Stefanos Tsitsipas got the better of Alexei Popyrin to tighten his grip on top spot in the Ultimate Tennis Showdown after the third weekend of the series.

Greek rising star Tsitsipas came from behind to sneak a 3-2 success over Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez on Saturday, and he followed that on Sunday with a 3-1 triumph against Australian prospect Popyrin.

The behind-closed-doors and unorthodox tournament is being staged across five consecutive weekends at the Cote d'Azur tennis academy run by Serena Williams' coach Patrick Mouratoglou, with a quickfire format aimed at attracting new fans to the sport.

Each match consists of four 10-minute quarters, rather than sets, with a point going to the winner of each quarter.

A sudden-death tie-break follows at the end of the match if scores are level at two quarters each, with the first player to take back-to-back points declared the winner.

World number six Tsitsipas has now won five of his six matches in the competition, putting him ahead of Italian Matteo Berrettini and France's Richard Gasquet, who each have won four times but lost twice.

Dominic Thiem, who has played just four matches, has won three times and lost once, and this weekend the Austrian world number three earned 3-1 successes over David Goffin and Berrettini.

Gasquet suffered a 4-0 loss to Berrettini on Saturday but bounced back by beating fellow Frenchman Corentin Moutet 3-1 on Sunday.

Dan Evans comprehensively defeated Kyle Edmund 6-3 6-2 to win the inaugural Battle of the Brits exhibition event.

The British number one has enjoyed an unbeaten week at the LTA's National Tennis Centre, including beating Andy Murray in Saturday's semi-final, and was in fine form on Sunday.

Edmund was broken three times during a first set in which Evans' power from the baseline and ability to move forward was the difference maker.

It was a great start to the second set for Edmund, who broke at the first time of asking, only to hand that advantage straight back.

The clinical Evans then won four straight games from 2-2 to wrap up the win in one hour and 18 minutes.

"As Kyle said it was like a tour event and I wasn't sure how it would work out," Evans said. 

"Thanks to everyone who has worked on it, all the players have loved it - that's the truth. Everyone has been raving about the tournament.

"It has been a long week and a great week."

Murray was scheduled to play in the third-place match but withdrew due to a shin injury.

His replacement, James Ward, was beaten 6-3 7-5 by Cameron Norrie. 

Andy Murray missed out on a place in the Battle of the Brits title match as he suffered a semi-final defeat to Dan Evans.

The two-time Wimbledon champion made an impressive start but could not keep up the same pace as he was edged out 1-6 6-3 10-8 by the current British number one.

Murray led 4-1 at one stage in the match tie-break but his composure ebbed away, the Scot particularly angry at one point by the movement of a member of his support team, who was in his eyeline off the court.

"Stop moving back there," Murray shouted.

Evans stuck to his task and a wayward Murray forehand gave the Englishman two match points.

Murray saved the first with a big serve but then saw Evans get lucky on his second opportunity, a backhand that looked to be going out striking the net and bouncing in.

Murray was competing for the first time this year after pelvic problems kept him out of the opening weeks of the season, with tennis then suspended from March due to the coronavirus.

This has been a behind-closed-doors indoor tournament, and Murray has at least had good match practice, playing four opponents in a week, winning twice and only losing to Kyle Edmund and Evans on tie-breaks.

Evans said on Amazon Prime: "He did a lot good in the first set and in the end it came down to the big points.

"I was very lucky on match point but I'm just happy to come through.

"I'm surprised by how well he was executing. Not so much the aggression but I was really surprised, he hardly missed a ball for set one.

"You always know with Andy he's going to come out with some top tennis."

Evans, ranked 28th in the world, thought his own efforts in London would be forlorn when Murray sped away in the tie-break.

"You're thinking the worst of course. I hung in there, but that's how it goes at times," he said. "I'm just really happy to come through."

Serena Williams remains tantalisingly close to Margaret Court's all-time grand slam record of 24 major victories.

