In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes – a statement largely true until Rafael Nadal emerged on the scene and made the French Open his own.

Since breaking through for his first Roland Garros triumph in 2005, only three other men – Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic – have managed to interrupt Nadal's dominance in Paris.

Nadal has won 13 French Open men's singles titles, seven more than any other player in the Open era (Bjorn Borg, six) heading into this year's edition.

Despite being seeded third, it would take a brave person to bet against defending champion Nadal adding to his mammoth and unprecedented haul in the French capital, where the second grand slam of the year gets underway on Sunday.

On the women's side, defending champion Iga Swiatek is looking to follow in the footsteps of Belgian great Justine Henin.

As all eyes shift to Court Philippe Chatrier and its surroundings, Stats Perform looks at the numbers behind this year's slam, using Opta data.

 

The 'King of Clay'

Nadal will open his title defence against Australian Alexei Popyrin. Since 2000, only Nadal (13) and Gustavo Kuerten (two) have won the French Open more than once.

The 34-year-old swept aside world number one Djokovic in straight sets last year for his fourth consecutive French Open crown and 20th slam trophy, equalling Roger Federer's all-time record. Nadal maintained his stranglehold on the major, having not dropped a set throughout the fortnight. Only three players have previously won the French Open without losing a single set: Ilie Nastase in 1973, Bjorn Borg in 1978 and 1980 and Nadal in 2008, 2010, 2017 and 2020.

Nadal is the only player to have won the same slam more than 10 times. He has lost just two of the 102 matches played in Paris (excluding walkovers), losing to Robin Soderling in the 2009 fourth round and Djokovic in the 2015 quarter-finals, while has won each of the last 30.

The record for most slam titles on the men's circuit will also be up for grabs, with Nadal and the returning Federer seeking to snap their tie.

In the last 25 years, the number one seed has won the French Open on only five occasions – Nadal (2018, 2014 and 2011), Djokovic (2016) and Kuerten (2001). It does not bode well for top seed and 18-time major champion Djokovic, who is looking to close the gap on foes Nadal and Federer.

Australian Open champion Djokovic, who will face Tennys Sandgren in the first round, has reached the final in seven of the last 10 slams he contested, claiming six titles. However, the Serbian star has only featured in five French Open deciders (W1 L4) – fewer than in any of the other three major tournaments.

 

Declining Federer, Nadal challengers?

The French Open will be a welcome sight for tennis fans as Swiss great Federer, who has not played a slam since the 2020 Australian Open due to his troublesome knee and the coronavirus pandemic, makes his comeback.

Seeded eighth ahead of his opener against Denis Istomin, 2009 French Open champion Federer has only contested nine slam finals over the last 10 years (W4 L5) after reaching that stage in 22 major events in the previous decade (W16 L6). Since the beginning of 2016, the 39-year-old has only taken part in one French Open, in 2019, where he reached the semi-finals.

Daniil Medvedev has been flirting with a breakthrough slam triumph. The second seed is a finalist at the Australian Open (2021) and US Open (2019). Medvedev has reached the semi-finals in two of his most recent three appearances at a grand slam after going further than the fourth round in only one of his previous 13 major tournaments. However, the Russian has lost in the first round in each of his four Roland Garros appearances.

US Open champion and fourth seed Dominic Thiem has played two finals at Roland Garros (2018 and 2019) – more than in any other slam – but lost both of them against Nadal. He has won 80 per cent of his games at the French Open, his best win rate in any of the four majors.

Andrey Rublev is the only player to have taken part in the quarter-finals during each of the past three grand slams, including the 2020 French Open. But the seventh seed – who fired down 53 aces at Roland Garros last year, at least 14 more than any other player – is yet to progress further than that round.

Aslan Karatsev enjoyed a fairy-tale run at Melbourne Park in February, the Russian qualifier making it all the way to the semi-finals. Only one qualifier has reached the semi-final stage at the French Open: Filip Dewulf in 1997.

 

Iga in 14-year first?

Having never progressed beyond the fourth round of a major, Polish teenager Swiatek broke through for her maiden slam title via the French Open last year, upstaging Sofia Kenin.

