World number two Rafael Nadal said he is "very pessimistic" about tennis returning amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The ATP Tour has been suspended until at least July 13 due to the COVID-19 crisis, which has killed more than 206,990 people globally.

Nadal – who reached the Australian Open quarter-finals this year – last took to the court when he won the Mexican Open in February and the 19-time grand slam champion is not optimistic about playing again soon.

"From my point of view, I'm very pessimistic that the circuit can resume a normal activity," Nadal said in a virtual chat via the Royal Spanish Tennis Federation (RFET).

"In tennis, you need to travel every week, stay in hotels, go to different countries. Even if we play without an audience, to organise any event you need a lot of people involved, which cannot be ignored. At an international level I see a serious problem."

Nadal, 33, added: "We have had a very tough month and a half, with many irreparable losses as well as others that are less important that will still bring great suffering to society, I hope only for a few months, at the economic level.

"Many people are going to lose their jobs. These are sad moments when you see so many people dying."

Australian Open finalist Dominic Thiem has poured scorn on plans for a tennis coronavirus relief fund by saying he will only help out people "that really need it".

World number three Thiem doubts any tennis players will be truly suffering from the break in competition, and said there are competitors down the rankings who lack commitment.

Handouts are likely to be directed to those outside the top 250 on the men's tour, with the fund to be managed by the ATP and WTA, which run the men's and women's tours.

The plan was first revealed by Novak Djokovic, the ATP player council president and world number one.

It has been backed by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, with leading players urged to pay more into the pot than those lower down the rankings, with the aim of building a multi-million dollar fund.

The professional tennis tours, including those at a low level, are on hold until mid-July at the earliest, with Wimbledon cancelled and the French Open postponed until a late-September start.

But Austrian Thiem does not like the idea of giving up his own money, telling the Kronen Zeitung newspaper: "I know the Futures Tour and played there for two years. There are a lot of people who don't give everything to sport.

"I don't see why I should give money to such people. I would prefer to donate to people or institutions that really need it."

Thiem, 26, who has career on-court earnings approaching $24million, added: "None of us top people got it as a gift. We had to fight our way up.

"I'm not guaranteed in any profession to make a lot of money at some point.

"No tennis players are fighting for survival, not even the ones down below. Nobody has to starve."

ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi says tennis could be transformed by the improved relationships that have sprung from the coronavirus crisis.

Gaudenzi was speaking in the wake of Roger Federer suggesting a merger between the ATP and WTA, which respectively run the men's and women's tours, would bolster the game.

While former tour pro Gaudenzi gave away nothing in that respect, he believes all parties, including the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the grand slams, can learn from recent experiences.

Gaudenzi said: "Managing the current scenario is extremely complex, especially because of the nature of our calendar, the nature of our business.

"But I'm optimistic in general, by nature, and I try to see the positive side which has been a tremendous collaboration with the other grand slams and the WTA and the ITF.

"So all the bodies coming together and discussing the calendar, the way forward, player relief, and many, many other topics.

"So that could be the positive outcome of this, that finally the governing bodies of tennis and the grand slams get together and work collaboratively on the long-term future of the sport."

Federer spoke out on Wednesday, to a mixed response.

The 20-time grand slam winner said of a possible merger: "It probably should have happened a long time ago, but maybe now is really the time."

Writing on Twitter, Federer added: "These are tough times in every sport and we can come out of this with 2 weakened bodies or 1 stronger body."

The tennis tours are on hold until mid-July at the earliest, with the French Open having been moved to a September start and Wimbledon cancelled.

Jan-Lennard Struff backed Novak Djokovic's idea to start a fund to support lower-ranked players amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Djokovic revealed earlier this month he had spoken to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal about a relief fund that would see up to $4.5million distributed to lower-ranked players with the ATP Tour suspended until at least July 13.

Struff, the world number 34, backed the plan and said it was important that ATP Player Council president Djokovic had led the way.

