US Open chiefs were taking stock of Wimbledon's cancellation on Wednesday but remained hopeful their grand slam would go ahead.

The coronavirus pandemic made it unrealistic to continue with planning for Wimbledon, which was due to begin on June 29 and run for two weeks.

However, the US Open is not due to get under way until August 24, and there is optimism that the Flushing Meadows event may still go ahead on schedule.

Its host city, New York, is being severely affected by the COVID-19 crisis, yet United States Tennis Association (USTA) officials are not rushing to abandon their major.

In a statement, the USTA said: "We understand the unique circumstances facing the All England Lawn Tennis Club and the reasoning behind the decision to cancel the 2020 Wimbledon Championships.

"At this time the USTA still plans to host the US Open as scheduled, and we continue to hone plans to stage the tournament.

"The USTA is carefully monitoring the rapidly-changing environment surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, and is preparing for all contingencies.

"We also rely on the USTA's medical advisory group as well as governmental and security officials to ensure that we have the broadest understanding of this fluid situation.

"In all instances, all decisions made by the USTA regarding the US Open will be made with the health and wellbeing of our players, fans, and all others involved in the tournament."

Rafael Nadal and Bianca Andreescu are the reigning US Open singles champions.

Michael Jordan stunned the world with two simple words 25 years ago.

In an era before innovative social media announcements were the norm, Jordan released a statement through his management company "in response to questions about his future career plans" on March 18, 1995.

His response of "I'm back" signalled the return to basketball of one of the all-time greats.

Here, to mark the anniversary of that press release being issued, we look at Jordan and other greats who performed retirement U-turns.

 

MICHAEL JORDAN

Whether you are an ardent NBA fan or have simply seen Space Jam, you know the story. Chicago Bulls star Jordan retired in 1993 after his team three-peated and shortly after his father's death, stating that "the desire is just not there any more".

For the next year, Jordan turned to baseball as a minor league player as he pursued a dream his father had of his son making it in the MLB. Then, amid rumours he was heading back to the NBA, came that Jordan utterance: "I'm back". 

The Bulls, led by perhaps the greatest ever, would win three successive championships again between 1996 and 1998 at which point Jordan retired once more. He then came back for a two-year stint with the Washington Wizards before finally calling it a day once and for all in 2003.

 

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER

Seven-time Formula One champion Schumacher was 37 when he announced the 2006 season - when he was pipped to the title by Fernando Alonso - would be his last.

However, he remained around F1 as an advisor for Ferrari and returned for Mercedes to race in 2010 saying: "I have the energy back."

He would appear on the podium just once across three seasons, though, and he retired again in 2012, a year before he suffered severe head injuries in a skiing accident.

 

KIM CLIJSTERS

A former world number one and the 2005 US Open champion, Clijsters retired at the age of 23 due to a series of punishing injuries.

Clijsters got married and gave birth in her time away from sport, and then after appearing in an exhibition match held at Wimbledon in 2009, the Belgian returned to the WTA Tour. In just her third tournament back, Clijsters won the US Open, becoming the first unseeded woman to win the tournament in the Open era and the first mother to win a grand slam since 1980.

She triumphed at Flushing Meadows again in 2010 and won the Australian Open in 2011, recently returning to tennis for a third time after a seven-year hiatus.

LANCE ARMSTRONG

American Armstrong retired as a seven-time Tour de France champion in 2005. But the story, of course, didn't end there.

Dogged by doping allegations during his career, Armstrong faced questions again when he returned, aged 37, in 2009 and finished third in that year's Tour.

Armstrong retired once more in 2011 while he was the subject of a federal investigation into doping allegations. Another probe from the United States Anti-Doping Agency led to charges which resulted in Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour titles in 2012, with the cyclist publicly coming clean on his doping the following year.

 

GEORGE FOREMAN

There was a full decade between Foreman's 47th and 48th fights.

He lost on points to Jimmy Young in 1977, falling ill in the dressing room after the bout and suffering what he said was a near-death experience, leading him to find God.

A born-again Christian, Foreman returned at 38. Despite defeats to Evander Holyfield and Tommy Morrison in title bouts, Foreman would become heavyweight champion of the world again in 1994 - at the grand old age of 45 - by stopping Michael Moorer.