The 19-year-old Swiatek – who will return as the eighth seed in her defence, starting against Kaja Juvan – could become the first woman to win consecutive titles at Roland Garros since Henin in 2005-2007 (three in a row). Only three players have won multiple titles in the women's tournament at the French Open in the 21st century: Henin (four), Serena Williams (three) and Maria Sharapova (two).

Swiatek could claim the French Open and Rome's Internazionali d'Italia in the same campaign. Only Serena Williams (2002 and 2013), Sharapova (2012), Monica Seles (1990), Steffi Graf (1987) and Chris Evert (1974, 1975 and 1980) have achieved the feat previously.

Swiatek celebrated slam glory in the absence of world number one and defending champion Ash Barty in 2020. No player has won more games on clay this season than Australian top seed Barty and Veronika Kudermetova (both 13).

Only Barty (three) has won more titles than third seed Aryna Sabalenka (two) in 2021 – the Belarusian is one of two players currently ranked in the top 20 in the WTA yet to reach a major quarter-final, alongside Maria Sakkari.

In a field also including four-time slam champion and reigning Australian Open winner Naomi Osaka – the second seed – Sabalenka could become only the third woman to win the Madrid Open and French Open in the same season after Serena Williams in 2013 and Sharapova in 2014.

As for fourth seed Kenin, she could be just the fourth American player to reach back-to-back Roland Garros finals, after Serena Williams (2015-16), Martina Navratilova (1984-1987) and Evert (1973-1975, 1979-80 and 1983-1986).

 

All eyes on Serena

The queen of WTA tennis for so long, Serena Williams is one slam success away from matching Margaret Court's record of 24 major singles championships. But the 39-year-old has been stuck on 23 since reigning supreme at the Australian Open in 2017.

While the French clay is not one of her favourite surfaces, it could be the scene of a remarkable achievement following a lengthy wait.

Roland Garros is where Williams has the lowest winning percentage (84 per cent) and where she won the fewest titles (three, at least half as many as the other slams).

Williams won her maiden French Open in 2002 and could hoist the trophy aloft 19 years after her first success in Paris. The longest span between two majors wins for a single player in the Open era is already held by Williams (15 years between 1999 and 2014 at the US Open).

Irina-Camelia Begu awaits the seventh seed in the first round.

Roland Garros, Wimbledon, the US Open, the Olympic Games, Indian Wells: this year's tennis calendar is not lacking in red-ringed dates.

But August 8 and September 26 are majorly notable in that they will mark the 40th birthdays of Roger Federer and Serena Williams, respectively.

Federer's birthday falls on the final day of the Tokyo Olympics, while Williams reaches the same landmark a fortnight after the US Open women's singles final.

Both have kept their future plans quiet, but it would come as no major surprise if one, or both, were to retire by the end of the year.

Fellow grand slam greats Venus Williams, Andy Murray and Kim Clijsters may also be a matter of months away from bowing out of the professional ranks.

Will life after tennis begin at 40 for Williams and Federer, or could the superstar pair return to the French Open in 2022?

Stats Perform looked at the players who may be considering their futures, what they still want to achieve, and their prospects of attaining those remaining goals.
 

Federer's final fling?

Ahead of his 30th, Federer was asked what it felt like to hit such a milestone.

"Birthdays happen. They're part of life," Federer said. "I'm happy I'm getting older. I'd rather be 30 than 20, to be honest. To me it's a nice time."

A decade on, Federer may be similarly equanimous about hitting 40. Family life is good, he'll never need to borrow a dollar, and he has advanced from 16 grand slams to 20.

But the knees would sooner be 30 than 40, and Federer, remarkable sportsman though he is, is coming to the end of the line in his tennis career. It will hurt the Fedfans to think so, but all the evidence points to it. We are probably witnessing a lap of honour.

Having won Roland Garros only once at his peak, we can surely forget the prospect of any heroics in Paris. Federer needs to win a few rounds though, in order to be sharp and battle-hardened for the grass season. Wimbledon, the Olympics and the US Open are events where you might give a fit Federer a chance, even at such a veteran age, but he has played only three matches since the 2020 Australian Open, losing two of those.

Target: Federer has never settled for second best, so he will want to be a tournament winner again, no doubt about it. The hunger does not go away after 20 grand slams, but it can be more difficult to sate.

