Rafael Nadal is halfway to a calendar Grand Slam, a feat that would mark the crowning point of any player's career.

Yet the Spanish great does not have to look far back into history to see how quickly that dream can be scuppered, with Novak Djokovic having fallen agonisingly short of a sweep of all four majors only last year.

As perhaps the most grounded player in tennis, Nadal heads into Wimbledon well aware that winning the first two majors of the year is no guarantee of any future success.

At the age of 36, and with a foot problem that requires careful maintenance, it would be arguably the most remarkable feat in the Open Era if Nadal were to add the Wimbledon and US Open titles to his Australian Open and French Open triumphs.

Such dominance is scarce in tennis, and Rod Laver was the last player to scoop all four men's singles titles at the majors, all the way back in 1969.

Steffi Graf won all four on the women's side in 1988, and it seemed a knock-in that Serena Williams would do likewise in 2015 when she headed to the US Open with three majors already bagged.

But Williams famously came unstuck when she faced Roberta Vinci in the semi-finals, while Djokovic went even closer in 2021, losing to Daniil Medvedev in the final at Flushing Meadows.

Here, Stats Perform examines the daunting challenge of scooping all four slams consecutively.


WHAT THE GREAT CHAMPIONS SAY

Before tennis reached its Open Era, which marked the dawning of professionalism on the tour, Laver won his first calendar Grand Slam in 1962.

He said later, quoted by the Tennis Hall of Fame: "It was a thrill to come off the court knowing I had won all four majors in one year. But I never felt like I was the best, never felt that way. I just happened to have a good year."

His 1969 dominance came a year after Laver returned to the majors, following a five-year exile while he played professional tennis elsewhere. When the majors allowed professionals to compete alongside the amateurs, 'Rocket Rod' was again unstoppable.

Laver turned 31 in 1969 and did not win any further grand slam singles titles in his career after that astonishing season, but that second perfect season sealed his legacy as an all-time great.

Stefan Edberg won a boys' singles clean sweep in 1983, but Laver remains the only player to win the men's singles full set in a calendar year since American Don Budge captured all four in the 1938 season, the first time it was achieved by a man. Maureen Connolly and Margaret Court achieved calendar Grand Slams in women's singles in 1953 and 1970 respectively.

A non-calendar Grand Slam was accomplished by Djokovic, when he won Wimbledon, the US Open, Australian Open and French Open consecutively across the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Yet no man other than Laver, Budge and Djokovic has won all four singles crowns in succession.

It has been 11 years since Nadal himself went close. He went to the Australian Open in 2011 with the Roland Garros, Wimbledon and US Open trophies in the bag, looking to complete the set.

"I am sure it's going to be the only one opportunity that I'm going to have in my life," said Nadal that year. "I'm not going to have more of these opportunities to win all four in a row.

"I think it is almost impossible. It is very, very difficult, no? Tennis is a very competitive sport and there is not a lot of difference between players. So a lot of matches are decided in a few balls. So for that reason it is very difficult to have one player winning everything. That's the truth."

Nadal, hampered by injury, lost in the Melbourne quarter-finals to David Ferrer in 2011 and had not won back-to-back slams since, until this year's surprise double. 


REACHING PRESSURE POINT

It is too soon to think that Nadal has a glorious chance to land all four big ones this year. After all, although he has won Wimbledon twice before, those triumphs came in 2008 and 2010, and he has a chronic foot problem. He has required radiofrequency ablation treatment in the past fortnight, preventing nerves in his foot sending messages to his brain.

He fell to Djokovic in the 2011 Wimbledon final and has not been back to the title match since, suffering a run of disappointing early exits in London before reaching semi-finals in 2018 and 2019, his last visits to the tournament.

Djokovic is a heavy favourite for this year's title, but it would be bold to entirely rule out Nadal, particularly given that as the second seed he cannot run into Djokovic until the final. Particularly given that he is Rafael Nadal, and prone to doing stupendous things.

Serbian Djokovic, a year Nadal's junior, would be able to tell his great rival just how intense the strain can become when a calendar Grand Slam becomes a serious prospect.

Speaking in November last year, two months after Medvedev denied him in New York, Djokovic said: "I'm very relieved that the grand slam season was done, because I felt a tremendous pressure unlike anything I felt in my life.

"It was an interesting experience, and I'm very satisfied with the way I played in grand slams, three wins and a final. There are much more positive things to be grateful for and to look at than negative."