BRETT FAVRE

Long-time Green Bay Packers quarterback Favre, the king of indecision, bowed out from the NFL in March 2008, passing the baton to a certain Aaron Rodgers. However, he had a change of heart four months later. The Packers, who wanted to move on with Rodgers, traded Favre to the New York Jets.

After one season with Gang Green, Favre retired again. And then he performed another U-turn, paving the way for him to join the Minnesota Vikings, one of Green Bay's arch-rivals.

He enjoyed by far the best year of his career with the Vikings in terms of quarterback rating (107.2) but Minnesota lost the NFC Championship Game. More indecision followed after that, though 2010 would prove to be the final year of a Hall of Fame career.

Top-level tennis will not resume until the second week of June at the earliest, the men's and women's tours announced on Wednesday.

In a shared statement, the ATP and WTA said all tournaments through to June 7 would not go ahead as planned due to the continuing coronavirus outbreak.

The tours' stance follows Tuesday's announcement that the French Open would be moved, a step that appeared to catch both by surprise.

The apparent discontent over the decision by Roland Garros chiefs to move the clay-court grand slam from a May start to September - clashing with a host of tournaments - was reflected on Wednesday in the joint ATP and WTA statement.

It concluded by saying decisions over a revised tour schedule should be taken "in unison", adding that view was shared by the International Tennis Federation (ITF), Wimbledon's All England Club (AELTC), Tennis Australia and the United States Tennis Association (USTA). Tellingly, it did not mention the French Tennis Federation.

Whether it is possible to fit Wimbledon, the French Open and the US Open on this year's calendar remains to be seen. Wimbledon said on Tuesday it was still working towards a June 29 start date, albeit conscious that may not be possible.

Major events on the calendar, including the clay-court events in Madrid and Rome that were scheduled for May, now look highly unlikely to take place at all in 2020. The clay-court season has been effectively lost.

The ATP and WTA statement read: "After careful consideration, and due to the continuing outbreak of COVID-19, all ATP and WTA tournaments in the spring clay-court swing will not be held as scheduled. This includes the combined ATP/WTA tournaments in Madrid and Rome, along with the WTA events in Strasbourg and Rabat and ATP events in Munich, Estoril, Geneva and Lyon."

Both tours were already suspended, but there had remained a lingering hope the clay-court swing could still take place.

The statement said the extension also applied to the lower-tier ATP Challenger Tour and ITF World Tennis Tour, and announced that world rankings would be frozen "until further notice".

The ATP and WTA called for "greater collaboration than ever from everyone in the tennis community".

"Now is not a time to act unilaterally, but in unison," the tours said. "All decisions related to the impact of the coronavirus require appropriate consultation and review with the stakeholders in the game, a view that is shared by ATP, WTA, ITF, AELTC, Tennis Australia, and USTA."

US Open organisers are hoping the tournament can go ahead as scheduled in 2020 as they appeared to aim a dig at the French Open.

The French Open was pushed from a May start to September on Tuesday due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But that move seemed to come as a surprise to some players, with ATP council member Vasek Pospisil saying there was no communication with the players or the ATP.

It means Roland Garros is set to start just a week after the US Open ends with the men's final on September 13.

The US Open is prepared to push back the start of the tournament, and it seemed to aim a dig at the French Open over its lack of communication.

"The USTA is continuing to plan for the 2020 US Open and is not at this time implementing any changes to the schedule," read a statement posted by the US Open Twitter account on Tuesday.

"These are unprecedented times, though, and we are assessing all of our options, including the possibility of moving the tournament to a later date.

"At a time when the world is coming together, we recognise that such a decision should not be made unilaterally, and therefore the USTA would only do so in full consultation with the other grand slam tournaments, the WTA and ATP, the ITF and our partners, including the Laver Cup."

Phil Mickelson revealed he would not accept a special exemption into this year's U.S. Open, saying it would be a "sympathy spot".

Mickelson, who turns 50 in June, endured a difficult 2019, missing nine cuts in 23 events to drop down the rankings.