"You have to look at [it] from two sides. Of course, I have no income, but I have managed to play well in the last few years and have been able to put some money aside. I think it's a good idea," the German told Stats Perform.

"I think it's very important that the initiative comes from Novak Djokovic. It shows that he wants to take care of other players as well. I think that's very important because it's very important for tennis in general.

"I would like to support this, of course. Many players will have problems because they have no income in this area.

"But I would go one step further and say that from the 100 or 150 rankings onwards, players will have problems and, of course, need this support."

Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since World War II, while the French Open has been pushed back to begin in September.

But Struff, who reached the fourth round at Roland Garros last year, questioned whether the French Open – and even US Open – would go ahead.

"I have very big doubts whether the French Open and the US Open can take place. I don't know how long the travel restrictions will last. I just find it very difficult," said Struff, who turned 30 on Saturday.

"It also has to be fair that every player from every nation is allowed to fly to every country and I just don't think that's guaranteed. There will be tournaments on a national level. Internationally, I find it very difficult.

"Wimbledon has, of course, cancelled the tournament early. This is the only tournament that has insurance for this.

"Other tournaments want to be played later in the year and keep their tournament, which is completely understandable, but I doubt that these will take place."

There have been more than 2.8 million confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide, with the death toll exceeding 197,000.

Roger Federer has been accused of pulling a stunt to win new Twitter followers after proposing a merger between the men's and women's tennis tours.

The surprising claim came from German Tennis Federation (DTB) vice-president Dirk Hordorff, who is well known for having coached Rainer Schuttler, Janko Tipsarevic and Vasek Pospisil.

Federer mooted the possibility this week of bringing both the ATP and WTA tours under the governance of a singular body, and he was backed by Rafael Nadal.

Swiss great Federer, who has won a record 20 men's grand slam singles titles, said a merger "probably should have happened a long time ago, but maybe now is really the time".

He suggested tennis could emerge stronger from the coronavirus pandemic with unified leadership and found support from the likes of all-time great Billie Jean King and reigning Wimbledon champion Simona Halep.

However, Hordorff, who alongside his coaching has built careers in business and sports administration, says Federer's suggestion lacked "substance" and questioned his motivations.

Hordorff told Stats Perform: "That's short thinking. That's not enough. It starts with the ITF [International Tennis Federation] and the grand slams. That's where you start.

"With a merger of ATP and WTA, no problem has been solved for the time being.

"It is also critical to demand this in these media-free times. He just needs more followers on his Twitter account. So, he uses a proposal without substance.

"I am in favour of discussing this whole issue with substance. But a message on Twitter can't seriously bring this forward."

Federer has 12.7million followers on Twitter, while the ATP has 1.5million and the WTA has 834,000. Wimbledon has 3.7million followers, more than any other grand slam.

Federer has gained only approximately 1,000 new followers since making his merger suggestion on Wednesday, according to analysis from the Socialbakers website.

German star Jan-Lennard Struff believes artificial intelligence and data is the future of tennis after joining forces with analyst Craig O'Shannessy.

World number 34 Struff has teamed up with Australian pioneer O'Shannessy – Novak Djokovic's former chief strategist, who has continued to transform the sport.

O'Shannessy – using numbers, patterns and data – helped Djokovic rise back to the top of the ATP Tour with four grand slams in three years before separating at the start of 2020.

With O'Shannessy in his corner, Struff almost defeated Djokovic at the Australian Open in January before the Serb superstar went on to claim a record-extending eighth title in Melbourne.

"Craig is an extremely good analyst," Struff told Stats Perform about O'Shannessy, who also works with 2019 US Open semi-finalist Matteo Berrettini, Alexei Popyrin and Tennis Canada.

"He has been working with a lot of the top players over the past years, like Novak Djokovic for example.

"I had the idea, that I could improve myself while working with him, I want to be professional and try to reach everything that is possible within my career. 

"Therefore I think you have to try things like that. I really appreciate him and I think, that he can push me forward even more."