Prospects: Slim, but not forlorn. So much of Federer's game is about feel and ease of movement, and assuming that knee surgery last year means the body is in good shape again, he should be able to call on those staples of his game. Key missing ingredients are the confidence that comes with beating rivals, and match fitness. Federer's 1,243 wins and 103 singles titles count for an awful lot still, and there could be one final hurrah before the Swiss great signs off.


Serena still one short of Court

From precocious teenager to queen of the tour, Williams' tennis journey has been a 25-year odyssey and there is nobody more driven to succeed than the great American.

It must be an intense frustration that she remains rooted on 23 grand slams, one short of Margaret Court's record haul, and the four grand slam final losses she has suffered while on that mark have been cruel blows.

As her 40th birthday approaches, it would not be a surprise if Williams reached that target, but what once felt inevitable now only has the air of being a possibility. She is becoming less of a factor when looking at title favourites, but Williams is still capable of beating top players, still a threat wherever she shows up.

Target: The 24th slam remains the must-have for Williams. Tour titles feel like an irrelevance, and Williams has won just one of those since January 2017, her calendar built around peaking for the majors since returning from giving birth to daughter Olympia.

Prospects: Beating Aryna Sabalenka and Simona Halep at the Australian Open demonstrated Williams still has the game for the big stage, and a semi-final defeat to Naomi Osaka, to whom she has now lost in three of four encounters, should not particularly detract from that. Williams is playing on clay primarily to get in great shape for grass, because Wimbledon, where she plays the surface with a command that others can only envy, is where that elusive 24th slam looks most likely to come.


Amid losing streak, tennis waits to learn what Venus infers

Some suspect that the Williams sisters, having arrived on tour together, might bow out at the same time too. Venus has won 49 WTA Tour-level titles but has recently slipped out of the top 100 for the first time since early 2012. Ahead of turning 41 in June, it is hard to see her being a reliable force again.

The seven-time slam winner will be needing wildcards for the grand slams unless the wins start to flow, and naturally she should have no trouble getting those backdoor tournament entries, but for a player of her stature, losing in the first round most weeks can offer little satisfaction.

It is 21 years since Venus' greatest tennis summer, when she won the Wimbledon, Stanford, San Diego, New Haven, US Open and Olympics singles titles, along with doubles glory alongside Serena at the Olympics and Wimbledon.

Nevertheless, she said at the Australian Open in February: "I'm trying to get better every day. I think that no matter what happens to you in life, you always hold your head up high, you give a hundred million percent. That's what I do every single day. That's something that I can be proud of."

Target: Venus last won a singles slam in 2008, so forget that. A run to the second week of a slam is not entirely unimaginable, or she could stun a big name early on. Venus will want to wring every last drop from her career, but you suspect more than that, she would love to be there to watch her little sister win that 24th slam.

Prospects: Since a second-round exit to Elina Svitolina at the 2019 US Open, Venus has won only four matches at WTA level, and she is presently on a run of five consecutive defeats, which began with a 6-1 6-0 trouncing by Sara Errani at the last-64 stage of the Australian Open. Her last Wimbledon appearance resulted in a first-round loss to the then 15-year-old Coco Gauff two years ago, so even hopes of a resurgence at the event she has won five times appear somewhat remote.


We wish you a Murray summer

Once a grand slam nearly man, Murray banished that reputation with his US Open triumph and twin Wimbledon titles, not to mention the two Olympic gold medals, the Davis Cup victory, and the 14 Masters 1000 tournaments he won along the way, a big-time champion on every surface.

What a career, and it deserves a fitting ending. Murray is battling one injury after another and will miss the French Open, hoping his tired frame holds up to see him through Queen's Club, Wimbledon, the Olympic hat-trick bid and the US Open.

Target: He would probably say another slam is possible, if he can get healthy and stay that way. The 'if' there is doing an awful lot of heavy lifting though.