Like Djokovic, Serena Williams has managed the non-calendar Grand Slam before, with the American first achieving that from the French Open in 2002 to the Australian Open in 2003, and in 2015 she was aiming for five slams in a row when she arrived at the US Open, having begun her dominant streak at her home grand slam the previous year.

That would have meant Williams sealed each of the 2015 slams, and losing to Vinci led to stark frustration, underlined by a terse response to the question of how disappointed she felt by the result.

"I don't want to talk about how disappointing it is for me," Williams said. "If you have any other questions, I'm open for that."

Sometimes, players get ahead of themselves when looking at the season ahead, and Naomi Osaka had a calendar Grand Slam in her thoughts after winning the season-opening Australian Open in 2019.

She had also triumphed at the US Open at the end of 2018, and the Japanese star was beginning to think she might enjoy an invincible year at the majors, only to stumble to a third-round French Open defeat to Katerina Siniakova.

Osaka said: "I think I was overthinking this calendar slam. For me this is something that I have wanted to do forever, but I have to think about it like if it was that easy, everyone would have done it."

Nick Kyrgios has become the first star to sign up to Naomi Osaka's sports agency. 

Australian Kyrgios was described by four-time grand slam winner Osaka as possessing an "unmatched style", while her business partner Stuart Duguid said the controversial ATP Tour player was "absolutely the icon" for young tennis fans. 

Osaka and Duguid, her long-time agent, announced the Evolve agency in May as both left IMG. 

Kyrgios, the extravagantly gifted world number 45, has won six career titles on the ATP Tour and has a world ranking high of number 13, with many considering him an unfulfilled talent. 

The 27-year-old won the Australian Open doubles title alongside countryman Thanasi Kokkinakis in January, and in singles he has reached consecutive semi-finals in his past three tournaments in Houston, Stuttgart and Halle. 

Osaka told Boardroom.TV that Kyrgios "embodies the types of athletes we want to work with". 

"He's got an unmatched style, passion and personality that is unlike any other in the sport," Osaka added. 

Duguid said: "Nick is the most talented and entertaining tennis player on the tour, bar none. His energy is infectious. And love or hate him, you definitely can't keep your eyes off him. For Gen Z and younger, he is absolutely the icon." 

While Kyrgios is planning to play at Wimbledon next week, Osaka will be absent, with the former world number one troubled by an Achilles injury. 

Naomi Osaka pulled out of Wimbledon on Saturday as tournament officials said the former world number one was suffering with a leg injury.

The announcement came in the wake of Osaka revealing she was considering skipping the grand slam in any case, as she suspected it may feel "like an exhibition".

The All England Club's decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from competing has resulted in the WTA and ATP stripping Wimbledon of all ranking points.

Osaka, who is a four-time grand slam champion, suggested after her first-round exit at the French Open that she was unsure about whether to commit to the grass-court major.

Confirmation of her absence from the event, which starts on June 27, came from Wimbledon as her name was added to a list of withdrawals.

The Japanese 24-year-old has only played Wimbledon's main draw three times in her career, twice reaching the third round. She has yet to go further but has won the Australian Open twice and the US Open on two occasions. Recently she complained of a "stubborn" Achilles problem.

Osaka was joined on the withdrawal list by Eugenie Bouchard, the 28-year-old Canadian who was runner-up to Petra Kvitova at the 2014 Wimbledon championships.

Wimbledon listed Bouchard as absent due to a shoulder problem; however, that told only part of the story.

She is battling her way back up the rankings after injury and disappointing results and said she could not risk using a special entry dispensation on a tournament that will carry no points.

Bouchard wrote on Instagram: "I have decided to withdraw from Wimbledon due to the WTA's decision to not award ranking points at this year's championships.

"Due to my shoulder surgery, I get a limited number of protected ranking [PR] entries. As much as I love Wimbledon and skipping it makes me sad, using a PR entry at a tournament with no ranking points doesn't make sense. I must choose wisely and use my PR at tournaments that will help me get back to where I want to be."

She said she would use her protected ranking grand slam entries for the next US Open and Australian Open.

Coco Gauff cited LeBron James, Serena Williams, Colin Kaepernick and Naomi Osaka as her inspirations after the tennis star wrote "Peace, end gun violence" on a camera at the French Open.

