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Shane Warne made an indelible mark on the Ashes on this day in 1993.

The future Australia great was introduced to cricket's greatest series in stunning fashion as England were set on their way to a painful defeat.

Two years later, it was New Zealand's go to turn on the style on the same day in the calendar at the Rugby World Cup.

There has also been June 4 delight for a British boxing favourite and despair for one of the greatest names in tennis.

We take a look at the major sporting events to have happened on this day through the years.


1993 - Warne delivers 'ball of the century'

Warne is now renowned as a cricketing great, but he was making his Ashes debut on this day 27 years ago.

While the series had started a day earlier with England taking the ball, the most memorable moment of the opening match at Old Trafford came when the hosts sought to build a reply to Australia's first-innings 289.

The tourists could hardly have enjoyed a better start as Warne's first ever ball in an Ashes series deceived Mike Gatting and went down in folklore.

The delivery pitched outside leg stump but turned sharply and clipped the top of off stump, setting Australia on their way to first a 179-run victory and then a 4-1 series win.

Warne collected 34 Test wickets in all during the tour, the most of any player as he launched an outstanding Ashes career.


1995 - Ellis scores six as All Blacks run riot

Japan have impressed at recent Rugby World Cups, but their experience of the 1995 tournament on this day is one they would surely rather forget.

Eventual finalists New Zealand romped to a 145-17 win in Bloemfontein, which was then a record margin of victory and is the most points scored by a team in a World Cup match

Eric Rush opened the scoring in just the second minute and the 21-try All Blacks scarcely stopped.

Rush ended with three tries, as did Jeff Wilson, but Marc Ellis stole the show with six - including a hat-trick in the opening 30 minutes.

Simon Culhane, who also crossed, successfully dispatched 20 of his conversion attempts on a humbling day for Japan.
 

2005 - Hatton stuns Tszyu to take title

If everything went to script 10 years earlier in South Africa, the same was not true when Ricky Hatton took on Kostya Tszyu in Manchester.

Hatton boasted a 38-0 record but was fighting for a major title - the IBF light-welterweight belt - for the first time against one of boxing's leading pound-for-pound fighters.

The local lad held his own against the defending champion, however, even as each man landed illegal low blows.

And with Hatton just ahead on the scorecards, Tszyu failed to return for the 12th round as his corner threw the towel in, securing a stunning upset.


2016 - Muguruza off the mark as Serena stalls

Garbine Muguruza reached her second major final at Roland Garros in 2016 and, as the previous year at Wimbledon, she was faced with the daunting task of taking down Serena Williams.

However, Muguruza - beaten at the All England Club - claimed her first grand slam triumph in a display she would describe as "the perfect final".

The Spaniard became French Open champion with a 7-5 6-4 success, showing character late in the first set and dictating the second to see off Serena.

Williams had been bidding to tie Steffi Graf's Open-era record of 22 major titles and would only have to wait until a month later at Wimbledon to do so as she maintained a stunning run of form up until the birth of her daughter in 2017.

Daria Kasatkina has no problem playing grand slams behind closed doors amid the coronavirus pandemic, while the former world number 10 talked up the possibility of an ATP-WTA Tour merger.

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc globally, with the WTA Tour suspended since March and not expected to return until August at the earliest.

The French Open has been pushed back to September and the US Open is still scheduled to go ahead, with Wimbledon cancelled for the first time since World War II.

Events are set to be staged without fans when tennis returns, though French Open organisers remain hopeful spectators will be able to attend the rearranged slam at Roland Garros.

World number 12 and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova said she would rather see majors cancelled than be held without fans, but Kasatkina has no issue with a spectator-less slam.

"It's going to be completely different, especially at grand slams and in night sessions on the big courts, it will lose its energy," 2018 French Open and Wimbledon quarter-finalist Kasatkina told Stats Perform News.

"At the same time, at least if we can play the tournament without spectators, for me it's fine. Yes it's different but to play a tournament and gram slam, it doesn't matter spectators or no spectators. As I think Marin Cilic said, it will be different to win a grand slam like the US Open without spectators there, which is true. At least it will be very special and it will stay in the history forever.