The five-time major champion, still only missing a U.S. Open to complete a career Grand Slam, is ranked 72nd and needs to crack the top 60 leading into the event, or win the Masters, US PGA Championship or The Players Championship, or go through qualifying.

Mickelson, a six-time runner-up at the U.S. Open, said he wanted to earn his place at Winged Foot Golf Club in New York.

"I won't accept it so I'm either going to get in the field on my own or I'll have to try to qualify, I'm not going to take a special exemption," he told a news conference on Wednesday ahead of the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Asked why, the American responded: "I just won't."

Mickelson added: "They've never been an organisation that likes to give out special exemptions, I don't want a special exemption.

"I think I'll get into the tournament. If I get in, I deserve to be there and if I don't, I don't.

"I don't want a sympathy spot. If I am good enough to make it and qualify then I need to earn my spot there."

Serena Williams must make changes to her game, strategy and goals if she is to achieve her ambition of breaking the all-time grand slam singles record, says her coach Patrick Mouratoglou.

A shock third-round Australian Open defeat to Wang Qiang ended the 38-year-old's most recent attempt to equal Margaret Court's mark of 24 major singles titles in the open era.

Williams has lost four grand slam finals, two at Wimbledon and another two at the US Open, since her return to the WTA Tour after giving birth to her daughter in 2017.

After the American called her performance "unprofessional" in the loss to Wang in Melbourne, Mouratoglou outlined the state of play, with the French Open her next opportunity in May.

"We have to accept the fact that it is not working," Mouratoglou said to BBC Sport.

"Maybe come back with a different angle, a different strategy and different goals so she can make it.

"She does feel positive, she feels negative too because it is a failure when she doesn't win a grand slam. We didn't expect at all to be losing so early, or to be losing at all.

"We have to face reality, but she is positive that she can make it otherwise she probably wouldn't be on a tennis court anymore.

"She's not that far away, but we have to change a few things. Her level is good enough, but we have to understand what is going on. 

"There is a big difference between reaching a final and winning one."

Williams went into the Australian Open as many people's favourite to win the tournament but, despite another setback, Mouratoglou insisted her fire was still there, though was reluctant to put a timescale on how long she will keep pursuing the record.

He added: "It's difficult to know how many chances she will have. I don't know how long she is going to be able to play but being able to reach four grand slam finals says a lot about her level.

"She had everything to retire, 23 grand slam titles. But she decided to make all the efforts, the physical efforts, the mental efforts, to come back to the game, with the goal to score more grand slams and beat the all-time record."

Williams, who won her first WTA title for three years in Auckland last month, is in the United States' Fed Cup team to face Latvia this week as part of a star-studded line-up that also contains Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin and teenage sensation Coco Gauff.

Colombia's Wimbledon and US Open doubles champion Robert Farah was formally placed on provisional suspension on Tuesday following his positive test for a banned steroid.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) said the top-ranked men's doubles player had not exercised his right to contend why he should not be temporarily prevented from competing.

Farah and the ITF had confirmed the positive out-of-competition test on January 14, when it was revealed the sample was taken on October 17, 2019, and contained the steroid Bolderone.

He is not entered in the ongoing Australian Open and has blamed the positive test on contaminated meat, with Boldenone frequently used by Colombian farmers to boost growth in cows.

As a matter of procedure, Farah has now been put under the mandatory suspension pending a hearing to resolve the case.

The ITF issued a statement that said: "Robert Farah has been provisionally suspended under article 8.3.1(c) of the 2019 Tennis Anti-Doping Programme, pending determination of the charge against him at a full hearing..."

It added: "Mr Farah had (and retains) the right to apply to the chair of the independent tribunal convened to hear his case why the provisional suspension should not be imposed, but has chosen not to exercise that right to date."

Farah, who turned 33 on Monday, partnered his fellow Colombian Juan Sebastian Cabal to last year's two grand slam wins.

Jack Nicklaus had his life mapped out by the end of 1959.

Proposing to his girlfriend, nursing student and fellow Ohio State undergraduate Barbara Bash, over Christmas, the 19-year-old Nicklaus saw a clear vision of the future.

He would be, if all went to plan, a mighty fine golfer but an even better insurance salesman.

