Novak Djokovic launches star-studded tennis tournament amid season suspension

Novak Djokovic has organised a tennis tournament that will feature the likes of Dominic Thiem and Grigor Dimitrov in June.

The tennis season is currently suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic but it is hoped the campaign can get back underway in August.

Players on the ATP and WTA Tour have gradually begun pracitising again after several weeks in isolation.

Djokovic has been spotted at a tennis club in Marbella, Spain getting back to work while Thiem has been training in Austria.

Some players in America and Germany have also been involved in exhibition matches with strict health and safety guidelines.

And Djokovic has created a new tennis tournament – the Adria Tour – which will be played between June 13-July 5 in Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia.

The world No 1 will be joined by Thiem and Dimitrov in the event and the money raised will be used to aid regional humanitarian projects.

Djokovic will also face Damir Dzumhur in an exhibition match in Sarajevo, Serbia on July 5.

Meanwhile, Toni Nadal, uncle and former coach of Rafael Nadal, has been opening up on the struggle they faced trying to prepare for matches against Djokovic.

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The Serbian holds a 29-26 winning head-to-head record over Nadal and since the start of 2014 he’s lost just four times to the Spaniard.

Speaking in an interview with Eurosport, Nadal explained they preferred to face Roger Federer over Djokovic.

“For us, it was always more difficult to play against Djokovic,” he said.

“Because it’s not about who of them is better. For us, when we play against Federer, we have a way to beat him.

“In my mind, before going on court, I know what we have to do.

“When we play against Djokovic, many times we didn’t know exactly what we had to do.

“This is more difficult, for me. I prefer to play against Federer.”

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Osaka breaks Sharapova record to become highest-paid female athlete in history

Naomi Osaka has become the highest paid female athlete over a 12-month period in history, toppling Maria Sharapova’s previous record.

Osaka, the 22-year-old world No. 10 tennis player from Japan, has earned $37.4million (£30.7m) in the past year from prize money and endorsements, setting a new record.

Sharapova, who retired from tennis earlier this year, held the previous record after earning $29.7m (£24.4m) in 2015.

Osaka ranks at No. 29 in the top-100 highest-paid athletes in 2020, with Serena Williams – who earned $36m (£29.5m) over the same period – the only other sportswoman in the top-100.

It’s the first time since 2016 that two female athletes have been ranked in Forbes’ top-100 best-paid athletes list. Williams had been the highest-paid female athlete throughout that period.

Osaka shot to prominence by beating Williams in the controversial 2018 US Open final – a match that was overshadowed by Williams’ infamous row with umpire Carlos Ramos – before winning a second consecutive major at the Australian Open at the start of 2019.

Her form has dipped significantly since, failing to reach the quarter-finals in any tournament following her triumph in Melbourne.

However, her stock has continued to rise. She now has 15 partners, including brands such as Nike, Nissan, Shiseido and Yonex.

Tennis continues to be the dominant force in women’s sport. Since 1990, only tennis players have topped Forbes’ female list.

The full list of the top-100 highest paid athletes will be released next week.

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Nick Kyrgios calls out Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic after Murray chat

Nick Kyrgios has challenged Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic to join him for an “open and honest” conversation on Instagram Live after his successful chat with Andy Murray this afternoon.

The Australian has always had a good relationship with Murray and they trained together during the Brit’s recovery from his hip resurfacing surgery.

Together they entertained fans on social media by conversing about their careers.

And Kyrgios, who admitted he had drunk around six glasses of wine, then took to Twitter to call out the Big Three.

Instagram Live videos are the new trend among tennis stars and over 45,000 people watched Federer and Nadal converse last month.

Djokovic regularly invites guests onto his channel and he has also held a stream with Murray.

Kyrgios, who has previously bad-mouthed Nadal and Djokovic, has invited the pair to speak to him in front of the public.

It is unlikely his request will be accepted as the Big Three do not generally respond the to 25-year-old’s antics.

Kyrgios called out Nadal last week and got a blunt response.