The American, still going strong at the age of 38, has lost her last four grand slam finals against Angelique Kerber, Naomi Osaka, Simona Halep and Bianca Andreescu.

Wimbledon is a special event for Williams, who has reached the final on 11 occasions, including those recent losses to Kerber and Halep.

The tournament therefore represents one of the best chances for the seven-time champion to draw level with Court's historic mark.

However, the event in 2020 was cancelled – the first time that has happened since World War II - due to the coronavirus pandemic, complicating Williams' record pursuit.

Ahead of what would have been the start of Wimbledon next week, Stats Perform News debated whether Williams can already be considered the greatest player in women's tennis history.


Graf is the greatest

By Joe Wright

Serena is a modern powerhouse, her serve and shot-making unrivalled at its best; Martina Navratilova's serve-and-volley skills delivered 59 majors across singles and doubles from 1981 to 1990; Margaret Court still tops the tables for grand slam singles titles, winning 24 between 1960 and 1973, spanning the shift to the Open era.

The greatest, then, would be a player who could feasibly have thrived in any of those eras. The greatest, then, is Steffi Graf.

The German ruled women's tennis for more than a decade after winning the 1987 French Open. A year after that triumph in Paris, she became the first to win tennis' 'Golden Slam' - all four major singles titles and Olympic gold in the same year. She was 18.

Between 1987 and 1996, she won 22 grand slam singles titles spread neatly across the four events: four in Australia, six in France, seven at Wimbledon and five in the United States. She held the number one ranking for 377 weeks, a record never beaten in the women's or men's game.

Her 107 tour titles puts her behind only Navratilova and Chris Evert on the all-time list and only she and Court have won three majors in a single calendar year five times.

'Fraulein Forehand' could overpower opponents from the baseline, unbalance them with a wicked sliced backhand and demoralise them with ferocious serves and precision volleys.

She combined power and elegance in such a way that she could dominate on every surface. She would have been a match for Court in the 60s, she beat Navratilova in four of six slam finals and, had she not retired at just 30 in 1999, she'd have known how to handle a young Serena.

In that same year, Billie Jean King proclaimed: "Steffi is definitely the greatest women's tennis player of all time." That should be proof enough.

 

Serena has dominated in toughest era

By Chris Myson

On and off the court, Serena has had a monumental impact in taking women’s tennis to incredible heights.

Twenty-one years after her first grand slam title at the 1999 US Open, she remains a fierce contender for the sport's biggest accolades, having changed the game with her unrivalled talent, athleticism and longevity.

Seven Wimbledon titles, six US Open crowns and three French Open wins are on her record.

Throw in another seven Australian Open victories, including her remarkable 2017 triumph while pregnant with her daughter, and you have a resume that may never be topped.

Thirty-three major finals in a 20-year span is a statistic made all the more remarkable when you factor in she missed 15 slams over that period.

Serena held all four grand slams when she won in Australia in 2003, while 11 years later she was celebrating a three-peat at Flushing Meadows by beating close friend Caroline Wozniacki.

Not that it is needed to bolster her claim, but Serena has also won 14 women's doubles majors with her sister Venus, having never lost a grand slam final in that format.

She has two mixed doubles crowns as well, taking her total major haul to 39.

Most significantly, these incredible feats have taken place in the modern era, where the level of competition has never been so strong and so deep, due to the global growth of tennis.

Top-tier rivals are more plentiful than in the eras of Graf, Navratilova and Court, while they are stronger, fitter, better equipped and more prepared than ever before.

Serena’s impact and staggering commercial success off the court has paved the way for future generations like Osaka to thrive.

But it is her play on it that means her place as the greatest women's player of all time is secure, even if the cancellation of Wimbledon has made her path to the elusive 24th crown more complicated.

The Davis Cup and Fed Cup have both been postponed until 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was confirmed on Friday.

Due to be hosted in Madrid, the Davis Cup Finals were supposed to have taken place from November 23-29, but following a three-month review it was deemed too challenging to stage this year.