Prospects: Should Murray manage to stay injury-free, then it will be enthralling to see what he can achieve. However, since an unexpected title in Antwerp in October 2019, he has won just four matches on the ATP Tour and one in the Davis Cup. The resurfaced hip, the troublesome groin, the pains of being Andy Murray aged 34 are proving wearing on the Scot. If he is fit enough to feature at Wimbledon, it would be a joy to see him play even just one more great singles match on Centre Court. Admirers must hope Murray follows the pattern of his career by exceeding expectations, which are logically low.


Kim wildcard wonder?

If you missed the Clijsters comeback, it is hardly surprising, given she returned to the WTA tour after a near eight-year absence just weeks before the pandemic shut down tennis, and she has barely been seen since. The three-time US Open winner was dealt bum draws in her comeback year but gave Garbine Muguruza, Johanna Konta and Ekaterina Alexandrova enough to think about in the course of three first-round defeats.

Since losing behind closed doors in three sets to Alexandrova at the US Open, Clijsters has undergone knee surgery and had COVID-19, and she does not plan to play again until after Wimbledon.

Target: If Clijsters, who turns 38 in June, can build up form and fitness, then some kinder draws would be a fitting reward for persistence. She could have quietly called time on this comeback, but the former world number one is a fighter, and it would be fitting, perhaps, if her career were to end with a night session match in front of a packed Arthur Ashe Court at Flushing Meadows. The Belgian's intentions are not entirely clear, but that prospect must have crossed her mind.

Prospects: The New York wildcard would be assured if Clijsters can show she is in any sort of form, given her US Open history. Clijsters' immediate potential is entirely unclear, but she had the highest game-winning percentage (66.7 per cent) of any woman in World Team Tennis last year, and Jessica Pegula, Sofia Kenin and Jennifer Brady were all part of that competition. Bring that game to a major and we're talking.

Rafael Nadal is not worried about being in the same half of the draw as fellow legends Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic at the French Open.

World number one Djokovic and Federer, eighth in the rankings, could meet at the quarter-final stage at Roland Garros, with a potential showdown with Nadal to come in the last four.

Defending champion Nadal says he is not looking beyond a first-round encounter with Alexei Popyrin in Paris, where he could move ahead of Federer by claiming a record 21st grand slam title.

The Spaniard said on Friday: "I see it as natural. One player is almost 40 [Federer], another is almost 35 [Nadal] and the other is 34 [Djokovic]. It seems logical that younger players climb in the rankings.

"Whenever that happens you have these consequences [with the seedings]. I see it as completely normal. I'm not worried about it. I have a lot of work in front of me to play a potential match versus Djokovic [in the semi-final].

"They would need to play each other and I have my own path. My path right now is Popyrin [in the first round] and that's where my mind is. My draw is hard enough to be thinking about anything else. I must continue my preparation, focus on my routines and keep advancing in the way we want."

Nadal on Thursday saw a statue of himself unveiled at Roland Garros, where has won 13 French Open titles and has a staggering record of 100 victories and two defeats.

He has won the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome and the Barcelona Open on clay this season but is braced for a tough start against 21-year-old Australian Popyrin.

Nadal said: "He's young, he has the power. He has big shots. As always, I need to be ready for it. I need to keep practising [during] the next couple of days and try to be in the best shape possible.

"I know every round is tough, I always respect every opponent. I respected everyone since the beginning of my career. And Popyrin is a dangerous one, so I need to play well and I'm looking forward to trying to make that happen.

The WTA says Naomi Osaka has a "responsibility" to her sport to speak to the media after the world number two opted to snub the press at the French Open.

Japanese sensation Osaka this week stated she would not face the media at Roland Garros as "people have no regard for athletes' mental health" during press conferences.

The WTA on Friday stated that it would welcome dialogue with Osaka over possible approaches to support players, but the organisation says the four-time grand slam winner should speak to journalists.

"Mental health is of the utmost importance to the WTA and for that matter, every individual person. We have a team of professionals and a support system in place that look after our athletes' mental and emotional health and well-being," a WTA statement said.

"The WTA welcomes a dialogue with Naomi (and all players) to discuss possible approaches that can help support an athlete as they manage any concerns related to mental health, while also allowing us to deliver upon our responsibilities to the fans and public. 

"Professional athletes have a responsibility to their sport and their fans to speak to the media surrounding their competition, allowing them the opportunity to share their perspective and tell their story."