"For the moment, Roland Garros looks very positive. If we see how it goes and it keeps like that, I think Roland Garros will happen and they want to do it with spectators, which is really good. It's different to play with spectators, that's for sure.

"The US Open, of course everyone wants to play and I wish to play the US Open – it's such a special tournament – but I'm not that sure because the situation in the United States is still shaky. The main thing is travelling. If it's going to happen, it's going to be very good. I'll be very happy."

The re-arranged French Open in Paris could provide headaches for players, with the clay-court slam set to take place a week after the final of the US Open on hard courts in New York.

"It's going to be an interesting experience, especially to change the surface and the time so much," the Russian said. "At least between Roland Garros and Wimbledon there is one month, but at least it's in one part of the world. If it's like this, players have to accept it. I'll be happy, even if it's going to be like this.

"When we were juniors and just starting to play professional tournaments, we'd play one tournament there on clay and another here and there. For sure, for some players it will be tough and for many players with injuries it will be a little bit dangerous but I hope everything will be okay."

Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, talk of an ATP-WTA merger has emerged – a tweet from 20-time slam champion Roger Federer backing a unified tennis tour sparking the discussions.

Asked about the possibility of the ATP and WTA joining forces, two-time tournament winner Kasatkina said: "I think it would be good to work together because it's much easier to do something with one structure than two structures like the situation we have now. It's easier to promote tennis as a big tour, not like men's or women's tennis.

"I was a little bit surprised because I never thought they were talking about this, I didn't hear anything. So, it was a little bit surprising especially from Roger Federer on Twitter. But I think it's a good idea. Why not be together? It's better."

The coronavirus-enforced break has provided Kasatkina with plenty of time to reflect and recharge, having struggled in 2019 after her breakout season in 2018.

Kasatkina burst onto the scene two years ago by reaching the French Open and Wimbledon quarter-finals before eventually losing to finalists Sloane Stephens and Angelique Kerber, while she also faced Naomi Osaka in the 2018 Indian Wells decider.

However, Kasatkina endured a frustrating 2019 campaign – only progressing beyond the opening round of a slam once last year, at the French Open, and dropping to 66th in the world rankings. There were, though, signs that the 23-year-old was returning to her best prior to the COVID-19 crisis.

Kasatkina reached the last four of the Lyon Open in March, her first WTA semi-final since claiming the Kremlin Cup in October 2018.

"I had a lot of expectations for myself and not only me but the people around after my very successful year in 2018, which I wasn't ready for, especially mentally," Kasatkina, who has become somewhat of a social media queen during the tennis hiatus, said.

"After this, my game fell apart little bit because you have no confidence in your head, there's no confidence in your shots. Rankings drop down as well because I was losing matches.

"I spoke with my coach and many things happened. I was pretty lost at that time but I think that helped me a lot to rebuild my confidence, rebuild my game maybe to change something.

"I think I started the year, not in Australia [first round], but after it better in Lyon. I really felt like I was building up my game again and I'm hungry to play the tournaments and win. Because I finally taste this semi-final, this special tournament. When I came to Indian Wells, I was feeling perfect in the practices. I really felt that if there wasn't the situation with coronavirus, maybe that was the point I could really start again.

"What happened, happened. Now I have the time for myself to maybe think a bit more, to work on the things which I'll probably need when the season starts again. Everything is going the way it should be."

Since losing 6-3 6-2 to Osaka in the 2018 Paribas Open final, Kasatkina has watched the Japanese star go on to win the US Open and Australian Open. Is it a motivation for the right-hander?

"Well after that final and during the tournament, of course I felt I was close to a very high level of tennis," Kasatkina continued. "I showed some good results and finished top 10, which was very positive at the time but maybe a little bit early. After the final, I felt like okay it seems like I have something inside that can bring me higher. But mentally, I wasn't ready."

Kasatkina, who believes she was close to rediscovering her 2018 form before the pandemic, believes the enforced break has been beneficial.

