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Rafael Nadal is usually on course for yet another French Open title on his birthday but the legendary Spaniard has an opportunity to let his hair down this year.

Nadal has become accustomed to celebrating becoming a year older in Paris, yet he was unable to continue his love affair with Roland Garros on his 34th birthday due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While French Open organisers are hoping the tournament can start in September, 19-time grand slam champion Nadal is among the players who have doubted whether there will be any more tennis at the highest level this year.

Nadal revealed last year that he partied harder on the rare occasions he was not en route to winning his favourite major on his special day.

As the 'King of Clay' celebrates in his native Mallorca rather than the French capital, we look at some of the numbers from what has been an astonishing career to date.

 

0 - Nadal has never been taken to five sets in a French Open final.

2 - The number of defeats the left-handed great has suffered at Roland Garros compared to an astonishing 93 victories.

5 - The tally of major successes he has achieved since turning 30.

11 - He was the first player to win 11 titles at three different tournaments as a result of his domination in Paris, Monte Carlo and Barcelona.

12 - The record number of French Open titles Nadal has to his name. Also a record for any Tour-level event. 

17 - Nadal has won a set with a double bagel on as many as 17 occasions at Roland Garros. 

19 - He was only 19 when winning his maiden grand slam title on his French Open debut.

24 - It is a decade since Nadal became the youngest man in the Open Era to complete a career Grand Slam.

33 - Nadal went on to end last year at the top of the rankings aged 33, the oldest player to achieve that feat.

50 - The Spanish superstar broke John McEnroe's record by winning 50 consecutive sets on clay before Dominic Thiem ended that run at the Madrid Open two years ago.

Rafael Nadal is usually on course for yet another French Open title on his birthday but the legendary Spaniard has an opportunity to let his hair down this year.

Nadal has become accustomed to celebrating becoming a year older in Paris, yet he was unable to continue his love affair with Roland Garros on his 34th birthday due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While French Open organisers are hoping the tournament can start in September, 19-time grand slam champion Nadal is among the players who have doubted whether there will be any more tennis at the highest level this year.

Nadal revealed last year that he partied harder on the rare occasions he was not en route to winning his favourite major on his special day.

As the 'King of Clay' celebrates in his native Mallorca rather than the French capital, we look at some of the numbers from what has been an astonishing career to date.

 

0 - Nadal has never been taken to five sets in a French Open final.

2 - The number of defeats the left-handed great has suffered at Roland Garros compared to an astonishing 93 victories.

5 - The tally of major successes he has achieved since turning 30.

11 - He was the first player to win 11 titles at three different tournaments as a result of his domination in Paris, Monte Carlo and Barcelona.

12 - The record number of French Open titles Nadal has to his name. Also a record for any Tour-level event. 

17 - Nadal has won a set with a double bagel on as many as 17 occasions at Roland Garros. 

19 - He was only 19 when winning his maiden grand slam title on his French Open debut.

24 - It is a decade since Nadal became the youngest man in the Open Era to complete a career Grand Slam.

33 - Nadal went on to end last year at the top of the rankings aged 33, the oldest player to achieve that feat.

50 - The Spanish superstar broke John McEnroe's record by winning 50 consecutive sets on clay before Dominic Thiem ended that run at the Madrid Open two years ago.

Roger Federer has eclipsed Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to top the annual Forbes list of the highest paid athletes on the planet.

The Swiss maestro jumped four spots to sit top of the pile, earning $106.3million in the past year as he becomes the first tennis player to lead the way.

That eye-watering figure puts the 20-time grand slam winner ahead of football stars Ronaldo ($105m), Messi ($104m) and Neymar ($95.5m).

NBA icon LeBron James rounds out the top five, raking in $88.2m in a period when some sportspeople took wage cuts amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Endorsements account for most of Federer's income, but he also undertook a tour of North and South America late last year to further boost his earnings.

"The coronavirus pandemic triggered salary cuts for soccer stars Messi and Ronaldo, clearing the way for a tennis player to rank as the world's highest-paid athlete for the first time," said Kurt Badenhausen, senior editor at Forbes.

"Roger Federer is the perfect pitchman for companies, resulting in an unparalleled endorsement portfolio of blue-chip brands worth $100million a year for the tennis great."

Federer's rise to the summit comes after fellow tennis player Naomi Osaka was announced as the highest paid female athlete, her $37.4m putting the Japanese 29th overall.