“Rafa lets do Instagram live together,” the world No 40 wrote on Instagram. “I am down with it. Rafael Nadal let’s do it.”

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World No 2 Nadal replied: “I don’t mind doing a live with Nick but there’s a generational gap and he might have more fun with someone closer to his age and style.”

The duo have been at war since Kyrgios labelled the 19-time Grand Slam winner “super-salty” on the No Challenges Remaining podcast last year.

“He’s my polar opposite, like literally my polar opposite,” Kyrgios said.

“And he’s super salty. Every time I’ve beaten him… when he wins, it’s fine. He won’t say anything bad, he’ll credit the opponent, ‘He was a great player’.

“But as soon as I beat him, it’s just like, ‘He has no respect for me, my fans and no respect to the game’.

“And I’m like, ‘What are you talking about? I literally played this way when I beat you the other previous times and nothing changed … When you beat me in Rome here a couple of years ago, nothing changed; I was the same person’.”

And Nadal admitted at the Australian Open earlier this year that he may not see eye-to-eye with the bad boy.

“I don’t know [if I like him],” Nadal said. “I don’t know him personally, honestly, to have a clear opinion.

“It’s clear, of course, that when he does stuff that in my opinion is not good, I don’t like.”

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US Open chiefs considering behind closed doors u-turn amid UFC success

US Open officials are reportedly in active discussions over holding the Grand Slam without fans later this year. With over 81,000 deaths, the US is the nation with the highest number of people to die from coronavirus.

In New York, where the US Open is set to be held from August 31 to September 13, there have been more than 21,000 deaths.

Currently, the tennis season is suspended with the hope of getting back underway in July but a decision is expected this week over whether the tournaments scheduled for that month will still go ahead.

A decision on the fate of the US Open is not expected until June when the situation is likely to clearer.

But in a conference call in April, CEO and Executive Director Mike Dowse said it was a ‘highly unlikely scenario’ that they would play the tournament without fans.

He said: “Playing without spectators, we’re not taking anything off the table right now, but to be honest and open, I think that’s highly unlikely.

“That’s not really in the spirit of the celebration of tennis. It also goes back to the health and wellbeing of not just the spectators but of our players and support staff that help run the tournament.

“Unless the medical industry or medical experts come up with a solution that truly is foolproof and safe, we don’t see that as an option.

“Having said that, things are fluid. If the medical experts come back and say here is a foolproof way of running a very safe tournament, unfortunately it has to be without fans, we may reconsider and look at it at this point.

“Today it’s just too early to kind of speculate on what the exact specifics will be at that time.”

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But that stance now appears to have shifted with Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim revealing there has been a change of thought among senior figures at the USTA.

The move comes as the UFC staged a pay-per-view event in Florida on Saturday without fans.

One fighter tested positive and his bout was cancelled but those that remained took tests throughout the week and wore masks at press briefings. Members of the media were spread out as per social distancing guidelines while officials, cornermen and security were placed around the venue.

Given the global nature of tennis, the arrival of hundreds of players, coaches and support teams could pose problems for the USTA but Wertheim says they are willing to do whatever it takes to try and get the event staged even if it means fans cannot attend.

Wertheim said: “Remember a month ago, leaders of the USTA said they were not entertaining the closed-door scenario that has now completely changed. And I’m hearing that this event, if all goes on as planned, will keep its dates, will keep its place. There will be no fans in the stands.

“The USTA is really getting creative, trying to figure out how to make this a go. This is with prodding from ESPN that would love to have the event, especially if there is no football.

“I think a lot of people took lessons from some of the unsanctioned events going on in tennis, also from the UFC card. And said look, there are ways that we can still stage live sports.

“So the USTA is talking about maybe the players will have to come early and quarantine. Maybe we’ll have to have multiple locker rooms, maybe there won’t even be any food served on the premises. But right now, a pretty abrupt change.

“The USTA is really intent provided they can get sign-off from the government – they are really intent on figuring out a way by hook or by crook to hold the US Open in 2020.”