Stats Perform harnesses the true power of sports data by leveraging advancements in AI to generate the industry's richest insights, though it is relatively untapped in tennis.

Asked if AI and numbers will become more important in tennis, Struff added: "Yes of course.

"I don't know exactly, what the other players are doing on that area. You are always trying to hide these things. Nobody wants to talk about what he is doing, how his fitness training looks like and such things.

"Everybody is trying to hide himself, so the opponents don’t see, if certain things are working out or not. This is to prevent the other guys from copying certain things and actually catching up. But this is definitely going to come."

Andy Murray believes tennis will be one of the last sports to return amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Sport has been brought to a standstill around the world due to COVID-19, which has killed more than 183,700 people.

With travel restrictions in place in most countries, tennis is set to be greatly impacted for longer than most other sports, and the ATP and WTA Tour seasons are suspended until at least July 13.

Murray, who was nearing a competitive return from a hip injury, said he expected tennis to be among the last to resume.

"I would definitely play on the clay if it goes ahead. I'm a bit skeptical whether it will," the three-time grand slam champion told CNN on Wednesday.

"I'd imagine that tennis would be one of the last sports to get back to normality because we've obviously got players and coaches and teams coming from all over the world into one area.

"I'd be surprised if they were back playing sport by September time, but we'll see."

The United Kingdom has been hit hard by coronavirus, with more than 133,400 confirmed cases and a death toll exceeding 18,000.

Murray, 32, said he was unwell a month ago, although he was unsure if he had dealt with COVID-19.

"I was a little bit sick for two or three days about four weeks ago. So actually, before the beginning of when the quarantine started, I was sort of isolating for probably four or five days before that," he said.

"Most people I've spoken to have had some sort of symptoms and felt a little bit sick, but it's quite difficult to know whether you have actually had the virus or not.

"And obviously, the test should be saved for people that are in severe situations and the frontline NHS [National Health Service] workers in this country."

Tennis legends Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal think it is time for a merger of the ATP and WTA Tours.

Both the men's (ATP) and women's (WTA) professional games are suspended until at least mid-July due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Swiss great Federer pondered the possibility of bringing both tours under the governance of a singular body with a post on Twitter.

"Just wondering am I the only one thinking that now is the time for men's and women's tennis to be united and come together as one?" Federer asked.

"I am not talking about merging competition on the court, but merging the 2 governing bodies (ATP and WTA) that oversee the men's and women's professional tours."

Federer's long-time on-court adversary Nadal quote-tweeted his proposal and said he is in agreement.

He wrote: "Hey @rogerfederer as you know per our discussions I completely agree that it would be great to get out of this world crisis with the union of men's and women's tennis in one organisation."

Federer had expanded on his musings to a reply from a supporter's account, explaining that he feels bringing the tours together will provide greater clarity for followers.

"It's too confusing for the fans when there are different ranking systems, different logos, different websites, different tournament categories," he wrote.

The COVID-19 outbreak is causing financial difficulties for professional players further down the rankings.

In a further post, Federer added: "It probably should have happened a long time ago, but maybe now is really the time. 

"These are tough times in every sport and we can come out of this with 2 weakened bodies or 1 stronger body."

Roger Federer and Andy Murray provided promising injury updates in an Instragram live session with Rafael Nadal, who quelled a myth during the chat with his fellow legends.

Prior to the ATP Tour going on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, Federer underwent knee surgery in February and ruled himself out of the clay-court swing.

With Wimbledon cancelled due to the proliferation of COVID-19, tennis will not return until mid-July at the earliest and Federer said the extended break means there is no rush in his recovery.

"I've been hitting it a little bit against the wall," Federer said. 

"Rehab with the knee. It's okay. I had a really good first six weeks, then it was a bit slower, now it's getting better again, but I have plenty of time.

"So there is no stress, no rush, if there's anything positive, that's the only thing really. At the end of the day I just want the knee to be good, it doesn't matter when I return.

"I feel happy. I think after the second surgery. It's easier the second time around, but I don't need to experience a third one, that's for sure."