Organisers Kosmos Tennis and the International Tennis Federation (ITF) pointed to the fact more than 90 athletes would have been expected to be involved, while the international event attracts thousands of fans, officials, staff and other stakeholders from across the globe, with many countries at differing stages of the pandemic.

With the competition now set to begin on November 22, 2021, it was confirmed the 18 teams that have already qualified for the men's global team tournament will have their places secured, while the draw for the finals remains the same.

Kosmos president and Barcelona defender Gerard Pique said: "It's a huge disappointment for all of us that the Davis Cup Finals will not be held in 2020.

"We don't know how the situation will develop in each qualified nation, or if restrictions in Spain will remain sufficiently eased, as such it is impossible to predict the situation in November and guarantee the safety of those travelling to Madrid.

"This postponement has no long-term bearing on our collective ambitions for the Davis Cup. The ITF and Kosmos Tennis look forward to delivering an outstanding competition in 2021, when it is safe and feasible to do so."

The women's equivalent, the Fed Cup, has also unsurprisingly hit a similar stumbling block and will now take place from April 13-18.

Budapest remains its location and, much like the Davis Cup, the teams that have already qualified will retain their places. The Fed Cup Play-offs will go ahead at the start of February.

Neither postponement has come as a surprise, particularly following the chaos caused by the Adria Tour event earlier this month.

Organised by world number one Novak Djokovic and played across locations in Serbia and Croatia, the event did not adhere to social distancing procedures and attracted large crowds. Legs in Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina were ultimately postponed due to COVID-19 concerns.

Several of the marquee players ended up testing positive for the virus, including Djokovic himself, Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki, and the event was met with widespread criticism.

Goran Ivanisevic, the former Wimbledon champion who now coaches Novak Djokovic, has tested positive for coronavirus.

The Croatian announced the news on Instagram, revealing it took a third test to confirm he had been infected.

Ivanisevic, 48, was a director of the Adria Tour, the recent ill-fated set of tournaments that Djokovic put on in an effort to raise money for charity.

Four Adria Tour players, including world number one Djokovic and Grigor Dimitrov, have tested positive for COVID-19.

Ivanisevic wrote: "Unfortunately, after two negative tests in the last 10 days, I have just found out that I tested positive for COVID-19.

"I feel good and don't have any symptoms. I would like to inform everyone who has been in contact with me that I tested positive and ask them to take extra good care of themselves and their loved ones.

"I will continue to self-isolate as I have been doing already. I wish everyone who got infected a speedy recovery."

Ivanisevic, who was famously a wild-card entrant when he landed the 2001 Wimbledon title, was closely involved in the Zadar leg of the tour last weekend, mixing with Djokovic and a host of leading men's tennis stars as they visited Croatia.

As Novak Djokovic and the Adria Tour gang cavorted in a Belgrade nightclub, the limbo-dancing tennis stars demonstrated precisely how low the sport could go.

If the president of the ATP player council can get it so egregiously wrong in a time of global crisis, and if Nick Kyrgios can pipe up as the voice of reason, then tennis has just thrown up the most shocking of double faults within its established conventions.

So tennis is in crisis: Wimbledon is cancelled, the US Open will attempt to go ahead without fans, and the French Open is clinging to hope it could happen starting in September.

People have lost their jobs, tournaments have been scrapped and might struggle to return, and coronavirus has caused untold damage, aided and abetted by bewildering human assistance.

A relief fund for low-ranked players whose livelihoods were under threat was openly scorned by multi-millionaire Dominic Thiem, whose argument was put brutally dismantled by near-penniless Algerian player Ines Ibbou.

This is tennis then, midway through 2020.

What's happened so far?

The season was suspended on March 12, days after the Indian Wells Masters was cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns, and there has been no tennis on the ATP or WTA Tours since.

Rafael Nadal said in May that he doubted there could be any more tennis played in 2020, but the harsh economic reality means there is a strong will to find a way.

And that means tennis is coming back in August, public health and player buffoonery permitting, with a string of tournaments leading up to the US Open, which has kept its regular place on the calendar.

