The 2022 French Open will provide Jo-Wilfried Tsonga with a final opportunity to shine in front of a home crowd after the 36-year-old confirmed his impending retirement.

Tsonga has suffered with injuries over recent seasons and has managed just two ATP Tour match wins so far in 2022.

The Frenchman reached a high ranking of world number five and finished as runner-up at the 2008 Australian Open.

He never won a grand slam but did reach five more major semi-finals. Tsonga has collected 18 singles titles on the ATP Tour, including two Masters 1000 crowns in Paris (2008) and Toronto (2014). His last triumph came in 2019 in Metz.

"It is with great emotion that I announce today my decision to stop my professional career at the next French Open," Tsonga wrote on social media.

"So many incredible moments, so much joy shared with a public that gave me a lot. Hoping for one last thrill with you!"

In a video accompanying his announcement, Tsonga said: "The goal is to be myself, to be Jo-Wilfried Tsonga the tennis player.

"I hope that I will stay in shape before and be able to be who I have always been at this tournament.

"I have always set myself high goals to try to get what I can. For me, this will be the opportunity to do it one last time."

Yannick Noah (69.6 per cent) is the only Frenchman to have a higher winning percentage in tour-level matches than Tsonga (66.5).

Daniil Medvedev has confirmed he will undergo a procedure to fix a troubling hernia issue, which may keep him out of the French Open.

Medvedev, who enjoyed a short-lived stint as world number one at the start of March before relinquishing the crown back to Novak Djokovic, reached the quarter-finals at Roland Garros last year.

However, the chances of the Russian appearing in Paris now seem slim, given he faces up to two months out of action following the impending operation.

This year's French Open runs from May 22 until June 5.

"Hi everyone," the world number two tweeted on Saturday. "The last months I have been playing with a small hernia.

"Together with my team I have decided to have a small procedure done to fix the problem. I will likely be out for the next 1-2 months and will work hard to be back on court soon. Thanks for all the support."

Medvedev had been hoping to use the clay court swing to reclaim top spot in the ATP rankings.

He could have done so had he reached the semi-finals of the Miami Open last week, yet the 26-year-old lost 7-6 (9-7) 6-3 in the quarters to Hubert Hurkacz.

Medvedev appeared to be struggling in that tie and after the defeat he told reporters: "All the match I was not feeling my best. But, you know, sometimes it happens.

"I don't know the actual reason. Maybe the heat. But I was feeling super, like, dizzy, tired, and there was this long game where I couldn't serve anymore.

"Then in the locker room I was cramping quite much, so physically was not easy. But at the same time, that's part of the game."

Should Medvedev fail to return in time to make the season's second grand slam, the reigning US Open champion will hope to be fully firing by the time Wimbledon comes around in late June.

Serena and Venus Williams attended the Academy Awards on Sunday as Will Smith took home the Best Actor prize at this year's Oscar ceremony for playing their father in the biographical drama King Richard.

The Williams sisters, widely considered two of the sport's pre-eminent players with 30 grand slam singles titles between them, were executive producers on the film, which charts their meteoric rise.

King Richard was nominated for six Oscars in total, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress, for Aunjanue Ellis who plays the pair's mother Oracene Price.

It was not without controversy, however, after Smith – who takes on the role of the sisters' father Richard in the film – struck presenter Chris Rock for a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith, shortly before accepting his honour.

"This night has been surreal," 23-time major winner Serena wrote on Instagram following the ceremony. "To spend it sitting next to my sisters meant more than anything.

"I am so grateful to The Academy for making this an unforgettable night, and to Will Smith for bringing this story to the big screen and honouring my family. This will always be a night to remember."

Smith overshadowed his own victory though following his altercation with comedian Rock.

He apologised to the Academy during his subsequent acceptance speech, in which he was tearful, while praising Richard Williams as a "fierce defender of his family".

"I want to say thank you to Venus and Serena and the entire Williams family for entrusting me with your story," he stated. "I want to apologise to the Academy. I want to apologise to all my fellow nominees.

"This is a beautiful moment and I'm not crying for winning an award. It's not about winning an award for me. Thank you for this moment and thank you on behalf of Richard and Oracene and the entire Williams family."