"For sure because for the past season, it was really tough," she added when asked about her time away from the sport. "Maybe it was good I had this time to come down a little bit and live a normal life. Not to rush to every tournaments, tournament by tournament, week by week."

Petra Kvitova is not in favour of playing at a grand slam behind closed doors, claiming she would rather see the events cancelled than be held without fans.

The WTA and ATP Tour have been heavily disrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic, with many tournaments postponed – the French Open having been pushed back to September – and others, including Wimbledon, cancelled altogether.

Kvitova is returning to the court in a tournament in her native Czech Republic this week, which will be played without fans in attendance.

However, the possibility of featuring in a grand slam behind closed doors does not appeal to the two-time Wimbledon champion.

"I have my age and of course I would like to play another grand slam, but if it's like this, I'd rather cancel them," Kvitova, 30, said at a news conference.

"Playing a grand slam is the greatest thing there is and playing without fans who are our engine doesn't look nice to me and the grand slam doesn't deserve it."

The event Kvitova is taking part in this week features eight men and eight women, who will not shake hands before or after their matches, while ball boys will not be allowed to hand towels to the players.

"We are here to reintroduce tennis not only to the Czech Republic, but also to the world," Kvitova added.

"The hardest thing will be to find the rhythm, we haven't played a match for a very long time.

"I hope nobody expects us to play fantastic tennis, because it may happen or it may not."

The world number 12 opens her tournament against doubles specialist Barbora Krejcikova on Tuesday.

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."

Naomi Osaka has surpassed Serena Williams as the world's highest-earning female athlete.

The two-time grand slam winner accumulated a total $37.4million combined from prize money and endorsements over the past year, according to Forbes.

Osaka, who won her first major title at the 2018 US Open where she defeated Williams, earned $1.4m more than the American great, who was top of the female rankings for the past four years.

Her accumulated earnings are the biggest total over a 12-month period for a female athlete, beating the previous tally of $29.7m Maria Sharapova achieved in 2015.

Osaka ranks 29th in the overall list, with Williams 33rd marking the first time since 2016 two women have made the 100 highest-paid athletes.

"To those outside the tennis world, Osaka is a relatively fresh face with a great back story," David Carter, a sports business professor at USC's Marshall School of Business, told Forbes. 

"Combine that with being youthful and bicultural, two attributes that help her resonate with younger, global audiences, and the result is the emergence of a global sports marketing icon."

After making her major breakthrough at Flushing Meadows, Osaka went on to win the next slam at the 2019 Australian Open but a dip in form has seen her slip from world number one to 10th in the WTA rankings.

Osaka has major sponsorship deals with the likes of Nike, Nissan Motors, Shiseido and Yonex.

Serena Williams is the greatest women's player of all time, says Boris Becker, who believes she can still equal Margaret Court's record of 24 grand slam singles titles.

Williams has won 23 slams in an incredible career, but the 38-year-old's quest to catch and potentially overtake Court has been dealt a blow by the suspension of the WTA Tour due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The spread of COVID-19 has led this year's Wimbledon - where Williams has won seven singles titles - to be cancelled. The French Open has been pushed back to September but both Roland Garros and the US Open remain in doubt.

Williams' recent record in finals also throws her hopes of equalling Court into question. She has lost each of her last four grand slam finals since returning to the tour following the birth of her daughter.

However, Becker is confident Serena can still win slams, telling Laureus.com: "Can Serena equal Margaret Court? She is past 30 and she's become a proud mother.

"I'm sure she would love to play the US Open this year. They call her the greatest of all time on the women's circuit, and she certainly deserves the title.

"Me, being German, I still think of Steffi Graf as our queen, but Serena is certainly, certainly the greatest. Margaret Court is the most successful. Having said that, back in the day they played three of the four majors on grass, so it was easier if you're comfortable on grass to win more.

"I'm sure Serena wants to reach 24, I think that's the reason she's playing. You know, she's a role model for all the mothers out there who are professionally involved in sport. As long as she wants to play, I think she can win. So as long as Serena is good enough to reach a final, she's good enough to win.