The 18-year-old overcame Martina Trevisan in the semi-final at Roland Garros with ease, recording a 6-3 6-1 victory to book her maiden single's grand slam final appearance.

That made the world number 23 the youngest American female finalist in Paris since Monica Seles in 1991 and the youngest overall since Kim Clijsters in 2001.

Gauff has not dropped a set en route to the final, where she faces the in-form Iga Swiatek on Saturday, but much of her post-match focus was on the ongoings back in the United States.

The USA is still reeling from a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas just over a week ago in which 19 children and two teachers were killed.

In the wake of the tragedy, multiple high-profile sportspeople, including Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, have called for changes to gun laws in the USA, and Gauff joined that list on Thursday.

"It's important, just as a person in the world, regardless of tennis player or not," the teenage tennis star said. "I think for me it was just especially important just being in Europe and being where I know people globally around the world are for sure watching.

"I think that this is a problem in other parts of the world, but especially in America it's a problem that's, frankly, been happening over some years but obviously now it's getting more attention.

"But it's been an issue for years. For me, it's kind of close to home. I had some friends that were a part of the Parkland shooting [in 2018].

"I remember watching that whole experience like pretty much firsthand, seeing and having friends go through that whole experience. Luckily they were able to make it out of it. I just think it's crazy, I think I was maybe 14 or 13 when that happened, and still nothing has changed.

"I think that was just a message for the people back at home to watch and for people who are all around the world to watch. I know that it's probably not [going to] – hopefully it gets into the heads of people in office to change things."

Gauff suggested her post-match scribble on the television camera was not pre-meditated and instead came after seeing reports of four people being shot by a gunman in an Oklahoma hospital on Wednesday.

"I really didn't know what I was going to write even moments walking to the camera, and it just felt right in that moment and to write that," she added. "I woke up this morning and I saw there was another shooting, and I think it's just crazy.

"I know that it's getting more attention now. I definitely think there needs to be some reform put into place. I think now especially being 18 I've really been trying to educate myself around certain situations, because now I have the right to vote and I want to use that wisely."

Gauff joins a long list of athletes that are proactively using their platform and audiences to speak on matters they feel passionately about.

As for her inspirations, Gauff listed the likes of NBA star James, fellow tennis players Williams and Osaka, and NFL's Kaepernick, who popularised taking the knee to stand against police brutality and racism.

"I would say LeBron James, Serena, Billie Jean, Colin, the list goes on, Naomi, it goes on really about those issues," Gauff continued. "I think now athletes are more fine with speaking out about stuff like this.

"I feel like a lot of times we're put in a box that people always say, 'Oh, sports and politics should stay separate' and all this. And I say yes, but also at the same time I'm a human first before I'm a tennis player.

"If I'm interested in this, I wouldn't even consider gun violence politics; I think that's just life in general. I don't think that's political at all.

"So of course I'm going to care about these issues and speak out about these issues. When people make those comments, I'm not going to be an athlete forever.

"There is going to be a time when I retire and all this, and I'm still going to be a human. So of course I care about these topics. Sport gives you the platform to maybe make that message reach more people."

Naomi Osaka was left "petrified" after reports of an active shooter being present at the fight between Gervonta Davis and Rolando Romero in New York.

Tennis star Osaka was at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where Davis retained his WBA lightweight title with a sixth-round stoppage of fellow American Romero.

However, reports of an active shooter inside the venue sparked panic. Though this speculation later proved unfounded, ESPN reported that a security supervisor for the venue had said there was a person with a gun in the concourse. 

Osaka detailed her experiences of being in the arena at the time, revealing she had to take cover in a closed-off room.

"I was just in the Barclays Center and suddenly I heard shouting and saw people running, then we were being yelled at that there was an active shooter and we had to huddle in a room and close the doors, I was so f****** petrified man," the former world number one posted on Twitter.

Osaka followed her initial post up 11 minutes later confirming she had exited the Barclays Center.

"I really hope everyone made it out safely, since I'm tweeting this we made it out ok," she added.

The United States is still reeling from a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas earlier this week in which 19 children and two teachers were killed.

In the wake of the tragedy, multiple high-profile sportspeople, including Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, have called for changes to gun laws in the US.

Andy Murray has hit out at the suggestion that Wimbledon will not feel as important without ranking points.

The All England Club's decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from competing at the grand slam has resulted in the WTA and ATP stripping Wimbledon of any ranking points, which has led to the suggestion some players may skip the tournament.

