile planet. There are plenty of thrills and impressive visual effects, and Toby Stephens and Molly Parker are excellent as the pioneering Robinson parents John and Judy, while Parker Posey is an enigmatic (and now female) Dr Smith. GO The City & The City BBC Two, 9.00pm; Wales, 9.30pm Cop thrillers don’t come much more weirdly dystopian than China Miéville’s award-winning 2009 novel and this ultra-stylish adaptation serves its source material very well. In episode two, Inspector Borlú (David Morrissey) ventures back across the border while investigating the murder of a foreign student. Episodes BBC Two, 10.00pm; Wales, 11.05pm Having overcome last week’s unfortunate episode in this sitcom, Matt (Matt LeBlanc) is back on top and leveraging his spurt in the ratings for all it’s worth, handing Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly (Tamsin Greig) a welcome opportunity for escape. Lee and Dean Channel 4, 10.00pm More rough charm, as life gets complicated for Stevenage’s very own Dumb and Dumber when Lee’s (Miles Chapman) financial worries mount and Dean (Mark O’Sullivan) is persuaded to premiere his poetry at the local arts club. Front Row Late BBC Two, 11.05pm; Wales, 11.35pm Freedom of speech and censorship are under the spotlight as host Mary Beard and guests discuss Theatre Clwyd’s production The Assassination of Katie Hopkins and former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s new book Fascism: A Warning. GO Alien: Covenant (2017) ★★★★★ Sky Cinema Premiere, 8.00pm The latest film in the Alien saga from Ridley Scott is arguably a mad scientist movie. It follows the crew of the colony ship Covenant (including Katherine Waterson) as they discover what they think is an uncharted paradise, but what they uncover a threat beyond their imagination. Michael Fassbender puts in a spectacular turn as kindly robot David and his twisted “brother” Walter. Invictus (2009) ★★★★☆ ITV, 10.45pm Following the death of Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife Winnie last week, aged 81, here’s Clint Eastwood’s take on South Africa’s World Cup victory in 1995. As the country emerges from apartheid, the newly elected President Mandela (an uncanny Morgan Freeman) sees the potential for the national rugby team, led by François Pienaar (Matt Damon), to be a catalyst for harmony. This is a polished and uplifting film. Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl (1982) ★★★★☆ Gold, 1.40am Much like the Secret Policeman’s Ball, this comedy performance film sees the Monty Python gang take to the stage, but this time they’re in Hollywood. Among the sketches are the Silly Olympics, where athletes compete in absurd sports, The Lumberjack Song, and The Ministry of Silly Walks. This film also features Carol Cleveland in numerous supporting roles. Television previewers Toby Dantzic, Sarah Hughes, Gerard O'Donovan, Vicki Power and Gabriel Tate
What's on TV tonight: The Investigator: A British Crime Story and Civilisations
Thursday 5 April The Investigator: A British Crime Story ITV, 9.00pm “I have investigated some of the UK’s most infamous crimes but I’ve never encountered anything as sinister as this,” says cop turned investigative reporter Mark Williams-Thomas of this series in which he turns his attention to the disappearance of Polegate teenager Louise Kay in 1988. Which is quite a claim, coming as it does from the man who broke the Jimmy Savile story, among others. But when the Kay family turned to him for help after three decades of getting nowhere via the police, Williams Thomas says his own investigation turned up a great deal more than he was expecting, including links to a number of other missing persons cases and the possibility that he might have uncovered “the undetected crimes of a serial killer who has got away with murder for decades”. In this first episode, though, the focus is firmly on the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of 18-year-old Louise, who was last seen driving towards Beachy Head after a night out clubbing in Eastbourne, East Sussex, with her best friend, and the fact that her distinctive gold and white Ford Fiesta also vanished that night without trace. Gerard O’Donovan The Cruise: Sailing the Caribbean ITV, 8.30pm More seaborne adventures for the cruise ship Royal Princess, this time as she embarks on an island-hopping tour of such Caribbean destinations as Grenada, the Bahamas and Antigua. If they can get into port, that is, as the ship’s docking winches appear to have failed. Ho-hum. Civilisations BBC Two, 9.00pm David Olusoga takes the reins for a wide-ranging edition exploring how in West Africa, Central America and Japan, art left its own distinctive record of when some great civilisations of the 15th and 16th centuries came into contact for the first time. Indian Summer School Channel 4, 9.00pm The five British boys are now six weeks into their study programme at the Doon School in Uttarakhand, but it’s not easy for them, especially Jack who finds there is a high price to pay for daring to do better than the others. Unsolved: The Man with No Alibi BBC One, 10.45pm; Wales, 11.15pm In the concluding part of this report exploring the July 2002 murder in Bournemouth of Korean student Jong-Ok Shin, Bronagh Munro examines the evidence that convicted Omar Benguit despite the absence of forensics linking him to the crime. GO Deep State Fox, 9.00pm This eight-part British spy thriller gets off to an action packed start, with Mark Strong convincing as ex-MI6 spook Max Easton, unwillingly forced out of retirement by a former intelligence chief in London. It’s not long before he finds himself at the heart of a covert intelligence war and a conspiracy by powerful corporations to foment chaos and revolution in the Middle East. Silicon Valley Sky Atlantic, 10.15pm The popular HBO tech-comedy returns for a fifth series as, despite their record of failure (a video chat app that contravened privacy laws and a partner permanently sozzled in Tibet were just two of their problems), the team at Pied Piper look to be on the verge of success. As Richard’s (Thomas Middleditch) decentralised internet concept approaches launch, there’s ample funding for once and new offices. But the pressure to get things right begins to play on Richard’s mind. GO Nanny McPhee (2015) ★★★☆☆ ITV2, 10.20am Emma Thompson wrote and stars in this sweet and old-fashioned fantasy film, based on Christianna Brand’s Nurse Matilda books. She plays an old nanny who finds that the children of a widower (Colin Firth) are a challenge, even for her. Poised between Lemony Snicket and Mary Poppins, the film has moral messages to impart, but luckily not at the expense of an enjoyable, magical tale. Live and Let Die (1973) ★★★☆☆ ITV4, 9.00pm James Bond (Roger Moore) battles one of his more extraordinary opponents, Kananga (Yaphet Kotto), a Caribbean criminal mastermind masquerading as a Harlem drug baron. The film was given lukewarm reviews on its release, but this is Moore-era Bond at its preposterous best. Highlights include 007’s voodoo snake ordeal and a thrilling speedboat chase through New Orleans. RocknRolla (2008) ★★★☆☆ 5STAR, 10.00pm After the dismal Revolver and Swept Away (which starred his ex-wife Madonna), Guy Ritchie attempts a return to Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels-esque form with another testosterone-heavy, twisty tale set in London’s underworld. The plot moves vaguely around the theft of a painting from a Russian mobster (Karl Roden) while getting tangled up in various sub-plots. Friday 6 April David Morrissey Credit: BBC The City & the City BBC Two, 9.00pm; Northern Ireland, 9.30pm “I knew there was another city I dare not see… Just on the other side of where I was supposed to look.” So states Inspector Tyador Borlú (David Morrissey) midway through this engrossing adaptation of China Miéville’s Borgesian novel, which achieves the apparently impossible by bringing a dense and clever book to brilliant, atmospheric life. Borlú, a detective with the Extreme Crime Squad in the rundown vaguely Eastern European city of Beszul, is handed the task of solving the murder of a foreign student. So far, so standard, but what unfolds turns out to be anything but as scriptwriter Tony Grisoni (Red Riding) expertly captures Miéville’s vision of a world in which a city is divided not by a wall or barricade, but by blurred realities the populace is trained from birth not to see. Thus the two cities of Beszul and Ul Qoma coexist in the same space but without acknowledging each other, the town hall their only shared space. To look directly on the other city is to commit “Breach”, bringing about the wrath of the secret police. Grisoni and director Tom Shankland build the tension inexorably as Borlú’s world is slowly but surely upended. An absolute treat. Sarah Hughes Sounds Like Friday Night BBC One, 7.30pm The BBC’s music TV revival didn’t make a huge splash with its first series but it’s still worth checking out, if only because co-host and Radio 1Xtra presenter Dotty is such a likeable presence. Tonight, she’s on the road, while Greg James anchors from the studio. Professor Green, Snow Patrol and Years & Years perform. Have I Got News for You BBC One, 9.30pm The satirical quiz show returns for a 55th series, with captains Paul Merton and Ian Hislop joined by presenter Steph McGovern and comedian Josh Widdicombe; Jeremy Paxman hosts. The Graham Norton Show BBC One, 10.35pm In an era when the talk show appears tired somehow Graham Norton manages to keep the format enjoyable. Tonight’s episode, the first in a new series, sees husband-and-wife team Emily Blunt and John Krasinski discuss their horror A Quiet Place. Front Row Late BBC Two, 11.05pm; N Ireland, 11.35pm Following the kerfuffle over its poorly received first series, the arts show returns with a rejigged format and Mary Beard in the presenter’s chair. Informed debate is promised, although Beard has said that she won’t simply replicate the notoriously combative Newsnight Review. SH BBC Young Musician 2018 BBC Four, 7.30pm The contest kicks off at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s new concert hall. Presenter Josie d’Arby is joined by 1998 finalist Alison Balsom as we meet the final five: violinists Elodie Chousmer-Howelles and Stephanie Childress, double bassist Will Duerden, guitarist Torrin Williams and cellist Maxim Calver. The judges are double bassist Leon Bosch, classical guitarist Miloš Karadaglić, violinist and previous Young Musician of the Year winner, Jennifer Pike. Composer Kerry Andrew and the contestants will perform works by Bach, Brahms and Stravinsky. The Nineties Sky Arts, 9.00pm There’s nothing like seeing the decade you came of age in co-opted for nostalgic TV to make you feel old, but for those who can bear seeing their youth dissected Sky Arts at least does it well. Tonight’s second episode continues the focus on the decade’s TV with The Sopranos and Seinfeld under discussion. SH Fury (2014) ★★★★★ 5STAR, 9.00pm David Ayer’s study of the habits and habitats of the American killer male is an astonishing, stirring drama. It’s Germany 1945, and Sgt Don “Wardaddy” Collie (Brad Pitt) and his team are grinding towards Berlin in a battered M4 Sherman tank. There is no rescue mission, just an agonising rumble from one brush with death to the next. The set-piece battles are gripping, and the raw terror of war is blasted home. Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) ★★★★☆ Film4, 9.00pm The best of Richard Curtis and Hugh Grant’s romcoms about awfully nice chaps dithering over frightfully pretty girls. Grant plays bumbling Charles, who, ah, er, can’t tell what’s, um, going on between him and the scrummy Carrie (Andie MacDowell), who he keeps, gosh, bumping into at weddings. It’s aged pretty well and certainly knocks spots off Love, Actually. Lawless (2012) ★★★☆☆ Channel 4, 12.45am An adaptation of the historical novel The Wettest County in the World, John Hillcoat’s Prohibition-era western follows three brothers (played by Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf and Jason Clarke), who do a tidy business distilling and selling illegal moonshine whiskey. It’s an oddly affectionate clan portrait – the violence the brothers mete out is implicitly forgiven – but the period detail is well observed. Saturday 7 April Saturday night fever: Declan Donnelly presents from Orlando Credit: Rex/Shutterstock Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway ITV, 7.00pm It can’t be easy hosting a show as exuberant as Saturday Night Takeaway on your own but Declan Donnelly made a solid if understandably restrained go of it last week. He ensured that the light entertainment series proceeded pretty much as normal in the absence of long-time work partner Ant McPartlin, whose travails were sensibly referenced only in very brief passing (“I’ve got twice the amount of work to do,” Donnelly noted at one point before mock-berating the production crew that “I’ll have to do it myself, like everything else around here this week”). That said, this final episode ups the ante as Donnelly takes the show on the road to the Universal Orlando Resort in Florida. Once there we’re promised a “super-sized” edition featuring stunts, surprises and “extra-special” guests. No word yet as to who those guests will be but expect Donnelly to continue making the best of a difficult situation, buoyed by extra support from Scarlett Moffatt, who is in charge of ensuring that the Place on the Plane winners have a wonderful time, and Stephen Mulhern, who has the possibly less than enviable task of explaining In for a Penny to an American audience. Sarah Hughes Premier League Football: Everton v Liverpool Sky Sports Main Event, 12.30pm Tired, perhaps, from their Champions League quarter-final first leg against Man City, Liverpool face their bitter local rivals Everton at Goodison Park. The home side, who’ve won three of their last six games, haven’t beaten Liverpool since October 2010, when Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta gave them a 2-0 