"Having said that, the young generation won't sleep. You know once you are in a final you're not playing the name, you're playing the title. That was Bianca Andreescu at the US Open final or Simone Halep in Wimbledon last year. They didn't play the name."

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.

By the time Anna Kournikova played her final tour match, vultures were already picking at the bones of a once-feted great tennis talent.

Many were leching over those same bones, of course, while glorying in her downfall. Picking out the young Russian as prime schadenfreude fodder while sleazily sparing as much thought for her physical form as her tennis form.

When the veteran Daily Progress sports writer Jerry Ratcliffe reminisced about the day in 2003 that saw Kournikova come to Charlottesville, Virginia, he remarked: "We were there to see Anna's curves, not her serves."

Sometimes, all you're looking for from a newspaper is honesty, a little truth-telling, putting the story in simple terms, cutting to the chase.

And you know where you stand when a newspaper lets that sentence through the edit.

Given it was on his beat, Ratcliffe had been at courtside for the $25k Boyd Tinsley Clay Court Classic, a tournament so minor that the presence of Kournikova, trying to find some form, was wildly incongruous.

She was ranked 72nd in the world, and just days earlier had pulled out of a semi-final at a similarly low-profile tournament in Sea Island, Georgia, due to injury. Kournikova's opponent that day would have been the 16-year-old little-known Maria Sharapova.

By the time Kournikova's career reached Charlottesville, she was already bordering on desperation, physical pulls, niggles and herniated discs having taken a heavy toll, her confidence inevitably ebbing away. Once a top-10 player, she was in danger of tumbling outside the top 100.  A turning point was what she sought, that elusive first singles title.

And so on May 14, 2003 – 17 years ago – Kournikova played what she hoped would be her first of five matches that week.

It turned out to be the very last match she would play on tour, the Russian beaten in three sets by Brazilian Bruna Colosio, a player who sat 384th in the world rankings.

The girl who had bowled over coaching titan Nick Bollettieri with her enthusiasm when springing into his academy barely a decade earlier was finished. She went down not firing but, according to reports from that day, buried by an avalanche of double faults.

Weeks later, in early June, Kournikova was seen in tears in England, pulling out of the grass-court season without playing a match.

The show was over, the series cancelled. Kournikova had just turned 22.

"THE FAME WAS CREATED BY YOU GUYS"

Here's a noteworthy Kournikova quote, snipped from a 2010 Wimbledon news conference I attended.

It came after a hit-and-giggle exhibition doubles match she played alongside Martina Hingis, at a time when both Kournikova and Hingis, once the self-styled 'Spice Girls' of tennis, were enjoying retirement.

"You know, the fame and everything, I guess most of it was created by you guys, by the media a lot of times, most of the time the yellow press," Kournikova said that evening.

"[I] never tried to pay attention. I mean, obviously it was a little hard times dealing with it being 16, 17 years old, reading some kind of c**p about yourself, you know. Most of it was made up.”

The trials and tribulations of Anna Kournikova. The sob story writes itself and has been written again and again. Look, she still blames the media. What about those results, Anna? What about your c**ppy results? Nobody made those up.

Of course you could pick apart Kournikova's career and float the idea it was a washout because she could not fulfil the potential apparent when she reached the 1997 Wimbledon semi-finals, losing to eventual champion and fellow 16-year-old Hingis.

But it would seem beyond churlish, a witless, hardly original reckoning.

Kournikova, the biggest earner in tennis who made millions in endorsements but couldn't for love nor money lay her hands on a singles crown. Kournikova, the pin-up whose tennis was ancillary to her money-spinning modelling career. Kournikova, the easiest target since the last target was taken down.

It's all been said, and said too often by those who "were there to see Anna’s curves, not her serves". By those who knew where she stood in FHM's top 100 sexiest women, if not the world rankings.

"TELL US ABOUT YOUR DIVORCE"

Taken in isolation, any archive transcript of an interview or news conference will speak of a time and a place.

