Petra Martic admitted to feeling more nervous than usual in her first outing at the Palermo Open, though she had little need to worry as she brushed aside Alison Van Uytvanck.

Martic – the tournament's top seed – triumphed 6-0 6-3 in just over an hour as she played for the first time since February, the WTA Tour having been suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The clay-court event in Italy has seen action resume on the Tour, though world number two Simona Halep withdrew before the event started due to travel concerns.

Her absence is a boost for Martic's hopes of success, with the Croatian showing few signs of rustiness against Van Uytvanck.

"I think I felt my nerves a little bit more, because the break was so long," Martic told media via video chat.

"It's such a big uncertainty going on the court not knowing how you're going to be.

"I played well before the break, so I was happy with the rhythm, but obviously five months off disrupts everything. Once the match started, I kind of let go and just played."

Anett Kontaveit also progressed in straight sets, the fourth seed winning the final six games to record a 6-3 6-3 victory over Patricia Maria Tig in a late finish.

However, there were some big-name casualties on Tuesday.

Marketa Vondrousova won the opening set with ease, yet the second seed slipped up after such an impressive start, serving up double faults during her 1-6 7-5 6-4 defeat to Kaja Juvan.

Elise Mertens, the fifth seed, is also out. The Belgian went down 6-4 6-1 to Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

The Madrid Open will not be staged this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

September 12-20 were the revised dates for the prestigious tournament to be held after it was originally due to take place from May 1-10.

It emerged last week that local health authorities had advised Madrid Open organisers to cancel the event next month due to the "complex situation that COVID-19 continues to generate".

A spike in coronavirus cases has since prompted new measures to control the spread of the virus to be introduced, including a directive that social gatherings are to be reduced to 10 people - both in public and private meetings.

Organisers on Tuesday confirmed the tournament at the Caja Magica, due to start a fortnight before the French Open, has been cancelled and the 2021 edition will be held from April 30 to May 9.

Madrid Open director Feliciano Lopez said: "We have given our all to stage the tournament.

"After the first cancellation in May, we got to work on the September date with the hope of being able to enjoy first-class tennis in the Caja Magica during this year which has been so hard for everyone.

"However, the continued instability is still too great to hold a tournament like this in complete safety. Once again, we would like to thank the Madrid City Council and all of our sponsors and suppliers for being by our side during every step we have taken."

The cancellation means there will be no WTA Premier Mandatory events this year; with Indian Wells, the Miami Open and China Open already having been scrapped.

It is another big blow in a week that has seen WTA Tour action return at the Palermo Open. The ATP Tour is set to resume in New York on August 22 at the Western and Southern Open.

The US Open is then scheduled to start at Flushing Meadows on August 31.

A relieved Donna Vekic was simply happy she "didn't forget how to play tennis" after easing to the first main-draw win on the WTA Tour for five months at the Palermo Open.

Vekic made up for lost time on Monday following a coronavirus-enforced hiatus, thrashing Arantxa Rus 6-1 6-2 two days after qualifying in Sicily marked the official return of professional tennis.

There was only a small number of people to witness the action, players handling their own towels, no handshakes as well as a smaller team of ball kids and line officials, but Vekic clearly had no problem adapting.

The sixth seed from Croatia said in a post-match video call: "I'm definitely a little bit surprised [at the margin of her victory].

"It was very tricky conditions, it was very windy so the ball was a little bit all over the court. I'm just definitely happy that I didn't forget how to play tennis, how to play matches, how to win. It's a huge relief."

Sara Errani, Laura Siegemund, Ekaterina Alexandrova and Elisabetta Cocciaretto also made it through to the second round.

It would have been a relief for organisers to see the action get under way just a couple of days after an unnamed player tested positive for COVID-19.

Wimbledon champion Simona Halep was among a host of players to withdraw from the first tournament since March due to concerns over coronavirus.

 

Tennis had a rotten lockdown but now the professional tours are emerging from hibernation. 