victory. Premiership Rugby Union: Bath v Leicester Tigers Channel 5, 1.30pm Time was when Bath and Leicester were the titans of English rugby. Currently they are fifth and eighth in the league, respectively. In September, Bath claimed a 27-23 win at Welford Road, as they held on for their first away win at Leicester since 2003, ensuring an unhappy return for George Ford against the club he left in the summer. The two sides also met in the Anglo-Welsh Cup at the Recreation Ground in November, where Bath also emerged victorious, beating Leicester 33-31 on that occasion. Premier League Football: Manchester City v Manchester United Sky Sports Main Event, 5.30pm What better way for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City to clinch the title than by beating second-placed Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium. Sixteen points ahead of them in the table, City have been formidable this season, winning 27 of the 31 league games they’ve played. One of those victories came at Old Trafford, with a goal from Nicolas Otamendi giving City a 2-1 victory when these sides met in December. Britain’s Most Historic Towns Channel 4, 8.00pm Alice Roberts is our guide for this new six-part series, which sees her search the UK for the places that best sum up an historical era. The first era is Roman Britain, so Roberts heads to Chester, where she abseils down walls, hunkers in caves and uncovers the truth about the city. Casualty BBC One, 8.20pm The medical drama’s storyline about Dylan’s (William Beck) alcoholism continues to be sensitively handled as the medic’s ex-wife Sam (Charlotte Salt) worries about whether she can help him. Meanwhile, Ethan (George Hardy) struggles with his own demons as he realises that a patient is related to his brother’s killer. The Voice UK: Live Final ITV, 8.30pm Every reality TV idea has an allotted shelf life and it’s hard not to feel that musical talent contests have come to the end of their run. For those who disagree, The Voice UK’s grand finale is here and the final four battle it out for public approval. Below the Surface BBC Four, 9.00pm & 9.45pm BBC Four’s latest Scandi drama started off tensely but like its predecessor, Modus, it has gone on to become ever more ludicrous. Now it’s the final two episodes, and Philip Norgaard (Johannes Lassen) faces off against Mark (Jakob Oftebro), the man behind the hostage crisis. Much heartfelt talking follows, although you may end up feeling more sympathetic towards the damaged Mark than the chilly Norgaard. Pearl Jam: Let’s Play Two Sky Arts, 9.00pm When is a music documentary not a music documentary? When it’s also a sports film. This exuberant film, which was made following the Chicago Cubs’ victory in baseball’s World Series in 2016, follows die-hard Cubs fan and Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder as he cheers on his team during their championship run while also preparing the band for two August shows at the team’s Wrigley Field Stadium. The result is an affectionate portrait of the singer as fan. SH Troy: Fall of a City BBC One, 9.10pm David Farr’s epic series reaches its climax with the arrival of the most famous horse in history. After an uninspiring start, Troy has picked up in recent weeks and the final episode is a well-handled tale of betrayal and death. It’s a curate’s egg of a series, let down by poor casting. SH X-Men (2000) ★★★★☆ Film4, 7.00pm Bryan Singer directs an all-star cast that includes Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen and Halle Berry, in the first of the X-Men franchise. A group of mutants must decide whether to side with Professor Xavier (Stewart) or the evil Magneto (McKellen) in what is a solid opening to the series and which paved the way for plenty of big-budget sequels. This is followed by X-Men 2 and X-Men 3 at 9.00pm and 11.35pm respectively. Legend (2015) ★★★☆☆ Channel 4, 9.00pm Tom Hardy gives a solid, convincing performance as east London gangster Reggie Kray but his caricatured portrayal of twin brother Ronnie lets him down, and this inconsistency leads to an entertaining though muddled film. Emily Browning, however, gives just the right mix of defiance and despair as Frances Shea, Reggie’s put-upon wife. Watch out for some particularly gory scenes. Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) ★★★☆☆ ITV4, 9.05pm Mel Gibson sports his signature Eighties mullet in the second film of this daft-but-fun action franchise. LAPD officer Riggs (Gibson) teams up once again with his partner Murtaugh (Danny Glover) to track down a band of South African criminals while protecting a painfully frenzied witness (Joe Pesci). Naturally, the pair find themselves drawn into violent action sequences orchestrated by stereotypical bad guys. Sunday 8 April Hostess with the mostest: Catherine Tate presents the awards Credit: ITV The Olivier Awards 2018 ITV, 10.20pm Last year, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child swept the board with nine Olivier Awards, something that looked impossible to top. But then came Lin Manuel Miranda’s blockbuster musical Hamilton, whose West End run has received reviews every bit as rapturous as those from its Broadway debut. The show has a record-breaking 13 nominations, which it is thought will be translated into awards. After being snubbed for Jerusalem, Jez Butterworth will surely be rewarded for his equally magisterial play The Ferryman (its eight nominations include best play and best director for Sam Mendes), while contenders in the acting categories include Bryan Cranston for Network, Andrew Garfield for Angels in America and Lesley Manville for Long Day’s Journey into Night. Catherine Tate will be on hosting duties for the event at the Royal Albert Hall, which will, as usual, feature a crop of stellar performances; this one will include a special tribute to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which turns 50 this year. Let’s hope the organisers bring together Josephs of the past for a big singalong: Jason Donovan, Phillip Schofield, Ian “H” Watkins and Lee Mead will all, one suspects, be available. Gabriel Tate Sex Robots and Us BBC Three, from 10.00am James Young, an amputee who created his own bionic arm, meets the people who design sex robots and hears about their plans for them, from being given to old people’s homes to “employment” in brothels. But is it the harmless, even socially responsible pursuit thatthey claim? Formula 1: The Bahrain Grand Prix Sky Sports F1, 3.30pm After the Australian Grand Prix – in which Sebastian Vettel took advantage of a safety-car blunder to win under pristine Melbourne skies – attention turns to the second round of the season at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir. Another blunder cost Lewis Hamilton on this circuit last year – this time it happened in the pit lane, with Vettel capitalising to win by 6.6 seconds. The Generation Game BBC One, 8.00pm How do you top last week’s cavalcade of silliness in this rebooted game show? You rope in Danny Dyer to join Mel Giedroyc, Sue Perkins and panellists Melvin Odoom and Roisin Conaty for challenges that include cake decorating, balloon modelling and dancing the Argentine Tango. The Durrells ITV, 8.00pm In the fourth episode of the popular drama, Larry (Josh O’Connor) visits Athens with two oddly named guests – Captain Creech (James Cosmo) and Prince Jeejeebuoy (Tanmay Dhanania) – in tow. There, they offer advice to Gerry (Milo Parker), who is applying for a new school. Jesus’ Female Disciples: the New Evidence Channel 4, 8.00pm For centuries, the birth of Christianity was regarded as a largely male affair, with women as only bit-part players. Now, Bible experts Helen Bond and Joan Taylor have discovered evidence that women were involved in everything from preaching and baptising to funding the movement as it grew. This absorbing documentary follows the historians’ progress. Golf: The Masters Sky Sports Main Event, 8.00pm Prepare for a dramatic finale as this year’s first Major – from the Augusta National in Georgia – concludes. Last year, Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the coveted green jacket, beating Justin Rose in a tense play-off. Ordeal by Innocence BBC One, 9.00pm Sarah Phelps’s splendid adaptation continues, as Arthur Calgary (Luke Treadaway) resolves to prove the truth about Jack Argyll’s (Anthony Boyle) alibi by any means necessary. GT Folk Awards 2018 BBC Four, 9.00pm Mark Radcliffe and Julie Fowlis introduce highlights from this year’s Radio 2 Folk Awards in Belfast. It features performances from Cara Dillon, Lankum and Eliza Carthy and the Wayward Band. The great Nick Drake will also be inducted into the Hall of Fame, his genius long-established, even if such recognition eluded him during his short life. Producer Dónal Lunny, meanwhile, receives the Lifetime Achievement Award for decades of tireless work promoting the renaissance in Irish music, plus The Armagh Pipers Club are presented with the Good Tradition Award. GT Emma (1996) ★★★★☆ BBC Two, 3.00pm Gwyneth Paltrow’s American iciness melts in this deft adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic comic romance. She is Emma Woodhouse, spoilt, charming and an inveterate meddler. Only Mr George Knightley (Jeremy Northam) dares challenge her behaviour – but what are his motives? A clever film with a superb supporting cast, including Toni Collette, Alan Cumming and Ewan McGregor. United 93 (2006) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Greats, 9.55pm Director Paul Greengrass’s boneshaking, real-time take on the final hours of the United Airlines plane whose passengers rebelled against their hijackers on September 11, 2001 feels uncomfortably realistic. Greengrass, whose signature rapid cutting made the second and third Bourne films so exciting, proves expert at handling the most infamous atrocity of modern times with intelligence and sobriety. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 11.00pm This superb adaptation of John le Carré’s brilliant, intricate Cold War spy novel is a triumph. The espionage drama follows the hunt for a Soviet double agent at the top of the British secret service, with Gary Oldman spearheading the excellent ensemble cast, which includes Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt and Benedict Cumberbatch. It’s funny, seductive and suspenseful. Monday 9 April I spy: a recruit sees if she’s got what it takes to be an SOE agent Credit: BBC Secret Agent Selection: WW2 BBC Two, 9.00pm Not unlike Channel 4’s SAS: Who Dares Wins and BBC Two’s Astronauts: Do You Have What It Takes?, this absorbing new series puts a group of recruits through a series of gruelling physical and psychological challenges to see if they could make the grade as a secret agent according to an established selection test used during the Second World War. This test was used by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) to determine whether recruits from many different walks of life would be capable of being dropped behind enemy lines and surviving as a covert officer with a brief to cause the maximum disruption possible to the enemy in the territory. As with the original SOE, the 14 candidates come from diverse backgrounds (among them a research scientist, a property developer, former police officer, a drag act performer, a retired investment banker and an Army veteran). In the opening episode, they undergo the initial four-day assessment at a remote Scottish country-house estate. The aim is to winnow out weakness and determine who should win a place on the advanced, and suitably terrifying, course in assassination, sabotage and covert intelligence techniques. Gerard O’Donovan Famalam BBC Three, from 10.00am After a successful pilot last year, Vivienne Acheampong, Gbemisola Ikumelo, Roxanne Sternberg, Tom Moutchi and John MacMillan return with more culturally skewed sketches. Once again, they feature William and Funke’s raunchy chat show, misunderstood superhero Eclipse, Croydon’s voodoo practitioner Professor Lofuko, and a version of Midsomer Murders. 