Fabio Fognini is using the ATP Tour's suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic to undergo surgery on both ankles, the world number 11 revealed on Saturday.

The Italian won the Monte-Carlo Masters last season but has been dealing with long-standing ankle issues.

The 2020 campaign has been paused since March amid the COVID-19 crisis, but Fognini saw no improvement in his injury problems when he returned to training recently.

Fognini, who broke into the top 10 of the ATP rankings for the first time in 2019, sought medical advice and was set for arthroscopic surgery in Italy on Saturday.

"I've been having a problem with my left ankle for three and a half years now," he wrote to fans on his Twitter page. "It's an issue I've learnt to cope with.

"Then my right ankle started playing up in the past two years as well.

"I had hoped the various issues would go away during the two-month break from the game because of the lockdown, but when I resumed training, they were still there.

"After medical examination and a long discussion with my time, I decided to have arthroscopic surgery on both ankles. I believe it's the right thing to do while the tour is on this enforced break.

"I will undergo surgery in Italy today. I can't wait to be back playing again! I know you will support me. A big hug to all of you!"

The suspension of the Tour has been extended until at least August, with Wimbledon cancelled and the French Open moved to September.

Fognini reached the last 16 of the Australian Open in January but has otherwise struggled for form in 2020, falling at the first hurdle at the ASB Classic, Rotterdam Open and Dubai Tennis Championships.

French Open director Guy Forget says he is working closely with tennis authorities to ensure the tournament at Roland Garros does not clash with the US Open.

The Parisian major was initially scheduled to start on Sunday but the coronavirus pandemic resulted in it being postponed until September 20 – a week after the final of the US Open.

Criticism of the decision was rife, and the calendar for the rest of the season remains up in the air with the ATP Tour and WTA Tour suspended until August at the earliest.

Forget said he is working towards a suitable resolution and expects an announcement on the US Open's plans in June.

"The official announcement has not been made yet. [The French Open] will probably be between the end of September and the beginning of October," Forget told French radio station Europe 1.

"We've been working closely with the ATP, the WTA and the ITF to make a global announcement on what the circuit will be like until the end of the year.

"There are so many question marks. New York City is more affected by the coronavirus than France. They also have a lot of organisational problems.

"They will make an announcement mid-June to say how it's going to be like for the US Open."

According to the John Hopkins University, New York City has seen 197,266 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 28,926 dying as a result. France has had 182,018 cases and 28,218 deaths.

Professional sports have been prohibited in France until September but Forget remains optimistic about the chances of staging a successful French Open.

"The signals are going in the right direction with the reopening of businesses," he said.

"We can imagine that this will also be the case for restaurants and bars in the coming weeks.

"Now we don't know what's going to happen in a month or two. We will adapt to what the government tells us.

"You have to be ambitions and optimistic. We hope that Roland Garros will take place, and in good conditions."

World number one Novak Djokovic will return to the court next month for a new tour in the Balkans.

The spread of coronavirus - and the subsequent suspension of the ATP Tour - means Djokovic has not played since beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final of the Dubai Tennis Championships in February.

The ATP Tour will not resume until August at the earliest, but Djokovic has confirmed he will participate in a new tournament that is launching in his native Serbia.

The Adria Tour will be held in four countries - Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina - with events on June 13-14, June 20-21, June 27-28 and July 3-4.

Djokovic, who turned 33 on Friday, will play in each leg of the series and will face Bosnian Damir Dzumhur on July 5 in a final exhibition match in Sarajevo.

He wrote on Twitter: "I'm proud to officially share the news that the #AdriaTour will be held across the #Balkans 13 June - 5 July kicking off with a tournament in Belgrade. Very grateful we could make this happen to play and support humanitarian projects across the region."

Tournament organisers said the aim of the series is to raise money for "humanitarian projects across the region" as well as helping tennis players get back in shape during the ATP Tour suspension.

As well as Djokovic, Austria's world number three Dominic Thiem has also signed up, as have Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov and Serbia's Viktor Troicki.

Organisers said tickets will be sold to fans if "the presence of the audience is allowed".

World number one Novak Djokovic will return to the court next month for a new tour in the Balkans.

The spread of coronavirus - and the subsequent suspension of the ATP Tour - means Djokovic has not played since beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final of the Dubai Tennis Championships in February.

The ATP Tour will not resume until August at the earliest, but Djokovic has confirmed he will participate in a new tournament that is launching in his native Serbia.