Osaka said she wants fines she will be hit with for her media snub in Paris to go to a mental health charity.

She explained in a social media post on Wednesday: "I'm writing this to say I'm not going to do any press during Roland Garros.

"I've often felt that people have no regard for athletes' mental health, and this rings true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one."

 May 26, 2021

Osaka added: "We're often sat there and asked questions that we've been asked multiple times before, and I'm just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me."

World number one Ash Barty told the media when asked about Osaka's stance on Friday: "We know what we sign up for as professional tennis players. I can't really comment on what Naomi is feeling or her decisions she makes.

"At times press conference are hard of course but it's also not something that bothers me. Certainly doesn't keep me up at night what I say and hear or what you guys ask me."

Defending champion Iga Swiatek said: "I don't find it difficult. It gives us a chance to explain our perspective, so I think it's good."

Gilles Moretton, the president of the French Tennis Federation (FFT), said Osaka is making a "phenomenal mistake".

He told L'Equipe: "It's a deep regret, for you journalists, for her [Osaka] personally and for tennis in general. I think this is a phenomenal mistake."

Moretton added that Osaka ignoring the media is a "very detrimental to sport, tennis and probably to her."

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic could meet at the semi-final stage of the French Open, while Iga Swiatek and Ash Barty are in the same half of the draw.

Nadal will start his quest to win the Paris grand slam a staggering 14th time with a first-round encounter against Australian Alexei Popyrin next week.

Defending champion Nadal, the third seed, is in the same half of the draw as fellow all-time greats Djokovic and Federer, who could face the Serbian world number one in the last eight.

Top seed Djokovic, who is two major titles shy of the record of 20 held by Federer and Nadal, will take on Tennys Sandgren in the first round.

Swiss great Federer will come up against a qualifier in round one at Roland Garros, while two-time runner-up Dominic Thiem is up against Pablo Andujar.

Pole Swiatek claimed her maiden grand slam title at the French Open last year and takes on her close friend Kaja Juvan in the first round.

World number one Barty, who did not travel to Paris to defend her title in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, has will make her return at the clay-court major against Bernarda Pera.

Serena Williams comes up against Irina-Camelia Begu, while last year's runner-up Sofia Kenin must do battle with the 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko in a standout first-round match.

Carla Suarez Navarro can expect plenty of support when she takes on Sloane Stephens in her first tournament since successfully completing cancer treatment.

Naomi Osaka has imposed a media ban during her upcoming French Open campaign, citing mental health reasons.

Osaka – the reigning Australian Open champion and four-time grand slam winner – announced the shock media boycott ahead of the Roland Garros event, which will get underway on Sunday.

Under French Open rules, typical of any tennis tournament, players are required to hold media conferences after each match.

Osaka is the world's highest earning female athlete and will be fined by tournament officials should the world number two follow through and not take part in news conferences.

Japanese star Osaka hopes the fines she will receive can be donated towards mental health charity.

"I'm writing this to say that I'm not going to do any press during Roland Garros," Osaka wrote on Twitter. "I've often felt that people have no regard for athletes' mental health and this rings true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one.

"We're often sat there and asked questions that we've been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds and I am not going to subject myself to people who doubt me.

"I've watched many clips of athletes breaking down after a loss in the press room and I know you have as well. I believe that whole situation is kicking a person while they're down and I don't understand the reasoning behind it.

"Me not doing press is nothing personal to the tournament … However, if the organisations think that they can just keep saying, 'do press or you're gonna be fined', and continue to ignore the mental health of the athletes that are centrepiece of their co-operation then I just gotta laugh."

Osaka heads to Paris having never progressed beyond the third round of the French Open.

The 23-year-old skipped last year's French Open amid the coronavirus pandemic, though she claimed her second US Open crown at Flushing Meadows.

Simona Halep will miss this year's French Open due to a calf injury.

The 2018 champion at Roland Garros suffered a tear in her left calf while playing against Angelique Kerber at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome last week.

Halep posted a statement on Twitter on Friday confirming she will not recover in time to take part in the second grand slam of the season, which begins in Paris on May 24.

"It's with a heavy heart that I announce my withdrawal from Roland Garros this year,” the world number three said.