800 Words BBC One, 2.15pm If you like The Durrells you will definitely want to watch hit Australian comedy drama 800 Words. This gently funny series follows George (Erik Thomson), a widower, who horrifies his teenaged children when he moves the entire family to a remote seaside town in New Zealand. Springtime on the Farm Channel 5, 8.00pm This is the first of five shows this week celebrating the “great British farmer”, with the help of Yorkshire Vet stars Peter Wright and Julian Norton, Adam Henson of Countryfile and Springwatch’s Lindsey Chapman. In this programme, they explore how to cope with the stresses of lambing. MasterChef: The Finals BBC One, 9.00pm Oodles of challenges lie ahead for the remaining amateur chefs in the final week, which takes them as far afield as Peru ahead of Friday’s concluding cook-off. First, though, they’re off to North Yorkshire to cater a country-house lunch for local grandees and farmers. Lisbon: An Art Lovers’ Guide BBC Four, 9.00pm Having covered Barcelona, St Petersburg and Amsterdam in their first series of city-break guides, historian Dr Janina Ramirez and art critic Alastair Sooke jet off to explore three less obvious, art-rich destinations. Beirut and Baku are perhaps the more intriguing but it opens in Lisbon, which built up its art reserves during the centuries Portugal was part of one of the world’s great empires, and currently boasts one of the hottest contemporary art scenes in Europe. GO Marcella ITV, 9.00pm This drama’s been a little less fraught the second time round but Marcella still pushes the boundaries of credibility. In this concluding part, the heroine (Anna Friel) tracks down the killer, only to suffer one of her unfortunate episodes. GO The Core (2003) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 6.25pm Rome starts to crumble, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco collapses and pigeons go mental in Trafalgar Square. Something is obviously amiss, and this time it isn’t climate change. In fact, the Earth’s core has stopped rotating and a team of scientists has to build a special burrowing machine to start it spinning again. Hilary Swank, Stanley Tucci and Aaron Eckhart do their best, but the excitement is intermittent. The Emoji Movie (2017) ★☆☆☆☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 6.30pm In this animated comedy set inside a smartphone, Gene (voiced by T J Miller), an emoji with multiple facial features, sets out on a quest to be like his colleagues who have only one. He does so with the help of apps like Spotify and Candy Crush. Sadly, the result is so horrendous that there aren’t enough Patrick Stewart-voiced emojis in the world to express what an ugly, artless exercise this is. Triple 9 (2016) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 9.00pm A gang of criminals and corrupt cops plan to kill a police officer in order to pull off their biggest heist yet in John Hillcoat’s crime thriller. There is a lot to like here: a big opening and a strong cast (with Kate Winslet, Gal Gadot, Anthony Mackie and Chiwetel Ejiofor among them). But it feels like fragments of a great crime drama are missing; it’s enthralling up close, but then the big picture isn’t complete. Tuesday 10 April Back to school: Mark, who has two sons with autism Credit: Channel 4 Class of Mum and Dad Channel 4, 8.00pm Another week, another Channel 4 series about education. Hold off on the black marks, however, because this one is pretty good. The premise is simple: Blackrod Primary School just outside of Bolton has thrown open its doors to a class made up of pupils’ parents (and one grandparent). They’ve agreed to go back to school for the summer term to see what modern education is really like, sports day, Sats tests and all. Naturally, its harder than many of them were expecting – 36-year-old decorator Jonny states early on that he thought he’d be able to slope off for a swift cigarette break rather than having to adhere to strict class rules – but there are some touching stories amid the more obvious moments. Most notably, this opening episode focuses on two parents with challenging home lives – Julia, who is raising her 10-year-old cousin Asha after Asha’s mother died, and Mark, who has two autistic sons. While the parents’ travails are interesting, the children are the real scene-stealers, however, from those delighted that their mothers and fathers are taking part to those who are more sceptical. The pair of five-year-olds who spend their time corpsing in front of the camera are particularly endearing. Sarah Hughes Champions League Football: Manchester City v Liverpool BT Sport 2, 7.45pm The Etihad Stadium is the setting as City and Liverpool fight it out for a place in the semi-finals. Liverpool have the advantage following a 3-0 win at Anfield in the first leg. This Time Next Year ITV, 8.00pm Davina McCall returns with another set of heart-tugging stories of people attempting to transform their lives over the course of a year. First up are two new parents who dream of making life wonderful for their baby girl who has been deaf since birth and a couple desperate to start a family. Come Home BBC One, 9.00pm Danny Brocklehurst’s claustrophobic family drama comes to a head as we flashback to find out exactly what went wrong in Greg (Christopher Eccleston) and Marie’s (Paula Malcomson) marriage. Hospital BBC Two, 9.00pm The engrossing fly-on-the-wall medical series continues with Nottingham University Hospitals Trust struggling to cope with the new NHS ruling regarding the cancellation of all non-urgent surgery. The episode focuses on Val, a 55-year-old with mouth cancer whose surgeon is desperately trying to ensure that her operation goes ahead. Here and Now Sky Atlantic, 9.00pm With only two episodes left to go, Alan Ball’s family drama continues to tread water in the most frustrating ways. On paper, there are a whole bunch of interesting stories in the mix, from Kristen’s (Sosie Bacon) possible relationship with Navid (Marwan Salama) to Ramon’s (Daniel Zovatto) continuing visions, but the problem is nothing much happens with any of them as each story moves on only incrementally each week. In this episode, Audrey (Holly Hunter) finally turns the tables on the perpetually smug Greg (Tim Robbins). Cunk on Britain BBC Two, 10.00pm; NI, 11.15pm Diana Morgan’s pitch-perfect send-up of history programmes moves to the Tudor era and beyond as Cunk takes on Henry VIII, aka “The kingiest king who kinged over Britain” before giving us her unique perspective on “Bloody” Mary Tudor (“horrible like the drink”) and Elizabeth I. SH Divorce Sky Atlantic, 10.10pm The acerbic Sarah Jessica Parker sitcom has been firing on all cylinders throughout its second series – possibly because it’s more interesting watching Frances (Parker) and Robert (the excellent Thomas Haden Church) navigate life after divorce than it was watching them get there. Here, Frances tries to make a new contact in the art world. SH Speed (1994) ★★★★☆ Film4, 9.00pm “There’s a bomb on the bus!” is the most famous line and basically the entire plot of one of the best action thrillers of the Nineties. The sizzling chemistry between LAPD Swat specialist Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) and passenger Annie Porter (Sandra Bullock) sexes up the exhilarating action scenes, while Dennis Hopper is fantastically unhinged as a revenge-driven, retired bomb squad member turned terrorist. Fast & Furious 7 (2015) ★★★☆☆ ITV2, 9.00pm Paul Walker was killed in a car crash part-way through making this film so it was completed with the help of his two younger brothers and some subtle computer graphics. The good news is that this is the best film in the franchise and does justice to Walker. It isn’t polished blockbuster film-making – though if it was, it wouldn’t be Fast & Furious. But it speaks straight to your adrenal glands. The Witches of Eastwick (1987) ★★★☆☆ Syfy, 9.00pm It is remarkable that director George Miller’s daft, unfettered romp of a film works at all. But, thanks to Jack Nicholson’s delicious overacting as Daryl Van Horne, a manic gentleman who closely resembles the devil, and the three gorgeous, single small-town friends, Alexandra (Cher), Jane (Susan Sarandon) and Sukie (Michelle Pfeiffer), who vie for his debased attentions, it somehow does. Wednesday 11 April Family ties: Edgar Ramirez and Penelope Cruz Credit: BBC The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story BBC Two, 9.00pm It’s been fascinating to discover the “true” story behind the 1997 murder of fhion designer Gianni Versace in Ryan Murphy’s glitzy drama, which has expertly depicted the inner world of the perpetrator, a Walter Mitty-style serial killer called Andrew Cunanan (a career-defining role for Darren Criss). This episode, however, has a mid-series lull about it as Cunanan ascends to the higher echelons of gay society, shaping himself meticulously into the posh, preppy eye-candy who saw a sugar daddy (or two) as his way to the top. Elsewhere, the Versace siblings return at last. Gianni (Edgar Ramirez), now in failing health decides to champion his insecure sister Donatella (Penélope Cruz in a frightful wig) and turns her into both designer and muse. Despite a lack of characters to root for – the Versaces’ moments of vulnerability dissolve into tedious histrionics and are eclipsed by Cunanan’s cold-blooded machinations – it’s all quite a fabulous mix of fashion, high society and brutal murder, with some interesting commentary on homophobia in the Nineties as well. Vicki Power The Secret Helpers BBC Two, 8.00pm Watch and weep as timid elderly widow Lesley begins a new life as an out gay woman in this life-affirming docu-series. She’s encouraged with warmth and wisdom by amateur “sages” from abroad, who talk to her secretly through a hidden earpiece. From World War to Cold War Yesterday, 8.00pm As the Second World War drew to a close, Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt met at Yalta in the Crimea to broker post-war peace. This brisk two-part documentary raids the archives for clips and letters from those who attended, and gathers experts and relatives – including FDR’s grandson – to investigate power plays by Stalin that wrong-footed his Allied counterparts. It’s a detailed look at how and why the compromises reached at Yalta were quickly cast aside. Bacchus Uncovered: Ancient God of Ecstasy BBC Four, 9.00pm Historian Bettany Hughes continues to explore ancient civilisations, moving on to Bacchus, the Roman god of wine. Hughes’s odyssey starts under the City of London, where an 1,800-year-old Roman temple to Bacchus was discovered less than 100 years ago, and takes her to Greece, the Middle East and the Caucasus to explore the god’s roots and influence. VP Benidorm ITV, 9.00pm Fluffy as candyfloss, this lewd seaside comedy provides some fun, particularly in the retro casting of stars of yesteryear. This week, an exuberant Sammy (Shane Richie) tries to persuade Monty (John Challis) that, after his successful comeback gig, he is ready for an evening slot. One Born Every Minute Channel 4, 9.00pm This feelgood documentary series brings more poignant tales from a Birmingham labour ward. This week we meet Chantell, about to deliver her third child, who regales us with a moving story of how parenthood with partner Phil has healed the wounds of a traumatic past. First Dates Channel 4, 10.00pm The thoughtful dating show pairs up four more couples, but the road to love is bumpy – septuagenarian Deanna finds her date more interested in the waiter than her. More promising is the match between Bianca and Teza, who allow their vulnerabilities to show. VP The Thin Red Line (1998) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Greats, 3.10pm This lyrical Second World War drama, directed by Terrence Malick, tells the story of a group of young US soldiers fighting the Japanese for control of the island of Guadalcanal. Full of stars such as Sean Penn and George Clooney, it struggles with its own battle to squeeze in so many characters but is still an atmospheric meditation on the nature of war. Nick Nolte and Adrien Brody also star. The Remains of the Day (1993) ★★★★☆ Sony Movie Channel, 3.55pm The success of Merchant Ivory’s adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Thirties-set novel, a well-observed study of regret, is built around its perfectly cast leads: Anthony Hopkins as James, the butler to the doltish aristocrat Lord Darlington (James Fox) and Emma Thompson as a housekeeper who tries to draw him out of his sterile shell. Lush visuals give it an added richness. Transporter 2 (2005) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 9.00pm A martial arts action sequel, in which Jason Statham and Alessandro Gassman are the sporadically thrilling stars. Statham is Frank Martin, who accepts a job as chauffeur to Jack (Hunter Clary), the son of Miami’s politician Jefferson Billings (Matthew Modine). But the local Colombian drug dealers aren’t happy with his boss’s efforts to clean up the city. Cue a kidnapping, and a potentially deadly encounter with a cocaine baron. Thursday 12 April Changing attitudes: Holly and Hollie Credit: BBC Living with the Brainy Bunch BBC Two, 8.00pm Enterprising, PR-conscious Ash Ali is headmaster of Chessington Community College, a fast-improving school with a few problem pupils. Among them are Jack and Hollie who, on the surface, are comically awful teenagers. Hollie gripes constantly, throws strops and storms out of classrooms if things aren’t going her way. Jack is sullen, lazy and has clocked up 15 suspensions in the past year. It will come as no surprise to regular viewers of such documentaries that their behaviour is rooted in low self-esteem, although their parents unquestionably indulge their foibles. Ali’s novel solution is to place Hollie with Holly, tapdancing head girl and gregarious boffin, and Jack with Tharush, a Sri Lankan immigrant by way of Italy, whose talents are only matched by his work ethic. Now that Jack and Hollie are in the bosom of new families for six weeks, it’s hoped that a new environment, greater discipline and rigid routines will see their results improve and attitudes pick up. There are setbacks on the largely familiar narrative trajectory, but it’s cast to perfection and, as a demonstration of the importance of parenting in academic achievement, the experiment gets an A-star. Gabriel Tate European Tour Golf: The Open de Espana Sky Sports Golf, 11.00am The opening day’s play of the event from the Centro Nacional de Golf in Madrid, which was won by Andrew Johnston the last time it was held in 2016. War Above the Trenches Yesterday, 8.00pm This decent two-parter tells the story of the Royal Flying Corps and their battle to win control of the air in the First World War. Based on Peter Hart’s book Bloody April, it draws affectingly on the testimony of veterans to show there was more to the Western Front than trench warfare. Civilisations BBC Two, 9.00pm The modern age draws closer, as Simon Schama tackles the theme of radiance, guiding us through Gothic cathedrals, Baroque Venetian masterpieces and dazzling Japanese woodblock prints. The Investigator: A British Crime Story ITV, 9.00pm The second real-life case of the series sees Mark Williams-Thomas investigating the 1977 murders of three women in Glasgow. The suspect is Angus Sinclair, who is currently serving a life sentence for killing two other women that same year. We hear from his ex-wife, and learn how he was a prime suspect but escaped charges for the first killings when key evidence went missing. Indian Summer School Channel 4, 9.00pm This diverting documentary series concludes with a Himalayan trek, a controversial article in the school newspaper and the GCSE retakes that were the goal of the entire enterprise. Will Alfie, Harry, Jack and co see their grades improve? Urban Myths: Marilyn Monroe and Billy Wilder Sky Arts, 9.00pm Sky Arts’ boldly cast series of vaguely apocryphal tales from the pop-culture frontlines returns with a dispatch from the set of Some Like