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Andy Murray doubts raised over challenging Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic

Patrick McEnroe has backed Andy Murray to break back into the top 20 of the world rankings but doubted his chances of competing for major titles against the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

After hip resurfacing surgery in January 2019, Murray was back in action by the summer, competing at Wimbledon, and then capped a memorable return by winning the European Open in Antwerp in October.

But since that victory, Murray has played just one competitive match since and he hadn’t played a match in 2020 before the season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Murray was targeting a comeback in Miami in March but while those plans have been dashed it now gives him more time to get fully fit.

At his very best, Murray was on par with the ‘Big Three’ of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic and McEnroe feels tennis will be rooting for the former world No 1 to get somewhere near that level again.

“I would say he could get close but I think it’s going to be difficult for him to get back to the level he was at, in other words, right there with Federer, Nadal and Djokovic,” he told the BBC.

“I do think he could probably get back to the top 20 or top 15. When he came back and won that tournament indoors that was a great sign.

“So if he could get back and be in the mix, that would be awesome and we would love to see that in the tennis world.”

Speaking in an Instagram Live session with Novak Djokovic in April, Murray opened up on the mental and physical battle he’s faced while on the sidelines and life at home with his family.

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“Being away from the competition for a long period of time, you lose a little bit of an edge,” he said.

“You lose a little bit of your aura. Maybe people see you coming back from an injury, there’s a sign of weakness there.

“You need to build that up again by winning matches. The psychological aspect sometimes is tougher than the physical aspect.

“I’ve got to see my kids do things for the first time, usually when we’re away travelling, that you miss.

“I saw my kids going out cycling on their own for the first time, swimming on their own for the first time.

“You’re learning a new way of living. You’re so used to the travelling and the structure that the Tour brings. You get injured, or what’s happening now, and you’re home all the time with your family.

“It’s a big change. But the positives certainly outweigh the negatives. I realise, once tennis is done for me, I’ll be just fine.

“I was always worried about what that might look like, being in just one place all the time. I’ve enjoyed it. It was good.”

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French Open chiefs intend to play tournament behind closed doors

French Open chiefs signal intent to play tournament behind closed doors as organisers earmark September as possible date for Grand Slam to take place

  • French Open chiefs are looking to play the tournament behind closed doors 
  • The Grand Slam’s organisers are targeting September as a possible date 
  • Bernard Giudicelli said that the event needs to be played to fund grassroots
  • Last week, French Tennis refunded all ticket holders for the Grand Slam event 

French Open organisers today signalled their determination to make the tournament happen this year by suggesting it could be held behind closed doors.

Bernard Giudicelli, President of the French Tennis Federation, also declared that they have no regrets about the change of dates that has put so many noses out of joint in the game.

Last week his organisation refunded all ticket holders for the one remaining Grand Slam event of the season that looks to have a possible chance of going ahead.

French Open organisers are determined to see the tournament played behind closed doors

That gives them the freedom to hold it without spectators – there are usually close to 500,000 – as well as making a further tweak to the new date of September 20 – October 4.

‘There is the tournament taking place in the stadium, and the tournament on TV screens,’ he told Journal de Dimanche. ‘Millions of viewers around the world are waiting. Organising it behind closed doors would allow part of the business model – television rights (responsible for more than a third of the tournament’s income) – to go ahead. This cannot be overlooked.’

Guidicelli justified the move to September, which could well switch another week back in the calendar, as a necessity to finance the game’s grass roots.

Last week, ticket holders were refunded as organisers target September as a return date

‘We think of them first, protecting them. We made a courageous choice and today, no one regrets it.’

Unlike Wimbledon, the French have no specific pandemic insurance.

‘I have regular discussions with Andrea Gaudenzi (president of the ATP), Steve Simon (president of the WTA) and David Haggerty (head of the ITF) and another call is planned next week to see how we have progressed,’ added Giudicelli.

