Ruthless Rafael Nadal only dropped four games as he made light work of Mackenzie McDonald to move into the French Open third round.

It took the second seed, who is seeking a record-extending 13th title in Paris, just one hour and 40 minutes to record a 6-1 6-0 6-3 victory on Wednesday.

American McDonald was outclassed in his first career meeting against Nadal and proved unable to force a single break-point opportunity.

Nadal's opponent in the next round will be either Stefano Travaglia or Kei Nishikori.

A brutal backhand winner in the fourth game gave Nadal a first-set advantage and he added a second break before a crisp forehand wrapped up the opener.

McDonald had one winner and 11 unforced errors in a second set that Nadal claimed without any resistance.

He stopped the rot by winning his first game in 12 attempts at the start of the third set, only to lose his next service game when he drifted a backhand off target to put the Spaniard on the brink of victory.

Nadal had to wait to seal victory but the winning moment always looked sure to arrive, ultimately coming in game nine as he dug out a backhand winner to earn a double break and covert his first match point to conclude a comfortable afternoon.

Data slam: Nadal was impressive at the net, winning 13 of 16 points – including all six in an emphatic second set that demoralised McDonald, who won on eight of his 14 trips to the middle of the court.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Nadal – 31/15
McDonald – 17/28

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Nadal – 1/4
McDonald – 1/2

BREAK POINTS WON
Nadal – 7/8
McDonald – 0/0

Novak Djokovic set his sights on French Open glory after thrashing Mikael Ymer in the first round on Tuesday.

The Serbian, seeking to put his US Open disqualification firmly behind him, made an early statement of intent with a 6-0 6-2 6-3 victory on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

It took Djokovic one hour, 38 minutes to get the job done, with Ricardas Berankis awaiting in the second round.

And the world number one is determined to chase down a second crown at Roland Garros, having triumphed in 2016.

"I'm ready physically, mentally, emotionally to go deep in the tournament," said Djokovic.

"Hopefully I can have another successful year here in Paris. 2016 was a dream come true.

"Obviously the only French Open title I have won in my career, and it was a very long anticipated title."

 

TSITSIPAS AND RUBLEV, UNITED AGAIN BY FIVE-SETTERS

Two days after they went head to head in the Hamburg European Open final, Andrey Rublev and Stefanos Tsitsipas were back in action in Paris.

And both at one stage looked in serious danger of first-round exits, with their efforts of the past week in Germany seemingly catching up on the seeded pair.

Rublev, who got the better of Tsitsipas in Hamburg, trailed Sam Querrey by two sets on Tuesday. Tsitsipas also slumped two sets behind in his clash with Spain's Jaume Munar.

But both staged spectacular fightbacks, with Russian 13th seed Rublev edging out American Querrey 6-7 (5-7) 6-7 (4-7) 7-5 6-4 6-3 and Greek fifth seed Tsitsipas prevailing 4-6 2-6 6-1 6-4 6-4.

"Although I started well, I was kind of switched off again later during the first set," Tsitsipas said. "Whatever I was trying to do, most of my shots were landing out and nothing was going my way.

"It was crazy what was happening out there, and I couldn't find any solutions. I feel like I was just turning down the hill, and I'm happy that I took my time.

"I started thinking a little bit more. Started figuring out why I was rushing so much and why I was going for extreme things. After a bit of processing and thinking, I think that helped settle things down and have a fresh new start of the match."

Rublev accepted his display against Querrey was dismal, saying: "I was feeling completely tight. I choke another level. From the first point of the match till the last match of the match I was completely frozen. I couldn't do one step, I could only hit, I was tight like I don't know."

 

BERRETTINI FEELING OLD...AT 24!

Matteo Berrettini breezed past Vasek Pospisil 6-3 6-1 6-3 before railing against the relentless march of time.

At just 24, the Italian is already feeling like a veteran after seeing the impressive exploits of compatriots Jannik Sinner and Lorenzo Musetti, who are both teenagers.

"Now it's crazy. Until last year I was the young one," exclaimed Berrettini, who faces Lloyd Harris in round two.

"Now these two are with big steps stepping in. I mean, my career is completely different compared to theirs. They started really young.

"This is my third Roland Garros, and I'm 24. Probably them at 24, they would have played already maybe six Roland Garros. It's definitely different."

 

GASQUET AND SIMON LEAD FRENCH CASUALTIES

Canadian ninth seed Denis Shapovalov was tested by experienced Frenchman Gilles Simon but won through 6-2 7-5 5-7 6-3, while 18th-seeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov drubbed another Frenchman in Gregoire Barrere, landing a 6-3 6-2 6-2 win.