It Hot, the magnificent 1959 comedy that is almost certainly more fun to watch than it was to make. In this minor but entertaining reimagining, Tony Curtis (Alex Pettyfer) is threatening to cuckold Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott) by making off with Marilyn Monroe (Gemma Arterton), whose caprice, drinking and sensitivity is driving director Billy Wilder (James Purefoy) to distraction. GT Still Game BBC One, 9.30pm; BBC Two Wales, 10.00pm Justifying its prime-time BBC One slot, the Scottish sitcom bows out in triumph with a typically well-wrought farce involving a Hollywood stuntman, a disastrous driving lesson and romance for the widowed Isa (Jane McCarry). GT The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) ★★★★☆ ITV4, 9.00pm Christopher Lee steals the show as the titular assassin, Francisco Scaramanga, in this classic Bond adventure. Roger Moore’s secret agent, in his second outing as 007, must pursue him, with the help of sidekick Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland), to the villain’s island lair in order to prevent him harnessing the power of the Sun for evil. The confrontations between Moore and Lee are easily the film’s highlights. Swordfish (2001) ★★☆☆☆ TCM, 9.00pm The most often quoted bit of trivia about this film is that Halle Berry was paid an additional £500,000 to go topless. It’s rather lucky she agreed because she’s probably the most appealing aspect of this frenetic thriller. John Travolta and Hugh Jackman put on testosterone-fuelled displays as a morally dubious counter-terrorist agent and the hacker he blackmails into accessing billions of dollars of government money. Some Like It Hot (1959, b/w) ★★★★★ Sky Arts, 9.30pm When two musicians (Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis) witness a mob hit, they flee the state disguised as women in an all-female band, but further complications arise in the form of demure ukulele player Sugar Kane, superbly played by Marilyn Monroe. Billy Wilder’s classic comedy is effortlessly wacky and clever. Before, at 9pm, is Urban Myths, which imagines what happened on the set of this romcom. Friday 13 April Dishing out opinions: John Torode and Gregg Wallace Credit: BBC MasterChef: The Final BBC One, 8.30pm It has taken 25 episodes over seven weeks to whittle down the 56 amateur contestants to three finalists, and in the process, MasterChef 2018 has produced some of the best cooking – and some of the toughest competition – in the series’ long history. (It has been running in one form or another since 1990; and since 2005 in, roughly, its current format with judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode presenting.) This last week has been no exception, with the finalists having to dig deeper than ever to produce the best dishes of their lives and some great moments – notably during the spectacular trip to South America when they met Peruvian superchef Gaston Acurio and took on a service at the fifth best restaurant in the world, the Central in Lima, under Michelin-starred maestro Virgilio Martínez Véliz. In the finale, it’s all about who cooks the best food, though, as the final three return to the studio kitchen to undergo a test of culinary skills and nerve as they set about creating the most important three-course meal of their lives – in the hope of being judged worthy of a title that has launched many a great career: MasterChef champion. Gerard O’Donovan Chef’s Table: Pastry Netflix, from today This mouth-watering spin-off from Netflix’s popular global foodie series Chef’s Table puts the focus entirely on sweet stuff, talking the cameras inside the kitchens of some of the world’s best pastry chefs, among them Christina Tosi’s Milk Bar in New York, Corrado Assenza’s Caffé Sicilia in Noto, Sicily, Jordi Roca’s El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, and Will Goldfarb’s Room4Dessert in Bali. Lost in Space Netflix, from today Not so much a rerun as a spectacular new take on the classic Sixties sci-fi series about a family marooned in space when their ship runs into difficulty on their way to a new colony and crashes on an unknown and surprisingly hostile planet. There are plenty of thrills and impressive visual effects, and Toby Stephens and Molly Parker are excellent as the pioneering Robinson parents John and Judy, while Parker Posey is an enigmatic (and now female) Dr Smith. GO The City & The City BBC Two, 9.00pm; Wales, 9.30pm Cop thrillers don’t come much more weirdly dystopian than China Miéville’s award-winning 2009 novel and this ultra-stylish adaptation serves its source material very well. In episode two, Inspector Borlú (David Morrissey) ventures back across the border while investigating the murder of a foreign student. Episodes BBC Two, 10.00pm; Wales, 11.05pm Having overcome last week’s unfortunate episode in this sitcom, Matt (Matt LeBlanc) is back on top and leveraging his spurt in the ratings for all it’s worth, handing Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly (Tamsin Greig) a welcome opportunity for escape. Lee and Dean Channel 4, 10.00pm More rough charm, as life gets complicated for Stevenage’s very own Dumb and Dumber when Lee’s (Miles Chapman) financial worries mount and Dean (Mark O’Sullivan) is persuaded to premiere his poetry at the local arts club. Front Row Late BBC Two, 11.05pm; Wales, 11.35pm Freedom of speech and censorship are under the spotlight as host Mary Beard and guests discuss Theatre Clwyd’s production The Assassination of Katie Hopkins and former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s new book Fascism: A Warning. GO Alien: Covenant (2017) ★★★★★ Sky Cinema Premiere, 8.00pm The latest film in the Alien saga from Ridley Scott is arguably a mad scientist movie. It follows the crew of the colony ship Covenant (including Katherine Waterson) as they discover what they think is an uncharted paradise, but what they uncover a threat beyond their imagination. Michael Fassbender puts in a spectacular turn as kindly robot David and his twisted “brother” Walter. Invictus (2009) ★★★★☆ ITV, 10.45pm Following the death of Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife Winnie last week, aged 81, here’s Clint Eastwood’s take on South Africa’s World Cup victory in 1995. As the country emerges from apartheid, the newly elected President Mandela (an uncanny Morgan Freeman) sees the potential for the national rugby team, led by François Pienaar (Matt Damon), to be a catalyst for harmony. This is a polished and uplifting film. Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl (1982) ★★★★☆ Gold, 1.40am Much like the Secret Policeman’s Ball, this comedy performance film sees the Monty Python gang take to the stage, but this time they’re in Hollywood. Among the sketches are the Silly Olympics, where athletes compete in absurd sports, The Lumberjack Song, and The Ministry of Silly Walks. This film also features Carol Cleveland in numerous supporting roles. Television previewers Toby Dantzic, Sarah Hughes, Gerard O'Donovan, Vicki Power and Gabriel Tate
Rugby Union - HSBC Singapore Sevens - HSBC Sevens World Series - National Stadium, Singapore - 16/4/16 Japan's Teruya Goto (R) is chased by Australia's James Stannard as he runs through to score a try during the pool stage Action Images via Reuters / Jeremy Lee Livepic
HSBC Singapore Sevens - HSBC Sevens World Series
Rugby Union - HSBC Singapore Sevens - HSBC Sevens World Series - National Stadium, Singapore - 16/4/16 Japan's Teruya Goto (R) is chased by Australia's James Stannard as he runs through to score a try during the pool stage Action Images via Reuters / Jeremy Lee Livepic
The Baglioni Hotel Regina does not resemble an obvious venue for rugby union. Tucked on to the Via Vittorio Veneto, immediately opposite the American embassy in Rome, it is a place of understated five-star elegance, spotless mirrors and the click of pricey heels on polished marble floors. If it ever dreams of scrums and line-outs – of the battle-bloodied foreheads of the swarthy warriors of the modern game – it is far too discreet to discuss it. And yet, just beyond the gilded lobby, Ugo Monye is holding court in a salon room where light cascades from chandeliers on to walls lined with paintings that swirl with 19th-century Romanticism. Not, I sense, that he feels remotely out of place. He is standing on a low stage, expressing his opinion on matters such as who should be England captain, and the same team’s chances of winning next year’s World Cup. As he talks, he fields questions from an audience that is semi-distracted by canapés and glasses of valpolicella. This, surprisingly, is what a mini-break with England Rugby Travel – the specialist tour operator that offers trips for those who want to see the titans of Twickenham play – looks like. Everybody here is enjoying the first evening of a three-night sojourn in the Eternal City, which will end with a fixture against Italy at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico. Piazza Navona, Rome Credit: Givaga - Fotolia/Givaga That this will be the easiest match of a Six Nations campaign which will, ultimately, prove disappointing (when England walked out on home turf yesterday afternoon to face Ireland, the visitors had already won the championship) only adds to the air of relaxation. The game is the main reason to travel, but this event for England Rugby Travel clients is also a key element of the fun. “It’s great to be involved with things like this,” says Monye – an affable, engaging figure, only recently retired (in 2015), who played on the wing for England from 2008 to 2012, and was part of the British and Irish Lions squad which toured South Africa in 2009. “It’s nice to meet people and hear their opinions about the game. People really love this sport.” Bespectacled and eloquent, Monye is part of a roster of former players used by England Rugby Travel to add stardust to its tour packages. Others include Mike Teague (a stalwart of the Eighties England side who appeared in the 1991 World Cup Final), and Neil Back and Phil Vickery, both members of the conquering team which won the 2003 tournament. Ugo Monye (pictured right) is part of a roster of former players working with England Rugby Travel Credit: getty A man of fewer words but blockier presence, Vickery – who stood firm for England at prop from 1998 to 2010 – joins Monye on the panel at a second event, held at the Roma Eventi Centre off the Piazza di Spagna, the evening after. Both are, however, eclipsed by England head coach Eddie Jones, who spends an hour being interviewed and replying to talking points from the floor, even though, at this stage, kick-off is less than a day away. His Australian drawl and straight answers keep the audience enthralled, but he reveals a soft side too, pausing afterwards to speak to a 13-year-old who boldly states his desire to play for the national team and requests advice from the incumbent of the top job. England Rugby Travel has access to the head coach for such showpieces once a year, and generally saves the slot for a Six Nations match in Dublin or Rome (depending on the fixture list). These two weekends are its most in-demand. This popularity is visible in the happy demeanour of the customers who have booked a dash to Italy. They number just over 500, and have flown in on five chartered (Jet2) aircraft (two from each of Stansted and Gatwick, one from Birmingham), and looked after on every step of the journey – a fleet of coaches is waiting at Fiumicino airport to ferry them to seven hotels. The Baglioni in Rome In my case this is the Starhotels Metropole, a comfortable four-star near Termini railway station, where the tour operator has a desk positioned in the lobby – there to hand out tickets and assist with any queries. It is a slick operation that seems to meet with the approval of rugby followers who rather like the idea of a tickets-and-travel package – some of them with one eye on stretching the concept to next year and the Far East, where the ninth incarnation of the World Cup will be staged in the unfamiliar setting (for rugby) of Japan. There are plenty of spare hours for sightseeing before the match hoves into focus on the Sunday. As expected, England win by a wide margin – but if the result was largely a foregone conclusion, it did not dampen the vibe around the ground as kick-off approached. There were marching bands, food trucks and, for no apparent reason, a clutch of sports cars – Lamborghinis and Ferraris – in blue-and-white Italian police livery. Whether Japan will provide similar pageantry when the sport’s greatest teams arrive in Tokyo is yet to be seen, but anticipation is clearly building. Rugby 2019 World Cup predictor How to book Next year’s Japanese staging of the Rugby World Cup (Sept 20-Nov 2 2019; rugbyworldcup.com) will be the first to be staged in Asia, and will lend itself to pre-arranged travel packages. England Rugby Travel will offer a variety of holidays (0344 788 5000; england rugbytravel.com/rwc2019). These will range from a seven-night option for those who want to sample the atmosphere via two of England’s pool games (against the US and Tonga) to a 45-night extravaganza – staying in Japan for the duration of the tournament and watching 12 matches in 10 cities, including the final. There will also be a 25-night option that will tick off eight fixtures – not least England’s last pool game against France, as well as two of the quarter-finals, the two semi-finals and the final. The Rugby World Cup will be staged in Japan next year Credit: GEtty Full details will be released in late April. Packages will start at £5,995 per person. Prices will cover international flights, internal travel, accommodation, tickets, and support staff. England will not return to Italy for a Six Nations fixture until 2020, but three-night breaks to Rome with England Rugby Travel cost from £499 a head, including flights, accommodation transfer and ticket. Further information on the city at turismoroma.it and italia.it.
Is this perfect holiday for England rugby fans?