The men must wait a fortnight, but in Sicily a number of leading women will, from Monday, take part in the Palermo Open, a minor clay-court event that will face scrutiny like it has never known before. 

Tennis must prove it can stage events responsibly, not least because the sport's reputation took a hit with the calamitous ad hoc Adria Tour. That event saw stars including men's world number one Novak Djokovic, whose brainchild it was, and Grigor Dimitrov hit by coronavirus. 

The ATP and the WTA, governing bodies of the men's and women's tours respectively, will apply stringent rules and demand impeccable player compliance over the coming months. 

They have already seen tennis wiped out in China for the rest of the year, on top of Wimbledon's cancellation, and can ill afford any further momentous setbacks. 

At the end of August, the US Open is due to begin at Flushing Meadows, a behind-closed-doors grand slam.

But with a number of leading players already opting out or showing reluctance to travel during the pandemic period, it would be easier to return a barrage of John Isner serves than to accurately figure how the rest of the tennis year pans out. 

Sicily for starters

Palermo organisers expected Simona Halep, the world number two and reigning Wimbledon champion, to join them, and it was with "great bitterness" that they acknowledged the news she would be staying at home in Romania. 

Halep cited rising COVID-19 cases in her home country and her own "anxieties around international air travel". 

Jelena Ostapenko, Johanna Konta and Svetlana Kuznetsova were among others to pull out, with a number of factors behind the loss of a host of the event's star attractions. 

Arguably, though, the standard of the tennis in the week ahead will pale into insignificance against the success of the tournament from a health and safety perspective. 

One player tested positive for coronavirus after arriving in Palermo, organisers said on Saturday, and was kept away from all others, withdrawing from the tournament. 

The eyes of the tennis world will focus on the modest ASD Country Time Club, not least because a small number of tennis fans will also be allowed entry. 

American trilogy

Can the United States, where over 150,000 have died with coronavirus, provide safe haven for the biggest stars in tennis later this month? 

Authorities are optimistic ahead of a disrupted US hard-court swing getting under way, but there can be no guarantees, despite best efforts. There are three major tournaments in the US in August, each brimming with the biggest names in the game. 

A new WTA event in Kentucky was announced in mid-July, and starts on August 10, with a field boasting Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens and Coco Gauff.  

From Kentucky, the best women's players in the world will head to New York for the Western and Southern Open, relocated to Flushing Meadows from Cincinnati this year in a move to save the tournament. 

That event, scheduled to run from August 21 to 28, is where the elite men make their re-entrance, with no ATP events scheduled until then. 

And the following week sees the US Open get under way at the same venue - all being well. 

Players will be expected to keep to their tournament bubbles throughout, tests will be carried out and players closely monitored. Any slip-ups could spell peril. 

Who's coming back? Who's not?

Halep is skipping Palermo and as of Sunday, August 2, she was not listed for the Western and Southern Open; however, she may play an event in Prague, starting on August 10. 

Given Halep's clear travel concerns, it would be little surprise were she to skip the US Open, which is a decision world number one Ash Barty has already taken. Barty's fellow Australian, Nick Kyrgios, has also chosen not to travel to the United States. 

Great Britain's Andy Murray, who appears keen to head to the States, has suggested a number of leading male players will swerve the US tournaments, yet the likes of Rafael Nadal, Djokovic and Dominic Thiem have entered the Western and Southern Open. 

Any of those players could still pull out, Nadal having notably expressed misgivings about international travel during lockdown. 

But will the temptation to go after another grand slam title at the US Open prove too alluring? Nadal is just one behind Roger Federer's record haul of 20 men's singles slams, with Djokovic having 17 majors to his name. 

Federer is sitting out all this drama, having undergone season-ending knee surgery. 

It comes as no surprise to see Serena Williams, one short of Margaret Court's women's record of 24 singles slams, committing fully to the weeks ahead. 