Roberto Bautista Agut added to the French misery, sinking fellow veteran Richard Gasquet 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 6-1, and lesser-known players also exited their home grand slam as Ugo Humbert, Quentin Halys and Harold Mayot also bowed out.

Novak Djokovic began his bid for French Open glory with an emphatic first-round victory over Mikael Ymer.

The Serbian triumphed 6-0 6-2 6-3 on Court Philippe-Chatrier in just 98 minutes.

After winning a match that saw him convert nine of 11 break points, Djokovic will meet Ricardas Berankis or Hugo Dellien in the second round.

As he looks to put his US Open disqualification for inadvertently hitting the ball at a line judge behind him, Djokovic is seen as the main challenger to 12-time champion Rafael Nadal, who had started his tournament with a straight-sets win a day earlier.

The first-ever meeting between Djokovic and Ymer in Paris on Tuesday was one-sided throughout and a story of total dominance in the opening set.

World number one Djokovic, who won his first Rome title for five years as preparation for the last grand slam of the year, dropped just seven points and had the lead after only 22 minutes.

It looked like more of the same in the second set when Ymer was broken in the third game and, despite the Swede striking straight back, it ultimately proved that way as the relentless 2016 champion did not allow him to get a foothold in the contest.

Ymer showed some fight again in the third, breaking Djokovic having earlier fallen behind to bring it back to 3-3.

But Djokovic, who only allowed two break points in the match and lost both, reeled off three consecutive games and sealed a straightforward victory on his first match point with a forehand winner.

Andy Murray is planning a busy finish to 2020 in a bid to bounce back from his disappointing first-round exit at the French Open.

The Briton lost 6-1 6-3 6-2 to Stan Wawrinka in Paris on Sunday to follow up a second-round departure at the US Open.

In the immediate aftermath of his French Open loss, Murray vowed not to "brush aside" the heavy defeat and insisted he would analyse it to understand the reasons.

Looking ahead to the remainder of a year that has been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, the 33-year-old has discussed plans to play two consecutive indoor ATP 250 events in Cologne next.

"I know tournament-wise I'm going to try to play as much as I can between now and the end of the year," he told reporters.

"The plan is to play in Cologne, the two tournaments there.

"Probably the only positive of [going out early] is I will get more time to prepare on the indoor hard courts for that."

Later in the year, Murray hopes to travel to Australia, with the ATP Cup a possibility at the start of next season after he had to withdraw through injury earlier this year.

"We don't know exactly what the rules are going to be for Australia, but it's looking like you'll have to get there very early to prepare for that," he said.

"I'd like to play in the ATP Cup because I was supposed to last year [the 2020 edition], and it looked like a great event – or [I will play] another ATP event on in Australia at the beginning of the year if I'm not in the ATP Cup team.

"My plan is to for sure go to Australia. I just don't know exactly what the exact situation is in terms of what date we would have to go, because by the sounds of it, it's pretty early, like mid-December."

Daniil Medvedev suffered a stunning late-night defeat to Marton Fucsovics after Rafael Nadal beat Egor Gerasimov in the first round of the French Open on Monday.

Fourth seed Medvedev became the biggest casualty in the men's draw at Roland Garros as Hungarian Fucsovics, ranked 63, won 6-4 7-6 (7-3) 2-6 6-1 on Court Suzanne-Lenglen.

It was after 11.30pm in Paris when the 28-year-old Fucsovics secured the first win against a top-five opponent in his career under the floodlights.

Medvedev lost the second set when he was given a point penalty for smashing his racket on an evening to forget for the Russian, who prompted raised eyebrows from his opponent when he won a point with an underarm serve.

Nadal overcame Gerasimov 6-4 6-4 6-2 and made notable strides from his quarter-final loss to Diego Schwartzman at the Internazionali d'Italia, while US Open champion Dominic Thiem also cruised into the second round.

The shocks came as eighth seed Gael Monfils, a semi-finalist in 2008, lost 6-4 7-5 3-6 6-3 to Alexander Bublik while 19th seed and rising star Felix Auger Aliassime was defeated by Yoshihito Nishioka 7-5 6-3 6-3.

Monfils' compatriot Corentin Moutet was knocked out by qualifier Lorenzo Giustino in a marathon five-setter and clay-court specialist Fabio Fognini tumbled out in four sets in his match with Mikhail Kukushkin.