The teenage years had treated Nicklaus well. He acquired the golfing fundamentals under Jack Grout's instruction at Scioto Country Club and became a serial amateur champion, all while demonstrating diligence in his studies and a precocious talent for earning big bucks.

The idea was that he and Barbara would settle down, live a life of contentment together and want for nothing, and Jack would always have his golf. The American dream.

Never mind winning a record 18 majors; merely playing in that many was still fanciful.

Nicklaus, who turns 80 this week, was a college kid with a winning golf game, a head for figures and an effortless, neighbourly charm. Some combination.

Today he is one of the greatest and wealthiest sports stars in history.

This is the story of the 1960 U.S. Open, and how a day in Ben Hogan's company changed young Jack's life.

 

INSURANCE THE BEST POLICY?

Already the U.S. Amateur champion at the dawn of the sixties, Nicklaus realised he had a serious talent that could worry the best professionals, but was there sufficient financial incentive to go into golf full-time?

He was not so sure. Insurance paid well, and a new decade promised new money-making opportunities.

"I had probably three jobs that I was working at the same time," Nicklaus recalled.

"I was working for Ohio State Life Insurance Company, I was working for Parker and Co, which is a brokerage firm out of New York, and I was actually working for a slack company. As I travelled I did some slack promotion, well within amateur regulations.

"I was making close to about $30,000 a year. That's pretty good for a 20‑year‑old. Pretty darned good back in 1960. And I thought about playing the Tour, [but] you had to be probably in the top five to be making $30,000 a year."

Nicklaus had played on a winning Walker Cup team at Muirfield and was voted the world's leading amateur by Golf Digest magazine before turning 20. 

THE WEEK WHEN EVERYTHING CHANGED

Nicklaus' golf life was transformed at the 1960 U.S. Open, specifically on the Saturday, the closing day of the tournament, when the youngster, still devoted to the unpaid ranks, was paired with the great Ben Hogan for the final 36 holes.

Over back-to-back circuits of the Cherry Hills course, set within a luxury country club in Denver's suburbs, Nicklaus later admitted: "I learned how to play golf."

Dad Charlie broke the news to young Jack that he would be playing alongside the 47-year-old Hogan, a nine-time major champion.

"It's in my personal scrapbook when my dad came in and said, 'Guess who you're playing the last two rounds with'," Nicklaus said.

"He says, 'Hogan'. It was like, you know, I'm going to get a chance to play with Ben Hogan."

Wherever Nicklaus goes today, there is a clamour for stories about his early days.

Put him in a media room and a half hour of wisdom and delicious anecdotes will spill out. Pure manna for golf reporters.

The 1960 U.S. Open has been raked over as often as the Cherry Hills bunkers. Nicklaus does not seem to mind. He knows its relevance, enjoys the reverance.

A COLLISION OF GREATS - PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE

Nicklaus, Hogan and Masters champion Arnold Palmer were firmly in the U.S. Open title mix that year, a coming together of generations old and new, with Palmer surging into title contention after a surge of six birdies in his first seven holes of that final round. Palmer had ominously driven the green at the par-four first.

Nicklaus, despite his amateur status, nevertheless led as he reached the turn.

Put succinctly, Nicklaus' putter went stone cold and he fluffed that chance of glory, while playing partner Hogan blew up on the 35th and 36th holes of the day, a bogey and a triple from the veteran handing victory to Palmer, whose six-under-par 65 took him from seven shots back at the start of the round to first place, four under for the tournament.

While Nicklaus placed second, Hogan trailed home tied for ninth, cursing his costly drive into water at the last. Nicklaus, however, was tracking his playing partner's every shot.

"The first time he missed a green was the 35th hole we played," Nicklaus said. "He hit the ball in the fairway, he managed his game. He played little hooks, little slices, little short slots and he played conservative shots. And he made some putts and missed a lot putts. Hogan stood over a putt for about an hour in those days.

"They talk about all the putts he missed but he holed a ton of putts. He was my kind of guy to play with. We walked down the fairway; pleasantries. When you hit a good shot, if he said it was a good shot, you knew darned well it was a good shot.

"And if you didn't hit a good shot, you weren't expecting to hear anything, which you didn't."