The Adria Tour will be held in four countries - Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina - with events on June 13-14, June 20-21, June 27-28 and July 3-4.

Djokovic, who turned 33 on Friday, will play in each leg of the series and will face Bosnian Damir Dzumhur on July 5 in a final exhibition match in Sarajevo.

He wrote on Twitter: "I'm proud to officially share the news that the #AdriaTour will be held across the #Balkans 13 June - 5 July kicking off with a tournament in Belgrade. Very grateful we could make this happen to play and support humanitarian projects across the region."

Tournament organisers said the aim of the series is to raise money for "humanitarian projects across the region" as well as helping tennis players get back in shape during the ATP Tour suspension.

As well as Djokovic, Austria's world number three Dominic Thiem has also signed up, as have Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov and Serbia's Viktor Troicki.

Organisers said tickets will be sold to fans if "the presence of the audience is allowed".

Former Australian Open champion Ashley Cooper has died at the age of 83.

Cooper, an eight-time major champion across singles and doubles competition, had been battling a lengthy illness.

Compatriot Rod Laver paid tribute to Cooper on Twitter, writing: "He was a wonderful champion, on and off the court. And what a backhand!

"So many cherished memories. Farewell my friend. My thoughts are with Ashley's wife, Helen, and his family."

Cooper played during Australia's golden era of men's tennis, winning four major singles titles including two on home soil.

He won three of the four slams in 1958, the French Open the only trophy to elude him, a year after leading Australia to Davis Cup success.

In 1958, Australia lost to the United States and Cooper attempted to withdraw from a professional contract signed with Jack Kramer as he "felt he owed" his country, according to Tennis Australia.

His 1959 wedding to Helen Wood, who was the reigning Miss Australia, attracted more than 3,000 well-wishers.

Following his retirement, Cooper worked as an administrator for Tennis Queensland and Tennis Australia and was instrumental in the construction of the Queensland Tennis Centre, built on the site of a disused power station.

Current women's world number one Ash Barty paid her own tribute, writing: "Thank you for everything that you have done for our sport. My thoughts are with your family and loved ones. Rest In Peace, Ashley."

Novak Djokovic says he might still be playing tennis at the age of 40 as he pursues historic accomplishments in the sport.

The Serbian has spoken of his "clear goals" to usurp Roger Federer as the player to win the most grand slam titles, as well as beating the Swiss star's record of spending the most weeks at world number one.

Djokovic won the Australian Open, his 17th major success, shortly before the coronavirus pandemic brought a halt to top sporting action all over the world, putting him three behind Federer.

With Wimbledon cancelled for 2020 and the ATP Tour suspended until at least the end of July, Djokovic's dreams are on hold for now.

But the world number one, who turns 33 next week, still feels like he has plenty of time on his hands to make history.

He is prepared to make significant changes to his schedule to match the incredible longevity shown by his 38-year-old rival Federer.

"I definitely want to go for a long time," Djokovic said in an interview on In Depth with Graham Bensinger.

"But I'm aware that the amount of tournaments I'm playing is going to decrease very soon.

"I will not be able to play at this intensity, with this many tournaments and this much travelling, for a long time.

"I might be playing at 40, but then there will probably be a focus on the biggest tournaments and the tournaments that mean the most to me.

"I don't believe in limits. I think limits are only illusions of your ego or your mind.

"I have clear goals, but [the records] are not the only thing that motivates me. What fuels me every day is something more related to my growth personally."

It's the way when I first wrote about him, winning the 2004 US Open boys' title, I called him Andrew.

It's the way not even his mother now calls him Andrew.

It's the way the last person to call him Andrew was likely the court attendant who summoned Murray to be knighted by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace.

It's the way you can't imagine British tennis without Andy Murray.

It's the way he'd rather you call him Andy, and not Sir Andy.

It's the way his old coach, Brad Gilbert, calls him Sir Muzzard.

It's the way his two Wimbledon titles and one US Open meant the world, but triumphing in a team cause at two Olympic Games and the 2015 Davis Cup perhaps brought even greater satisfaction.

It's the way he grew up dreaming of matching Tim Henman's achievements.

It's the way Henman now dreams he'd achieved anything close to Murray's success.

It's the way Fred Perry's son's phone has gone cold.

It's the way a squiffy Sean Connery and Alex Ferguson gatecrashed Murray's US Open final news conference to share in his celebrations.

It's the way the man who conquered Flushing Meadows couldn't help but swear and squirm in embarrassment last week when he shanked a backhand into a neighbour's garden.