The Baglioni Hotel Regina does not resemble an obvious venue for rugby union. Tucked on to the Via Vittorio Veneto, immediately opposite the American embassy in Rome, it is a place of understated five-star elegance, spotless mirrors and the click of pricey heels on polished marble floors. If it ever dreams of scrums and line-outs – of the battle-bloodied foreheads of the swarthy warriors of the modern game – it is far too discreet to discuss it. And yet, just beyond the gilded lobby, Ugo Monye is holding court in a salon room where light cascades from chandeliers on to walls lined with paintings that swirl with 19th-century Romanticism. Not, I sense, that he feels remotely out of place. He is standing on a low stage, expressing his opinion on matters such as who should be England captain, and the same team’s chances of winning next year’s World Cup. As he talks, he fields questions from an audience that is semi-distracted by canapés and glasses of valpolicella. This, surprisingly, is what a mini-break with England Rugby Travel – the specialist tour operator that offers trips for those who want to see the titans of Twickenham play – looks like. Everybody here is enjoying the first evening of a three-night sojourn in the Eternal City, which will end with a fixture against Italy at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico. Piazza Navona, Rome Credit: Givaga - Fotolia/Givaga That this will be the easiest match of a Six Nations campaign which will, ultimately, prove disappointing (when England walked out on home turf yesterday afternoon to face Ireland, the visitors had already won the championship) only adds to the air of relaxation. The game is the main reason to travel, but this event for England Rugby Travel clients is also a key element of the fun. “It’s great to be involved with things like this,” says Monye – an affable, engaging figure, only recently retired (in 2015), who played on the wing for England from 2008 to 2012, and was part of the British and Irish Lions squad which toured South Africa in 2009. “It’s nice to meet people and hear their opinions about the game. People really love this sport.” Bespectacled and eloquent, Monye is part of a roster of former players used by England Rugby Travel to add stardust to its tour packages. Others include Mike Teague (a stalwart of the Eighties England side who appeared in the 1991 World Cup Final), and Neil Back and Phil Vickery, both members of the conquering team which won the 2003 tournament. Ugo Monye (pictured right) is part of a roster of former players working with England Rugby Travel Credit: getty A man of fewer words but blockier presence, Vickery – who stood firm for England at prop from 1998 to 2010 – joins Monye on the panel at a second event, held at the Roma Eventi Centre off the Piazza di Spagna, the evening after. Both are, however, eclipsed by England head coach Eddie Jones, who spends an hour being interviewed and replying to talking points from the floor, even though, at this stage, kick-off is less than a day away. His Australian drawl and straight answers keep the audience enthralled, but he reveals a soft side too, pausing afterwards to speak to a 13-year-old who boldly states his desire to play for the national team and requests advice from the incumbent of the top job. England Rugby Travel has access to the head coach for such showpieces once a year, and generally saves the slot for a Six Nations match in Dublin or Rome (depending on the fixture list). These two weekends are its most in-demand. This popularity is visible in the happy demeanour of the customers who have booked a dash to Italy. They number just over 500, and have flown in on five chartered (Jet2) aircraft (two from each of Stansted and Gatwick, one from Birmingham), and looked after on every step of the journey – a fleet of coaches is waiting at Fiumicino airport to ferry them to seven hotels. The Baglioni in Rome In my case this is the Starhotels Metropole, a comfortable four-star near Termini railway station, where the tour operator has a desk positioned in the lobby – there to hand out tickets and assist with any queries. It is a slick operation that seems to meet with the approval of rugby followers who rather like the idea of a tickets-and-travel package – some of them with one eye on stretching the concept to next year and the Far East, where the ninth incarnation of the World Cup will be staged in the unfamiliar setting (for rugby) of Japan. There are plenty of spare hours for sightseeing before the match hoves into focus on the Sunday. As expected, England win by a wide margin – but if the result was largely a foregone conclusion, it did not dampen the vibe around the ground as kick-off approached. There were marching bands, food trucks and, for no apparent reason, a clutch of sports cars – Lamborghinis and Ferraris – in blue-and-white Italian police livery. Whether Japan will provide similar pageantry when the sport’s greatest teams arrive in Tokyo is yet to be seen, but anticipation is clearly building. Rugby 2019 World Cup predictor How to book Next year’s Japanese staging of the Rugby World Cup (Sept 20-Nov 2 2019; rugbyworldcup.com) will be the first to be staged in Asia, and will lend itself to pre-arranged travel packages. England Rugby Travel will offer a variety of holidays (0344 788 5000; england rugbytravel.com/rwc2019). These will range from a seven-night option for those who want to sample the atmosphere via two of England’s pool games (against the US and Tonga) to a 45-night extravaganza – staying in Japan for the duration of the tournament and watching 12 matches in 10 cities, including the final. There will also be a 25-night option that will tick off eight fixtures – not least England’s last pool game against France, as well as two of the quarter-finals, the two semi-finals and the final. The Rugby World Cup will be staged in Japan next year Credit: GEtty Full details will be released in late April. Packages will start at £5,995 per person. Prices will cover international flights, internal travel, accommodation, tickets, and support staff. England will not return to Italy for a Six Nations fixture until 2020, but three-night breaks to Rome with England Rugby Travel cost from £499 a head, including flights, accommodation transfer and ticket. Further information on the city at turismoroma.it and italia.it.
The Baglioni Hotel Regina does not resemble an obvious venue for rugby union. Tucked on to the Via Vittorio Veneto, immediately opposite the American embassy in Rome, it is a place of understated five-star elegance, spotless mirrors and the click of pricey heels on polished marble floors. If it ever dreams of scrums and line-outs – of the battle-bloodied foreheads of the swarthy warriors of the modern game – it is far too discreet to discuss it. And yet, just beyond the gilded lobby, Ugo Monye is holding court in a salon room where light cascades from chandeliers on to walls lined with paintings that swirl with 19th-century Romanticism. Not, I sense, that he feels remotely out of place. He is standing on a low stage, expressing his opinion on matters such as who should be England captain, and the same team’s chances of winning next year’s World Cup. As he talks, he fields questions from an audience that is semi-distracted by canapés and glasses of valpolicella. This, surprisingly, is what a mini-break with England Rugby Travel – the specialist tour operator that offers trips for those who want to see the titans of Twickenham play – looks like. Everybody here is enjoying the first evening of a three-night sojourn in the Eternal City, which will end with a fixture against Italy at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico. Piazza Navona, Rome Credit: Givaga - Fotolia/Givaga That this will be the easiest match of a Six Nations campaign which will, ultimately, prove disappointing (when England walked out on home turf yesterday afternoon to face Ireland, the visitors had already won the championship) only adds to the air of relaxation. The game is the main reason to travel, but this event for England Rugby Travel clients is also a key element of the fun. “It’s great to be involved with things like this,” says Monye – an affable, engaging figure, only recently retired (in 2015), who played on the wing for England from 2008 to 2012, and was part of the British and Irish Lions squad which toured South Africa in 2009. “It’s nice to meet people and hear their opinions about the game. People really love this sport.” Bespectacled and eloquent, Monye is part of a roster of former players used by England Rugby Travel to add stardust to its tour packages. Others include Mike Teague (a stalwart of the Eighties England side who appeared in the 1991 World Cup Final), and Neil Back and Phil Vickery, both members of the conquering team which won the 2003 tournament. Ugo Monye (pictured right) is part of a roster of former players working with England Rugby Travel Credit: getty A man of fewer words but blockier presence, Vickery – who stood firm for England at prop from 1998 to 2010 – joins Monye on the panel at a second event, held at the Roma Eventi Centre off the Piazza di Spagna, the evening after. Both are, however, eclipsed by England head coach Eddie Jones, who spends an hour being interviewed and replying to talking points from the floor, even though, at this stage, kick-off is less than a day away. His Australian drawl and straight answers keep the audience enthralled, but he reveals a soft side too, pausing afterwards to speak to a 13-year-old who boldly states his desire to play for the national team and requests advice from the incumbent of the top job. England Rugby Travel has access to the head coach for such showpieces once a year, and generally saves the slot for a Six Nations match in Dublin or Rome (depending on the fixture list). These two weekends are its most in-demand. This popularity is visible in the happy demeanour of the customers who have booked a dash to Italy. They number just over 500, and have flown in on five chartered (Jet2) aircraft (two from each of Stansted and Gatwick, one from Birmingham), and looked after on every step of the journey – a fleet of coaches is waiting at Fiumicino airport to ferry them to seven hotels. The Baglioni in Rome In my case this is the Starhotels Metropole, a comfortable four-star near Termini railway station, where the tour operator has a desk positioned in the lobby – there to hand out tickets and assist with any queries. It is a slick operation that seems to meet with the approval of rugby followers who rather like the idea of a tickets-and-travel package – some of them with one eye on stretching the concept to next year and the Far East, where the ninth incarnation of the World Cup will be staged in the unfamiliar setting (for rugby) of Japan. There are plenty of spare hours for sightseeing before the match hoves into focus on the Sunday. As expected, England win by a wide margin – but if the result was largely a foregone conclusion, it did not dampen the vibe around the ground as kick-off approached. There were marching bands, food trucks and, for no apparent reason, a clutch of sports cars – Lamborghinis and Ferraris – in blue-and-white Italian police livery. Whether Japan will provide similar pageantry when the sport’s greatest teams arrive in Tokyo is yet to be seen, but anticipation is clearly building. Rugby 2019 World Cup predictor How to book Next year’s Japanese staging of the Rugby World Cup (Sept 20-Nov 2 2019; rugbyworldcup.com) will be the first to be staged in Asia, and will lend itself to pre-arranged travel packages. England Rugby Travel will offer a variety of holidays (0344 788 5000; england rugbytravel.com/rwc2019). These will range from a seven-night option for those who want to sample the atmosphere via two of England’s pool games (against the US and Tonga) to a 45-night extravaganza – staying in Japan for the duration of the tournament and watching 12 matches in 10 cities, including the final. There will also be a 25-night option that will tick off eight fixtures – not least England’s last pool game against France, as well as two of the quarter-finals, the two semi-finals and the final. The Rugby World Cup will be staged in Japan next year Credit: GEtty Full details will be released in late April. Packages will start at £5,995 per person. Prices will cover international flights, internal travel, accommodation, tickets, and support staff. England will not return to Italy for a Six Nations fixture until 2020, but three-night breaks to Rome with England Rugby Travel cost from £499 a head, including flights, accommodation transfer and ticket. Further information on the city at turismoroma.it and italia.it.
Is this perfect holiday for England rugby fans?