"IF HE HAD A BRAIN IN HIS HEAD..."

Nicklaus has often quibbled with a quote attributed to Hogan from Cherry Hills, with Hogan said to have told US sports writer Dan Jenkins: "I played with a kid today who would have won by 10 strokes if he knew what he was doing."

A conversation with Jenkins, who died last year, set the record straight for Nicklaus - if not entirely favourably for golf's future 'Golden Bear'.

According to Nicklaus, Jenkins revealed how Hogan actually said he partnered a player "who if he had a brain in his head, would have won by 10 strokes".

Nicklaus offers a similarly self-flagellating take of what happened over those closing holes, as the winning line came into view.

"I blew it," he said. "I had the tournament reasonably well in hand if I had known how to play.

"I remember walking off the 12th green. I looked at the leaderboard, and there was one 5 on the board [indicating a score of five under par] and that was me.

"I three-putted 13, 14. And after I look at the leaderboard, 'Nice going, Jack'. Then I miss a three-footer at 16, and about an eight-footer at 17 and bogey 18 to lose that golf tournament. That's a pretty poor finish. You learn from that."

Nicklaus conceded he "didn't know how to win at 20 years old, not against the guys". That changed soon enough.

"THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO ME"

Marrying Barbara a month after his Cherry Hills exploits, Nicklaus remained in the amateur ranks, making his money in the 'real world'.

Eventually, having landed his second U.S. Amateur title, he turned professional in November 1961.

"I decided I really didn't care about being the best insurance salesman," Nicklaus said. "I really wanted to be a guy who could be the best at playing golf.

"And the only way to do that is to play against the best. And so that was why I turned pro."

There was no standing on ceremony either once that status was acquired.

His maiden major triumph came when Oakmont hosted the U.S. Open in 1962, beating Palmer in a play-off. The Masters and US PGA titles followed in 1963, and by 1964, Nicklaus was the leading money-winner on the PGA Tour, trouncing what he might have earned with a sharp suit, fedora and briefcase.

Nicklaus will be forever associated with Cherry Hills, and the tournament where he "proceeded to fall apart like a three-dollar suitcase".

Now that he has turned 80, with Hogan long gone and Palmer having passed on to life's 19th hole more than three years ago, it falls to Nicklaus to recount the stories of yesteryear.

All being even, he has not told his last tale of Cherry Hills. This story is assembled from hour after hour of Nicklaus reminiscing with golf's press pack.

"I look back on it, and I say, you know, I would have loved to have won that tournament," Nicklaus said. "But maybe the best thing that ever happened to me was the learning experience that I had from it.

"Did it destroy my life? No. I learned from it. I put what I learned there to use. Did I do it again? Sure. But did I do it to the same degree? No."

THROW A RIGHT ONCE YOU CAN SMELL MONEY

Leaving Denver today on Interstate 25 - the Valley Highway - you can leave the five-lane carriageway by Veterans Park and begin the South University Boulevard approach to Cherry Hills Country Club.

An urban, gridded landscape - studentville around the University of Denver, block after block of modern apartments, a Wendy's burger joint - gives way after a couple of miles to a greener, tree-lined avenue, and a sprawl of gated communities, a millionaire's paradise.

Peyton Manning reputedly calls this home. David Duval has lived in a mansion practically overlooking the course.

Once you can positively smell money, throwing a right turn at a barely conspicuous but traffic-lighted junction reveals the country club, its mock-tudor clubhouse soon coming into view.

Behind that members' sanctuary, its eight tennis courts and a huge swimming pool, lies a golf course steeped in history.

This is not the course that Jack built - even though today there are over 400 Nicklaus-designed courses across the world.

But it is where the Nicklaus legend was born, perhaps the key stepping stone towards insurance's temporary claim becoming golf's greatest fixed asset.

As bushfires continue to rage in Australia, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and three grand slams have pledged a combined $400,000 (579,542 Australian dollars) to the relief effort.

The fires have ravaged large swathes of land, killing at least 28 people and millions of animals in the country where the first slam of the year begins next week.

Various fundraising initiatives have been launched and now the ITF has joined with Wimbledon, the US Open and the French Open to boost the cash total.