"Unfortunately the tear in my left calf muscle needs more time to recover and the timeline is just too short.

"Withdrawing from a grand slam goes against all my instincts and aspirations as an athlete, but it is the right and only decision to make.

"The thought of not being in Paris fills me with sadness, but I will focus my energy on recovery, staying positive and getting back on court as soon as it is safe to do so.

"Roland Garros 2022, I am coming for you! A bientot [see you soon!]"

Halep defeated Sloane Stephens to win the clay-court tournament three years ago, having previously lost finals in 2014 and 2017.

The 29-year-old Romanian – who also won Wimbledon in 2019 – made the quarter-finals at the Australian Open back in February, her run in Melbourne ended by Serena Williams.

Australian Open chief Craig Tiley is confident tennis' season-opening grand slam will take place in Melbourne next year despite suggestions the tournament may be played overseas.

The federal government in Australia is sticking to predictions that international borders will be closed until at least the middle of 2022, leaving the feasibility of hosting the Australian Open shrouded in doubt.

It has even been suggested in a recent ABC report that alternative destinations are being explored, with Dubai and Doha said to be being considered as potential venues.

But Tiley, speaking to RSN, believes the timeline on opening up borders will be altered in time for the tournament, which traditionally takes place in January.

"We're talking about two weeks of quarantine and the borders remaining closed until the middle of next year, but I'm an optimist," Tiley said.

"I think that's going to be too long. I think it's going to be brought forward because we're going to get on top of it with the vaccines and how we manage the virus.

"If we don't, we're going to be extremely challenged."

This year's tournament was blighted by logistical issues, with several players forced into quarantine after being exposed to coronavirus on chartered flights into Australia, while just days before the event was due to begin more than 500 players and officials were made to isolate after a worker at an Australian Open quarantine hotel tested positive for COVID-19.

Novak Djokovic, the men's singles champion in Melbourne, was chief among those critical of the conditions players had to endure.

"The players have been travelling around the world in a bubble so there's no place in the world anymore where there's quarantine requirements for them and so they're used to certain conditions," Tiley added.

"We [in Australia] still have this 14-day requirement but of course the positive is we don't have any community transmission of the virus."

Simona Halep revealed her Rome withdrawal this week was caused by a torn calf muscle, a blow that casts doubt on her prospects of playing the French Open.

Former world number one Halep had to be helped off court by coach Darren Cahill after she was injured while leading Angelique Kerber 6-1 3-3 in the second round of the Internazionali d'Italia on Wednesday.

The two-time grand slam champion on Friday announced the extent of her injury. Her misfortune comes with just over two weeks remaining until the clay-court grand slam at Roland Garros gets under way on May 30.

Wimbledon is the next major on the calendar after the Paris slam, with the All England Club tournament scheduled to start on June 28 in London.

"After an MRI here in Rome I can confirm that I have small tear high up in the left calf," Romanian Halep posted on her social media accounts.

"I will fly home today and begin recovery in the pool and gym on Monday.

"I'm staying positive and will do everything i can to speed up my return."

Halep, now 29 years old, won her first major title in Paris three years ago and went on to be crowned Wimbledon champion in 2019.

Andy Murray heads to Rome on Saturday with the drive to show there could be one last special summer in his career, and he has an early test against Novak Djokovic booked in.

Former world number one and 11-time grand slam finalist Murray has not played since the Rotterdam Open in early March, having been forced to pull out of the Miami Masters due to a groin injury.

Staying fit has been a problem for Murray since he required a hip resurfacing procedure in January 2019, to deal with a persistent problem that threatened his career.

He particularly wants to play Wimbledon and the Olympics this year, having won both events twice, and hopes to do so in good health.

The 33-year-old is waiting to learn whether he must go through qualifying for the French Open or if a wildcard awaits. He is not entered into the upcoming Internazionali d'Italia but will be in Rome all the same, working to get himself match-ready for the tests that lie ahead.

Murray said: "I want to get out there to be around the top players and top tournaments. On Sunday I've got a court booked with [Diego] Schwartzman and then Novak [Djokovic] in the afternoon.

"I want to play against the highest-level players possible because I think that will help me improve my game quicker."