Murray has played just one competitive match since winning the European Open in October, a remarkable achievement after the Briton underwent hip resurfacing surgery.

The three-time grand slam winner will reassess how soon he can be back on the practice courts when the global health situation improves.

"It's good. I've been training a lot," Murray said.

"I'm still able to do lots of things but I haven't practised for five weeks, since everything started to get shut down here.

"So I've not hit any balls but I'm still doing lots of training and I feel pretty good so we'll see what happens when we're able to start doing things again."

When Federer had the chance to quiz Nadal a little, he asked the Spaniard about the origins of him playing left handed when it has always been said he could play with his right.

"That's just a legend. I can write with the right hand, my basketball skills are with the right, but not in the tennis court and not in football," Nadal replied.

"I started with two hands, backhand and forehand. So probably the people, because I was hitting two backhands, didn't know whether I was lefty or righty."

Murray and Nadal also exchanged memories of playing games consoles with one another, with the pair signed up to play a virtual Madrid Open starting on April 27.

With the two attempting to organise a practice session for Monday, Murray said: "I'm up for that, for sure, just not too late because I have to get up with the kids in the morning.

"I'm 6am every morning the kids are getting us up so enjoy your late nights and your lie-ins whilst you don't have kids!"

Nadal replied: "I hope to be in your situation in a not very long period of time."

Nicolas Jarry has been banned for 11 months after testing positive for two prohibited substances but is free to resume playing from November after the ITF backdated his punishment.

Chilean Jarry was provisionally suspended on January 14 after a urine sample taken at the Davis Cup contained the anabolic agent ligandrol and anabolic steroid stanozolol.

Jarry protested his innocence saying at the time that "the levels of these substances are so incredibly low that they are equivalent to trillionths of a gram, levels so low that neither substance could have provided me any performance-enhancing benefit".

Jarry said he had consumed "multi-vitamins made in Brazil" that his doctor said would be "guaranteed to be free from banned substances". The ITF has accepted his version of events and backdated his suspension.

"Mr. Jarry was charged with an Anti-Doping Rule Violation under Article 2.1 of the Programme (presence of a Prohibited Substance in a Player’s Sample) on 4 January 2020 and was provisionally suspended on 14 January 2020," an ITF statement read. 

"The ITF accepted Mr. Jarry's explanation as to how the SARM LGD-4033 and stanozolol entered his system and that he bore No Significant Fault or Negligence for his violation. Mr. Jarry was entitled to have his period of ineligibility backdated to start on the date of last occurrence of his violation. 

"This is Mr. Jarry's first Anti-Doping Rule Violation. The decision determines that: (1) Mr. Jarry has committed a violation of the Programme; (2) he must serve a period of ineligibility of eleven months; and (3) that period of ineligibility is backdated to start on 16 December 2019, and so ending at midnight on 15 November 2020. 

"In accordance with Programme articles 9.1 and 10.8, all ranking points and prize money obtained by Mr. Jarry at the Event and subsequent events are disqualified."

Jarry was ranked as high as 38th in July, the same month he won his first and only ATP Tour singles title at the Swedish Open and is now ranked 89th. He has also won two doubles trophies.

A statement on his Twitter account read: 

"With a clear conscience I tell you that we were able to prove in the investigation carried out by the ITF that the prohibited substances identified in the test, were originated in the Brazilian laboratory which cross-contaminated my vitamins.

"I have accepted the 11-month sanction offered by the ITF."

Novak Djokovic revealed he was opposed to vaccines and would be forced into a decision if it became compulsory to allow him to compete amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The ATP Tour is suspended until at least July 13 due to COVID-19, while Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since World War II.

Due to travel restrictions around the world, tennis may be one of the last sports to resume, if it is even able to restart in 2020.

Djokovic, the 17-time grand slam champion and world number one, said he was against vaccines and would be forced into a decision if it became compulsory for travel.