You don't know what you've got until it's gone.

That is how tennis fans the world over will be feeling after women's world number one Ash Barty shockingly announced her retirement on Wednesday.

Barty noted that achieving a lifelong goal of winning Wimbledon last year and being "spent physically" were motivating factors behind her decision.

The 25-year-old bows out on top having lifted her home slam at the Australian Open back in January, and is a three-time singles major champion.

Following news of her retirement, Stats Perform has delved into some of Barty's best facts from a stellar career.

SECOND ONLY TO OSAKA IN SLAMS SINCE 2016

There have been 14 different singles grand slam champions in a stacked women's game since 2016.

In that time, Barty has women three major titles – the second most alongside Angelique Kerber. Indeed, the only player to have more in the women's game over that period is Naomi Osaka with four.

Barty retires on a 13-match winning streak (all on hard courts), a run that of course includes her triumph at the Australian Open.

It matches the best run of her career, with Barty proving 13 is not unlucky for all by racking up the same amount of wins on clay and grass between May and June 2019 – that stretch having seen her lift her first slam at the French Open.

KVITOVA A FAMILIAR FOE

Barty has mixed it with the best in the women's game but she has faced no player more than two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.

She has faced the Czech on 10 occasions, with the two sharing five wins apiece. Barty has also beaten Sofia Kenin, Karolina Pliskova, Shelby Rogers and Kiki Bertens on five occasions.

Caroline Wozniacki (3) and Mona Barthel (2) are the only players Barty has faced more than once but never beaten in women's tennis.

Conversely, Barty has defeated each of Marketa Vondrousova, Camila Giorgi, and Saisai Zheng four times from as many attempts, her most matches against any players against whom she has maintained a 100 per cent win rate.

STILL GOING STRONG

Never has the saying "always leave them wanting more" been truer than in the case of Barty.

She has averaged seven aces per match in women's tennis in 2022, the joint-most of any player alongside China's Qinwen Zheng and Hailey Baptiste of the United States.

Barty has made 77 aces in total in 2022, the joint-sixth most of any player but 30 fewer than WTA leader Madison Keys (107).

Moreover, she has won 94 per cent of service games, the highest rate of any player and eight percentage points higher than second-ranked Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan.

Barty won 71 per cent of her points when serving this calendar year, the highest rate of any player and four percentage points higher than second-most Rybakina.

Indeed, Barty did not lose a match in her shortened 2022 season, finishing 11-0 and winning 25 of her final 26 matches. 

114 WEEKS AND OUT

Barty is the second female player to step away from the game when ranked world number one, with Justin Henin having done so in 2008 after 61 consecutive weeks at the top.

Barty does so having racked up 114 straight weeks at the summit of the rankings, a run which represents the fourth longest in the history of the WTA Tour behind only Steffi Graf (186 weeks), Serena Williams (186) and Martina Navratilova (156).

Her accumulated total of 121 weeks represents the seventh highest of all time. Barty finishes her career with 15 singles titles in total and 12 in doubles, while she ends with a 305-102 win-loss singles record, and 200-64 in doubles.

Ash Barty stunned the sporting world on Wednesday by announcing her retirement from tennis, bowing out as the top-ranked player in the women's game.

The popular 25-year-old has not featured since winning her home grand slam at the Australian Open in January, becoming the first female Aussie singles champion of the tournament since Chris O'Neil in 1978.

Announcing the news on her Instagram page, Barty cited achieving a lifelong goal of winning Wimbledon last year as a primary factor behind her decision as well as being "spent physically".

But Barty is by no means the first sporting hero to retire at the top of their game. Below we take a look at some other examples of those who have exited as champions.

ALAIN PROST

The 1993 Formula One season was largely dominated by one man – Williams driver Alain Prost. The Frenchman had to battle hard with the iconic Ayrton Senna at the start of the campaign, with them each taking three wins from the first six races of the season. However, a run of four straight victories for Prost were followed by a string of retirements for Senna, ensuring a fourth world title that provided the ideal ending to a glittering career.