"The worldwide tennis community has come together in support of all those affected by the bushfires across many parts of Australia," said ITF president David Haggerty.

"This donation will support the Red Cross teams who are working hard on the ground providing essential emergency assistance including relief centres, aid and practical support for victims, evacuated families and those who have lost their homes.

"We would like to commend all members of the tennis community who are currently raising funds and awareness."

Among the other activities taking place is the AO Rally for Relief at Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday January 15, which will see Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Roger Federer take part.

It was a decade dominated by the 'Big Three' and they delivered on multiple occasions on the biggest stages.

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic dominated the decade in men's tennis, winning 33 of the 40 grand slams on offer.

Djokovic claimed 15 of those, while Nadal (13) and Federer (five) built on what they had started in the early-to-mid 2000s.

And, when they matched up in deciders, the trio of greats produced some epic finals.

The women's decade was far more varied despite Serena Williams' dominance – the American winning 12 majors since 2010 – as they too delivered some enthralling deciders.

We take a look at some of the best major finals of the decade.

 

2012 Australian Open: Novak Djokovic bt. Rafael Nadal 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 7-5

In arguably the most gruelling grand slam final ever, Djokovic outlasted Nadal in a five-set thriller in Melbourne.

The all-time greats produced an epic battle that lasted five hours and 53 minutes – the longest slam final in history.

Nadal needed a comeback in the fourth-set tie-break just to stay alive in the decider, famously dropping to his knee in celebration after getting to a fifth.

But the Spaniard would cough up a break lead in the final set as Djokovic claimed an incredible win for his fifth grand slam crown.

2014 Wimbledon: Novak Djokovic bt. Roger Federer 6-7 (7-9) 6-4 7-6 (7-4) 5-7 6-4

A Federer-Djokovic final at the All England Club always delivers.

This one looked set to be a little more straightforward as Djokovic led two-sets-to-one and held a 5-2 advantage in the fourth.

However, Federer reeled off five straight games to force a decider.

Both players had their chances in the fifth set but Djokovic took his to clinch the title.

Federer finished with 75 winners and 29 unforced errors, while Djokovic had 68 and 27 respectively in a match he described as the "best quality grand slam final" he had played in.

 

2017 Australian Open: Roger Federer bt. Rafael Nadal 6-4 3-6 6-1 3-6 6-3

This was quite the occasion as two of the best ever went head to head in a grand slam final for the first time since 2011.

Its importance was also highlighted by the fact Federer held 17 majors to Nadal's 14 heading into the match, and can be understood even more greatly at the end of 2019 now that the pair are on 20 and 19 respectively.

As expected, the pair produced in front of an adoring Melbourne crowd.

After a to-and-fro battle to begin the final, Federer came from 3-1 down in the deciding set, having taken a medical time-out after the fourth.

2017 French Open: Jelena Ostapenko bt. Simona Halep 4-6 6-4 6-3

A stunning run at Roland Garros was completed in fine fashion – with an incredible comeback.

The unseeded Ostapenko may have accepted her run to the final was an achievement enough after the Latvian fell a set and 3-0 down to the tournament favourite.

Ostapenko may have levelled the match, but she then found herself 3-1 behind in the decider.

But, she produced another response, her first WTA Tour title coming at the French Open.

 

2019 Australian Open: Naomi Osaka bt. Petra Kvitova 7-6 (7-2) 5-7 6-4

Ostapenko may have delivered a huge comeback, but Osaka's ability to keep her cool against Kvitova at Melbourne Park earlier this year was even more impressive.

The Japanese star's maiden major win had been overshadowed by Williams' outburst at Flushing Meadows just months earlier and it seemed a potential second major title had been thrown away.

Osaka took the first set and led 5-3 with three championship points in the second, only to somehow drop the set altogether.

That would be enough to break even the greatest, let alone a 21-year-old on one of the sport's grandest stages.

Instead, Osaka composed herself, closing out an amazing victory for her second major title.

2019 Wimbledon: Novak Djokovic bt. Roger Federer 7-6 (7-5) 1-6 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 13-12 (7-3)

A history-making decider lasted just under five hours and, once again, Federer was left to rue a missed chance against Djokovic at the All England Club.