The Baglioni Hotel Regina does not resemble an obvious venue for rugby union. Tucked on to the Via Vittorio Veneto, immediately opposite the American embassy in Rome, it is a place of understated five-star elegance, spotless mirrors and the click of pricey heels on polished marble floors. If it ever dreams of scrums and line-outs – of the battle-bloodied foreheads of the swarthy warriors of the modern game – it is far too discreet to discuss it. And yet, just beyond the gilded lobby, Ugo Monye is holding court in a salon room where light cascades from chandeliers on to walls lined with paintings that swirl with 19th-century Romanticism. Not, I sense, that he feels remotely out of place. He is standing on a low stage, expressing his opinion on matters such as who should be England captain, and the same team’s chances of winning next year’s World Cup. As he talks, he fields questions from an audience that is semi-distracted by canapés and glasses of valpolicella. This, surprisingly, is what a mini-break with England Rugby Travel – the specialist tour operator that offers trips for those who want to see the titans of Twickenham play – looks like. Everybody here is enjoying the first evening of a three-night sojourn in the Eternal City, which will end with a fixture against Italy at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico. Piazza Navona, Rome Credit: Givaga - Fotolia/Givaga That this will be the easiest match of a Six Nations campaign which will, ultimately, prove disappointing (when England walked out on home turf yesterday afternoon to face Ireland, the visitors had already won the championship) only adds to the air of relaxation. The game is the main reason to travel, but this event for England Rugby Travel clients is also a key element of the fun. “It’s great to be involved with things like this,” says Monye – an affable, engaging figure, only recently retired (in 2015), who played on the wing for England from 2008 to 2012, and was part of the British and Irish Lions squad which toured South Africa in 2009. “It’s nice to meet people and hear their opinions about the game. People really love this sport.” Bespectacled and eloquent, Monye is part of a roster of former players used by England Rugby Travel to add stardust to its tour packages. Others include Mike Teague (a stalwart of the Eighties England side who appeared in the 1991 World Cup Final), and Neil Back and Phil Vickery, both members of the conquering team which won the 2003 tournament. Ugo Monye (pictured right) is part of a roster of former players working with England Rugby Travel Credit: getty A man of fewer words but blockier presence, Vickery – who stood firm for England at prop from 1998 to 2010 – joins Monye on the panel at a second event, held at the Roma Eventi Centre off the Piazza di Spagna, the evening after. Both are, however, eclipsed by England head coach Eddie Jones, who spends an hour being interviewed and replying to talking points from the floor, even though, at this stage, kick-off is less than a day away. His Australian drawl and straight answers keep the audience enthralled, but he reveals a soft side too, pausing afterwards to speak to a 13-year-old who boldly states his desire to play for the national team and requests advice from the incumbent of the top job. England Rugby Travel has access to the head coach for such showpieces once a year, and generally saves the slot for a Six Nations match in Dublin or Rome (depending on the fixture list). These two weekends are its most in-demand. This popularity is visible in the happy demeanour of the customers who have booked a dash to Italy. They number just over 500, and have flown in on five chartered (Jet2) aircraft (two from each of Stansted and Gatwick, one from Birmingham), and looked after on every step of the journey – a fleet of coaches is waiting at Fiumicino airport to ferry them to seven hotels. The Baglioni in Rome In my case this is the Starhotels Metropole, a comfortable four-star near Termini railway station, where the tour operator has a desk positioned in the lobby – there to hand out tickets and assist with any queries. It is a slick operation that seems to meet with the approval of rugby followers who rather like the idea of a tickets-and-travel package – some of them with one eye on stretching the concept to next year and the Far East, where the ninth incarnation of the World Cup will be staged in the unfamiliar setting (for rugby) of Japan. There are plenty of spare hours for sightseeing before the match hoves into focus on the Sunday. As expected, England win by a wide margin – but if the result was largely a foregone conclusion, it did not dampen the vibe around the ground as kick-off approached. There were marching bands, food trucks and, for no apparent reason, a clutch of sports cars – Lamborghinis and Ferraris – in blue-and-white Italian police livery. Whether Japan will provide similar pageantry when the sport’s greatest teams arrive in Tokyo is yet to be seen, but anticipation is clearly building. Rugby 2019 World Cup predictor How to book Next year’s Japanese staging of the Rugby World Cup (Sept 20-Nov 2 2019; rugbyworldcup.com) will be the first to be staged in Asia, and will lend itself to pre-arranged travel packages. England Rugby Travel will offer a variety of holidays (0344 788 5000; england rugbytravel.com/rwc2019). These will range from a seven-night option for those who want to sample the atmosphere via two of England’s pool games (against the US and Tonga) to a 45-night extravaganza – staying in Japan for the duration of the tournament and watching 12 matches in 10 cities, including the final. There will also be a 25-night option that will tick off eight fixtures – not least England’s last pool game against France, as well as two of the quarter-finals, the two semi-finals and the final. The Rugby World Cup will be staged in Japan next year Credit: GEtty Full details will be released in late April. Packages will start at £5,995 per person. Prices will cover international flights, internal travel, accommodation, tickets, and support staff. England will not return to Italy for a Six Nations fixture until 2020, but three-night breaks to Rome with England Rugby Travel cost from £499 a head, including flights, accommodation transfer and ticket. Further information on the city at turismoroma.it and italia.it.
The Baglioni Hotel Regina does not resemble an obvious venue for rugby union. Tucked on to the Via Vittorio Veneto, immediately opposite the American embassy in Rome, it is a place of understated five-star elegance, spotless mirrors and the click of pricey heels on polished marble floors. If it ever dreams of scrums and line-outs – of the battle-bloodied foreheads of the swarthy warriors of the modern game – it is far too discreet to discuss it. And yet, just beyond the gilded lobby, Ugo Monye is holding court in a salon room where light cascades from chandeliers on to walls lined with paintings that swirl with 19th-century Romanticism. Not, I sense, that he feels remotely out of place. He is standing on a low stage, expressing his opinion on matters such as who should be England captain, and the same team’s chances of winning next year’s World Cup. As he talks, he fields questions from an audience that is semi-distracted by canapés and glasses of valpolicella. This, surprisingly, is what a mini-break with England Rugby Travel – the specialist tour operator that offers trips for those who want to see the titans of Twickenham play – looks like. Everybody here is enjoying the first evening of a three-night sojourn in the Eternal City, which will end with a fixture against Italy at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico. Piazza Navona, Rome Credit: Givaga - Fotolia/Givaga That this will be the easiest match of a Six Nations campaign which will, ultimately, prove disappointing (when England walked out on home turf yesterday afternoon to face Ireland, the visitors had already won the championship) only adds to the air of relaxation. The game is the main reason to travel, but this event for England Rugby Travel clients is also a key element of the fun. “It’s great to be involved with things like this,” says Monye – an affable, engaging figure, only recently retired (in 2015), who played on the wing for England from 2008 to 2012, and was part of the British and Irish Lions squad which toured South Africa in 2009. “It’s nice to meet people and hear their opinions about the game. People really love this sport.” Bespectacled and eloquent, Monye is part of a roster of former players used by England Rugby Travel to add stardust to its tour packages. Others include Mike Teague (a stalwart of the Eighties England side who appeared in the 1991 World Cup Final), and Neil Back and Phil Vickery, both members of the conquering team which won the 2003 tournament. Ugo Monye (pictured right) is part of a roster of former players working with England Rugby Travel Credit: getty A man of fewer words but blockier presence, Vickery – who stood firm for England at prop from 1998 to 2010 – joins Monye on the panel at a second event, held at the Roma Eventi Centre off the Piazza di Spagna, the evening after. Both are, however, eclipsed by England head coach Eddie Jones, who spends an hour being interviewed and replying to talking points from the floor, even though, at this stage, kick-off is less than a day away. His Australian drawl and straight answers keep the audience enthralled, but he reveals a soft side too, pausing afterwards to speak to a 13-year-old who boldly states his desire to play for the national team and requests advice from the incumbent of the top job. England Rugby Travel has access to the head coach for such showpieces once a year, and generally saves the slot for a Six Nations match in Dublin or Rome (depending on the fixture list). These two weekends are its most in-demand. This popularity is visible in the happy demeanour of the customers who have booked a dash to Italy. They number just over 500, and have flown in on five chartered (Jet2) aircraft (two from each of Stansted and Gatwick, one from Birmingham), and looked after on every step of the journey – a fleet of coaches is waiting at Fiumicino airport to ferry them to seven hotels. The Baglioni in Rome In my case this is the Starhotels Metropole, a comfortable four-star near Termini railway station, where the tour operator has a desk positioned in the lobby – there to hand out tickets and assist with any queries. It is a slick operation that seems to meet with the approval of rugby followers who rather like the idea of a tickets-and-travel package – some of them with one eye on stretching the concept to next year and the Far East, where the ninth incarnation of the World Cup will be staged in the unfamiliar setting (for rugby) of Japan. There are plenty of spare hours for sightseeing before the match hoves into focus on the Sunday. As expected, England win by a wide margin – but if the result was largely a foregone conclusion, it did not dampen the vibe around the ground as kick-off approached. There were marching bands, food trucks and, for no apparent reason, a clutch of sports cars – Lamborghinis and Ferraris – in blue-and-white Italian police livery. Whether Japan will provide similar pageantry when the sport’s greatest teams arrive in Tokyo is yet to be seen, but anticipation is clearly building. Rugby 2019 World Cup predictor How to book Next year’s Japanese staging of the Rugby World Cup (Sept 20-Nov 2 2019; rugbyworldcup.com) will be the first to be staged in Asia, and will lend itself to pre-arranged travel packages. England Rugby Travel will offer a variety of holidays (0344 788 5000; england rugbytravel.com/rwc2019). These will range from a seven-night option for those who want to sample the atmosphere via two of England’s pool games (against the US and Tonga) to a 45-night extravaganza – staying in Japan for the duration of the tournament and watching 12 matches in 10 cities, including the final. There will also be a 25-night option that will tick off eight fixtures – not least England’s last pool game against France, as well as two of the quarter-finals, the two semi-finals and the final. The Rugby World Cup will be staged in Japan next year Credit: GEtty Full details will be released in late April. Packages will start at £5,995 per person. Prices will cover international flights, internal travel, accommodation, tickets, and support staff. England will not return to Italy for a Six Nations fixture until 2020, but three-night breaks to Rome with England Rugby Travel cost from £499 a head, including flights, accommodation transfer and ticket. Further information on the city at turismoroma.it and italia.it.
Is this perfect holiday for England rugby fans?
The Baglioni Hotel Regina does not resemble an obvious venue for rugby union. Tucked on to the Via Vittorio Veneto, immediately opposite the American embassy in Rome, it is a place of understated five-star elegance, spotless mirrors and the click of pricey heels on polished marble floors. If it ever dreams of scrums and line-outs – of the battle-bloodied foreheads of the swarthy warriors of the modern game – it is far too discreet to discuss it. And yet, just beyond the gilded lobby, Ugo Monye is holding court in a salon room where light cascades from chandeliers on to walls lined with paintings that swirl with 19th-century Romanticism. Not, I sense, that he feels remotely out of place. He is standing on a low stage, expressing his opinion on matters such as who should be England captain, and the same team’s chances of winning next year’s World Cup. As he talks, he fields questions from an audience that is semi-distracted by canapés and glasses of valpolicella. This, surprisingly, is what a mini-break with England Rugby Travel – the specialist tour operator that offers trips for those who want to see the titans of Twickenham play – looks like. Everybody here is enjoying the first evening of a three-night sojourn in the Eternal City, which will end with a fixture against Italy at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico. Piazza Navona, Rome Credit: Givaga - Fotolia/Givaga That this will be the easiest match of a Six Nations campaign which will, ultimately, prove disappointing (when England walked out on home turf yesterday afternoon to face Ireland, the visitors had already won the championship) only adds to the air of relaxation. The game is the main reason to travel, but this event for England Rugby Travel clients is also a key element of the fun. “It’s great to be involved with things like this,” says Monye – an affable, engaging figure, only recently retired (in 2015), who played on the wing for England from 2008 to 2012, and was part of the British and Irish Lions squad which toured South Africa in 2009. “It’s nice to meet people and hear their opinions about the game. People really love this sport.” Bespectacled and eloquent, Monye is part of a roster of former players used by England Rugby Travel to add stardust to its tour packages. Others include Mike Teague (a stalwart of the Eighties England side who appeared in the 1991 World Cup Final), and Neil Back and Phil Vickery, both members of the conquering team which won the 2003 tournament. Ugo Monye (pictured right) is part of a roster of former players working with England Rugby Travel Credit: getty A man of fewer words but blockier presence, Vickery – who stood firm for England at prop from 1998 to 2010 – joins Monye on the panel at a second event, held at the Roma Eventi Centre off the Piazza di Spagna, the evening after. Both are, however, eclipsed by England head coach Eddie Jones, who spends an hour being interviewed and replying to talking points from the floor, even though, at this stage, kick-off is less than a day away. His Australian drawl and straight answers keep the audience enthralled, but he reveals a soft side too, pausing afterwards to speak to a 13-year-old who boldly states his desire to play for the national team and requests advice from the incumbent of the top job. England Rugby Travel has access to the head coach for such showpieces once a year, and generally saves the slot for a Six Nations match in Dublin or Rome (depending on the fixture list). These two weekends are its most in-demand. This popularity is visible in the happy demeanour of the customers who have booked a dash to Italy. They number just over 500, and have flown in on five chartered (Jet2) aircraft (two from each of Stansted and Gatwick, one from Birmingham), and looked after on every step of the journey – a fleet of coaches is waiting at Fiumicino airport to ferry them to seven hotels. The Baglioni in Rome In my case this is the Starhotels Metropole, a comfortable four-star near Termini railway station, where the tour operator has a desk positioned in the lobby – there to hand out tickets and assist with any queries. It is a slick operation that seems to meet with the approval of rugby followers who rather like the idea of a tickets-and-travel package – some of them with one eye on stretching the concept to next year and the Far East, where the ninth incarnation of the World Cup will be staged in the unfamiliar setting (for rugby) of Japan. There are plenty of spare hours for sightseeing before the match hoves into focus on the Sunday. As expected, England win by a wide margin – but if the result was largely a foregone conclusion, it did not dampen the vibe around the ground as kick-off approached. There were marching bands, food trucks and, for no apparent reason, a clutch of sports cars – Lamborghinis and Ferraris – in blue-and-white Italian police livery. Whether Japan will provide similar pageantry when the sport’s greatest teams arrive in Tokyo is yet to be seen, but anticipation is clearly building. Rugby 2019 World Cup predictor How to book Next year’s Japanese staging of the Rugby World Cup (Sept 20-Nov 2 2019; rugbyworldcup.com) will be the first to be staged in Asia, and will lend itself to pre-arranged travel packages. England Rugby Travel will offer a variety of holidays (0344 788 5000; england rugbytravel.com/rwc2019). These will range from a seven-night option for those who want to sample the atmosphere via two of England’s pool games (against the US and Tonga) to a 45-night extravaganza – staying in Japan for the duration of the tournament and watching 12 matches in 10 cities, including the final. There will also be a 25-night option that will tick off eight fixtures – not least England’s last pool game against France, as well as two of the quarter-finals, the two semi-finals and the final. The Rugby World Cup will be staged in Japan next year Credit: GEtty Full details will be released in late April. Packages will start at £5,995 per person. Prices will cover international flights, internal travel, accommodation, tickets, and support staff. England will not return to Italy for a Six Nations fixture until 2020, but three-night breaks to Rome with England Rugby Travel cost from £499 a head, including flights, accommodation transfer and ticket. Further information on the city at turismoroma.it and italia.it.