With no Barty and perhaps no Halep, Williams, who turns 39 next month, may perhaps never have a better opportunity to draw level with Court.

Tennis suffered a fresh blow to its restart plans when the Palermo Open announced a women's tour player had tested positive for COVID-19.

Ahead of the first WTA tournament since March, event organisers in Sicily said the player was asymptomatic and had been kept apart from others.

Hopes of a smooth return to action had already been hit by a spate of withdrawals from the Palermo Open, with world number two Simona Halep among those pulling out.

Now the event, which begins on Monday, has been hit by a fresh setback. The affected player's identity was not released, but she has withdrawn from the tournament.

The WTA said the tournament would "continued as planned", adding: "All those who may have been in close contact with the individual are undergoing testing per WTA protocols."

A tournament spokesperson said: "We inform you that, following the checks as per the protocol, a player enrolled in the 31st Palermo Ladies Open was positive for COVID-19.

"The asymptomatic player, who had carried out the required tests upon her arrival in the city at the mobile clinic adjacent to the hotel hosting the tennis players, was transferred to a building of the National Health Service used for asymptomatic patients."

The tournament's coronavirus consultant, Professor Antonio Cascio, said: "The effectiveness of the protocols and related controls allowed us to intercept a positive case among the players who arrived in Palermo. The same player, waiting for the results of the tests, had always remained in her hotel room."

Qualifiers were getting under way on Saturday ahead of the tournament proper, which intends to allow entry to a limited number of spectators.

There have been a number of notable cases of tennis players being infected with COVID-19 during recent months, with men's world number one Novak Djokovic among them.

Borna Coric, Grigor Dimitrov and Djokovic's coach Goran Ivanisevic also tested positive after participating in the controversial Adria Tour.

World number one Ashleigh Barty has decided to skip the US Open due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The French Open champion will not make her return in the United States, where the WTA Tour season's resumption is due to continue next month.

Barty, 24, said concerns over COVID-19 meant she was skipping the US Open, with the USA having seen more than 150,000 deaths due to coronavirus.

"My team and I have decided that we won't be travelling to the US for the Western and Southern Open and the US Open this year," the Australian told the Herald Sun on Thursday.

"I love both events so it was a difficult decision but there are still significant risks involved due to COVID-19 and I don't feel comfortable putting my team and I in that position.

"I wish the USTA all the best for the tournaments and look forward to being back in the US next year."

The French Open is also still scheduled to go ahead, beginning at Roland Garros on September 27.

Barty, who reached the Australian Open semi-finals earlier this year, offered no guarantees she would defend her title in Paris.

"I will make my decision on the French Open and the surrounding WTA European tournaments in the coming weeks," she said.

Three-time major champion Angelique Kerber has again linked up with former coach Torben Beltz, who oversaw her first two grand slam wins.

Kerber will work with Beltz once more after struggling under an array of coaches in recent months as she has tumbled down the WTA rankings.

The German is now ranked 21st and has not won a Tour event since Wimbledon in 2018.

Kerber broke through with Beltz at her side and then reunited with her long-time coach ahead of a hugely successful 2016 season.

Beltz helped her win the Australian Open and US Open while climbing to the top of the rankings.

The pair parted ways again as Kerber hired Wim Fissette, with whom she won at the All England Club in an 11-month partnership.

But 32-year-old Kerber's floundering form since Fissette's departure has now led her back to a familiar face.

Beltz split with Donna Vekic earlier this month after two and a half years guiding the Croatian.

Palermo Open tournament organisers have been left "embittered" and "profoundly disappointed" over Simona Halep's decision to withdraw from the event.

Halep on Sunday cited the rise in coronavirus cases in Romania and anxieties around international air travel as her reasons for opting out of the first WTA Tour event since March.

The Romanian's participation in the tournament, which starts on August 3, was in doubt due to new quarantine regulations in Italy.