Naomi Osaka, the former WTA world number one and a three-time grand slam champion, suggested after her first-round exit at Roland Garros that she was considering missing Wimbledon as she feels the tournament may feel "like an exhibition".

Other high-profile players, such as Denis Shapovalov, are also considering whether they take part, though Russian Andrey Rublev, who is one of the players who has been banned due to his nation's invasion of Ukraine, believes the likes of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, who have no concern over ranking points but are instead going for history, will feature.

Former world number one Murray, who won Wimbledon in 2013 and 2016, has insisted that the grand slam will forever be a crucial part of the tennis calendar, however, comparing it to the FIFA World Cup and one of golf's majors – The Masters.

Murray tweeted: "I follow golf very closely and have no idea how many ranking points the winner of The Masters gets.

"Me and my friends love football and none of us know or care how many ranking points a team gets for winning the FIFA World Cup.

"But I could tell you exactly who won the World Cup and the Masters. I'd hazard a guess that most people watching on centre court at Wimbledon in a few weeks' time wouldn't know or care about how many ranking points a player gets for winning a third-round match.

"But I guarantee they will remember who wins. Wimbledon will never be an exhibition and will never feel like an exhibition. The end."

Iga Swiatek insists there is no way she will snub Wimbledon due to the lack of rankings points on offer at the grass-court grand slam.

The WTA and ATP last week announced that they had stripped Wimbledon of ranking points after the All England Club decided to ban Russian and Belarusian players from competing.

Wimbledon organisers took that stance in the wake of Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine, which was aided by Belarus.

Naomi Osaka gave a strong suggestion after crashing out of the French Open in the first round on Monday that she may not compete at SW19.

World number one Swiatek will not be opting out of playing in the major in London, which starts on June 27.

Pole Swiatek said after thrashing Lesia Tsurenko at Roland Garros: "I have never really had a situation to play without points, and I don't really know how I'm going to react. 

"But I think that when I'm going to step out on court it's going to be normal for me, because I don't mind points. I already have so many points this season that it's really going to be fine for me. I'm okay with playing without points; I'm okay playing with points. 

"But for me it's more the political side of things, because Poland is supporting Ukrainians, and the war is right next to my country, so it's harder on me from that perspective. 

"I don't really mind about points. For me it's Wimbledon, for sure. It's one of the most important tournaments in the season, but there is war going on. I look at it more from that way than what's going to happen on rankings."

Swiatek was reminded that she had played in the Olympics without points at stake and says she would never view Wimbledon as being "like an exhibition", as Osaka earlier stated in Paris.

She added: "Truth be told, I didn't really think how I'm going to feel going to Wimbledon. The decision has been made few days ago, so I was really focused on Roland Garros. 

"But honestly, I think I'm going to be really motivated anyway, because I'm that kind of person who just likes competition. And if I'm going to step out on court, I will want to win.

"I forgot about the Olympics, but you play for medals, so still it's really important. In Wimbledon, you still have that result that is going to be on Wikipedia next to your name.

"I will enjoy the learning experience on the grass, because I still feel like there is a lot of potential I can reach, and I haven't been able to do that in previous years. 

"It's all going to be learning as well. I want to use the time on grass."

Naomi Osaka has become the first high-profile player to suggest they might miss Wimbledon after the grand slam was stripped of ranking points.

The WTA and ATP announced last week that they had stripped Wimbledon of ranking points after the All England Club decided to ban Russian and Belarusian players from competing at the season's third major.

That decision came in the wake of Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine, which was aided by Belarus.

Osaka made her return to the French Open on Monday - the former world number one withdrew from last year's tournament at Roland Garros citing mental health issues amid intense media scrutiny and having been fined for skipping press duties.

However, her return was short-lived as she suffered a 7-5 6-4 defeat to Amanda Anisimova in her first-round match.

Three-time grand slam champion Osaka, now ranked at 38 in the world, has ambitions to return to the top of the WTA rankings - and also said her dream match would be at Wimbledon. 

But, with other events around Wimbledon offering ranking points, Osaka is considering skipping the tournament.

"I'm not sure why, but I feel like if I play Wimbledon without points, it's more like an exhibition," she told a news conference.

"I know this isn't true, right? But my brain just like feels that way. Whenever I think something is like an exhibition, I just can't go at it 100 per cent.