It's the way I watched and squirmed next to Wimbledon's practice courts in 2017, when a limping Murray battled through a tough session.

It's the way Murray's hip followed David Beckham's metatarsal in becoming a national obsession.

It's the way he won four matches at that Wimbledon and it almost finished him off.

It's the way when he withdrew from Wimbledon "with a heavy heart" in 2018, you knew that was a spectacular understatement.

It's the way sport reporters and news teams race around Wimbledon each year chasing the most tenuous of Murray leads.

It's the way he loves an ice bath, and won't be rushed to a post-match press conference.

It's the way those delays after a late-night match can make you miss the last tube train out of Southfields into central London.

It's the way he chose Amelie Mauresmo as his coach, on a hunch she was the best person for the job.

It's the way he's pals with Nick Kyrgios. It's the way Kyrgios adores Murray.

It's the way Murray shouts, screams and swears like a sailor on the plush lawns of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.

It's the way he gets away with it, indulged like a naughty puppy.

It's the way even the stern Ivan Lendl could not put a lid on that famous potty mouth.

It's the way Murray turned 33 today - May 15, 2020 - and might never play again.

It's the way he's determined to play again, even as his body gives off warning sign after warning sign.

It's the way he was training with brother Jamie and coach Jamie Delgado but following social distancing guidelines on his birthday.

It's the way he's spent better birthdays - like the time he beat Novak Djokovic on clay in the Rome Masters Series final on May 15, four years ago.

It's the way Murray was once part of the 'Big Four' that has been trimmed to a 'Big Three'.

It's the way his three grand slams look paltry against Djokovic's 17, Rafael Nadal's 19 and Roger Federer's 20.

It's the way Djokovic, Nadal and Federer each know he had their number at one stage.

It's the way "anyone but England" was a brilliant, yet hopelessly misunderstood "Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order" moment. And it's the way humourless knuckleheads incredibly still hold it against him.

It's all this and more, Andy Murray.

It's the way the story isn't over yet, if he has his way.

There will be no ATP Tour action until at least August amid the coronavirus pandemic, while the WTA Tour season is also on hold for an extended period.

The men's and women's tours had previously been halted until July 13 due to the global crisis.

Wimbledon has been cancelled, while the French Open was moved to September, with the US Open still scheduled to go ahead in August.

The ATP confirmed a further raft of postponements on Friday, with events in Hamburg, Bastad, Newport, Los Cabos, Gstaad, Umag, Atlanta and Kitzbuhel no longer able to go ahead as scheduled.

"Tournaments taking place from August 1, 2020 onwards are still planning to proceed as per the published schedule," a statement read. "A further update on the ATP Tour calendar is expected in mid-June."

ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi added: "Just like tennis fans, players and tournament hosts all over the world, we share in the disappointment the Tour continues to be affected in this way.

"We continue to assess all of our options in an effort to resume the Tour as soon as it is safe to do so, including the feasibility of rescheduling events later in the season."

The WTA has not yet ruled out all July tennis, but Bastad, Lausanne, Bucharest and Jurmala tournaments are off.

"A decision regarding the dates on which Karlsruhe [slated for July 28 to August 2] and Palermo [July 20 to July 26] may be played, along with further updates to the WTA calendar, will be made in June," a statement read.

Elite tennis has been delayed since early March, although a number of other sports similarly affected are now aiming to return.

The UFC returned behind closed doors last weekend, while Germany's Bundesliga will resume this week ahead of further potential restarts across European football.

Novak Djokovic is "very confident" he will end his career with a record tally of grand slam titles.

Djokovic has 17 major triumphs to his name after retaining his Australian Open title in January, three fewer than Roger Federer's record haul.

Rafael Nadal is also above the Serb in the list for the most men's grand slam singles titles with 19, as the best players in the world wait to discover when they will be back in action after the season was halted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Djokovic, who turns 33 next Friday, has won five of the last seven grand slams and is the youngest of the 'big three'.

The world number one not only has his sights trained on winning more majors than his rivals, but also the record for most weeks at the top of the rankings.

Djokovic, officially the best player in the world for 282 weeks compared to Federer's record of 310, said in an interview on In Depth with Graham Bensinger: "I don't believe in limits. I think limits are only illusions of your ego or your mind."

He added: "I'm always very confident in myself. I believe I can win the most slams and break the record for longest number one. Those are definitely my clear goals."