Quoted in the British media on Saturday, Murray said: "I'm really looking forward to going away [on Saturday] and being among those guys and having a good few months this summer, with Wimbledon and the Olympics. I feel good right now."

Murray was ruled out of the Australian Open, which took place in February, after contracting COVID-19, and the groin injury in Miami was another major disappointment.

While he will be limited to the practice courts in Rome, Murray is aiming to fit in at least one tournament before the French Open, with Geneva and Lyon both staging events in the week ahead of Roland Garros qualifying.

"It's difficult for me to look too far into the future," said Murray, now down to 123rd in the ATP rankings. "I need to try and find a way of staying on the match court for longer. It has been extremely frustrating.

"When I had the operation on the hip I knew it was going to be unbelievably challenging. It just feels there are a couple of things that have happened this year which have been very unfortunate, that have been hard to take."

Wimbledon chiefs are to scrap the 'Middle Sunday' day off at the championships – and prize money for this year's tournament looks certain to be slashed.

The announcements came on the day the All England Club revealed it received £180million in insurance pay-outs after last year's tournament was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, of which around £36million went to the Lawn Tennis Association.

Chairman Ian Hewitt said that from 2022 the Sunday at the end of the first week would become "a permanent part of our tournament schedule and we will become a 14-day tournament", with the move signalling the imminent end of 'Manic Monday', when every fourth-round match was squeezed into a packed schedule.

That is regarded by many as the most exhilarating day of the tennis year, although others consider it too busy, given the number of standout matches taking place.

From next year, those matches are now set to be split across the previously fallow Sunday and the second Monday or the championships.

Hewitt said: "Yes, that second Monday of course was popular with many, but it did create significant challenges. I'm not sure it really did full justice to that day's tennis.

"To be able to spread over two days does more justice to the play at that event."

He said the tournament should "be more accessible" on that weekend, with the Sunday having previously been given over to allowing groundstaff to have time to tend the courts, which can be in need of repair after the first six days of play.

"We are now confident we will be able to look after the courts, most particularly Centre Court, without a full day of rest," Hewitt said.

He said this year's tournament "will be different from Wimbledon as we know it", and organisers are currently planning for a 25 per cent capacity attendance, albeit still hoping to get the go-ahead to admit more spectators.

When play has happened on the middle Sunday in the past, typically due to a backlog caused by several days of rain meaning the tournament has fallen behind schedule, tickets have been made available to the general public and that has led to a vibrant, often more raucous, atmosphere.

Hewitt though signalled that would not be the ticket policy going forward, saying: "It's unlikely it's going to be like Middle Sundays in the past."

The 2021 prize money for players, who must remain in a bubble during the tournament and will not be allowed to rent private houses in London, is set to hinge on how many spectators Wimbledon is allowed to accommodate. A significantly reduced attendance would hit the event hard in the pocket, meaning prize money at the level of previous years would be impractical.

It paid out £38million to players in 2019, with the men's and women's singles champions, Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep, each picking up £2.35million

The players may only learn the 2021 prize fund a matter of days before the tournament begins, with no decision expected until June. Wimbledon begins on June 28.

"It is premature to make a judgement," Hewitt said, when asked about the prize money.

Chief executive Sally Bolton said Wimbledon was "absolutely determined to be back in style" and "to bring back sport and sporting events in the way that we know them", but pandemic considerations are limiting what it can achieve.

It has not yet been decided whether spectators will need to wear face coverings while watching matches, even though restrictions on normal life in the UK are due to be lifted on June 21.

Bolton said players may feel some "frustration" given their freedom of movement will be restrained, pointing to the "single environment" for competitors being a decision reached on the basis of dialogue with the UK government and Public Health England.

Carla Suarez Navarro revealed on Thursday she has overcome Hodgkin lymphoma, and the Spaniard is set to resume her tennis career.

The former world number six revealed last September she would undergo six months of chemotherapy after being diagnosed with the rare cancer.

Suarez Navarro vowed at the time to show "positivity in the face of adversity" and the 32-year-old has now announced she is cured.

The 32-year-old posted on social media: "Another step forward. Today I finished my treatment and overcame Hodgkin lymphoma.