The Cincinnati Masters is moving to Flushing Meadows, but Washington is staying in D.C., and Kitzbuhel, Rome and Madrid are all billed ahead of Roland Garros.

On the women's side, tennis will relaunch in Palermo, Italy, with 20 tournaments scheduled to happen before the end of the year.

Wimbledon, to which the eyes of the sporting world routinely turn at this time of year, looks poised to come out of this intact because of pandemic insurance cover.

Other tournaments have not been so prudent, and are feeling the pinch.

How realistic is a resumption?

If anyone needed a warning about how badly wrong this could all go, Djokovic's exhibition Adria Tour at least provided that. That he, Borna Coric, Grigor Dimitrov and Viktor Troicki – others too – should test positive for COVID-19 was a damning indictment of an event set up with good intentions that descended into an apparent free-for-all.

Tennis within a bio-secure bubble, with regular testing and restrictions on movement, should allow the sport to push ahead with some of its plans.

But that is a highly expensive exercise and many tournaments will inevitably come to rely on self-policing.

Tennis without fans, living out of hotels, promises to be an austere experience. At the US Open, the stars will be able to see the Manhattan skyline, but they reportedly face being banned from visiting the island.

For the players that cannot afford to rent a house – which will come from a limited supply – then the US Open fortnight will see them split their time between Flushing Meadows and a hotel next to JFK airport.

It will take discipline to make not only the US Open work, but every tournament until the end of the season and beyond. Pockets of infection could be economically ruinous, and from a health perspective the worst-case scenario ought to be lost on nobody.

What has been said?

Serena Williams says she "really cannot wait to return to New York". Her involvement is a huge boon to the US Open, with the United States Tennis Association (USTA) in need of good news, having made 110 job cuts during the pandemic period, change in the organisation hastened by the crisis.

In a recent conference call, USTA chief executive Mike Dowse said US Open net operating income stood to be down by "about 80 per cent" for 2020, but he said keeping prize-money at a high level by delving into reserves amid the fall in revenue was "not a model that can continue".

Expect that to be the case practically across the board, with tournaments pulling out all the stops this year in the hope of saving tennis from the prospect of a season all but wiped out.

While the grand slams can just about cope without fans, many other events face an uncertain future if they face behind-closed-doors orders.

Herwig Straka, who manages Thiem and is tournament director of the Vienna Open, told German newspaper Der Standard the event would be "doable" provided it could operate at least at 50 per cent of crowd capacity.

"It is of course not enough," Straka said. "We'd be in the red. We don't want the public to take a year off. It would be impossible below 40 per cent."

Saint Nick?

Australian firebrand Kyrgios has quite the rap sheet, punished at various points for insulting umpires, his vulgar tongue, and even showing a lack of effort.

But this has been open season for the mercurial 25-year-old, who sniped after the news of Djokovic's positive test: "Don't @ me for anything I've done that has been 'irresponsible' or classified as 'stupidity' - this takes the cake."

If Kyrgios is enjoying his break from the tour, so too must the umpires be relishing their time away from him.

His greatest misstep during the pandemic, however, appears to have been going perhaps a touch heavy on the red wine during an Instagram live session with Andy Murray in May.

What happens next?

For all the best intentions, it remains hard to imagine every ATP and WTA tournament going ahead as planned, once the season resumes.

Tennis, like golf, relies on its biggest stars travelling from city to city, country to country, and the speed at which this virus moves and takes hold is hardly conducive to such a lifestyle.

Golf's PGA Tour is already encountering problems, and so will tennis.

The sport is living on the edge. At this point, it needs its star players to be setting a high bar, rather than going low, danger-dancing like nobody's watching.

Andy Murray said he felt his troublesome hip after the former world number one reached the Battle of the Brits semi-finals.

Murray's comeback gathered pace with a 6-3 7-5 win over countryman James Ward at the six-day charity event on Thursday.