ALEX FERGUSON

One of the most successful managers in world football, Alex Ferguson began a 27-year stint at Manchester United after an excellent spell at Aberdeen. The Scot won 28 major trophies at Old Trafford, including 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups and two Champions Leagues. His final trophy came with top-flight glory in 2012-13, and 17 days later he brought the curtain down.

PEYTON MANNING

Considered one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Peyton Manning won his first Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts in 2007 and, after an injury-blighted season that raised doubts about his ability aged 39, he added a second with the Denver Broncos in 2016, bowing out on the ultimate high.

RICHIE MCCAW, DAN CARTER

New Zealand became the first nation to successfully defend the Rugby World Cup trophy by beating Australia 34-17 in the final at Twickenham in 2015, adding to their success on home soil four years prior. It proved the end of the line for captain Richie McCaw, who was at the time the most capped player in rugby union with 148 appearances for the All Blacks, as well as mercurial fly-half Dan Carter. Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Kevin Mealamu were also among an influential contingent that opted to end their international careers.

PETE SAMPRAS

In defeating Andre Agassi in the final of the 2002 US Open, the same opponent he overcame to win his first grand slam 12 years prior, Pete Sampras secured his place among the greats in men's tennis. It was a then-record 14th major singles title for a male player for the American, a milestone that has since been surpassed by Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, but he did not compete again and announced his retirement almost one year later.

PHILIPP LAHM, MIROSLAV KLOSE

At 31 you still have a number of years ahead of you in football. However, after lifting the World Cup trophy with Germany in 2014, Philipp Lahm decided to call time on his international career and focus on club football with Bayern Munich. The versatile full-back made 113 appearances for his country and was joined by fellow centurions Per Mertesacker and Miroslav Klose – whose tally of 71 international strikes is a German record – in switching focus to domestic matters.

MARION BARTOLI

A first grand slam at Wimbledon in 2013 appeared to be the breakthrough moment for a 28-year-old Marion Bartoli, but reality proved very different. The Frenchwoman defeated Sabine Lisicki – who had overcome pre-tournament favourites Serena Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska – in the All England Club final, but announced her retirement during the Western and Southern Open just 40 days later due to persistent injuries. She attempted a comeback in 2018 but continued setbacks and injuries curtailed those plans.

NICO ROSBERG

Nico Rosberg had engaged in several intense battles with Lewis Hamilton before finally getting the better of his Mercedes team-mate to become Formula One world champion in the 2016 season. Still only 31, Rosberg had potentially several more years in F1 but the German instead opted to depart having reached the pinnacle of his sport.

Rafael Nadal has been ruled out of action for up to six weeks with a cracked rib suffered during last week's Indian Wells Masters.

The Australian Open champion sustained the injury in his semi-final win against Carlos Alcaraz and visibly struggled to breath during his defeat to Taylor Fritz in the final.

Nadal told reporters that he was "all good" when returning to Spain on Tuesday, but it has now been revealed he has a stress fracture in the third left costal arch.

The timeframe for the Spaniard's recovery is between four and six weeks, which could have a major impact on his preparations for the 2022 French Open.

The second grand slam of the year is scheduled to begin at Roland-Garros on May 22 – around eight weeks' time.

Nadal had won each of his opening 20 matches this calendar year, a run that took him to his second title at Melbourne Park, prior to tasting a shock defeat against Fritz.

And the record 21-time major winner, who endured an injury-plagued 2021, is now facing a battle to be back at peak fitness in time for the French Open.

Providing an update on his personal Twitter page on Tuesday, Nadal posted: "As it turns out, I have a stress crack in one of my ribs and will be out for 4-6 weeks. 

"This is not good news and I did not expect this. I am sunk and sad because after the start of the season I have had such a good time.

"I reached a very important part of the year with very good feelings and good results. 

"But hey, I've always had that fighting and overcoming spirit and what I will do is be patient and work hard after my recovery. Once again thank everyone for the support."

Nadal has won the French Open a record 13 times, with his most recent success in Paris coming in 2020.

He was beaten by eventual champion Novak Djokovic in last year's semi-finals – only his third defeat in 108 matches in the event.

The Grand Slam Board has announced that first-to-10 tie-breaks will conclude the final sets of all four majors with immediate effect.