"Thanks to all for your warm messages. Every word of support gave me strength during the past few months.

"All my gratitude to healthcare professionals who take care of us every day. I'M CURED!"

Carla Suarez Navarro announced two years ago that the 2020 season would be her last on the WTA Tour.

However, the WTA said she decided to has abandon that plan and would return to action, confirming her entry for the French Open which begins on May 30 in Paris.

Roger Federer has confirmed he will grace the clay courts at the French Open and Geneva Open.

The 20-time grand slam champion made his comeback at the Qatar Open last month after a long absence following knee surgery.

Federer was beaten by Nikoloz Basilashvili at the quarter-final stage in Doha before opting against playing in Dubai and Miami.

The 39-year-old Swiss on Sunday announced he will feature on home soil in a Geneva Open event that gets under way on May 16.

World number seven Federer will also be in the draw for the second grand slam of the year at Roland Garros, where he reached the semi-final two years ago in his first appearance at the Paris major since 2015.

He tweeted: "Hi everyone! Happy to let you know that I will play Geneva and Paris.

"Until then, I will use the time to train. Can't wait to play in Switzerland again."

Rafael Nadal will be a strong favourite to surpass Federer's tally of grand slam titles in Paris, where he has won the French Open a record 13 times.

The French Open will take place a week later than initially scheduled this year, a move aimed at increasing the possibility of spectators attending the event in Paris.

Action at Roland Garros was due to begin with qualifying on May 17, reverting back to a more traditional time in the tennis calendar after taking place last year in September and October.

That move was made due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, taking place after the US Open while Wimbledon was cancelled.

With France currently in a third nationwide lockdown as part of measures to slow the rise in COVID-19 cases, the ATP and WTA Tours released a joint statement on Thursday confirming the main draw at Roland Garros will now begin on May 30 instead.

"Tennis has required an agile approach to the calendar over the past 12 months in order to manage the challenges of the pandemic, and this continues to be the case," the statement read.

"The decision to delay the start of Roland Garros by one week has been made in the context of recently heightened COVID-19 restrictions in France, with the additional time improving the likelihood of enhanced conditions and ability to welcome fans at the event.

"Both the ATP and WTA are working in consultation with all parties impacted by the postponement to optimise the calendar for players, tournaments and fans, in the lead-up to and following Roland Garros.

"Further updates will be communicated in due course."

Rafael Nadal is the defending men's champion, the Spaniard having secured the clay-court title for a 13th time in 2020. However, there was a new winner in the women's tournament, Iga Swiatek of Poland defeating Sofia Kenin in the final.

A statement released from the Grand Slam Board backed the move to postpone the French Open, while also announcing the grass-court season will be reduced by one week as a consequence.

"All four grand slam tournaments are united in their view on the importance of a meaningful build-up to every grand slam, to provide players of all competitive levels with appropriate opportunities to practice, prepare and compete on the relevant surface," a statement released via Wimbledon's official website read.

"It was for this reason that the grand slams, together with the Tours, were supportive of changes to the calendar to create an enhanced grass-court season of three weeks between Roland Garros and the Championships from 2015 onwards. It is widely agreed that this change has been very successfully received.

"However, given the considerable challenges ahead of the FFT in staging Roland Garros, and to avoid further impact on the rest of the calendar, the grass-court season will be reduced by one week in 2021."

Wimbledon will remain as planned, the main draw beginning on June 28 with qualifying taking place the week beforehand.

Next month's French Open could be postponed amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to France's minister of sports.

France entered its third national lockdown on Saturday in a bid to halt another surge of COVID-19 cases, which had threatened to overwhelm hospitals across the country. 

Professional sporting events are largely exempt from the restrictions, but minister of sports Roxana Maracineanu has suggested the French Open could be put back from its scheduled May 23 start date.

"We are in discussions with them [the French Tennis Federation] to see if we should change the date to coincide with a possible resumption of all sports and major events," she told radio station France Info.

"Today, although high-level sport has been preserved, we try to limit the risks of clusters, of spreading the virus within professional sports."

Rafael Nadal won last year's French Open, which was postponed by four months, to pull level with Roger Federer's record of 20 grand slam titles.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.