NADAL RESUMES NORMAL SERVICE

Having struggled on serve in his surprise defeat to Schwartzman in the last eight in Rome, Nadal was much improved in that regard against Gerasimov.

He won 82 per cent of points on his first serve, with his improvement in that area leaving Nadal satisfied after coming through the first test in his quest for title number 13.

"I am trying to serve with high percentage. That's the first step that I have to do," said Nadal. "When I know that I can have a big percentage of first serves, then is the moment to increase the speed and increase the aggressiveness on the serve, no? Step by step. Today was the first step.

"Tomorrow, another day for practice. That's the only thing that I try to look at at this tournament, no? Try to be happy about every single improvement and try to give me a chance to be better every day."

THIEM NOT CAUGHT COLD BY CILIC

Thiem, fresh off his victory at Flushing Meadows, comfortably prevailed in a battle of US Open champions with Marin Cilic, spoiling the Croatian's 32nd birthday.

Thiem triumphed 6-4 6-3 6-3 and, while much has been made of the cold and the heavier balls at this year's event, the conditions are of no concern to the Austrian.

He said: "Conditions, I'm used to them or I know how to play in those kinds of conditions obviously because in Austria, we have many days like that. And then from junior times and when I started to play professional on the futures in March in Croatia or Czech Republic, there were many tournaments with similar conditions. Cold, heavy balls.

"So, it's not really something new for me, and it helps against guys like Marin, because it's a little bit easier to return many serves back in the court and to run down almost every ball. So, I like these conditions. And anyway, we have to do the best we can, because it's a very special year."

MOUTET LOSES SIX-HOUR MARATHON

There was more disappointment for the small number of home fans as Moutet followed Monfils in tumbling out of the tournament, albeit in significantly more dramatic fashion.

Moutet will have been expected to come through his clash with Giustino with little difficulty but was outlasted in an epic that was finally settled after six hours and five minutes of play.

Giustino progressed 0-6 7-6 (9-7) 7-6 (7-3) 2-6 18-16 and fell to his back in celebration as he came through a marathon encounter.

Asked for his thoughts on the contest, Moutet said: "My feelings, I don't know. We played a really long match, so I don't know. I don't feel anything in my body right now. I feel empty."

Rafael Nadal breezed into the second round of the French Open with a straight-sets win over Egor Gerasimov at Roland Garros.

Seeking a remarkable 13th title at the clay-court grand slam, Nadal had suggested the conditions and heavier balls he described as "slow and dangerous" could impact his hopes.

He came into Monday's meeting with the world number 83 having only played one tournament since February due to the coronavirus pandemic, losing to Diego Schwartzman in the quarter-finals in Rome.

Neither the balls nor any Nadal rust could prevent him from claiming a 6-4 6-4 6-2 victory, though, Gerasimov's admirable resistance fading after he turned his ankle in the third set.

The first break came Nadal's way courtesy of a deft drop shot and that was enough to claim the first set, which he wrapped up with an ace out wide.

Gerasimov showed impressive athleticism for a man of his 6ft 5in frame but could not find his range when it mattered, and he fired a forehand long to hand Nadal the second set.

The Belarusian looked on course to prolong the inevitable after breaking for the first time to start the third to take a 2-0 lead.

However, Nadal soon erased the deficit and Gerasimov was never the same after receiving heavy strapping on his ankle in a medical timeout following a tumble on the decisive point of the set's fourth game.

Nadal will face world number 236 Mackenzie McDonald in the second round.

Andy Murray tasted defeat in his first match at the French Open in three years, going down in straight sets to Stan Wawrinka on the opening day of action at Roland Garros.

Competing in just his third grand slam singles match since the 2019 Australian Open due to hip surgery and the coronavirus pandemic, Murray could not live with the 2015 winner.

Wawrinka held serve throughout to prevail 6-1 6-3 6-2 in a time of one hour and 37 minutes as he set up a meeting with Dominik Koepfer in the second round.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Italian teenager Jannik Sinner eliminated 11th seed David Goffin and British number one Dan Evans lost to Kei Nishikori in five sets.


Lethargic Murray falls at first hurdle

Grand slam winners Murray and Wawrinka served up a treat when they met in the semi-finals here in 2017, but there was far less drama involved in this latest clash.

Wildcard entrant Murray lacked any sort of spark and looked subdued for the duration of the one-sided match as he failed to break his opponent's service game.

Wawrinka, who has himself slipped down the rankings, broke Murray in the third, fifth and seventh games as he eased into a one-set lead.