"I didn't even make my decision yet, but I'm leaning more towards not playing given the current circumstances, but, you know, that might change.

"I do want to rack up more experience on the grass, and I know that the Berlin tournament is giving out points, so that would be a really good opportunity for me.

"Yeah, I think if I don't end up playing on grass this year, I really want to go hard on the hard-court swing, which is my favourite.

"I'm going to have to have some meetings about it."

One-time Australian Open semi-finalist Lucas Pouille became the first player to confirm he would boycott Wimbledon after the points penalty was announced.

Reflecting on her defeat at Roland Garros, Osaka said an ongoing Achilles issue had hindered her performance, though she is happy with how she played compared to the last time she faced Anisimova, in this year's Australian Open.

"I took a painkiller before my match, so I don't know. I still kind of felt it a little, which I'm going to see what happens when it wears off," Osaka said of her injury. 

"I kind of prepared myself to feel it, so that wasn't really the wearing part. It was just annoying to me because the last time I played her our serves were really important. And coming into this tournament I didn't serve a lot, because we wanted to wait until the last minute to protect my Achilles.

"So it is a bit disappointing, but I'm happy with how my attitude was, because the last match that we played in Australia I think I was getting a bit more upset with myself, so I think I progressed in that part."

Naomi Osaka's return to the French Open ended in a round-one defeat as Amanda Anisimova had her opponent's number in a grand slam for the second time in 2022.

A year ago, Osaka withdrew from Roland Garros after a first-round win over Patricia Maria Tig, citing mental health issues amid intense media scrutiny and having been fined for skipping press duties.

Speaking prior to her opening-round match on this occasion, Osaka opened up about fearing a negative reaction from the Paris crowd.

While the fans in attendance greeted her with warmth, Osaka fell 7-5 6-4 to Anisimova in a tough battle on Court Suzanne Lenglen, having also lost to her in round three of the Australian Open back in January.

Having initially looked sluggish and dropped each of her opening two service games, Osaka found some rhythm and Anisimova had to serve to stay in the set.

She did just that, though, and in a monster 11th game Osaka double faulted to cede the advantage, with Anisimova serving out to love.

Another double-fault gift at 3-3 in the second gave Anisimova the break, and she recovered from 0-40 down in the next game to consolidate.

Anisimova's quality was not quite at the same level in the second as the first, but she still served out the match at the first available opportunity to dump out the four-time grand slam champion.

DATA SLAM: Gifts aplenty

Osaka's record on the clay is not particularly great. Heading into this one her record read 21-17, and she complained of an Achilles issue in a recent early exit in Madrid. Here, there were glimpses of her excellent move and racquet striking but eight double faults is far too high against an opponent the calibre of Anisimova. Both players gave up 29 unforced errors, but Anisimova fared way better in the winners tally (27-13).

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Osaka – 13/29
Anisimova – 27/29

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Osaka – 4/8
Anisimova – 5/2

BREAK POINTS WON
Osaka – 2/5
Anisimova – 4/10

Naomi Osaka is preparing for a difficult return to the French Open, a year on from citing mental health issues when she withdrew from the tournament.

Former world number one Osaka has won four grand slam titles but never been past the third round at Roland Garros.

She entered the 2021 French Open having taken the Australian Open title at the start of the year, only for her campaign in Paris to blow up in a way she was desperate to avoid after she announced she would not be fulfilling her media duties.

Having been fined, Osaka ultimately quit the tournament after winning in the first round, describing her "huge waves of anxiety" when speaking to reporters.

She had been warned by grand slam chiefs that she could be thrown out of the event if she continued to refuse to take part in media duties.

The Japanese superstar took a significant step on Friday then when she appeared in a pre-tournament news conference.

Yet that has not been Osaka's only concern, as she is also conscious of the possibility of a repeat of events at Indian Wells earlier this year, where a heckler reduced her to tears.

"I'm not gonna lie," Osaka said, "when I first came here, I was very worried.

"Of course, I also didn't like how I handled the situation, but I was worried that there were people that I offended some way and I would bump into them.

"But I think everyone has been really positive, for the most part. I'm not really so sure.

"I was also very worried about this press conference, because I knew I'd get a lot of questions about this. But I think, for me, where I am right now, I wouldn't want to say it hasn't left my mind.