But when the transcripts stack up, that's when patterns you might have missed at the time begin to emerge.

That's when you notice what a difference six and a half years can make.

Of the 61 news conferences transcribed and made available by sports event stenographers ASAP Sports, from the start of Kournikova's career to its 2003 denouement, it is the questions that bookend those that illustrate what a whirring, bewildering rush those years must have been.

In the first of those news conferences, at the 1996 US Open, the first question for Kournikova was a gentle "Why did you win today?", and the focus remained on her tennis.

By the time those transcripts stopped coming, the last being one from the NASDAQ-100 Open in March 2003, Kournikova departed after being asked, "The story about the divorce, was that any kind of distraction for you at all, preparing for this tournament?"

She and ice hockey player Sergei Fedorov had indeed split, but Kournikova was exasperated by this point.

It is easy for a non-journalist to conflate the news and sport media, and reporters from the front and back of newspapers can be disdainful of each other's lines of questioning. Kournikova became distrustful, and as her losses had piled up and the criticism followed suit, so she became increasingly resentful.

AFTER TENNIS, THE QUIET LIFE

She was asked in that same NASDAQ-100 news conference about her continuing losses, about the criticism she faced, and whether it hurt.

"I can't change what other people think and all I can do is go and play," she said. "That's what I should really be focusing on, is just doing my thing, practising and playing and then if I do well, there will be less criticism.

"There will be criticism of something else. But at the end of the day, I can't really do anything with it. There's going to be one thing or another, so it's your job, guys, right?"

Whatever she did, Kournikova believed there would be criticism.

Which perhaps explains to a large part her current life, retired and living privately in Miami, with long-time partner Enrique Iglesias, the Spanish pop singer.

Such is the couple's secrecy, it is not known whether they are married. They have three children together, including twins that were born in December 2017, without the world having had a clue Kournikova was pregnant.

Tabloid whispers that Kournikova might have been expecting again only emerged days before she gave birth to their third child in January of this year. She keeps that low a profile, and why not?

She and Iglesias remain gossip-mag favourites but rarely give interviews.

She chooses when to accept modelling gigs, skipping strictly to her own beat.

"I WAS BEING PULLED IN EVERY SINGLE DIRECTION"

Kournikova got plenty off her chest in that 2010 Wimbledon news conference, barely letting Hingis interject.

She spoke of how mother Alla tried to protect her during her mid-teens but ran into opposition, discovering "people didn't really like her that much for that". Kournikova promised she would "try to guard them as much as I can" if she had a 16-year-old of her own.

"It's hard," Kournikova said. "I was being pulled in every single direction. Really there was no guides or rules.

"My mum and me, we were just learning everything as we were going through it. I was here 15 years old, Wimbledon. I played a Centre Court match. I wasn't even seeded or anything.

"It's a lot for a kid."

A kid. A kid who'd routinely face questioning from men – usually the reporters were men – on topics they'd balk at broaching with their own teenage daughters.

A kid who reached that fricking Wimbledon semi-final at 16, got to number eight in the world, beat Hingis, Graf, Davenport and Capriati, won two grand slam doubles title and banked over $3.5million from playing – and way more from sponsorship deals that were accelerated by her looks but hinged absolutely on her being an elite sports star in the first place.

A kid who couldn't help but weep when she knew the tennis dreams of her childhood were over.

A kid whose name became synonymous with failure, when it was a broken body rather than broken resolve that ended her career and our broken moral compass that directed the vultures to their prey.

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.

Could John McEnroe beat Serena Williams, if they played tomorrow?

It's an equivalent question that was asked in 1973, when Bobby Riggs went head to head with Margaret Court.

And just as a global television audience would be sure to tune in for any McEnroe-Williams clash, so the Battle of the Sexes that took place 47 years ago this week captured the world's imagination.

On May 13, 1973 – 47 years ago this week – it came down to the crapshoot of predicting whether 55-year-old Riggs, the long-retired 1939 Wimbledon champion and twice US Open winner, could match up to 30-year-old Court, by then already a 22-time grand slam winner.