It was a similar case in the second set, with the Swiss continuing to dominate and earning an all-important break in the sixth game to leave Murray on the ropes.

And any hope of a fightback from Murray, as was the case in last month's five-set victory over Yoshihito Nishioka in the US Open first round, were soon ended for good.

Murray squandered three break points in the second game of the final set and Wawrinka did not look back, seeing out the game with an ace in an easier victory that expected.


Sinner stuns Goffin 

Sinner caught the eye when becoming the first Italian to win the Next Gen ATP Finals 10 months ago and he is now making his mark in majors.

The 19-year-old won 11 games in a row en route to a convincing 7-5 6-0 6-3 victory and will now take on French qualifier Benjamin Bonzi in the next round.

"He maybe didn't feel that well on court," Sinner said in his post-match interview. "I felt well. I have just been trying to be focused."

 

Nishikori sees off Evans in five sets 

British number one Evans was seeking his first win at Roland Garros but, dealt a tough hand against former world number four Nishikori, it was a fourth first-round exit in five years.

After a sluggish start that saw him drop the first set, Nishikori soon recovered and took a 2-1 lead in the contest, only for Evans to show good fighting spirit in the fourth set.

Despite battling back from 0-3 in the deciding set, Evans' revival was short-lived as he went down 1-6 6-1 7-6 (7-3) 1-6 6-4 in three hours and 49 minutes.

"The end result was that I lost," Evans said. "I lost another first round which is a little disappointing and now I get ready for the indoor hardcourts."

Isner sails through, Coric falls

World number 23 John Isner made light work of Elliot Benchetrit, holding serve throughout in a routine 6-4 6-1 6-3 victory to set up a meeting with Sebastian Korda.

Borna Coric had less success against Norbert Gombos, though, the 24th seed exiting the tournament with a 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-4 defeat.

The US Open quarter-finalist lost serve in a gruelling third game and that was a sign of things to come against his stubborn opponent.

Gombos, who reached round three in 2017, recovered after losing the second set to get over the line and produce a big upset on an eventful opening day in Paris.

Andrey Rublev heads to Roland Garros with a third title of the season secured after Stefanos Tsitsipas let victory slip from his grasp at the Hamburg European Open.

As the French Open began, Rublev and Tsitsipas were almost 600 miles away in northern Germany, duking it out for ATP Tour silverware.

Both will arrive in the French capital after a string of fine clay-court results; however, Rublev will be the happier man after a 6-4 3-6 7-5 success in the final saw him pocket the €79,330 winner's cheque.

Rublev pouched trophies at the start of the year in Qatar and Adelaide, and only Novak Djokovic has won more matches on the tour this season than the 22-year-old Russian's haul of 25 victories.

After they split the opening two sets, It seemed a sure thing that Greek world number six Tsitsipas would wrap up the title after surging to a 5-3 lead in the decider.

However, he could not get across the line, with Rublev landing his first title at ATP 500 level by reeling off four successive games.

Tsitsipas was seeking his second title of 2020, having won in Marseille in February, but his win-loss record in ATP finals now stands at 5-7, with his inability to close out this match posing questions about his prospects of competing deep into the coming fortnight in Paris.

Rublev has only played the French Open once, losing in the first round three years ago. He faces an opener against American Sam Querrey, while Tsitsipas starts against Spain's Jaume Munar.

Andrey Rublev described the Hamburg European Open as "the most special tournament" in his life just now after setting up a final showdown with Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The 22-year-old Russian lost to Nikoloz Basilashvili in last year's final and will look to go one better after battling past Casper Ruud in the semi-finals on Saturday.

Rublev, aiming for a third title of 2020 and fifth of his burgeoning career, outfought Ruud on the way to a 6-4 6-2 win at the clay-court event.

"The match was really tough. I think everyone saw how tough it was, how [many] long rallies we had, how many chances both of us had," said Rublev.

He added, quoted on the ATP website: "It could [have been] easily 6-4, 6-2 to Casper’s side, but I was a little bit lucky. In the most important moments and at the end, the match was for me. I am really happy with the way I played today."

Rublev fell in the second round in Rome last week, following a run to the US Open quarter-finals, and his form has been inconsistent this year, yet sporadically brilliant.

Titles came in Qatar and Adelaide at the start of the year, and now another beckons in Germany.

The fifth seed said: "[It is] my first ever time that two years in a row I reached a final at the same tournament. For the moment, it is the most special tournament for me. We will see how it goes [on Sunday]."