"Personally, I'm not for vaccines and I wouldn't like it if I'm forced to have a vaccine so I can travel," he said during a Facebook chat with fellow Serbian athletes on Sunday.

"If they make it compulsory, what would happen? Then I will have to decide if I'm going to or not.

"I have my own thoughts about it now and if that will change, I don't know, but that directly impacts on my job – on professional tennis – and whether I'll travel or not travel."

Medical experts have suggested a vaccine for coronavirus could be at least 12 months away.

There have been more than 2.4 million confirmed cases of coronavirus with the death toll exceeding 165,000.

Rafael Nadal's academy is considering launching a competition at its campus with the ATP Tour suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The ATP and WTA Tour seasons are on hold until at least July 13 due to COVID-19, which has killed more than 160,000 people worldwide.

But having held talks with ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi to offer facilities for training, the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca is looking at becoming "a campus where elite players can reside, train and compete between themselves in matches that will be televised so that fans around the world can enjoy them".

"Right now tennis takes a back seat and the most important thing is everyone's health, but if in the coming months the academy can be used to help other professional players, I'd be delighted if they could come to train and also to compete," Nadal said in a statement on Saturday.

"Although we have no upcoming tournaments, I think that competing among ourselves would help us maintain our game for when the Tour restarts."

Similarly, Serena Williams' coach Patrick Mouratoglou announced the launch of the Ultimate Tennis Showdown (UTS), starting without fans in attendance on May 16.

In a statement, it said fans would be able to interact with players in real time and listen to every conversation between competitors and coaches.

"The UTS is simply meant to be an alternative to what already exists," Mouratoglou said.

"It is a platform created to showcase the incredible talent, athleticism and personalities of the wide range of tennis players. It offers a new and innovative approach, targeting a younger tennis audience and proposes a different way to distribute the money among the players."

World number 10 David Goffin is scheduled to play Alexei Popyrin – whose father Alex is a UTS co-founder – in the opening match.

Novak Djokovic revealed he had spoken to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal about a relief fund that would see up to $4.5million distributed to lower-ranked players.

The ATP Tour is suspended until at least July 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 160,000 people worldwide.

There are financial concerns for several sports, including tennis – particularly lower-ranked players with the season paused.

ATP Player Council president Djokovic said he had discussed a relief fund with fellow members Federer and Nadal.

"I spoke to Roger and Rafa a few days ago," he said during an Instagram Live with Stan Wawrinka on Saturday.

"We had a long conversation about the near future of tennis, what's going to happen, how we can contribute and how we can help, especially lower-ranked guys who are obviously struggling the most of anybody.

"Majority of the players who are ranked between, whatever, 200 and 250 to 700 or 1,000, don't have federation support, don't have sponsors so they are completely independent and kind of left alone.

"I'm really glad that ATP, grand slams now most likely, and players, hopefully, if we all get together, will contribute collectively to the player relief fund that ATP will distribute using certain models and criteria."

Djokovic added: "Right now, it looks like there's going to be hopefully somewhere between $3 million and $4.5 million, there is going to be distributed to these lower-ranking guys."

A 17-time grand slam champion, Djokovic said tennis needed to respect its lower-ranked players.

"I'm really glad that the tennis ecosystem is coming together because I think everyone realises the importance of the base of the tennis and these guys that are ranked from 250 onwards," he said.

"They are the ones that make the grassroots of tennis, that make the future of tennis and I feel we have to be united, we have to support them, we have to show them that they are not forgotten, that we are there for them.

"But also I feel we have to send a message to the younger generations that are taking in consideration to be professional players and to show them that they can live out of tennis even at the times when there is a pandemic and there is a financial crisis, that they still can rely on the support of the top guys of the ATP as a governing body, of the ITF, of grand slams."

Novak Djokovic insisted he did not expect to have the crowd on his side when playing Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal.

A 17-time grand slam champion, Djokovic is still behind Federer (20) and Nadal (19) on the all-time list for majors won by men, while the Serbian still struggles for support compared to the Swiss and Spaniard.