"Of course, I'm still thinking about it, and I'm kind of also prepping just in case I go on the court and a fan says something like in Indian Wells. For the most part, I think I'm okay."

Osaka was then asked how she had found the news conference and explained she was still figuring out how to talk to reporters again.

"I feel like I was funnier back then," she replied with a smile. "Like I used to be able to say jokes and not really care if anyone got it. I could re-explain the joke, and whatever.

"I feel like the thing that's changed, me trying to figure out the crowd. I feel like I'm a stand-up comedian, and I'm trying to figure out what's okay and what's not okay.

"I think maybe that's changed for me. I'm kind of analysing what I can say and what I can't say. But for the most part, I try to be myself and whatever."

Attention turned to tennis, and Osaka's first-round match is against Amanda Anisimova, who beat her in her previous grand slam match in Melbourne.

"So, my reaction was I thought that Wim [Fissette, her coach] was joking," Osaka said.

But she added: "I wouldn't say I don't want to play her, because I feel like, for me, I'm the type of person that if you beat me, it motivates me more to win, and I also learned a lot from the match."

Indeed, Anisimova was not the opponent the unseeded Osaka feared most, with 2020 champion and current number one Iga Swiatek having won her past five tournaments.

"I had a dream a couple of days ago that the draw came out, and I had to play Iga," Osaka said.

"For me, I was scared, because I was thinking: what's the worst possible player to play when I'm unseeded? She came in my mind, so thank God that didn't happen."

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz are all on the same half of the draw at the French Open, while women's world number one Iga Swiatek will face a qualifier in the first round at Roland Garros.

Djokovic, who will make his Grand Slam return having missed the Australian Open, opens in Paris against Yoshihito Nishioka, while record 21-time grand slam winner Nadal meets Australia's Jordan Thompson.

The veteran pair of Djokovic and Nadal could challenge each other in the quarter-finals in the top half of the draw, where Alcaraz could come across world number three Alexander Zverev.

Alcaraz faces a qualifier in the first round and has won 16 of his last 17 matches, with the one blemish on his remarkable run coming against Sebastian Korda, who the Spaniard could meet in the third round.

Daniil Medvedev will have to get past Argentine Facundo Bagnis in the first round, while Lorenzo Musetti stands in the way of last year's runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Medvedev and Tsitsipas are joined in the wide-open bottom half of the draw by Casper Ruud and Andrey Rublev, who meet home favourite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and South Korea's Soonwoo Kwon respectively.

In the women's draw, 2020 champion Swiatek comes in as favourite and will look to continue her 28-match winning streak when she faces a qualifier in the first round, as does US Open winner Emma Raducanu.

The Brit will then take on Aliaksandra Sasnovich or Wang Xinyu before a potential last-16 meeting with Ons Jabeur, who first has to get past Poland's Magda Linette.

Meanwhile, Karolina Pliskova – who has a first-round clash with France's Tessah Andrianjafitrimo – could set up a quarter-final meeting with Swiatek, but the Pole may have to get past Simona Halep in the fourth round first.

Defending champion Barbora Krejcikova starts against Diane Parry, while Naomi Osaka was drawn against the in-form Amanda Anisimova, who beat the Japanese in the third round of the Australian Open.

Naomi Osaka has told Kyrie Irving there is "always room" after the NBA star asked if "hoopers" were welcome in her new agency.

The four-time grand slam winner – who withdrew from the Internazionali d'Italia this week due to an Achilles injury she suffered at the Madrid Open – announced on Wednesday she was leaving IMG to start her own agency, Evolve, with long-time agent Stuart Duguid.

Duguid told Reuters the venture will be a "small boutique and bespoke agency" that will only welcome athletes "who transcend their sports; or those with the potential to do so".

Irving is one of the leading players in the NBA, and the Brooklyn Nets star hinted at his interest on Twitter, messaging Osaka on Wednesday to ask: "yall got room over at your agency for hoopers. Just inquiring" with an emoji of two champagne flutes clinking together.

Osaka replied on Thursday simply saying: "always room" with the same champagne emoji as well as one of a basketball.

The 24-year-old said on Wednesday that the move was to make the "next step" in her journey "as an athlete and a businesswoman", telling Sportico: "I've spent my career doing things my way, even when people told me that it wasn't what was expected or traditional.

"Evolve is the natural next step in my journey as both an athlete and businesswoman, as well as a way to continue being myself and doing things my way."

Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from the Internazionali d'Italia due to an Achilles injury she suffered at the Madrid Open.

The four-time grand slam winner was beaten 6-3 6-1 in the second round in Madrid by Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo last week, who she was due to face again in Rome.

Osaka looked uncomfortable throughout in the Spanish capital and appeared to struggle with the injury during a disappointing second-set display.

Her place in the first round will be taken by lucky loser Nuria Parrizas Diaz, who will now face Sorribes Tormo.

"Unfortunately I’m going to have to withdraw from Rome as the injury which I picked up last week in Madrid hasn't healed yet," Osaka said in a statement on the WTA's website. "It's an Achilles injury so I need to be careful especially in advance of Roland Garros.

"I love this city and always enjoy playing in front of the Italian fans so I will be sorry to miss them – but look forward to coming back next year."

The WTA confirmed on Monday that Clara Tauson of Denmark has also withdrawn from the tournament with a back injury, and will be replaced by Madison Brengle as a lucky loser.

Naomi Osaka joined several other big names in falling to a second-round exit at the Madrid Open, although Emma Raducanu cruised to a routine straight-sets win over Marta Kostyuk.

Four-time grand slam winner Osaka crashed to a resounding 6-3 6-1 loss to Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo, exiting her first tournament on clay since the 2021 French Open, where she withdrew citing mental health issues.

Osaka, who had posted an underwhelming 20-15 record on the surface prior to this week, looked uncomfortable throughout and appeared to struggle with a leg injury during a disappointing second set display.

The 24-year-old was not the only high profile player to be on the receiving end of a shock during a day of drama in the Spanish capital, as several of the competition's seeds failed to secure places in the last 16.

Another home favourite, Garbine Muguruza, fell to a resounding loss of her own as Anhelina Kalinina raced to a 6-3 6-0 victory over the seventh seed, while sixth seed Danielle Collins was thrashed 6-1 6-1 by Canadian Bianca Andreescu.

Fourth seed Maria Sakkari was the highest-ranked player in action, and although the world number five won the first set of her clash with Daria Kasatkina, the Greek eventually fell to a 3-6 6-3 6-1 loss, while 2021 US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez went down 6-4 6-4 to Jil Teichmann.

One big name who did make comfortable progress, however, was Fernandez's US Open conqueror Raducanu, who eased to a 6-2 6-1 win over Kostyuk to set up a last-16 encounter with another Ukrainian in Kalinina. 

The 19-year-old, who has been quoted as saying she believes clay could prove to be her best surface in the future, was delighted with her victory and enjoying the tournament after dropping just one game in the second set.

"I'm definitely happy with my performance," Raducanu said on court. "Marta's a great opponent - I knew it was going to be a really tough battle. I went out there trying to be really aggressive and it paid off.

"It's my first clay court season and I'm really enjoying it. Madrid is such a cool city and it's got such a great vibe about it. I definitely want to try and stay here for as long as possible."

Naomi Osaka was encouraged by her 2022 clay-court debut, winning her opening match at the Madrid Open against Anastasia Potapova.

The former world number one has not played on the red dirt since the 2021 French Open, where she withdrew citing mental health issues.

Heading into this week in Madrid, Osaka had an underwhelming 20-15 record on clay, with each of her grand slam successes coming on hard courts.

But the 24-year-old has spoken of adjusting her approach and learning from clay king Rafael Nadal – and the early signs were positive.

She needed just over an hour to defeat Potapova 6-3 6-1 on Friday and said: "I'm honestly trying to be more positive with myself.

"This year I came a week early to train on red clay, so I'm just trying to give myself more chances to do better.

Osaka added: "To be able to do it in two sets, for me, it's a really good starting block. 

"I think today for me it was really fun, just being able to be back on the clay and not taking those moments for granted."

Fellow hard-court major champions Emma Raducanu and Bianca Andreescu also won their openers, although the latter required three sets to eventually coast past Alison Riske 6-4 3-6 6-0.

Raducanu will play another 19-year-old in the second round, with the US Open champion paired with Marta Kostyuk after getting over a slightly slow start to thrash Tereza Martincova 7-6 (7-3) 6-0.

Fourth seed Maria Sakkari overcame a scare, meanwhile, ending her losing run at three matches by coming from behind to defeat Madison Keys in three sets.

"Overall, it was a very positive match to get myself back in the winning feeling," the Greek said.

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