Tsitsipas, seeded second, halted Chilean Cristian Garin in a three-set thriller he described as "nerve-wracking".

The Greek second seed will chase a second title of 2020 on Sunday, before joining Rublev in heading to the French Open.

A 7-5 3-6 6-4 success against Garin sent the world number six through to a 12th career ATP final, battle-hardened for the clash with Rublev.

The French Open also begins on Sunday, but Tsitsipas and Rublev are not due to begin their challenges in Paris on the opening day of the grand slam.

Novak Djokovic insists he is "back to normal" ahead of the French Open and determined to be the "best version" of himself in Paris after being thrown out of the US Open.

Djokovic left Flushing Meadows in shame this month, having been disqualified for striking a linesperson with the ball during his last-16 match against Pablo Carreno Busta.

The world number one was full of remorse but responded by winning the Internazionali d'Italia in Rome last week to take his tally of ATP Masters 1000 titles to a record 36.

Djokovic, who will play Mikael Ymer in the first round in a Paris major that starts on Sunday, says the dramatic incident in New York is still on his mind but it will not affect him in the final grand slam of the year.

"Obviously I am going to be extra careful of hitting a tennis ball around the court," said the 17-time major champion.

"That's something that is obviously staying in my mind after what happened in New York. It's going to stay there for a long time.

"Of course, I will make sure I don't make the same mistake twice. Whatever happened, happened. I had to accept it and move on. Of course, it was a shock for me and a lot of people.

"But that's life, that's sport. These things can happen. But I don't think that this will have any significant negative impact on how I feel on the tennis court.

"I mean, I won the tournament in Rome just a week later after what happened in New York.

"I did not feel any kind of emotional disturbance or difficulty to actually be able to play or still express my emotions in whatever way. Of course, I try to keep my negative reactions on the court as less as possible.

"But I guess it happens as well. I'm not going to be down on myself because of that. I also try to kind of accept it and forgive myself for what happened and move on. I'm human being. I have flaws as everybody else.

"Regardless of the amount of years and experience that I have on the tour, these things can still happen. It's because I care. I really want to be my best version as a player, as a human being on the court, and win a tennis match.

"Because of the care that I have for that, I sometimes express my emotions in good way or maybe less good way. But it is what it is.

"As I said, I don't think significantly it does impact me that I'm unable now to show the fist pump or scream or something like that. It has happened in Rome already and everything is fine. I'm back to normal."

Roger Federer was once a habitual racket smasher but give him a chance and he'll duck this argument.

Rafael Nadal possesses just about the meanest snarl in tennis but he could let this argument drop happily too.

Even Novak Djokovic, no stranger to an argument, is averse to causing a rumpus in this case.

Yet the question of which of the Big Three is the greatest men's tennis player of all time can provoke boisterous debate beyond the locker room, sparking hostility even among the sport's Prosecco and prawn sandwich brigade. Never underestimate the ferocity of a tennis stan.

There may never be a satisfactory answer, given that in all likelihood, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic will each end their careers on or around the 20 grand slam titles mark.

Considering Pete Sampras was once portrayed as super-human for reaching 14 slams, the achievements by the three titans of the modern game beggar belief.

Each man has taken tennis to new levels, in his own way, and as a new generation begins to rise, we have reached an apposite moment to examine the numbers that show how they have moved the sport forward.

Men's tennis has three G.O.A.T.s and at this stage to pick one above another would be churlish.

FEDERER: ELDER STATESMAN, STILL LEADING THE RACE

From his Roland Garros debut in 1999 to a semi-final run at the Australian Open this year, the longevity of Federer has been almost as astonishing as some of his easy-on-the-eye tennis.

The list of records he has racked up is bewildering, beginning with his unmatched 20 men's slam singles titles. The Swiss was the first man to go beyond Sampras, and in the men's game he is the only player to win three slams in the same season three times (2004, 2006, 2007), make 10 successful title defences, and win more than 100 matches at two different grand slams - Wimbledon and the Australian Open.

He has reached an unsurpassed 31 slam singles finals (Nadal - 27, Djokovic - 26), and a mind-boggling 46 semi-finals at the four majors. Between the 2004 French Open, where he lost in the first round, and the 2010 edition at Roland Garros, where he fell in the quarters, Federer marched to the semi-final or further at 23 successive majors, winning 14 titles in that time.