In an Instagram Live with Stan Wawrinka on Saturday, Djokovic discussed why that was the case, accepting he would often find himself on the wrong side of the support against the duo.

"For sure one thing is that Roger is arguably the greatest player of all-time," he said.

"He's the guy that is liked around the world so I don't expect, to be honest, in most of the cases, as long as he's playing, the crowd to be majority on my side. Some places, maybe, but most of the places are going to support Roger and I'm okay with that because it's Roger.

"It's very similar situation with Rafa so it's hard for me to answer to that question. Why is it like that? Am I contributing to that in a negative way that I'm taking away the crowd support for me? I don't think so.

"I think it's more just the greatness of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and not just them as tennis players, but them as people, as very charismatic, nice guys, humble guys, great champions that have made a huge mark in our sport and I am part of their era, so in one way I am lucky and in another way maybe not so much."

Djokovic asked Wawrinka – a three-time grand slam champion – for his opinion on the matter.

The Swiss felt tennis needed something closer to a villain, a role the 32-year-old Djokovic assumed.

"I think it's a bit of for sure what you said that they are amazing champions like you are," Wawrinka said.

"I think in your young age you were a bit different of course like we all are and they took this spot already of the nice player, humble, always fair play and all. In a movie you cannot have three good guys, you need someone who's a bit against, you know what I mean? I'm saying that with a lot of respect.

"When you were all three younger, that's the direction that everybody took a little bit and now it affects a little bit right now."

Andy Murray is convinced Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are the greatest men's tennis players of all time - just don't ask him to put them in order.

The Scot might have had a stack more grand slam titles had it not been for the 'Big Three' of the modern era.

As well as his two Wimbledon triumphs, two Olympic golds and a 2012 US Open success, Murray has lost five major finals to Djokovic and three to Federer.

While Murray feels the likes of Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors would be competitive in this age, he sees his direct rivals as the best there have ever been.

Murray told Djokovic in an Instagram Live chat on Friday: "The thing that's special now is you have three guys who are playing at the same time, so you can compare them because - I wrote it down - you played 55 times against Rafa and 50 times against Roger, and Roger and Rafa played 40 times.

"So you have that many matches between the best players in the biggest tournaments - so you actually don't have to compare the generations, and I think the best three players are playing now.

"It's difficult to judge it. We don't know what's going to happen in the future, so we don't know what everyone is going to finish on slam-wise and how many matches everyone will have played and won against each other."

Addressing Serbian star Djokovic, Murray said: "Also in this conversation, which is maybe different to other sports because we have the different surfaces, is that to me right now you have Rafa's record on clay nobody competes with, Roger's current record at Wimbledon is the best, and your record on hard courts is the best.

"So because we have these different surfaces, it's difficult, and when people ask me what's the toughest match in your career, who are the hardest guys to play against, I'd be like... I feel like I'm competing against the best hard-court player ever, I've competed against the best clay-court player ever and the best grass-court player ever, so for me it depends on the surface."

Federer has 20 grand slam singles titles, Nadal has 19 and Djokovic landed his 17th at the Australian Open at the start of this season. The campaign is now on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Whenever tennis resumes, there will be a host of young players vying with the old guard for the biggest titles in the sport.

As Djokovic pointed out: "We are also not that young anymore.

"You have guys like Dominic Thiem, [Stefanos] Tsitsipas and [Alexander] Zverev, these guys they're maturing so quickly and they're ready - they're ready to get the grand slam titles and they're very close."

But Djokovic suspects it will be hard to budge the likes of himself, Federer and Nadal, as well as Murray and the Scot's fellow three-slam winner Stan Wawrinka.

He said: "When it comes to slams, I think it seems like we - including yourself and [Wawrinka] - you turn to another gear, because I think every next slam that keeps coming I feel more comfortable playing in. And I feel there's always even a bigger mental or emotional edge over the young guys coming in.

"Because you've played so many times you have the experience, you feel good in your own skin, it's really hard that anything really surprises you."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.