Djokovic saved two championship points in the fifth set as the two greats went to a final-set tie-break – the first in singles at Wimbledon. 

The Serbian edged it to win a 16th grand slam title, as not even 94 winners from the Swiss superstar were enough

Federer won 14 more points, hit 40 more winners and created 13 break points to eight, but was beaten.

Rory McIlroy is determined to carry his regular tour form into the majors in 2020 - and he knows a fast start is the missing component that has held him back.

The 30-year-old Northern Irishman remains stuck on four major victories, having not won one of golf's four biggest tournaments since his 2014 US PGA Championship success.

He enjoyed a stellar 2019 though, carrying off four titles including the Tour Championship in August, when he pocketed prize money of $15million as the FedEx Cup winner.

That triumph at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta flushed McIlroy with confidence, and it was little surprise he carried off the WGC-HSBC Champions trophy in Shanghai in November.

The regrets from his year are obvious, with McIlroy not seriously contending at the business end of any of the majors, despite grinding out top-10 finishes at the US PGA and the U.S. Open.

At the Open Championship, held at Royal Portrush, McIlroy had a nightmarish opening 79 and a sparkling 65 on the Friday could not stop him missing the cut in front of his home supporters.

"The majors weren't what I wanted, but I played a lot of good golf and I think I played some good golf within the major championships as well," McIlroy told Sky Sports News. "I shot a few good scores. I just need to start a little faster, that's the big thing for me.

"If there's a key to me starting to contend more regularly and win majors again, I just need to start a little better."

It sounds obvious and is, and the more McIlroy puts himself immediately in the frame to win at regular tour events, the more starting at least solidly should become second nature.

He is moving in a positive direction, with the world number two putting pressure on Brooks Koepka at the top of the rankings.

It was fending off playing partner Koepka's challenge on the final day of the Tour Championship that put a spring in McIlroy's step and has convinced him he can land more of the big pots.

"I'd say the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup meant the most because it was Brooks in the final group and it meant a little more to me just because he is still ranked the number one player in the world," McIlroy said.

"There were a lot of tournaments I had chances in before the Players, even though it was still early in the year, and I felt there were questions about: Can Rory get it done? Can he close? Can he finish?

"That was huge to me. It proved to myself and it proved to other people that I can get it done on a Sunday when it matters at one of the biggest tournaments in the world."

Tennis twins Mike and Bob Bryan – the most successful doubles pair of all time – are to bring their careers to an end following the 2020 US Open.

The identical twin brothers from California have won 118 career doubles titles as a team, including 16 grand slams as well as an Olympic gold medal.

However, their last slam success came at the 2014 US Open, with the duo having won 18 trophies since then.

They will turn 42 in April and – having slipped down the doubles rankings to 27th – have decided to call time on their playing careers at Flushing Meadows, where they have won five titles, next year. 

"We took the last few months off to try and get our minds right and get our bodies and minds fresh and make this decision," Mike Bryan told USOpen.org.

"We feel it's the right time. It's just a perfect time to go. We feel like we can still be competitive and win, but at 42, we're really appreciative of getting so much longevity out of our careers.

"We feel like you can't play forever, so we just wanted to make the decision and go into next year knowing that we can see the finish line and play as hard as we can, but also appreciate being on tour, playing together and giving back to the fans a little bit."

The brothers – who have spent 438 weeks at the top of the world rankings – were the dominant force in doubles tennis from the early 2000s up until 2015, with their grasp having loosened in recent years.

Naomi Osaka has split from coach Jermaine Jenkins following her unsuccessful US Open defence.

Jenkins and Osaka teamed up in February after the Japanese parted ways with Sascha Bajin in the wake of her Australian Open success.

The two-time major champion has not won another title since her triumph at Melbourne Park and a fourth-round loss to Belinda Bencic at the US Open represented her next best performance at a grand slam this year.

"I'm super grateful for the time we spent together and the things I learned on and off court but I feel like now is a[n] appropriate time for a change," Osaka wrote on Twitter.

"[I] appreciate you, forever warmed by you … thank you for everything, it was a blast."