‘We are working well together, but it is still a bit early to precisely determine the schedule.’

French tennis chief Bernard Giudicelli says action needs to resume to fund the grassroots

Tennis has been gradually opening up around Europe and the rest of the world, although there is a danger that some players would not be able – or perhaps willing – to make the journey to Paris in the autumn.

Unlike in sports like football, tennis players do not get paid unless they play, so many have a strong compulsion to be there. At present the US Open is still due to go ahead in late August, although most people in the game believe it will be called off within the next four weeks.

Meanwhile the Lawn Tennis Association was waiting last night to hear details of when the UK government believes it will be safe to resume the recreational playing of sports like tennis and golf, which are expected to be the first to be allowed back.




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French Open chiefs braced to stage Grand Slam behind closed doors

Bernard Guidicelli, president of the French Tennis Federation (FFT), says they are prepared to stage the French Open without fans if necessary.

As the coronavirus pandemic began to impact tennis, the FFT took the decision to move the Grand Slam from its date in May to September.

But the decision caused an uproar within tennis circles with players, coaches and stakeholders responding with bemusement at the move.

As it stands, Roland Garros will take place a week after the conclusion of the US Open in New York, leaving players with little time to adjust to the surface change.

Earlier this week, the FFT refunded tickets purchased for the original date and said they were reviewing their options.

But Bernard Guidicelli has now dropped the biggest hint they are willing to hold the tournament without fans to ensure it still goes ahead.

“We haven’t ruled out any option. Roland Garros is first and foremost a story of matches and players,” he told the Journal du Dimanche.

“There is the tournament taking place in the stadium, and the tournament on TV screens.

“Millions of viewers around the world are waiting. Organising it behind closed doors would allow part of the business model – television rights – to go ahead. This cannot be overlooked.”

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It is claimed the French Open creates €260 million in revenue which accounts for 80 per cent of the turnover for the FFT.

Without that money, the FFT faces major financial problems as they do not have insurance cover like Wimbledon.

And Guidicelli insists they were right to make the early decision to move the French Open regardless of the criticism.

He added: “Roland Garros is the driving force of tennis in France, it is what feeds the players in our ecosystem.

“We think of them first, protecting them. We made a courageous choice and today, no one regrets it.

“A tournament without a date is a boat without a rudder – we don’t know where we’re going.

“We positioned ourselves as far in the calendar as possible, anxious not to harm major events, so that no Masters 1000 or any Grand Slam would be affected. The turn of events seems to have proved us right.”

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Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic popularity contest won’t decide GOAT debate

Tennis legend Ivan Lendl says popularity cannot be allowed to decide who is regarded as the greatest of all time in light of the race between Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

Despite being the best three players of their generation in the men’s game, there have been occasions where Djokovic has been the least respected of the decorated trio.

The Serbian has spoken openly of having to block out the support received from Federer and Nadal when they compete against each other.

And he has used it positively, winning 17 Grand Slam titles and holding winning head-to-head records against both.

By virtue of his eighth title at the Australian Open in February, Djokovic is just three behind Federer in the all-time Grand Slam wins list.

Whoever ultimately ends up with the most titles is likely to be considered the frontrunner in the ‘GOAT’ discussion.

With eight Grand Slams in his career, Lendl is well placed to assess the credentials of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic.

And speaking in an interview with WWOS, the former world No 1 said Djokovic’s win over Federer in last year’s Wimbledon final was crucial to the battle.

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“Affection of the public should not be in the equation. Who is the most popular is one thing but who is the greatest is not being judged by popularity,” Lendl said.

“That’s why the Wimbledon finals last year was so fascinating with Roger losing from two match points up because if he moved to 21 and Novak stayed at 16, that’s five difference, now it’s just three. It’s much harder to win five than three.

“When I watched it I saw both players were extremely nervous and I strongly believe this is why they were so nervous because they both knew if Roger jumped to a five lead it would be very difficult to catch him.”

Last month, Djokovic opened up about the match with Federer and expressed his appreciation for being part of such a momentous occasion.