The Baglioni Hotel Regina does not resemble an obvious venue for rugby union. Tucked on to the Via Vittorio Veneto, immediately opposite the American embassy in Rome, it is a place of understated five-star elegance, spotless mirrors and the click of pricey heels on polished marble floors. If it ever dreams of scrums and line-outs – of the battle-bloodied foreheads of the swarthy warriors of the modern game – it is far too discreet to discuss it. And yet, just beyond the gilded lobby, Ugo Monye is holding court in a salon room where light cascades from chandeliers on to walls lined with paintings that swirl with 19th-century Romanticism. Not, I sense, that he feels remotely out of place. He is standing on a low stage, expressing his opinion on matters such as who should be England captain, and the same team’s chances of winning next year’s World Cup. As he talks, he fields questions from an audience that is semi-distracted by canapés and glasses of valpolicella. This, surprisingly, is what a mini-break with England Rugby Travel – the specialist tour operator that offers trips for those who want to see the titans of Twickenham play – looks like. Everybody here is enjoying the first evening of a three-night sojourn in the Eternal City, which will end with a fixture against Italy at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico. Piazza Navona, Rome Credit: Givaga - Fotolia/Givaga That this will be the easiest match of a Six Nations campaign which will, ultimately, prove disappointing (when England walked out on home turf yesterday afternoon to face Ireland, the visitors had already won the championship) only adds to the air of relaxation. The game is the main reason to travel, but this event for England Rugby Travel clients is also a key element of the fun. “It’s great to be involved with things like this,” says Monye – an affable, engaging figure, only recently retired (in 2015), who played on the wing for England from 2008 to 2012, and was part of the British and Irish Lions squad which toured South Africa in 2009. “It’s nice to meet people and hear their opinions about the game. People really love this sport.” Bespectacled and eloquent, Monye is part of a roster of former players used by England Rugby Travel to add stardust to its tour packages. Others include Mike Teague (a stalwart of the Eighties England side who appeared in the 1991 World Cup Final), and Neil Back and Phil Vickery, both members of the conquering team which won the 2003 tournament. Ugo Monye (pictured right) is part of a roster of former players working with England Rugby Travel Credit: getty A man of fewer words but blockier presence, Vickery – who stood firm for England at prop from 1998 to 2010 – joins Monye on the panel at a second event, held at the Roma Eventi Centre off the Piazza di Spagna, the evening after. Both are, however, eclipsed by England head coach Eddie Jones, who spends an hour being interviewed and replying to talking points from the floor, even though, at this stage, kick-off is less than a day away. His Australian drawl and straight answers keep the audience enthralled, but he reveals a soft side too, pausing afterwards to speak to a 13-year-old who boldly states his desire to play for the national team and requests advice from the incumbent of the top job. England Rugby Travel has access to the head coach for such showpieces once a year, and generally saves the slot for a Six Nations match in Dublin or Rome (depending on the fixture list). These two weekends are its most in-demand. This popularity is visible in the happy demeanour of the customers who have booked a dash to Italy. They number just over 500, and have flown in on five chartered (Jet2) aircraft (two from each of Stansted and Gatwick, one from Birmingham), and looked after on every step of the journey – a fleet of coaches is waiting at Fiumicino airport to ferry them to seven hotels. The Baglioni in Rome In my case this is the Starhotels Metropole, a comfortable four-star near Termini railway station, where the tour operator has a desk positioned in the lobby – there to hand out tickets and assist with any queries. It is a slick operation that seems to meet with the approval of rugby followers who rather like the idea of a tickets-and-travel package – some of them with one eye on stretching the concept to next year and the Far East, where the ninth incarnation of the World Cup will be staged in the unfamiliar setting (for rugby) of Japan. There are plenty of spare hours for sightseeing before the match hoves into focus on the Sunday. As expected, England win by a wide margin – but if the result was largely a foregone conclusion, it did not dampen the vibe around the ground as kick-off approached. There were marching bands, food trucks and, for no apparent reason, a clutch of sports cars – Lamborghinis and Ferraris – in blue-and-white Italian police livery. Whether Japan will provide similar pageantry when the sport’s greatest teams arrive in Tokyo is yet to be seen, but anticipation is clearly building. Rugby 2019 World Cup predictor How to book Next year’s Japanese staging of the Rugby World Cup (Sept 20-Nov 2 2019; rugbyworldcup.com) will be the first to be staged in Asia, and will lend itself to pre-arranged travel packages. England Rugby Travel will offer a variety of holidays (0344 788 5000; england rugbytravel.com/rwc2019). These will range from a seven-night option for those who want to sample the atmosphere via two of England’s pool games (against the US and Tonga) to a 45-night extravaganza – staying in Japan for the duration of the tournament and watching 12 matches in 10 cities, including the final. There will also be a 25-night option that will tick off eight fixtures – not least England’s last pool game against France, as well as two of the quarter-finals, the two semi-finals and the final. The Rugby World Cup will be staged in Japan next year Credit: GEtty Full details will be released in late April. Packages will start at £5,995 per person. Prices will cover international flights, internal travel, accommodation, tickets, and support staff. England will not return to Italy for a Six Nations fixture until 2020, but three-night breaks to Rome with England Rugby Travel cost from £499 a head, including flights, accommodation transfer and ticket. Further information on the city at turismoroma.it and italia.it.
Is this perfect holiday for England rugby fans?
The Baglioni Hotel Regina does not resemble an obvious venue for rugby union. Tucked on to the Via Vittorio Veneto, immediately opposite the American embassy in Rome, it is a place of understated five-star elegance, spotless mirrors and the click of pricey heels on polished marble floors. If it ever dreams of scrums and line-outs – of the battle-bloodied foreheads of the swarthy warriors of the modern game – it is far too discreet to discuss it. And yet, just beyond the gilded lobby, Ugo Monye is holding court in a salon room where light cascades from chandeliers on to walls lined with paintings that swirl with 19th-century Romanticism. Not, I sense, that he feels remotely out of place. He is standing on a low stage, expressing his opinion on matters such as who should be England captain, and the same team’s chances of winning next year’s World Cup. As he talks, he fields questions from an audience that is semi-distracted by canapés and glasses of valpolicella. This, surprisingly, is what a mini-break with England Rugby Travel – the specialist tour operator that offers trips for those who want to see the titans of Twickenham play – looks like. Everybody here is enjoying the first evening of a three-night sojourn in the Eternal City, which will end with a fixture against Italy at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico. Piazza Navona, Rome Credit: Givaga - Fotolia/Givaga That this will be the easiest match of a Six Nations campaign which will, ultimately, prove disappointing (when England walked out on home turf yesterday afternoon to face Ireland, the visitors had already won the championship) only adds to the air of relaxation. The game is the main reason to travel, but this event for England Rugby Travel clients is also a key element of the fun. “It’s great to be involved with things like this,” says Monye – an affable, engaging figure, only recently retired (in 2015), who played on the wing for England from 2008 to 2012, and was part of the British and Irish Lions squad which toured South Africa in 2009. “It’s nice to meet people and hear their opinions about the game. People really love this sport.” Bespectacled and eloquent, Monye is part of a roster of former players used by England Rugby Travel to add stardust to its tour packages. Others include Mike Teague (a stalwart of the Eighties England side who appeared in the 1991 World Cup Final), and Neil Back and Phil Vickery, both members of the conquering team which won the 2003 tournament. Ugo Monye (pictured right) is part of a roster of former players working with England Rugby Travel Credit: getty A man of fewer words but blockier presence, Vickery – who stood firm for England at prop from 1998 to 2010 – joins Monye on the panel at a second event, held at the Roma Eventi Centre off the Piazza di Spagna, the evening after. Both are, however, eclipsed by England head coach Eddie Jones, who spends an hour being interviewed and replying to talking points from the floor, even though, at this stage, kick-off is less than a day away. His Australian drawl and straight answers keep the audience enthralled, but he reveals a soft side too, pausing afterwards to speak to a 13-year-old who boldly states his desire to play for the national team and requests advice from the incumbent of the top job. England Rugby Travel has access to the head coach for such showpieces once a year, and generally saves the slot for a Six Nations match in Dublin or Rome (depending on the fixture list). These two weekends are its most in-demand. This popularity is visible in the happy demeanour of the customers who have booked a dash to Italy. They number just over 500, and have flown in on five chartered (Jet2) aircraft (two from each of Stansted and Gatwick, one from Birmingham), and looked after on every step of the journey – a fleet of coaches is waiting at Fiumicino airport to ferry them to seven hotels. The Baglioni in Rome In my case this is the Starhotels Metropole, a comfortable four-star near Termini railway station, where the tour operator has a desk positioned in the lobby – there to hand out tickets and assist with any queries. It is a slick operation that seems to meet with the approval of rugby followers who rather like the idea of a tickets-and-travel package – some of them with one eye on stretching the concept to next year and the Far East, where the ninth incarnation of the World Cup will be staged in the unfamiliar setting (for rugby) of Japan. There are plenty of spare hours for sightseeing before the match hoves into focus on the Sunday. As expected, England win by a wide margin – but if the result was largely a foregone conclusion, it did not dampen the vibe around the ground as kick-off approached. There were marching bands, food trucks and, for no apparent reason, a clutch of sports cars – Lamborghinis and Ferraris – in blue-and-white Italian police livery. Whether Japan will provide similar pageantry when the sport’s greatest teams arrive in Tokyo is yet to be seen, but anticipation is clearly building. Rugby 2019 World Cup predictor How to book Next year’s Japanese staging of the Rugby World Cup (Sept 20-Nov 2 2019; rugbyworldcup.com) will be the first to be staged in Asia, and will lend itself to pre-arranged travel packages. England Rugby Travel will offer a variety of holidays (0344 788 5000; england rugbytravel.com/rwc2019). These will range from a seven-night option for those who want to sample the atmosphere via two of England’s pool games (against the US and Tonga) to a 45-night extravaganza – staying in Japan for the duration of the tournament and watching 12 matches in 10 cities, including the final. There will also be a 25-night option that will tick off eight fixtures – not least England’s last pool game against France, as well as two of the quarter-finals, the two semi-finals and the final. The Rugby World Cup will be staged in Japan next year Credit: GEtty Full details will be released in late April. Packages will start at £5,995 per person. Prices will cover international flights, internal travel, accommodation, tickets, and support staff. England will not return to Italy for a Six Nations fixture until 2020, but three-night breaks to Rome with England Rugby Travel cost from £499 a head, including flights, accommodation transfer and ticket. Further information on the city at turismoroma.it and italia.it.