The 21-year-old Osaka will return to action at the Pan Pacific Open in Osaka next week.

On September 11 1999, a rising star of tennis clinched her first grand slam title and, 20 years later, Serena Williams is still going strong.

Williams, aged 17, beat Martina Hingis 6-3 7-6 (7-4) in the US Open final at Flushing Meadows to make a major breakthrough.

Two decades and 23 grand slam titles have passed since then, yet Williams - one triumph shy of equalling Margaret Court's overall major record hall - is still at the pinnacle of the sport.

The American reached her second slam final of 2019 at Flushing Meadows last week, though it ended in defeat to new kid on the block Bianca Andreescu, who also beat Williams in the Rogers Cup final in August – albeit with her opponent retiring at 3-1 down.

It means Williams has lost her last four appearances in grand slam finals since winning the Australian Open in January 2017, but her ever enduring talent means a record-equalling success should never be discounted.

Here are some of the astonishing numbers of Williams' career to date.

72 - Williams has won 72 WTA singles titles so far. Her first was in Paris in 1999, with her most recent coming in Melbourne in 2017.

33 - The 37-year-old has reached an incredible 33 grand slam singles finals, losing just 10 of those.

5 - Williams has finished the year ranked as world number one five times, in 2002, 2009, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

39 - Including 14 in doubles and two in mixed doubles, Williams has won 39 major titles - that is a joint-third total since the Open Era began.

1 - Williams is the only player, male or female, to have completed a Golden Slam in both singles and doubles competitions. As well as triumphing at every slam and the Olympics as a singles competitor, Serena has achieved the same feat alongside sister Venus in doubles.

7 - Williams has seven titles at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, with six more at the US Open, and three at Roland Garros.

319 - Having spent 319 weeks as world number one, Williams is third behind Martina Navratilova (332) and Steffi Graf (377).

2 - She has held all four grand slam trophies on two occasions - in 2002-03 and 2014-15.

97 - In total, Williams has appeared in 97 singles finals on the WTA circuit.

186 - Williams spent 186 weeks as world number one between February 2013 and September 2016, equal with Graf's record from August 1987 to March 1991.

Martina Navratilova believes Serena Williams will have to find her brilliant best to win another grand slam after yet more disappointment in a major final at the US Open.

The painful 6-3 7-5 defeat to Canadian Bianca Andreescu in Saturday's title match at Flushing Meadows means Williams, unquestionably the player of her generation, remains one slam title behind Margaret Court at the top of the all-time list.

Williams has lost major four finals in the last 14 months and her last grand slam singles triumph came at the 2017 Australian Open.

It will be to Melbourne she returns for the next drive to land that 24th slam, and the American, though still a major force, will have turned 38 by the time she arrives in Australia in January.

Navratilova was 37 when she played her last grand slam singles final, losing to Conchita Martinez at Wimbledon in 1994, and she retired later that year, returning for a brief singles dalliance in 2000 and a more sustained involvement in doubles well into her forties.

She said the pressure that Williams faced in New York was of the kind that "only happens to legends and is impossible to quantify".

"I still think Serena can get to 24 majors," Navratilova told the WTA website.

"Especially as the court surface at the Australian Open suits her better as it's faster than the US Open.

"But, after losing four in a row, every major final is now going to be harder for Serena. For one thing, there are going to be more players who think they can beat her.

"And also the scar tissue and the pressure will only grow. Just 'Average Serena' is not going to cut it in Melbourne in January; she will have to bring her best."

Navratilova was hugely impressed by 19-year-old Andreescu who had the courage to hit Williams off court, only showing the slightest sign of nerves when her opponent launched a second-set fightback from the brink of defeat.

The bravado of the first-time champion struck a chord with Navratilova, who said: "It was as if Andreescu knew that there was nothing she could do about the crowd being so vocal in their support for Serena.

"She didn’t take it personally, though it must have been hard, really hard."

And with Andreescu among a host of young players who look set to give the women's game a bright future, Navratilova sees the landscape changing - albeit with one fact still incontrovertible.

"If Serena plays her best tennis, she's still better than everybody else out there," said the nine-time Wimbledon singles champion. "Unfortunately for Serena, she didn't do that in New York."

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