That positive outlook is a far cry from when Djokovic declared he was ready to quit after a defeat to Benoit Paire at the Miami Open two years ago.

Djokovic's wife, Jelena, recalled: "He said to me that he's quitting and that's the truth. He lost in Miami. It was a terrible loss. And then he just, you know, gathered all of us and said, 'You know guys, I'm done.'

"And I was like, 'What?' And he goes like, 'Yeah.' He said, 'Edoardo [Artaldi, his agent], you can speak with my sponsors. I want to be clear with them. I don't know if I'm stopping for six months, a year or forever.'"

Rafael Nadal is like a Formula One racing team with the way he operates at the French Open, says Henri Leconte.

After winning on his first appearance at Roland Garros as a 19-year-old in 2005, Nadal has gone on to take the title 12 times in 15 editions to establish himself as the 'King of Clay'.

The left-hander has only lost two matches at the Paris major, going down to Robin Soderling in 2009 and Novak Djokovic in 2015. He withdrew due to a wrist injury ahead of the third round in 2016.

Former French Open finalist Leconte, who lost in the 1988 showpiece to Mats Wilander, believes tweaks to Nadal's game each year at Roland Garros often go unnoticed.

Leconte told Stats Perform: "When you think about it, 12 Roland Garros in 15 years (whistles). You don't think it would be possible. If someone told you that, you'd say, 'You're crazy.'

"What's astonishing to me is how he evolved physically, how he changed his game, how he improved.

"I like to compare him to an F1 racing team which is producing a new car every year, he is coming every year with a new way of playing and adapting. He works on his serve, on his right hand, his left hand, and he's always changing some things.

"He's been able to improve every year which allowed him to win Roland Garros, this is amazing. And mentally, he's out of this world. To play at his level at Roland Garros, under these circumstances, physically and mentally, I couldn't even play one set like that.

"During my time, [Sergi] Bruguera was a bit like him, and when I had to play him on clay, with my style, I knew it was over, I was about to run everywhere and get destroyed.

"Rafa is extraordinary. This is what's impressive and people don't realise how much he works."

Leconte lauded Nadal's ability to take a match away from his opponent on clay, likening him to "a cheetah" and "a bottle of champagne exploding".

"When they tell you, 'You play Rafa in the first round'. If you play him at Wimbledon or the Australian Open, you're like (sighs). It's going to be hard.

"But on clay, and it's five sets, so three sets to win, you just started the match, it's 2-2, you visited Roland Garros, the Bois de Boulogne, you ran everywhere, and it's only 2-2 and you've been playing for 25 minutes. You are thinking, 'I have three more sets like that.'

"This is where he is really strong. He's like a cheetah, he's toying with you, and he decides to kill you, it's over. He's playing with you, 2-2, 3-3. We've seen many players going to 3-3, 4-4, they even get a set point, and suddenly, it's like a bottle of champagne exploding, and then they lose 6-1, 6-2.

"They implode, they can't take it physically. Some players can contain him, but he still can overcome them on clay, someone like Stan Wawrinka who can hit very hard, or Novak Djokovic, or [Andy] Murray who could match him at one point.

"Or you have a guy who did it once in his life, Soderling, he hit flat, full strength on the lines, and it worked. Rafa is amazing."

Nadal will aim to win the French Open for a 13th time when the tournament, which was pushed back to September due to the coronavirus pandemic, takes place.

Henri Leconte hit out at plans to hold the French Open behind closed doors, saying it made "no sense".

Originally scheduled to begin in May, the French Open was pushed back to start in September, likely without fans, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 led to Wimbledon being cancelled for the first time since World War II, while the US Open is still scheduled to proceed at this stage.

Leconte, the 1988 French Open runner-up, believes Roland Garros should not be played without fans in attendance.

"I honestly think [playing Roland Garros behind closed doors] is not the best solution," he told Stats Perform.

"I think it's more a way for the [French Tennis] Federation to keep people alert following the lockdown. It's only been two days since the lockdown was eased.

"We've realised that the French public are not [very careful]. We see kids and youngsters not being careful. I just hope that we won't face another wave.

"I also think that playing Roland Garros behind closed doors makes no sense. I don't think that it serves the sponsors, it's a complicated thing to deal with for the players. It's more of a political decision.

"The federation hopes that in a few months everything will be behind us and that we will be able to play Roland Garros. They're trying to keep that hope alive. That's my opinion."

France has seen more than 178,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with its death toll exceeding 27,000.

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