It was announced on Friday that all visitors who have spent time in Romania or Bulgaria in the past 14 days would need to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival in Italy.

Tournament director Oliviero Palma wrote to Italy's health minister Roberto Speranza to seek an exemption for Halep, and regional assessor of health Ruggero Razza informed the 2019 Wimbledon champion that tennis players would not need to quarantine.

Yet the two-time grand slam champion has delayed her return as she is not ready to head overseas.

She said in a statement released to Stats Perform News on Sunday: "Given the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in Romania and my anxieties around international air travel at this time, I have made the tough decision to withdraw from Palermo.

"I want to thank the tournament director and the Italian ministry of health for all their efforts on my behalf and I wish the tournament a successful week."

Palma was not at all impressed with Halep's withdrawal.

He said: "We found out Halep's decision with great bitterness. Yesterday we were optimistic, and we had informed Halep's staff about the fact that professional players are not obliged to quarantine.

"Nevertheless, Halep's staff only communicated us the final decision, frustrating all our efforts. We are embittered and profoundly disappointed."

Simona Halep has been assured she should be allowed to compete at the Palermo Open, after fears that new quarantine rules in Italy would rule her out.

New restrictions were announced on Friday for all visitors who have spent time in Romania or Bulgaria in the past 14 days; however, tournament organisers are confident they will not apply to athletes.

Tournament chief executive Oliviero Palma wrote to Italy's health minister Roberto Speranza to seek an exemption, but on Saturday he sounded an optimistic note regarding the reigning Wimbledon champion.

"Simona Halep should participate in the 31st Palermo Open," Palma said.

"Following a literal interpretation of the provisions in force, it seems that workers, therefore professional athletes too, should be exempted from the mandatory quarantine.

"We are waiting for an official clarification from the competent authorities, but we are confident. I reassured Simona Halep's manager."

World number two Halep, who has spent lockdown at home in Romania, is due in Sicily for the event which starts on August 3.

The Palermo Open will be the first WTA Tour tournament since March and Halep is the star attraction in the field.

Italy, one of the first nations to be badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, is determined to be cautious about visitors arriving from other countries.

Speranza said on Saturday: "We must protect our country within an international context that is worsening. We live on one planet. The battle is won with determination and solidarity."

Simona Halep faces having to miss the Palermo Open unless an appeal to allow the Wimbledon champion to compete is accepted by Italy's health minister.

Tournament organisers have asked government minister Roberto Speranza to make an exception after quarantine restrictions were announced for all visitors who have spent time in Romania or Bulgaria in the past 14 days.

Halep, who has spent lockdown at home in Romania, has yet to make a public comment on the possibility of being ruled out of the clay-court event, which starts on August 3.

The Palermo Open will be the first WTA Tour tournament since March and Halep is the star attraction in the field.

Italy, one of the first nations to be badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, is determined to be cautious about visitors arriving from other countries.

Tournament chief executive Oliviero Palma is waiting to hear back from the authorities after sending what he described as an "urgent letter" to Speranza.

Palma wrote on Twitter: "We wrote a letter to the Minister because we're convinced that the health protocols adopted by the WTA are so strict to guarantee the safety and health not only of athletes, yet also of all the various workers involved in the event.

"The provision would penalise a player like Simona Halep, [the] world's number 2 and Wimbledon's reigning champion, who wouldn't take part in Palermo's tournament anymore."

Speranza said on Saturday: "We must protect our country within an international context that is worsening. We live on one planet. The battle is won with determination and solidarity."

The ATP and WTA Tour events scheduled in China for 2020 have been cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The ATP's China Open, Shanghai Masters, Chengdu Open and Zhuhai Championships were scheduled to be played later this year, but were officially cancelled on Friday.

The WTA, meanwhile, has called off seven events that were due to be played in China, including the WTA Finals.

The moves came after the Chinese government announced no international sporting events would be held in the country for the rest of the year.

"Our approach throughout this pandemic has been to always follow local guidance when staging events," ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said in a statement.