“It was one of the two most beautiful matches I’ve played, along with the final against Rafa in Australia in 2012. They are unique matches, everything happened,” he said.

“From a technical point of view, Roger’s game quality was excellent from the first to the last point – the numbers show that.

“I played the decisive points well. I didn’t miss a ball in the three tie-breaks, and maybe that was the first time in my career.

“These matches happen once or twice in a career, and I am grateful to have been able to fight against a great like Roger in a prestigious arena like Centre Court at Wimbledon.”

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Andy Murray joined by Paul Jubb as the newest edition to his management agency

British prospect Paul Jubb says he is “excited” to be working with Andy Murray after joining his 77 sports management agency.

Jubb made his name by becoming the first Briton to win the coveted NCAA men’s singles championship for the University of South Carolina Gamecocks.

He defeated Andrey Rublev, a top 100 scalp, at Eastbourne, before playing at Wimbledon where he made his Grand Slam main draw debut.

He’s got a great mindset and work ethic, I’m looking forward to helping him develop as an athlete in any way I can.

Andy Murray on Paul Jubb

The 20-year-old, who was raised as an orphan by his grandmother, Valerie, on a council estate in Hull, joins fellow tennis players Katie Swan and Aidan McHugh on the growing list of young players to join Murray’s agency.

“We’re delighted he chose to sign with us as he starts on his journey as a professional tennis player,” said Murray, a three-time Grand Slam champion. “He’s got a great mindset and work ethic, I’m looking forward to helping him develop as an athlete in any way I can.”

  • Paul Jubb – Britain’s next big thing?
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Jubb, who is preparing to turn professional, is excited at the prospect of working alongside Murray.

“I’m delighted to be joining 77 sports management and can’t wait to get started with the team,” he said. “I’m at an important point in my career and am confident that this decision will help me achieve my goals on and off the court.

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Paul Jubb teams up with Andy Murray and wants to be working-class hero of tennis

Paul Jubb has joined Andy Murray's management group – and now wants to show the same fire as the Grand Slam winner to inspire a new generation.

Jubb shot to fame when he made his Wimbledon debut as a wildcard last summer. Now, 20, he has opted to leave the University of South Carolina to turn pro and join Murray's 77 group.

Like the Scot, the world No.519 grew up miles away from the All England Club, on a Hull council estate.

And Jubb, who will now be mentored by the former world No.1, said he can identify with the rebellious outsider who went on to win three Grand Slam titles.

“It’s always been an aspect that has drawn me to Andy because I love that fire that he has,” he said.

“It’s something different – the passion that he has for the game, the will to win, it just comes out of him when he is playing.

"A lot of people talk about the complaining he does on court but it just shows how much he cares and I love that fire about him.

"He is not dull to watch. That’s certainly an aspect that draws me to him the most.

“You see how far he is willing to go to win. You see how big his heart is when he is playing. He puts all of his emotions into it. That’s how it should be.

"If you really want it, then you’re gonna have lots of emotions, so to me it shows how bad he wants which I really like about him.

“Now I can use him as a source of knowledge and use his brain to try and help me on the tennis court. I'm definitely super excited.”

Murray's success has boosted the popularity of tennis, especially in Scotland, and Jubb hopes his story can also inspire a different demographic.

Raised by his grandmother Valerie after the death of both his parents, he went from playing on park courts in Hull to winning the NCAA Men’s Tennis title – the biggest college prize in the USA.

“My story is not traditional,” he said. “Hopefully I can have more success in the future, and more kids around the country can see that you don’t have to grow up in a traditional background to get far in the sport.

"I would certainly like to think – maybe I am a bit now, but even more so in the future – that I can be a good role model, and kids can look up to me and see my story and how far I’ve come from where I’ve come from.”

Jubb has joined the LTA Pro Scholarship Programme and his first aim is to break into the top 100.

But after hitting once with Murray last year, he can't start training with him or anyone else yet because of the pandemic.

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