Reaching seven or more finals in any grand slam is a superlative feat, but Federer has achieved that in three of the four majors (Wimbledon - 12, US Open - 7, Australian Open - 7), and twice won five consecutive titles at individual majors (Wimbledon 2003-07, US Open 2004-08).

And that is just scratching the surface.

He has spent the most weeks at world number one (310) and the most consecutively so (237), and sits third on the ATP list for the most aces in a career (11,344), behind only the towering duo of one-trick wonders Ivo Karlovic and John Isner.

NADAL: ONCE THE YOUNG UPSTART, FOR WHOM TWENTY WON'T BE PLENTY

Nadal can almost claim to have equalled Federer's 10 successful title defences, after retaining his crown nine times at Roland Garros, while winning Wimbledon in 2008 and 2010, having had to miss the 2009 tournament through injury.

There are plenty of records the remarkable Spaniard can call his own though, beginning with his 12 French Open triumphs, the most titles won by a player in any of the four grand slam tournaments.

From 2005 to 2014, Nadal won at least one slam every season, the 10-year streak setting him apart from Federer and Djokovic who have never managed such consistency.

By securing Olympic singles gold in Beijing in 2008 and doubles at Rio in 2016, Nadal became the first man to claim the Games double on top of the career singles Grand Slam at all four majors.

The Mallorca native's win-loss percentage on tour is the highest in men's tennis, with 992 wins and 201 defeats amounting to an 83.2 per cent hit rate (Djokovic - 83.1, Bjorn Borg - 82.4, Federer - 82.1).

His 19 grand slams is not a record, of course, but another in Paris over the coming fortnight would take Nadal level with Federer.

DJOKOVIC: THE INTERLOPER WHO COULD OUTLAST THE DIAMOND DUO

Like Federer, Djokovic has reached eight or more semi-finals at each of the four majors, on his way to 17 slam titles. He was firm favourite for the US Open and an 18th slam earlier this month until being disqualified for carelessly hitting a ball that struck a linesperson.

Many expect Djokovic to pass both Nadal and Federer and nudge to 21, 22 slams, maybe higher still, yet the 33-year-old may find that a tall order as the likes of Dominic Thiem break through.

On and off the court, there have been moments to regret this year for Djokovic, but his career stands up to the best, and in many aspects he leaves Federer and Nadal standing.

The Serbian is the only player in tennis to have won all four majors, the end-of-year ATP Finals and each of the nine highly-prized Masters 1000 tournaments.

With his run of triumphs from Wimbledon in 2015 to the French Open in 2016, Djokovic became the first man to hold all four grand slam singles titles at the same time since Rod Laver in 1969 achieved a calendar clean sweep.

Nobody has won as many Masters 1000 titles in a career (Djokovic - 36, Nadal - 35, Federer - 28), or reached as many ATP finals in a season as Djokovic's 15 in 2015, when he won 11 tournaments.

Again, scratching the surface. Djokovic's records run to page after page, his place in the pantheon assured.

To think, he was once the interloper on the celebrated Nadal-Federer rivalry. Now he has a chance to outstrip both in the numbers game.

TOGETHER: DOMINANCE LIKE TENNIS HAS NEVER KNOWN BEFORE

Federer won his first major at Wimbledon in 2003, and taking in that and the grand slams that have come since, the combination of Basel's favourite son, Spanish superstar Nadal and Belgrade favourite Djokovic have scooped 56 of 68 singles titles.

Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, with three titles each, are the only two other men to win more than one slam during that 17-year span. Barely anyone else had a look-in.

Such dominance is without equal in tennis.

To take previous eras as comparison points, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors won all their grand slams between the 1974 Australian Open and the 1984 US Open, collectively gathering 26 titles across those 44 tournaments. Sensational, and it remains important to make that point, but the haul has been blown out of the water by the modern-day Big Three.

Ivan Lendl, Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg were the next generation and scooped 20 slams (Lendl - 8, Becker - 6, Edberg - 6) from a 48-tournament stretch beginning at the 1984 French Open and running through to the 1996 Australian Open.

The mighty American triumvirate of Sampras, Andre Agassi and Jim Courier together earned 26 majors (Sampras - 14, Agassi - 8, Courier - 4) from the 1990 US Open through to the 2003 Australian Open - a 50-slam span.

Agassi won in Australia in 2003, and Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero took the French Open title in the spring. Come the English summer, it was Federer's turn at the wheel for the first time, that first Wimbledon title signalling the dawning of a new era.