Starting with May's French Open, the decision is being adopted on a trial basis with the aim of providing "greater consistency" to the rules when matches go the distance.

Prior to Wednesday's announcement, the French Open, Australian Open, US Open and Wimbledon each had their own rules when games went to a deciding tie-break.

The Australian Open is the only grand slam to already employ the first-to-10 rule at 6-6.

Wimbledon previously played first-to-seven at 12-12, while the US Open played a first-to-seven at 6-6.

There has not previously been a deciding tie-break at Roland-Garros, with all matches continuing until a player secured a two-game lead in the decider.

A statement released on behalf of Grand Slam Board members Jayne Hrdlicka, Gilles Moretton, Ian Hewitt and Mike McNulty confirmed the changes.

It read: "The Grand Slam Board's decision is based on a strong desire to create greater consistency in the rules of the game at the Grand Slams, and thus enhance the experience for the players and fans alike.

"This trial, which has been approved by the rules of the tennis committee governed by the ITF, will apply to all Grand Slams across qualifying, men's singles and doubles, women's singles and doubles, wheelchair and junior events in singles, and will commence at the 2022 edition of Roland-Garros."

The rule change will be reviewed after a full Grand Slam year and will remain in place should it be deemed a success.

The tweaks to the current format will ensure no repeat of John Isner's marathon battle with Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010, which the American edged 70-68 in the final set of their first-round match.

Daniil Medvedev and fellow Russian tennis stars could be banned from playing at Wimbledon unless they denounce president Vladimir Putin.

That was confirmed by UK sports minister Nigel Huddleston on Tuesday, as he told a parliamentary committee there were concerns about Russian representation in sport.

With Russia's military invasion of Ukraine ongoing, Huddleston warned it would not be appropriate for anyone to be seen to be flying the flag for their homeland, or showing any support for Putin's regime.

Speaking at a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee session, Huddleston was asked about Wimbledon and Medvedev, the current men's world number one player and reigning US Open champion.

Huddleston said: "We are looking and talking to various sports about this and what the response and requirements should be there. Absolutely, nobody flying the flag for Russia should be allowed or enabled."

He added: "We need some potential assurance that they are not supporters of Vladimir Putin and we are considering what requirements we may need to get some assurances along those lines.

"In short, would I be comfortable with a Russian athlete flying the Russian flag? No."

Asked about the All England Club, which hosts Wimbledon, Huddleston said: "We are in discussions."

Russia has four players in the men's top 30, and three in the women's top 30.

They are playing under neutral flags at present, after the ATP and WTA tours decided Russian and Belarusian players should not be permitted to represent those nations while conflict continues in Ukraine.

Wimbledon runs from June 27 to July 10 this year, with a week of qualifying preceding the tournament.

Demanding each player from Russia directly comes out against president Putin would be going a step beyond what is currently required.

Huddleston said: "We are looking at this very issue about what we do with individuals, and we are thinking about the implications of it, because I don't think people would accept people very clearly flying the Russian flag, in particular if there is any support and recognition for Putin and his regime."

Speaking last week at Indian Wells, Medvedev spoke about being allowed to continue to play on the tour.

"It's definitely not for me to decide. I follow the rules. I cannot do anything else," he said. "Right now the rule is that we can under our neutral flag.

"I want to play my favourite sport. Until I have the chance to do it, I'm going to be there to try to play for the fans, play for other people, for myself also of course.

"Also I think tennis is a very individual sport, so far what we are seeing [being sanctioned] are more national teams or some team sports. Let's see how the situation evolves."

The ATP, WTA, International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the four grand slam organisers have announced the Tennis Plays for Peace campaign.

Along with the campaign, which will include efforts on social media and at tournaments, each of the seven organisations has pledged to donate $100,000 to humanitarian relief efforts in Ukraine.

Russia invaded the country on February 24 and the conflict is still ongoing. Well over one million refugees are estimated to have fled to neighbouring countries in Europe.

A joint statement from tennis' governing bodies on Tuesday explained that the campaign is not just about donations.

"The seven bodies will also signal support via their social and digital platforms by prominently featuring the Ukraine ribbon icon, with everyone in the tennis ecosystem encouraged to use the hashtag #TennisPlaysforPeace," it read.