"We respect the Chinese government's decision to do what's best for the country in response to the unprecedented global situation.

"It's with a heavy heart that we announce ATP tournaments will not be played in China this year. These important events have been a cornerstone of the Tour's presence in Asia and I want to thank the organisers for their commitment and cooperation.

"Chinese fans are some of the most passionate in the world and I know players will be looking forward to the next opportunity to play in front of them."

Suspended since March, the ATP and WTA Tour seasons are due to resume in August.

There have been more than 15 million confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide, with the death toll exceeding 630,000.

Petra Kvitova says there is no guarantee she will compete in the US Open and she knows of players who will definitely not enter the draw in the current climate.

Flushing Meadows is set to stage what will be the second major of the year behind closed doors from August 31 to September 13.

Over 32,000 people in New York state have died after contracting the coronavirus, with more than 431,000 cases reported.

US Open organisers vowed that the tournament will go ahead in the "safest manner possible, mitigating all potential risks".

Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova says some players will not travel as it stands.

"I know a few players will definitely not go if the restrictions are like they are now," the world number 12 from the Czech Republic told BBC Radio 5 Live.

She added: "I'm still thinking of what everything will look like, what the restrictions will be, how many people we can take and if they quarantine us."

Kvitova, who has been playing in front of fans at a grass-court exhibition tournament in Berlin this week, is not 100 per cent sure she will head out to the United States next month.

She said: "Playing without the fans in grand slams, I can't really see it.

"If that happens and everything is okay, I will go for sure to compete but there's still a chance I will not go. I will decide when I know everything."

The WTA Tour is set to resume at the Palermo Ladies Open on August 3.

Tennis lovers worldwide should have been licking their lips in anticipation of the Wimbledon finals this weekend.

There were two contrasting singles championship matches last year, Simona Halep dismantling Serena Williams before Novak Djokovic got the better of Roger Federer in an epic marathon five-set thriller.

Centre Court crowds and millions watching all over the planet have been treated to classic finals over the years, but there have also been showdowns that many would have expected to see that never transpired.

While there was no 2020 grass-court grand slam this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, we look at a selection of finals that never occurred at the All England Club for one reason or another.

 

Steffi Graf v Martina Hingis

Graf and Hingis met twice at SW19 but the latest round in which they did battle was for a place in the quarter-finals.

German legend Graf was unable to go for a third consecutive Wimbledon title in 1997 due to injury and it was Swiss sensation Hingis who lifted the Venus Rosewater Dish for the first and only time, defeating Jana Novotna.

Novotna gained revenge by dumping Hingis out at the semi-final stage 12 months later after Graf - 12 years older than Hingis - was beaten by Natasha Zvereva in the third round.

Hingis never went beyond the quarter-finals after that, while in 1999 Graf fell to Lindsay Davenport in her last appearance at a tournament she won seven times.

 

John McEnroe v Boris Becker

McEnroe and Becker have shared a commentary box at Wimbledon, but they were never on the opposite side of the net in a final.

A packed crowd would have most certainly been on the edge of their seats to watch two of the most colourful characters in the sport throw everything at each other in pursuit of major glory, but it was not to be.

The closest it came to materialising was in 1989, when American legend McEnroe was denied a place in the final by Stefan Edberg.

Becker beat Edberg in the final to take the title for a third and last time. They may well have met in a final if McEnroe had not missed the 1986 tournament due to taking a break from the sport or suffered a back injury the following year.

 

Justine Henin v Kim Clijsters

Belgium would have surely come to a standstill if Henin and Clijsters had graced Centre Court in a final.

Henin won seven grand slam titles before retiring in 2008 aged only 25 and although she made a comeback in 2010, the former world number one called it a day again the following year as she struggled with an elbow injury.

She quit as a two-time Wimbledon runner-up, while Clijsters - who announced she was making a surprise comeback last year - has never reached the final at SW19.