LEGACY: THESE RECORDS COULD STAND THE TEST OF TIME

As the sun begins to slowly descend, with Federer now 39 years old and Nadal and Djokovic well into their mid-thirties, the famous wins in Melbourne, Paris, London and New York will become fewer, and soon they will belong to memory.

Another great generation will rise; perhaps not for some years to come, but doubtless they will rise.

Yet asking them to scale the winning heights of the Federer-Nadal-Djokovic triad might be another matter entirely.

Stefanos Tsitsipas is into the semi-finals of the Hamburg European Open after eventually seeing off Dusan Lajovic in relatively straightforward fashion on Friday.

The 22-year-old Greek did not have it all his own way in the 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 win, but after coming out on top in a tricky first set, he maintained his level and saw off Lajovic.

Tsitsipas had been in good form during wins over Dan Evans and Pablo Cuevas in the previous two rounds, not dropping a set in the process, though world number 24 Lajovic looked likely to pose more of a threat.

And the Serbian appeared poised to take the first set when going 5-3 up in the tiebreaker, only for Tsitsipas to rattle off four points in succession and take the lead.

Although there were then three straight breaks of serve to start the second set, it was mostly plain sailing from then on for world number five Tsitsipas, who once again relished the setting, with up to 2,300 fans permitted to attend the tournament despite the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

"It was a perfect day, sunny, good people, good atmosphere and good clay," Tsitsipas said in his on-court interview. "Dusan is a difficult opponent to play on clay, with a lot of spin and variation in his shots. I think I had to do something extra for the victory today. I will keep working hard."

Up next for the 2019 Australian Open semi-finalist is Chile's Cristian Garin, who impressively fought back from a set down to beat Alexander Bublik 3-6 6-4 6-4 to reach a third semi-final – all on clay – this year.

The other last-four clash will see the in-form Casper Ruud – 7-5 3-6 6-1 winner over Ugo Humbert – face Andrey Rublev, who impressed with his aggression in a 6-2 7-5 defeat of Roberto Bautista Agut.

Rafael Nadal is braced for the most difficult conditions he has ever faced at the French Open and believes new heavier balls could be "dangerous" for players at Roland Garros.

Nadal is a firm favourite to take his record tally of titles at Roland Garros to an astonishing 13 in Paris, where the final grand slam of the year starts on Sunday.

The Spanish great has the chance to match Roger Federer's record haul of 20 major triumphs in a tournament he has dominated, with his Swiss rival absent after undergoing knee surgery.

Yet Nadal comes into his favourite event, staged four months later than usual due to the coronavirus pandemic, on the back of a rare clay-court loss to Diego Schwartzman in the Internazionali d'Italia quarter-finals.

Novak Djokovic said Nadal is beatable on clay and the 34-year-old agrees, particularly in much cooler climate with slower balls that he has become accustomed to. 

Asked about world number one Djokovic's comments, he said: "Yeah, 100 per cent true. I always have been beatable on clay. He beat me a lot of times. But at the same time is true that I had a lot of success in this surface.

"The situation is special. Conditions here probably are the most difficult conditions for me ever in Roland Garros for so many different facts. The ball is completely different.

"The ball is super slow, heavy. It's very cold. Slow conditions. Of course, the preparations have been less than usual. But you know what, I am here to fight and to play with the highest intensity possible, to practice with the right attitude, to give me a chance.

"That's the main goal for me. Be competitive on Monday [when he plays Egor Gerasimov in the first round], and let's try. Just day by day. I know very well this place. Is about be patient, be positive just trying to find the positive vibes every single day."

Nadal says he has practiced with the new balls in his homeland and is not happy with the change, which he believes could cause players to sustain injuries.

"I practiced with the balls in Mallorca before the comeback. In Mallorca with warm conditions, the ball was very slow, I do not think it is a good ball to play on clay.

"That is my personal opinion. Is not the right ball to play on clay court. Even with these conditions it makes things tougher. But I knew before arrived here. No problem at all. I'll just accept the challenge.

"I really believe that the organisation needs to take a look on that for the next couple of years, for the health of the players, too, because the ball super heavy becomes dangerous for the elbow and for the shoulders, I think.

"But this year it is what we have. I'm just staying positive with this. I know we are going to have to play with this ball, so I need to find the best feelings possible with these conditions.

"That's what I am looking forward to, just practicing with the right motivation, right ambition, and then let's see what I can do or what I can't do."

The French Tennis Federation (FFT) says it "deeply regrets" new government restrictions that will only allow 1,000 spectators per day into Roland Garros to watch the French Open. 