"In addition, physical ribbons will be distributed for ATP and WTA players to wear at the upcoming BNP Paribas Open tournament in Indian Wells."

Last week, the ITF banned Russian and Belarusian teams from competing at the Davis Cup or the Billie Jean King Cup. Russia are the holders of each title.

The ATP and WTA, meanwhile, allowed Russian and Belarusian athletes to carry on competing, but only under neutral banners.

That includes ATP world number one Daniil Medvedev and WTA world number three Aryna Sabalenka.

Russian and Belarusian players, including ATP world number one Daniil Medvedev, will still be able to compete on the Tours and at grand slams, but the International Tennis Federation (ITF) has suspended the countries' teams.

Russia's Medvedev was only crowned world number one for the first time on Monday, though that success came amid the backdrop of an ongoing conflict between his nation and Ukraine.

To widespread international condemnation, Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday, with that conflict since escalating further. Belarus, meanwhile, was effectively used as a staging post for part of the invasion force, though Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko has insisted the nation's military did not and will not play any part in any operation.

Governments and organisations around the world, including governing bodies within sport, have responded with strict sanctions against Russia and certain individuals with links to president Vladimir Putin.

On Tuesday, the governing bodies of tennis (the ITF, ATP, WTA and the four grand slam events) announced sanctions of their own.

While Medvedev and other Russian and Belarusian players, including Andrey Rublev and WTA world number three Aryna Sabalenka, will be allowed to play in tournaments on both the men's and women's Tours, and the four grand slams, they will have to compete under neutral banners, with the flags of each country banned.

However, the WTA and ATP combined event in Moscow, scheduled to take place in October, has been suspended.

Meanwhile, Russia and Belarus have had their memberships of the ITF revoked, while all ITF tournaments set to be held in those countries have been suspended indefinitely.

Russia hold both the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup.

The immediate upshot of the decision is that Elina Svitolina, the Ukrainian who is top seed at the Monterrey Open, will play her first-round match against Anastasia Potapova on Monday.

Svitolina said earlier in the day that she would refuse to play against any Russian or Belarusian opponent unless all national emblems, flags and colours were removed.

However, prior to the joint announcement from tennis' governing bodies, Svitolina told ITV News: "There's been a lot of discussion.

"Today they will release a statement that they will remove the flags. So we are waiting just for the final confirmation about that. I will be playing tonight because my opponent is going to be under a neutral flag."

Svitolina has pledged to donate all of her prize money from upcoming tournaments to assist Ukraine's fight against Russia.

The statement from tennis' governing bodies read: "A deep sense of distress, shock and sadness has been felt across the entire tennis community following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in the past week.

"Our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine, and we commend the many tennis players who have spoken out and taken action against this unacceptable act of aggression. We echo their calls for the violence to end and peace to return.

"The safety of the tennis community is our most immediate collective priority. The focus of the WTA and ATP in particular in recent days has been on contacting current and former players, and other members of the tennis community from Ukraine and neighbouring countries, to check on their safety and offer any assistance."

Former world number one Andy Murray did not like how Novak Djokovic was treated in Australia but says the 20-time major winner must live with the consequences of his decisions.

Murray and Djokovic both progressed through the first round at the Dubai Tennis Championships on Monday.

The Serbian's 6-3 6-3 win over Lorenzo Musetti marked his first on the ATP Tour in 2022, coming in the wake of his deportation from Australia due to his vaccination status ahead of the first major of the calendar year.

It remains unclear if Djokovic will be permitted to compete at this year's other majors - the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open - given he remains unvaccinated.

"Like I said at the time, I don't agree with his decision. I think it would be a lot easier for him, obviously, if he was to get vaccinated," Murray told reporters after beating Australian Christopher O'Connell 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 7-5 in Dubai.

"But I also didn't like seeing him in the situation that he was in Australia as someone that I respect and have known since I was a child. I didn't like seeing that.

"There is consequences to the decisions he's made just now. He obviously has to accept that. But I don't think it's great for tennis if our best player is not competing in the major events."