It became known as the Mother's Day Massacre.

Who was Bobby Riggs, and what did he have to gain?

Riggs was a 55-year-old American who in his day had rivalled the likes of Jack Kramer and Fred Perry. Known otherwise for his gambling and hustling, the flamboyant Riggs was presumed long finished as a serious tennis player before he challenged Billie Jean King, who refused to play him, and then Court to a winner-takes-all match.

Australian Court accepted, prompting King to say, according to a Sports Illustrated report at the time: "If Margaret loses, we're in trouble. I'll have to challenge him myself."

Both players are said to have pocketed healthy appearance fees, with $10,000 at stake in the contest itself.

Where did Court vs Riggs happen?

California's San Vicente Valley staged the showdown, a gloriously off-the-beaten-track spot for a Sunday afternoon's tennis.

The drama unfolded on a green hard court, surrounded by four temporary stands housing 3,000 spectators paying $10 a head, including stars of the day, with the American football star OJ Simpson and the actor Bill Cosby among those drawn to the desert.

"I kinda think that if you're competing seriously all the time, Margaret Court will have an edge," Simpson told a US TV crew.

How did Riggs approach his greatest hustle?

Determinedly boorish, Riggs, who wore black thick-rimmed glasses, was focused on ensuring this match was about the hustle as much as the tennis.

His objective was to knock Court out of her stride before they began, and contemporary reports speculated that inveterate gambler Riggs had rather more riding on the outcome than the relatively modest prize money.

He played up his image as an enemy to womankind, and many Americans were revolted, with Riggs crowing: "I am the greatest money player in history."

There was the date, Mother's Day, that brought added intrigue. A day to celebrate mothers, and womankind, was in danger of being hijacked. Court was a new mother herself.

Crucially, Riggs had trained hard, knocking several vices on the head, or at least limiting them, and achieving prim shape, certainly for a man in his mid-fifties.

Court dressed for the occasion, in a patriotic yellow and green pastel kit, 'Margaret' stitched onto the collar. The New York Times reported it was the first time she had not worn white.

She had plenty of support, too. 'Women's libbers', as they were popularly known at the time, were out in force to back Court.

But Riggs was not to be outdone, and the showman walked down onto the court from a stairway in the stands decked out in a tracksuit as blue as the sky, carrying a bouquet of roses, that he presented nonchalantly to Court, who instinctively curtsied.

First blood, Riggs.

What a Bobby dazzler!

A match that the bookmakers could not call was to prove utterly one-sided, indeed hugely anti-climactic.

Once the drama of the build-up was done, Riggs pegged back serve-volleyer Court and tore to a 6-2 6-1 victory.

Hardly what the CBS television audience, and those watching back in Australia, had expected.

Court's performance was unusually listless, and she said afterwards the gentle nature of Riggs' game, which he had mixed up to compelling effect, had caught her out.

As an excuse, it was bunk really. Riggs the show pony had completely outfoxed her, steering her to distraction.

"My concentration was bad today," Court told reporters, "and I've been concentrating really well in the last six months or so. I saw everything going on around the court today which was very unusual for me."

Riggs rejoices, and "proves a point"

Court had stressed before the match she was not interested in the 'Battle of the Sexes' element of the contest and was not carrying any banner, but Riggs was all over that aspect.

"I think it proves a point," he said afterwards.

"Fifty-five-year-old, one foot in the grave, night and day difference. And she's the best woman player of all time.

"Sixty million people watching. Biggest match of all time. Battle of the Sexes. And we've all had plenty of time to get ready for it. And you saw what happened, I don't have to explain it to you.

"I think it was the tension, the pressure, the biggest match ever played. The 60 million audience on television. All the press, the way the thing has been built up over the last six months 

"She arrived here with the whole pressure of the women's world on her."

King and I

After seeing off Court, Riggs could name his price for a follow-up match, providing he could find a worthy opponent.

In stepped King, just as she promised, and both reportedly landed $75,000 just for taking part in a September 1973 clash, with a further $100,000 for the winner.