Tournament organisers were forced to reduce the number of people allowed into the famous venue on a daily basis from 11,500 to 5,000 last week due to new rules introduced to try and stop the rise in coronavirus infection rates. 

Just two days before the grand slam gets under way, the FFT has had to inform those with tickets that they may be left disappointed due to further restrictions. 

A daily draw will now take place to determine who will be able to attend what will be the last major of the year. 

A statement on the French Open website said: "Following the announcements made by government authorities, 1,000 spectators will be permitted to enter the Roland Garros grounds per day. 

"This cap applies across all 16 courts in the 12-hectare site and is equivalent to one 35th of the usual number of spectators that have attended in the first week of the main draw in previous years.    

"From the very outset of the public health crisis that our country is experiencing, the French Tennis Federation has consistently worked closely with government departments, to determine how to organise the tournament in the current situation.  It deeply regrets these new restrictions. 

"On Sunday, 27 September, the world's greatest players will compete in the main draw, in a transformed stadium, in a tournament broadcast in 222 countries around the world. 

"The new rules mean that we will be required to adapt our ticketing situation, by organising a draw for each day of the tournament among the current ticket-holders. These draws will be supervised by a legal custodian."

Novak Djokovic is putting together a stellar year in a year like no other.

The world number one heads into the French Open on the back of another title – at the Internazionali d'Italia – and carrying a 31-1 win-loss record in 2020.

That '1' is also one he would prefer to forget, after being defaulted for hitting a linesperson with a ball in his fourth-round clash with Pablo Carreno Busta at the US Open.

But his own brain fades aside – the organisation of the ill-fated Adria Tour amid the COVID-19 pandemic included – Djokovic has been unstoppable this year, before and after the coronavirus-enforced break.

While Roger Federer is sidelined, Rafael Nadal is back and the 'King of Clay' will take some stopping at Roland Garros.

The rescheduling of the major – from a May start to September – has given Djokovic an additional boost in his bid for a second French Open title amid questions over how the different weather could affect Nadal.

In his current form, Djokovic will also be hard to stop. We take a look at his 2020 in numbers.

Complete and utter dominance

When you consider the manner of Djokovic's only loss in 2020, it has thus far been a year of complete dominance.

The Serbian has won 72 of the 82 completed sets he has played, and none of those were dropped in his meetings with Nadal (ATP Cup) and Federer (Australian Open) this year.

While Federer will miss the rest of 2020 after knee surgery, Nadal returned to action in Rome, where he lost to Diego Schwartzman in the quarter-finals. That was the Spanish great's first tournament since the ATP Tour season, suspended in March, resumed.

The world's top 20 men have not been a problem for Djokovic so far this year. He is 12-0 against players ranked in the top 20, including 7-0 when playing top-10 players. Djokovic's last meeting with a top-10 opponent came in his final win over Stefanos Tsitsipas in Dubai in February.

Djokovic – who has four ATP Tour titles in 2020 and also helped Serbia win the ATP Cup – has made his best start since an extraordinary 2011.

It is just the second time in his illustrious career that he has won at least 31 of his first 32 matches in a year, having made an incredible 41-0 start nine years ago.

Given Nadal's inferior record at Melbourne Park, it is no surprise the Spaniard has never managed such a start, while Federer got away strongly in 2005 and 2006, also going 31-1 before extending those runs to 35-1 and 33-1 respectively prior to his next losses.

But after being defaulted at the US Open and with Wimbledon not held due to COVID-19, Djokovic will want another grand slam win at Roland Garros to truly make his form in 2020 count. If he can, it will mark his sixth year with at least two major victories, joining Federer in achieving that feat and moving clear of Nadal and Roy Emerson.

And another piece of history could await. Djokovic is aiming to become the first man in the Open Era to win every grand slam twice, and just the third in history after Emerson and Rod Laver.

The 41-0 start in 2011

Nine years ago, Djokovic put together an extraordinary year on the back of a staggering start.

He won his first 41 matches of 2011 before the run was ended by Federer in the French Open semi-finals.

Djokovic won the Australian Open and titles in Dubai, Indian Wells, Miami, Belgrade, Madrid and Rome heading into Roland Garros.

The streak included four wins over Nadal, three against Federer and two defeats of Andy Murray, and Djokovic would finish the incredible year with three grand slam titles.

After a difficult ending to the campaign, he ended up with a 70-6 win-loss record, achieving a win percentage (92.1) he has only bettered once since – when he went 82-6 (93.2) in 2015.

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