Djokovic admitted after his win over Musetti that, as it stands, he cannot enter the United States to compete at next month's prestigious Indian Wells Masters, let alone the US Open.

The world number one added that he was hopeful the situation may change "in the next few weeks".

Rafael Nadal would "welcome" seeing Novak Djokovic play at future grand slam tournaments if he is granted permission to do so unvaccinated against COVID-19.

World number one Djokovic has courted controversy for his views on being jabbed and was last month deported from Australia on the eve of the Australian Open.

Djokovic has confirmed he is willing to miss future slams after stating he was prioritising his right to choose what to put into his body above his sporting ambitions.

In Djokovic's absence, Nadal became Australian Open champion and now has 21 titles – the most for a male player.

Nadal believes that any further omissions from Djokovic would only be harmful to the Serbian's chances of history not the slams themselves, but he would have no issue with his rival playing in the sport's biggest tournaments.

Speaking ahead of his return to the ATP Tour in Acapulco, Nadal said: "It will affect Novak's [grand slam] history if he can't play.

"It will affect him, not the grand slams themselves. Whoever wins the most slams – it will be what it will be. Everyone takes their own decisions and must live with them.

"In that sense, hopefully the pandemic subsides and we stop having so many deaths around the world and this horror ends, and we can return to normality – not for Novak but for the world in general.

"There are many people that have suffered, but if Novak can play the grand slams unvaccinated, then he is welcome."

 

Nadal defeated Daniil Medvedev in an epic Melbourne showpiece to become the first man to 21 slams, but he says the achievement has not changed his life.

"Absolutely nothing has changed having 21 slams, I won't lie to you," he added.

"From 20 to 21 there is not a very large difference. Life goes on exactly the same. The only thing that has changed is that now I play tennis, which a few months ago I couldn't.

"I am very happy for everything that happened in Australia, it was very unexpected, especially before the tournament started. In my life, nothing has changed. No title is going to change what is important in my life, which are other things.

"Already, at 35 years old, I have a lot of experiences behind me, of successes and bad moments and these sensations already help me to live in a more calm and different way."

Novak Djokovic says he will play at whatever tournament will have him as he gears up to make his return to the ATP Tour.

The men's world number one has not played a competitive match since early December and was last month deported from Australia on the eve of the Australian Open.

That decision was a result of Djokovic opting not to join the majority of his tennis peers in getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and amid controversy over how he handled getting the virus himself in December.

Speaking to the BBC in a recent interview, Djokovic stated he was prioritising his right to choose what to put into his body above his sporting ambitions and confirmed he is willing to miss further grand slams if necessary.

With COVID restrictions still in place in many countries, Djokovic acknowledges his options to play are limited.

"I just have to follow the rules. You know, whatever tournament that I'm able to play, I will be trying to get to that country and play the tournament," Djokovic said ahead of facing Lorenzo Musetti in round one of the Dubai Tennis Championships.

"Obviously, I'm not intending to play the full schedule and that wasn't also my intention, as you brought it up and my goal prior to this season or the season before, and I was trying to aim to play my best at the grand slams and some of the 1000 events we have, of course, and playing for my country, those were the biggest motivations that I had in terms of the scheduling. 

"Right now, the situation is obviously different for me. So, I really can't choose right now. It's really about where I can go and play. So, wherever I have an opportunity, I'll be using probably that opportunity and going to play because this is what I do, it's what I love to do still. 

"And I have support from my family and my team is still there with me and that's what's important for me because obviously it was not easy for anyone in my surroundings to go through these kinds of circumstances and situations that we have been through.

"But it's very exciting to have everyone together here with me. And in Dubai, we're back on the tour and then we'll play this tournament and we'll see how it goes further down the line."

Several stars backed the decision for Djokovic to be barred from playing in Melbourne, with most noting that he had not followed the rules in order to do so.

But the Serbian says he has been received warmly ahead of his return to the ATP Tour.

"I haven't seen too many players, but the players that I've seen have been positive and welcoming," he added.

"And it's nice to see obviously. I can't say that was the case in Australia. It was a little bit strange, but here it's well so far."