The Baglioni Hotel Regina does not resemble an obvious venue for rugby union. Tucked on to the Via Vittorio Veneto, immediately opposite the American embassy in Rome, it is a place of understated five-star elegance, spotless mirrors and the click of pricey heels on polished marble floors. If it ever dreams of scrums and line-outs – of the battle-bloodied foreheads of the swarthy warriors of the modern game – it is far too discreet to discuss it. And yet, just beyond the gilded lobby, Ugo Monye is holding court in a salon room where light cascades from chandeliers on to walls lined with paintings that swirl with 19th-century Romanticism. Not, I sense, that he feels remotely out of place. He is standing on a low stage, expressing his opinion on matters such as who should be England captain, and the same team’s chances of winning next year’s World Cup. As he talks, he fields questions from an audience that is semi-distracted by canapés and glasses of valpolicella. This, surprisingly, is what a mini-break with England Rugby Travel – the specialist tour operator that offers trips for those who want to see the titans of Twickenham play – looks like. Everybody here is enjoying the first evening of a three-night sojourn in the Eternal City, which will end with a fixture against Italy at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico. Piazza Navona, Rome Credit: Givaga - Fotolia/Givaga That this will be the easiest match of a Six Nations campaign which will, ultimately, prove disappointing (when England walked out on home turf yesterday afternoon to face Ireland, the visitors had already won the championship) only adds to the air of relaxation. The game is the main reason to travel, but this event for England Rugby Travel clients is also a key element of the fun. “It’s great to be involved with things like this,” says Monye – an affable, engaging figure, only recently retired (in 2015), who played on the wing for England from 2008 to 2012, and was part of the British and Irish Lions squad which toured South Africa in 2009. “It’s nice to meet people and hear their opinions about the game. People really love this sport.” Bespectacled and eloquent, Monye is part of a roster of former players used by England Rugby Travel to add stardust to its tour packages. Others include Mike Teague (a stalwart of the Eighties England side who appeared in the 1991 World Cup Final), and Neil Back and Phil Vickery, both members of the conquering team which won the 2003 tournament. Ugo Monye (pictured right) is part of a roster of former players working with England Rugby Travel Credit: getty A man of fewer words but blockier presence, Vickery – who stood firm for England at prop from 1998 to 2010 – joins Monye on the panel at a second event, held at the Roma Eventi Centre off the Piazza di Spagna, the evening after. Both are, however, eclipsed by England head coach Eddie Jones, who spends an hour being interviewed and replying to talking points from the floor, even though, at this stage, kick-off is less than a day away. His Australian drawl and straight answers keep the audience enthralled, but he reveals a soft side too, pausing afterwards to speak to a 13-year-old who boldly states his desire to play for the national team and requests advice from the incumbent of the top job. England Rugby Travel has access to the head coach for such showpieces once a year, and generally saves the slot for a Six Nations match in Dublin or Rome (depending on the fixture list). These two weekends are its most in-demand. This popularity is visible in the happy demeanour of the customers who have booked a dash to Italy. They number just over 500, and have flown in on five chartered (Jet2) aircraft (two from each of Stansted and Gatwick, one from Birmingham), and looked after on every step of the journey – a fleet of coaches is waiting at Fiumicino airport to ferry them to seven hotels. The Baglioni in Rome In my case this is the Starhotels Metropole, a comfortable four-star near Termini railway station, where the tour operator has a desk positioned in the lobby – there to hand out tickets and assist with any queries. It is a slick operation that seems to meet with the approval of rugby followers who rather like the idea of a tickets-and-travel package – some of them with one eye on stretching the concept to next year and the Far East, where the ninth incarnation of the World Cup will be staged in the unfamiliar setting (for rugby) of Japan. There are plenty of spare hours for sightseeing before the match hoves into focus on the Sunday. As expected, England win by a wide margin – but if the result was largely a foregone conclusion, it did not dampen the vibe around the ground as kick-off approached. There were marching bands, food trucks and, for no apparent reason, a clutch of sports cars – Lamborghinis and Ferraris – in blue-and-white Italian police livery. Whether Japan will provide similar pageantry when the sport’s greatest teams arrive in Tokyo is yet to be seen, but anticipation is clearly building. Rugby 2019 World Cup predictor How to book Next year’s Japanese staging of the Rugby World Cup (Sept 20-Nov 2 2019; rugbyworldcup.com) will be the first to be staged in Asia, and will lend itself to pre-arranged travel packages. England Rugby Travel will offer a variety of holidays (0344 788 5000; england rugbytravel.com/rwc2019). These will range from a seven-night option for those who want to sample the atmosphere via two of England’s pool games (against the US and Tonga) to a 45-night extravaganza – staying in Japan for the duration of the tournament and watching 12 matches in 10 cities, including the final. There will also be a 25-night option that will tick off eight fixtures – not least England’s last pool game against France, as well as two of the quarter-finals, the two semi-finals and the final. The Rugby World Cup will be staged in Japan next year Credit: GEtty Full details will be released in late April. Packages will start at £5,995 per person. Prices will cover international flights, internal travel, accommodation, tickets, and support staff. England will not return to Italy for a Six Nations fixture until 2020, but three-night breaks to Rome with England Rugby Travel cost from £499 a head, including flights, accommodation transfer and ticket. Further information on the city at turismoroma.it and italia.it.
Is this perfect holiday for England rugby fans?
The Baglioni Hotel Regina does not resemble an obvious venue for rugby union. Tucked on to the Via Vittorio Veneto, immediately opposite the American embassy in Rome, it is a place of understated five-star elegance, spotless mirrors and the click of pricey heels on polished marble floors. If it ever dreams of scrums and line-outs – of the battle-bloodied foreheads of the swarthy warriors of the modern game – it is far too discreet to discuss it. And yet, just beyond the gilded lobby, Ugo Monye is holding court in a salon room where light cascades from chandeliers on to walls lined with paintings that swirl with 19th-century Romanticism. Not, I sense, that he feels remotely out of place. He is standing on a low stage, expressing his opinion on matters such as who should be England captain, and the same team’s chances of winning next year’s World Cup. As he talks, he fields questions from an audience that is semi-distracted by canapés and glasses of valpolicella. This, surprisingly, is what a mini-break with England Rugby Travel – the specialist tour operator that offers trips for those who want to see the titans of Twickenham play – looks like. Everybody here is enjoying the first evening of a three-night sojourn in the Eternal City, which will end with a fixture against Italy at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico. Piazza Navona, Rome Credit: Givaga - Fotolia/Givaga That this will be the easiest match of a Six Nations campaign which will, ultimately, prove disappointing (when England walked out on home turf yesterday afternoon to face Ireland, the visitors had already won the championship) only adds to the air of relaxation. The game is the main reason to travel, but this event for England Rugby Travel clients is also a key element of the fun. “It’s great to be involved with things like this,” says Monye – an affable, engaging figure, only recently retired (in 2015), who played on the wing for England from 2008 to 2012, and was part of the British and Irish Lions squad which toured South Africa in 2009. “It’s nice to meet people and hear their opinions about the game. People really love this sport.” Bespectacled and eloquent, Monye is part of a roster of former players used by England Rugby Travel to add stardust to its tour packages. Others include Mike Teague (a stalwart of the Eighties England side who appeared in the 1991 World Cup Final), and Neil Back and Phil Vickery, both members of the conquering team which won the 2003 tournament. Ugo Monye (pictured right) is part of a roster of former players working with England Rugby Travel Credit: getty A man of fewer words but blockier presence, Vickery – who stood firm for England at prop from 1998 to 2010 – joins Monye on the panel at a second event, held at the Roma Eventi Centre off the Piazza di Spagna, the evening after. Both are, however, eclipsed by England head coach Eddie Jones, who spends an hour being interviewed and replying to talking points from the floor, even though, at this stage, kick-off is less than a day away. His Australian drawl and straight answers keep the audience enthralled, but he reveals a soft side too, pausing afterwards to speak to a 13-year-old who boldly states his desire to play for the national team and requests advice from the incumbent of the top job. England Rugby Travel has access to the head coach for such showpieces once a year, and generally saves the slot for a Six Nations match in Dublin or Rome (depending on the fixture list). These two weekends are its most in-demand. This popularity is visible in the happy demeanour of the customers who have booked a dash to Italy. They number just over 500, and have flown in on five chartered (Jet2) aircraft (two from each of Stansted and Gatwick, one from Birmingham), and looked after on every step of the journey – a fleet of coaches is waiting at Fiumicino airport to ferry them to seven hotels. The Baglioni in Rome In my case this is the Starhotels Metropole, a comfortable four-star near Termini railway station, where the tour operator has a desk positioned in the lobby – there to hand out tickets and assist with any queries. It is a slick operation that seems to meet with the approval of rugby followers who rather like the idea of a tickets-and-travel package – some of them with one eye on stretching the concept to next year and the Far East, where the ninth incarnation of the World Cup will be staged in the unfamiliar setting (for rugby) of Japan. There are plenty of spare hours for sightseeing before the match hoves into focus on the Sunday. As expected, England win by a wide margin – but if the result was largely a foregone conclusion, it did not dampen the vibe around the ground as kick-off approached. There were marching bands, food trucks and, for no apparent reason, a clutch of sports cars – Lamborghinis and Ferraris – in blue-and-white Italian police livery. Whether Japan will provide similar pageantry when the sport’s greatest teams arrive in Tokyo is yet to be seen, but anticipation is clearly building. Rugby 2019 World Cup predictor How to book Next year’s Japanese staging of the Rugby World Cup (Sept 20-Nov 2 2019; rugbyworldcup.com) will be the first to be staged in Asia, and will lend itself to pre-arranged travel packages. England Rugby Travel will offer a variety of holidays (0344 788 5000; england rugbytravel.com/rwc2019). These will range from a seven-night option for those who want to sample the atmosphere via two of England’s pool games (against the US and Tonga) to a 45-night extravaganza – staying in Japan for the duration of the tournament and watching 12 matches in 10 cities, including the final. There will also be a 25-night option that will tick off eight fixtures – not least England’s last pool game against France, as well as two of the quarter-finals, the two semi-finals and the final. The Rugby World Cup will be staged in Japan next year Credit: GEtty Full details will be released in late April. Packages will start at £5,995 per person. Prices will cover international flights, internal travel, accommodation, tickets, and support staff. England will not return to Italy for a Six Nations fixture until 2020, but three-night breaks to Rome with England Rugby Travel cost from £499 a head, including flights, accommodation transfer and ticket. Further information on the city at turismoroma.it and italia.it.
FILE - In this Saturday, March 10, 2018 file photo, England's head coach Eddie Jones gestures as he watches his team warm up prior to the start of the Six Nations rugby union match between France and England at the Stade de France stadium in Saint-Denis, outside Paris. Jones has apologized for making derogatory remarks about Ireland and Wales during a sponsorship event in Japan last year. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)
FILE - In this Saturday, March 10, 2018 file photo, England's head coach Eddie Jones gestures as he watches his team warm up prior to the start of the Six Nations rugby union match between France and England at the Stade de France stadium in Saint-Denis, outside Paris. Jones has apologized for making derogatory remarks about Ireland and Wales during a sponsorship event in Japan last year. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)
FILE - In this Saturday, March 10, 2018 file photo, England's head coach Eddie Jones gestures as he watches his team warm up prior to the start of the Six Nations rugby union match between France and England at the Stade de France stadium in Saint-Denis, outside Paris. Jones has apologized for making derogatory remarks about Ireland and Wales during a sponsorship event in Japan last year. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)
FILE PHOTO: New Zealand Rugby Union CEO Steve Tew speaks to media during a joint news conference with New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English and Japan Rugby Football Union President Tadashi Okamura in Tokyo, Japan May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato
New Zealand Rugby Union CEO Steve Tew speaks to media during a joint news conference in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: New Zealand Rugby Union CEO Steve Tew speaks to media during a joint news conference with New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English and Japan Rugby Football Union President Tadashi Okamura in Tokyo, Japan May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato
FILE PHOTO: New Zealand Rugby Union CEO Steve Tew speaks to media during a joint news conference with New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English and Japan Rugby Football Union President Tadashi Okamura in Tokyo, Japan May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato
New Zealand Rugby Union CEO Steve Tew speaks to media during a joint news conference in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: New Zealand Rugby Union CEO Steve Tew speaks to media during a joint news conference with New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English and Japan Rugby Football Union President Tadashi Okamura in Tokyo, Japan May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato
New Zealand Rugby Union CEO Steve Tew speaks to media during a joint news conference with New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English and Japan Rugby Football Union President Tadashi Okamura in Tokyo, Japan May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato
New Zealand Rugby Union CEO Steve Tew speaks to media during a joint news conference in Tokyo
New Zealand Rugby Union CEO Steve Tew speaks to media during a joint news conference with New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English and Japan Rugby Football Union President Tadashi Okamura in Tokyo, Japan May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato
France's assistant coach Yannick Bru (L) and France's head coach Guy Noves look on ahead of the friendly rugby union international Test match between France and Japan at The U Arena in Nanterre on the outskirts of Paris on November 25, 2017. (AFP Photo/FRANCK FIFE)
Rugby Union - Sacked France coach Noves hit with serious misconduct summons
France's assistant coach Yannick Bru (L) and France's head coach Guy Noves look on ahead of the friendly rugby union international Test match between France and Japan at The U Arena in Nanterre on the outskirts of Paris on November 25, 2017. (AFP Photo/FRANCK FIFE)

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