The three-time grand slam champion, who had not played competitively since November due to a bruised pelvis and the coronavirus-enforced break, battled warm conditions to advance in Roehampton.

While physically exhausted, Murray said his movement was not affected against Ward.

"It's been tough, it's been unbelievably hot conditions in here," Murray said afterwards at the National Tennis Centre.

"I know it's not the worst situation to be in but usually if you're playing a match you'll find a cold space to go to and build up to the match and dropping your body temperature.

"But here there's no air conditioning allowed, it's pretty hot everywhere and it's quite draining.

"I've been feeling it a little bit and obviously I've played three matches, the last two were a pretty high level, it's been tough but I did quite well.

"Physically, it was a very tough match. I felt my hip a little bit but it did not affect my movement.

"When I played in November at the Davis Cup it was – my hip was sore and I was struggling to move.

"I felt I moved the best I had done in the three matches so that's a positive. I'm delighted I have a rest day tomorrow as I'm very tired."

Dominic Thiem said he was "extremely sorry" for the way players acted at the Adria Tour after four of them contracted coronavirus having competed at the tournament.

World number one Novak Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki tested positive for COVID-19 having taken part in a charity exhibition series that took place in Belgrade and then Zadar.

Large crowds were present at the event, where players shook hands and posed for photos with volunteers, while some were also seen partying at a nightclub despite concerns over a lack of social distancing measures.

Thiem won the Belgrade leg but did not compete in Zadar, and while his coronavirus tests have come back negative, he was apologetic.

"I was shocked when I got the news from the Adria Tour," the world number three said on Instagram.

"We played without any audience for weeks, so we have been more than happy about the fans at the event.

"We trusted the Serbian government's corona rules, but we have been too optimistic.

"Our behaviour was a mistake, we acted too euphorically. I am extremely sorry.

"I've now got tested five times within the last 10 days and the result was always negative.

"I wish everyone who is infected all the best and a quick recovery."

The Austrian's statement came after this manager, Herwig Straka, suggested the blame should lie at Djokovic's door given he was the driving force behind the Adria Tour's creation amid the pandemic.

"I have to give the main blame to Djokovic," Straka told Der Standard.

"Okay, the others took part, but he was very behind it. Originally from honourable motives - the focus was on the charity concept. 

"But it went in the wrong direction, was misused as a publicity show. You have to blame Djokovic for that."

Straka added: "Everyone knows it was stupid. The only one who has to apologise is Djokovic because he staged everything."

Andy Murray pushed British number two Kyle Edmund all the way on Wednesday but eventually went down 6-7 (2-7) 7-6 (7-5) 10-5 in the Battle of the Brits.

Murray won his opening singles match at the six-day charity event – organised by his brother Jamie – against Liam Broady on Tuesday.

But despite taking the opener at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton, the former world number one was unable to make it two victories from two.

Instead, it was Edmund, who defeated James Ward in his opening match, who secured his place in the semi-finals when Murray looped a backhand return out of play.

"Finding a way really, getting through it. It wasn't like I was down [in breaks] but I was down after the first set," Edmund told Amazon Prime following his triumph.

"Then there was a period where it was scrappy a bit, a few errors from me and you could tell he was slowly building.

"I just told myself to hang in and give myself a chance. He just puts balls in the court, he has very good anticipation, uses the area of the court very well, uses different speeds.

"Everyone wants to win and do their best. You are still playing Andy Murray, a guy who has won so much."

Despite his defeat, Murray can still make the semi-finals should he overcome Ward in his next outing.

 

Andy Murray was unsurprised by Novak Djokovic and others contracting coronavirus after the Adria Tour, while saying it was a bad look for tennis.

World number one Djokovic and his wife Jelena tested positive for COVID-19, with Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki also contracting coronavirus.

Djokovic was a driving force behind the creation of the Adria Tour, which took place in Serbia and Croatia in front of large crowds and saw players shaking hands despite concerns over social distancing, and the 17-time grand slam champion has faced widespread criticism.