Novak Djokovic has said missing grand slams including the French Open and Wimbledon will be "the price I am willing to pay" for resisting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Last month, the world number one and 20-time grand slam winner was deported from Australia on the eve of the Australian Open after his entry visa to the country was cancelled.

That stemmed from Djokovic refusing to join the overwhelming majority of fellow tennis stars in being vaccinated against coronavirus, and amid controversy over how he handled getting the virus himself in December.

In a new interview with the BBC, Djokovic said he was prioritising his right to choose what to put into his body above his sporting ambitions.

The 34-year-old Serbian declared his stance is likely to keep him sidelined for "most of the tournaments" at present.

Djokovic is set to make his return to the court at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships later this month, with vaccination not a requirement. He has been included on the entry list for next month's Indian Wells Open, but that is a tournament he may have to sit out.

He confirmed in the BBC interview that he has still yet to be vaccinated, though did not entirely rule out the prospect in the future.

"I have not," he said. "I understand and support fully the freedom to choose whether you want to get vaccinated or not."

Prior to entering Australia, where he was obliged to confirm his status, it was only widely assumed that Djokovic had not been inoculated.

Now he is keen to "speak up ... and justify certain things", adding: "So I was never against vaccination. I understand that globally everyone is trying to put a big effort into handling this virus and seeing hopefully an end soon to this virus.

"And vaccinations are probably the biggest effort that was made on behalf of the planet. I fully respect that, but I've always represented and always supported the freedom to choose what you put into your body. For me that is essential. It's really the principle of understanding what is right and what is wrong for you.

"And me, as an elite professional athlete, I've always carefully reviewed and assessed everything that comes in, from the supplements, food, the water that I drink or sports drinks. Anything really that comes into my body as a fuel.

"Based on all the information that I got, I decided not to take the vaccine as of today. I keep my mind open because we are all trying to find collectively a best possible solution to end COVID. Nobody really wants to be in this kind of situation that we've been in collectively for two years."

Djokovic is the reigning French Open and Wimbledon champion and, after Rafael Nadal's Australian Open triumph, he has been bumped down to joint second on the all-time men's grand slam list. Missing majors at this stage of his career could be a crushing blow to Djokovic's hopes of finishing top of that pile.

"I'm part of a very global sport that is played every single week in a different location, so I understand the consequences of my decision, and one of the consequences of my decision was not going to Australia, and I was prepared not to go," Djokovic said.

"I understand that not being vaccinated today I am unable to travel to most of the tournaments at the moment. That is the price I am willing to pay."

He looked to disassociate himself from the anti-vax community by saying he had "never said I am part of that movement" and declaring that was a "wrong conclusion" to draw.

At the same time, Djokovic concurred when asked if he was willing to sacrifice the chance to be seen as the greatest player of all time, and to travel to Roland Garros and the All England Club this year.

"Because the principles of decision-making on my body are more important than any title or anything else. I'm trying to be in tune with my body as much as I possibly can," Djokovic said.

"I say that everyone has a right to choose to act or say whatever they feel is appropriate for them."

Roger Federer still has the drive to return to the ATP Tour but is yet to run and is still months away in his recovery from a third knee operation.

The 40-year-old 20-time grand slam winner missed last month's Australian Open after a knee operation in August.

Federer has not played since a quarter-final loss to Hubert Hurkacz at Wimbledon last year and previously said he would be "incredibly surprised" if he was fit to play at the event in 2022.

"It's a very important next few months ahead of me," Federer said at a sponsor's event on Wednesday. "I'll know a whole lot more in April what my body is going to be like.

"Up until now I was not able to run yet and do the heavy workload. I hope that starts in the next couple of weeks and then we'll see how my body reacts.

"For now, the drive is there. I'm really motivated to do my work and what I'm allowed to do. I'd love to do way more, but the doctors are holding me back a bit."

The eight-time Wimbledon champion elaborated on his recovery, revealing he hopes to put weight on his knee again in the coming weeks.

"I can still not run. But I'm working daily in the gym," Federer said. "I really hope that I can put weight on my knee again in two to three weeks. Then we'll see how the body reacts so we can hit the ball again in April or May."

He added: "Of course I wish that everything could go quicker. But the doctors don't want me to overdo everything."

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