Semi-final appearances in 2003 and 2006 are as far as Clijsters has been at Wimbledon, and it is a great shame the four-time major singles winner and her compatriot never contested a battle of Belgium for one of the biggest prizes in sport at the peak of their powers.

 

Andy Murray v Rafael Nadal

There have been 24 matches contested by Murray and Nadal, with three of those staged at Wimbledon.

Nadal broke the hearts of Murray fans by beating him on each occasion at his home grand slam, twice in the semi-finals and once in the last eight 12 years ago.

You have to go back to 2011 for Spanish legend Nadal's last appearance in a Wimbledon final, while Murray was crowned champion four years ago but has not played in the tournament since 2017 due to career-threatening hip injury.

While a fit-again Murray is hoping to work his way back to the top and Nadal remains a huge force, time is not on their side and it appears unlikely they will be opponents in a Wimbledon final.

Wimbledon has been praised for its "amazing" decision to pay players £10million from a prize money pot despite the 2020 tournament being cancelled.

The All England Club (AELTC) had pandemic insurance, meaning its decision to call off the championships in April was not one that risked becoming a huge financial blow.

It was revealed on Friday that 620 players would benefit, based on world rankings, potentially handing a lifeline to lowly players from across the world who may be struggling to make ends meet.

Wimbledon is paying out £25,000 per competitor to 256 players from the men's and women's singles, and £12,500 to a further 224 players who would have taken part in qualifying.

Doubles players and those from the wheelchair events will also collect money from the fund, with Wimbledon stressing there would be only one payment per player, meaning there could be no claims for multiple events.

Three-time US Open champion Kim Clijsters wrote on Twitter: "Amazing news — always a class act and leader of our sport!! Well done @Wimbledon – can't wait to be back next year!"

Clijsters, 37, was in the early stages of a comeback after seven years in retirement when the COVID-19 outbreak led to tennis being suspended across the globe.

The Belgian is a two-time Wimbledon semi-finalist who would have almost certainly received a wildcard into this year's tournament.

Spain's Paula Badosa, the world number 94, indicated what the windfall would mean to rank-and-file players.

"Such a nice gesture @Wimbledon on these tough moments. Means the world for us, thank you," Badosa wrote.

Wimbledon said its decision was taken "in the spirit of the AELTC's prize money distribution in recent years".

This year marked the first time Wimbledon had been called off since World War II. Its finals would have been contested this weekend.

AELTC chief executive Richard Lewis said: "Immediately following the cancellation of the championships, we turned our attention to how we could assist those who help make Wimbledon happen.

"We know these months of uncertainty have been very worrying for these groups, including the players, many of whom have faced financial difficulty during this period and who would have quite rightly anticipated the opportunity to earn prize money at Wimbledon based on their world ranking.

"We are pleased that our insurance policy has allowed us to recognise the impact of the cancellation on the players and that we are now in a position to offer this payment as a reward for the hard work they have invested in building their ranking to a point where they would have gained direct entry into the championships 2020."

Dayana Yastremska apologised after being slammed for posting images of herself in blackface, saying she was "misunderstood".

World number 25 Yastremska was criticised after posting images of herself with one half of her body white and the other half black on Twitter and Instagram.

The 20-year-old's posts came amid anti-racism demonstrations and Black Lives Matter protests around the world following the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis in May.

After deleting the posts, Yastremska – the Ukrainian who reached the fourth round at Wimbledon last year – apologised.

"Earlier today I posted pictures that I thought would spread a message of equality. It clearly did not and has been misunderstood," she wrote.

"I have been warned about the negative impact but I did not – and still don't – consider it as a "blackface". I did not intend to caricature but to share my feelings about the current situation: we should all be treated as equal.

"I am so disappointed that my message has been corrupted: these pictures divided people when they were meant to unite. That's why I deleted them.

"I sincerely apologise to all the people I have offended. I truly had only good intentions."

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