The massive emotions generated around an anticipated long sporting weekend that saw Charles Leclerc winning it in Monaco, and Rafael Nadal bidding an uncertain adieu to his beloved Roland Garros felt like the end of the season, when in reality, only the Indian Premier League (IPL) has the right to that claim. The sports world now demands greatness from a new generation.

Emotions were running high all weekend in anticipation and the Indian fans were torn in two. The timing of the two matches of interest at Roland Garros, venue for the second Grand Slam of the year, could not have aligned any closer so early into the premier red clay tennis tournament of the year.

On the one hand, was Sumit Nagal taking on Karen Kachanov. Nagal, whose financial struggles became the hot topic of discussion for the furtherance of sport in general and in particular in India last year, made history already at the year’s first grand slam.

He became only the second Indian men’s tennis player to make it to the second round of a grand slam. He did it at the Australian Open beating a seeded Alexander Bublik.

Though it was hard to see Nagal being able to depose Kachanov in the same manner, dreams have been made of stranger stuff. But tennis fans were at a crossroads.

While Nagal was warming up, another man whose name has become associated with him albeit in a lighter vein, was taking on more than Germany’s Alexander Zverev on court Phillipe Chatrier as round one commenced.

That the enormity of the occasion is enough to create doubts in the best of mind is a given. Rafael Nadal has had fourteen trophies to call Roland Garros home. It was but natural that his original thoughts about retirement which sent the French organisers into a tizzy to organise a farewell were suddenly asked to scale back.

Unsure, at the end of the match where he lost despite moments of brilliance to a more deferential but clinical Zverev, Nadal could not emphatically tell the organisers, or the emotional fans on the edge of their seat, where this would be his last time at the Grand Slam the Spaniard had become synonymous with.

The match itself had been debated endlessly as also the draw which was dubbed cruel where an epic clash was being brought up in the first round. a seeded and rising Zverev was matched up against Nadal who was unseeded, having missed much tennis himself through injury.

It was destiny, Zverev felt as he himself did not want to miss the opportunity to face up the person he was on the road to pushing at the French Open semi final in 2022, before a devastating ankle injury sidelined him for more than six months. It would be another six months on tour before the German was more himself.

But had he asked for more than he bargained for? Even at not being his best, this was Nadal on red clay, at Roland Garros.

There were ominous signs like when Zverev broke Nadal in the first game. But then there were also unnerving moments when Nadal sent back crosscourt winners one would not have expected any other player to return against Zverev’s powerful backhand, or forehand for that matter.

As the match ebbed and flowed, while it seemed tilted in Zverev’s favour, there were times when it seemed the Nadal camp was dejected before he turned it around a corner with a couple of thundering Nadalesque shots to bring the game to an even keel.

Zverev had to hold his ground and his nerve, not be overawed as the whole hype had been about watching someone he admired now playing him and the tennis world for possibly the last time. Nadal had few answers during the match, seeming to fit himself, as he told the fans that he was almost certain he would not return, though he was not closing the door. Sporting affairs can be like that.

To epitomise that, Nagal’s match might have been overshadowed by the noise happening in the background, literally and metaphorically, especially as Kachanov was blunting Nagal’s late rise. But it was still a telling point that had it not been for Nadal, it could well have added pressure on Nagal to play better than he could, even ranked much lower than his opponents.

While Nagal might have had an early exit like Nadal, it would have primed him for the upcoming Olympics which should be an interesting proposition for Nagal who will see himself bathing in the billion expectations in Indian tri colours while Nadal hopes to touch the red clay one final time in two months’ time.

Emotions were not limited to tennis alone. If anything it seemed it was the running theme of an epic that also featured football finals and Manchester United avenging last year’s humiliating defeat to Manchester City. But it was a special emotion for one Monegasque driver who realised his childhood dream.

It must have been a surreal feeling when Charles Leclerc reached out and was hugged by the Prince of Monaco, not far ironically from the spot called the start-finish line which was also his bus stop when going to school, such being the nature of street circuits.

But being so close to the race track often associated with luxury yachts and glitz did not make the road any easier into Formula 1 racing or his first win in his hometown, Monaco, after three poles.

Having falsely told his father, dying from cancer, that he had signed for Ferrari when he was still miles away, Charles was naturally overcome with emotions and memories even as far back as ten laps to the finish in a race that was strangely getting slower after a couple of epic car crashes as expected on this circuit.

Leclerc’s time with Ferrari, made possible by another fellow driver and friend, Jules Bianchi, who also passed away, ironically in a race related incident, was brought to a huge celebratory culmination as Charles, who has always spoken about mixed emotions, on a race track where he had not seen much success.

Ferrari painting the scene red might have looked as if they had won the championship. But it has been a different road for Ferrari in the post Michael Schumacher error and after a couple of botched years of strategy and timing which seemed to impact Leclerc’s seemingly prodigious career in addition to his own rookie impulse and mistakes, it seemed Ferrari were starting to get their act together.

Forgotten in the midst of the euphoria was the fact that Max Verstappen’s time with Red Bull is starting to stutter for the superlative dominant driver amidst reports of him jumping ship.

It does bring Charles back into the drivers championship play and it is interesting how Ferrari will play it from here. Ferrari head into next year, having signed on the seven time champion, Lewis Hamilton from Mercedes, and deposed a shocked Carlos Sainz before the start of this season, with the Spaniard now driving with a confirmed seat for 2025.

Where will it put Charles in the hierarchy? An interesting headache to have, if Charles continues from Monaco, no longer looking back except with fond emotions, freed himself from the emotional bug bear.

Speaking of seasons coming to end, while Nadal might still use time to decide, the fate of the Indian Premier League season 2024 was decided on a rather anticlimactic night on Sunday when the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) seemed like the only team that showed up on the field.

While one of their owners, Shah Rukh Khan, was reportedly recovering from a heat stroke, KKR had no problems putting away Sunrisers Hyderabad almost with no effort.

It was indeed the complete opposite of what the IPL season has been, thundering batting onslaughts and repeated scores of well over 200 runs raising the question once more about the role of bowlers in Twenty20 and also, the validity of a tournament when bruising was becoming par for the game.

The Sunrisers Hyderabad would be deeply disappointed, previous winners in 2009, who were bowled out for a measly 113 in Chennai, leaving KKR to hog all the glory, chasing the target in less than 11 overs and winning the match emphatically by eight wickets, arguably the easiest of their three IPL title victories when it comes to the final and their first in ten years.

There would be no treble hurrah for Pat Cummins, captain of the SRH team, who as the Australian captain, lifted both the ICC Cricket World Cup and the ICC World Test championship last year.

Shreyas Iyer, the KKR captain, on the other hand, had a lot to cheer and celebrate and has also put the BCCI in a somewhat awkward position, given all the controversy prior to the IPL about players including Iyer not showing up for national duty ahead of the IPL campaign.

Will the players then dictate the game based on their success? The door is open, ever so slightly as cricket takes a change of guard to the next shindig that is the ICC Twenty20 World Cup.