Hosted at the Houston Astrodome, King sauntered to a 6-4 6-3 6-3 victory to land the cash, strike a crucial blow for women in sport, and surely give Court more than a little pause for thought.

Venus Williams hailed Ines Ibbou as "my hero" after the low-ranked Algerian tennis player criticised Dominic Thiem for speaking out against the Player Relief Fund.

Ines Ibbou, a 21-year-old from Algiers, pleaded with Thiem to recognise the inequalities in tennis, and how some players are battling on the breadline to make their way in the game.

Thiem said last month he would not be donating to the fund that has been promoted by Novak Djokovic. it has been designated as a means to lend a helping hand to players down the rankings whose income has been decimated by the coronavirus crisis.

Austria's world number three said there were certain players who "don't give everything to sport", questioning why he should support a fund that might benefit those individuals.

Ibbou said his remarks were "hurtful to say the least".

Once a promising junior who played the grand slam girls' events, Ibbou has been struggling to make a successful transition to the women's tour, citing injury and a near-total lack of support from within Algeria as factors in her tough quest to make the grade.

However, at 620th in the world, she is her country's only female player with a world ranking.

She pointed to Thiem's privilege, as a European in a "magical world" where federation backing and sponsors have allowed his career to flourish.

“I was wondering what could have changed for me at that time if I was part of your closed circle, shared the same environment and rules,” Ibbou said in an Instagram video.

She added: "I'm wondering, Dominic, what is it like to have a coach who assists you on tour, a personal trainer, a physiotherapist, a mental coach, a dedicated staff?"

She went on to say: “Dear Dominic, unlike you, many share my reality.

"Just a reminder, it's not because of your money that we survived until now. And nobody requested to you anything. The initiative went from generous players who showed instant compassion with a classy touch. Players eager to spread solidarity and find solutions to make a difference. Champions at all cost."

She said the COVID-19 crisis was "revealing who people truly are".

"Dominic, I told you we did not ask anything from you," Ibbou said.

"Except a bit of respect to our sacrifice. Players like you make me hold on to my dream. Please don't ruin it.”

Five-time Wimbledon champion Williams responded, “You're my hero”, to which Ibbou replied: "You always been mine too, and now you're even more to me. Thank you so much."

Australian maverick Nick Kyrgios, an ATP rival to Thiem, told Ibbou: "Respect. Keep doing you!! I'm always willing to support."

French Open organisers say the tournament could be staged behind closed doors as they prepare for more talks over scheduling.

The clay-court grand slam was postponed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic and put back to September.

Wimbledon has since been cancelled amid the COVID-19 crisis, but the US Open and French Open are to go ahead as it stands.

French Tennis Federation (FFT) president Bernard Giudicelli knows what would be the final major of the year may have to take place without spectators.

"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 [which provide more than a third of French Open revenue] - to go ahead. This cannot be overlooked."

Guidicelli added that the action in Paris may not start until September 27 - a fortnight after the US Open is due to finish.

He said: "I have regular discussions with Andrea Gaudenzi [ATP president], Steve Simon [WTA president] and David Haggerty [head of the ITF] and another call is planned next week to see how we have progressed.

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

A player relief fund of more than $6million has been created to support those affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

World number one Novak Djokovic said last month he had spoken to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal about a relief fund that would see money distributed to lower-ranked players.

The ATP and WTA Tour seasons are suspended until at least July 13 due to COVID-19.

While Australian Open runner-up Dominic Thiem was opposed to the idea, the governing bodies of tennis came together to raise more than $6m, it was announced on Tuesday.

"The initiative has seen the ATP, WTA, the four grand slam tournaments – the Australian Open, Roland-Garros, The Championships, Wimbledon and the US Open – and the ITF, unite in a show of support to players who are facing unprecedented challenges due to the global impact of COVID-19. Professional tennis is currently suspended until July, 13 2020," a statement read.

"In addition to contributions of their own, the ATP and WTA will administer the financial distributions of the player relief programme, which sees respective contributions from the four grand slam tournaments and ITF split equally between men and women.