After beating Liam Broady at the Battle of the Brits exhibition event on Tuesday, Murray said he was unsurprised to see the virus spread at the Adria Tour.

"I hope that him and his wife are well and that they recover and that their families and everyone who's affected by that event is healthy and safe," he told a news conference.

"In hindsight, it's not something obviously that should've gone ahead, it's not surprising really that the players and how many people have tested positive when you see the scenes that were going on there, seeing some of the images and the videos at the players' party and the kids' day. There was no social distancing and things like that in place."

Murray added: "I've seen some people have said that maybe this sort of puts the US Open in doubt which it may well do, but the measures and protocols that they have in place so far the USTA [United States Tennis Association] is completely different than what was going on in Serbia and Croatia.

"Obviously there'll be no fans for a start. I think all of the players now will be extremely aware that we can all be affected by this, coronavirus doesn't care who we are or what we do and we need to respect it and respect the rules."

Murray, who plans to play the French Open and US Open if they go ahead, said the Adria Tour could be a warning for tennis.

"It's something that would've been avoidable and certainly in this country I think we're all aware of how serious the virus is," he said.

"I don't think it's been a great look for tennis, but like I said the only positive that can come from something like this is that we make sure that up until it's safe to do so we have these measures in place, like social distancing and having no fans and things at the event to limit the risk or reduce the risk as much as possible."

There have been more than 9.3 million confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide, with the death toll exceeding 479,000.

Andy Murray expects to find it tough going against Kyle Edmund in his second match despite making a promising start to his campaign at the Battle of the Brits event. 

In his first competitive action since appearing at the Davis Cup Finals in November, the three-time grand slam winner recorded a 6-2 6-2 win over Liam Broady on Tuesday. 

Murray admitted beforehand that he had little chance to practice before taking part in the exhibition tournament at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton, stating before his opener that his main aim was to "get through" it with his body holding up.

The Scot has been troubled with a pelvic injury but, with his serve working well and showing the occasional glimpse of his undoubted quality, he proved far too strong for Broady. 

Still, he refused to get too carried away with his performance, describing it as "okay" during his post-match interview with Amazon Prime Video.

"I served pretty well, I thought I served well throughout the match. A lot of free points there – I've been working on my serve quite a lot," Murray said.

"I didn't hit the ball that well from the back of the court, quite a lot of errors and my balance didn't feel great. I wasn't timing the ball very well, but it was alright. 

"For a first match in seven months, I've not been practising much and not even doing that well in practice matches, it was alright."

However, Murray is expecting to have problems on Wednesday when he attempts to deal with Edmund, who began his campaign by beating James Ward. 

"He's fit, hitting a big ball, so I'd be surprised if I manage to come through that one," the world number 129 said of his next opponent.

"If I serve like I did today and hit the ball better a little bit cleaner from the back of the court, I'll give myself some chances. But it will be tough."

The event, organised by Jamie Murray, is following strict health guidelines as it is taking place amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Nick Kyrgios aimed further criticism at Novak Djokovic and those who participated in the Adria Tour after it was revealed the world number one had tested positive for coronavirus.

Djokovic and his wife Jelena returned positive tests in Belgrade and must isolate for 14 days.

The 33-year-old was a driving force behind the creation of the Adria Tour, which took place in Serbia and Croatia in front of large crowds and saw players shaking hands despite concerns over social distancing. 

The final between Djokovic and Andrey Rublev was cancelled when Grigor Dimitrov tested positive for COVID-19.

Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki, who both competed in the tournament, have also contracted the virus.

Kyrgios labelled the decision to go ahead with the tour as "boneheaded" following Coric's announcement of a positive test on Monday.

And, responding to a video showing Djokovic and others at the tournament partying shirtless together, Kyrgios directed further criticism at the 17-time grand slam champion.

He posted on Twitter: "Prayers up to all the players that have contracted Covid - 19. Don't @ me for anything I've done that has been 'irresponsible' or classified as 'stupidity' - this takes the cake."

 

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