"The player relief programme will target a total of approximately 800 ATP/WTA singles and doubles players collectively, in need of financial support. Eligibility for the player relief programme will take into account a player's ranking as well as previous prize money earnings according to criteria agreed by all stakeholders.

"The move by the seven stakeholders provides the financial backbone of the programme, with opportunities for additional contributions to follow. Funds raised through initiatives such as auctions, player donations, virtual tennis games and more, will provide opportunity for further support of the programme moving forward and are welcomed.

"The creation of the player relief programme is a positive demonstration of the sport's ability to come together during this time of crisis. We will continue to collaborate and monitor the support required across tennis with the aim of ensuring the long-term health of the sport in the midst of this unprecedented challenge to our way of life, and our thoughts remain with all those affected at this time."

There have been more than 3.7 million cases of coronavirus worldwide, with the death toll exceeding 257,000.

Andy Murray believes there is strong support among leading players on the ATP Tour for a merger with the WTA.

Roger Federer tweeted his backing for a unified tennis tour last month, amid the coronavirus-enforced halt to major sporting action.

Rafael Nadal immediately backed the Swiss star and Murray, another supporter of the idea, is encouraged by the discussion, though he insists female players must also be heard.

"When you have a lot of the top male players now starting to discuss and talk about it, that's definitely very promising," the two-time Wimbledon winner said to CNN.

"When these discussions happen it's quite important not just to see this merger through a man's eyes and to bring more women into the decision-making positions so that everyone's voice gets heard."

Murray, who was previously coached by Amelie Mauresmo, has long been an advocate for the women's game, but explained challenges remain in changing the views of some.

"I spoke to some of the male players... who were unhappy because the prize money was equal," he said.

"I said, 'Well would you rather there was no increase at all?' And they said to me, 'Yeah, actually.'

"That's some of the mentalities that you're working with in these discussions."

Boris Becker does not believe the US Open should go ahead as scheduled due to the coronavirus crisis.

Over 23,000 people have died in the state of New York after contracting COVID-19, but US Open organisers are still planning for the grand slam to start at the end of August.

Wimbledon was cancelled as a result of the pandemic, while the French Open has been put back until September - although there remain doubts over whether the Paris major will go ahead. 

Six-time major champion Becker thinks it would be unwise for what is usually the final grand slam of the year at Flushing Meadows to be held in four months' time.

He told Laureus.com: "New York was pretty much the worst city hit by the virus a couple of weeks ago. I don't think it would be wise to have a tournament there."

Becker has also thrown his weight behind calls for a merger between governing bodies the ATP and WTA.

He added: "I think we are having a moment in crisis in tennis. Apart from, let's say, from the top 10, the top 50 and maybe the top 75 men and women, the rest of the professional players need their weekly pay check, they need their prize money.

"The fact is they can't play, they can't even go to a club and give lessons because of social distancing.

"We have to ask ourselves whether tennis is good enough to give jobs for a thousand people. Until the crisis started, the quick answer was yes, but I'm sure a lot of smaller tournaments that couldn't take place are struggling to come back financially, they've lost a lot of money by not hosting. So it's also a question of time.

"Roger Federer started the ball rolling with his splendid idea of joining forces and I think Nadal agrees. Not every top guy agrees, that's fine, but I think Federer, [Rafael] Nadal and [Novak] Djokovic have a strong following. For Federer to suggest that, speaks for his intelligence and also that he truly cares about the game.

"Just think of the equal prize money we have in the majors. You know men and women earn the same which I don't think is happening in every sport. We are always progressive about going with the times, with equal rights, certainly on the tennis court.

"So a joint organisation would be the next step. It's a big step. He suggested maybe having joint tournaments. We already have a few. In the US in Miami, you have men and women participating around the same time.

"The other ones, talking about the Masters series, are not there yet, but obviously would, in my opinion, be a step in the right direction. Once we get out of the tunnel, the new normal will be different. We still lie in a position to control the future if we get together and work together."

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