Iga Swiatek plans to "celebrate with a lot of Tiramisu" after becoming the first player since Serena Williams in 2013 to win five successive WTA Tour events with victory at the Internazionali d'Italia.

The world number one faced Ons Jabeur – who had been on an 11-match winning run – in Sunday's final in Rome and simply had too much for the Tunisian.

Swiatek won 6-2 6-2, with the 20-year-old Pole getting an early break to establish a 3-0 lead that put her in control of the first set.

As it happened, last week's Madrid Open champion Jabeur never managed to wrest control back from her opponent – her only break of the match came while 4-1 down in the second, with Swiatek digging deep to save four break points in her next service game.

Swiatek then saw things out to defend her Rome title and add to her impressive recent streak.

Additionally, Swiatek has emerged victorious from every WTA 1000 event she has entered this season, having previously won in Doha, Indian Wells and Miami.

But she was quick to salute Jabeur's efforts after another commendable showing.

Swiatek said: "I want to congratulate Ons because she had such a good run on the clay court.

"You have shown fight, spirit, so much variety that it's really nice to have you on tour. Your tennis is different and your tennis is really interesting for women's tennis I think."

As for her own performances, Swiatek added: "It wasn't easy for the whole week to play every day, but the crowd gave me so much energy.

"It was so nice to play here, be in Rome, and I agree with Ons in terms of good pasta! And today I'll celebrate with a lot of Tiramisu – no regrets!"

Swiatek now heads to Roland Garros – the scene of her first and only previous grand slam success in 2020 – as the firm favourite.

Iga Swiatek believes a hard-won victory over Emma Raducanu on Friday will steel her for challenges ahead after reaching the Stuttgart Open semi-finals.

World number one Swiatek landed a 21st consecutive victory as she edged out US Open winner Raducanu 6-4 6-4 in an hour and 45 minutes on the German clay.

There was plenty to admire from both players, but in the end it was another straight-sets success for Swiatek, who dropped only two games in her previous round against German Eva Lys.

It makes the 20-year-old Pole the first woman to win 28 consecutive sets on tour since Serena Williams, who did so from the 2012 US Open to the 2013 Australian Open.

Swiatek broke early in the first set to take charge, and with 19-year-old Raducanu battling a back problem the rankings leader soon got ahead in the second too.

This was Raducanu's first-ever match against a player ranked inside the WTA top 10, a peculiar statistic given she is already a grand slam champion.

Swiatek, like her opponent, knows how it feels to win a grand slam as a teenage surprise package, having triumphed as a 19-year-old at the 2020 French Open when ranked only 54th in the world.

At 4-3 in the second set of this contest, Swiatek saved two break points with clinical forehand winners out of the reach of Raducanu, shouting out in satisfaction moments later as she held serve to move a game away.

Raducanu had two more break chances in Swiatek's next service game but again could not convert as her opponent sealed victory.

Swiatek said: "I'm pretty happy that today's match was longer. Not for now, but for the future it's going to give me a lot of experience.

"Right now I want to play really aggressively, and I think this game style is going to fit the surface, and it fit the hardcourts as well."

She will face unseeded Liudmila Samsonova next after the Russian, playing as a neutral, beat Laura Siegemund 7-5 6-3.

The other semi-final in Stuttgart will see second seed Paula Badosa take on third seed Aryna Sabalenka.

Badosa was a 7-6 (11-9) 1-6 6-3 winner against Ons Jabeur, while Sabalenka fended off Anett Kontaveit 6-4 3-6 6-1.

At the Istanbul Cup, Friday saw quarter-final wins for Veronika Kudermetova and Anastasia Potapova, along with Sorana Cirstea and Yulia Putintseva.

Those results set up a semi-final on Saturday between second seed Cirstea and third seed Kudermetova, with Putintseva and Potapova also facing off.

Thomas Tuchel declared himself a big fan of Serena Williams and Lewis Hamilton after the superstar pair joined a consortium bidding to buy Chelsea.

British motorsport star Hamilton, 37, has earned nearly $500million in his Formula One career, while American tennis great Williams has also acquired major wealth while landing 23 grand slam singles titles.

They will reportedly be chipping in $10m each to Martin Broughton's consortium and have been "constantly in touch", Hamilton said, about the prospect of being part of a successful quest to acquire the Premier League club.

Hamilton, despite being an Arsenal fan, said businessman Broughton's ambitions for Chelsea were "incredibly exciting, and very much aligned with my values".

Chelsea head coach Tuchel said on Friday: "I just heard it, I just got a briefing and heard it.

"I can tell you no more than I'm a big admirer of both of them. They are fantastic personalities on the court and the racetrack.

"They are outstanding sports figures in what they do, for which they have my biggest respect, but I have absolutely no insight in the role they're playing."

Chelsea's long-time owner Roman Abramovich, who has been sanctioned by the United Kingdom government following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, announced his intentions to sell the Premier League club earlier in March.

Serena Williams appeared to shut down premature talk of calling time on her career by declaring that she hopes to return from injury in time for Wimbledon.

The 40-year-old has not played competitively since losing to Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the first round of last year's tournament at SW19 and is now ranked at 246 in the world.

Williams' future in the sport was called into question on Thursday when her long-time coach Patrick Mouratoglou announced he will now work with Simona Halep.

However, the 23-time major winner – who has been coached by Mouratoglou since 2012 – has moved to confirm her intention to return to top-level tennis in the coming months.

Speaking alongside Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers at an event in Miami, Williams said: "We've been talking about my comeback and he's been hyping me up.

"He's getting me ready for Wimbledon. Can't wait!"

Williams is one major title shy of matching Margaret Court's long-standing record of 24, having been beaten in four finals since her most recent triumph at the 2017 Australian Open.

She missed last year's US Open on home soil, as well as the 2022 Australian Open in January.

Rodgers was surprised at Williams' Wimbledon announcement and asked: "What about the US Open?", to which the ex-world number one replied: "Wimbledon is first".

The grass-court grand slam gets under way on June 27.

Patrick Mouratoglou, the long-time coach of Serena Williams, has confirmed he will now work with Simona Halep.

Mouratoglou began coaching Williams in 2012 and has guided the former world number one to 10 grand slam titles and a further six major finals.

However, the last of those triumphs came in 2017, with Williams still one major success shy of matching Margaret Court's long-standing record of 24.

Williams reached the semi-final of last year's Australian Open, losing to Naomi Osaka, before subsequently going out in the last 16 at Roland Garros.

But the 40-year-old has not featured since retiring due to an injury in the first round to Aliaksandra Sasnovich at Wimbledon and is now ranked as the world number 246.

And it does not appear as though Williams will be making a return to the WTA Tour soon, with Mouratoglou explaining that, at least in the short term, he will be coaching former world number one Halep.

"Today, I am starting a new chapter in my coaching career: I am now the full-time coach of Simona Halep," Mouratoglou tweeted on Thursday.

"In the last eight months, I realised how much I missed coaching. It is the passion of my life, and I still feel like I have so much to give.

"Simona came to the Mouratoglou Academy before Indian Wells for a training block. I swung by at a few of her practices, watched her train.

"At the end of the week, she asked me if I was available to coach her. I have the highest respect for her but it was out of the question at the time.

"A few weeks later. I had a conversation with Serena, and the door opened for me, at least short term, to work with someone else.

"I will keep you updated on what's coming next soon."

World number 20 Halep endured an injury-hit 2020 and 2021, and split with long-time coach Darren Cahill in September of last year. The Romanian has won two grand slam titles, triumphing at Roland Garros in 2018 and Wimbledon the following season.

She has reached three other major finals and enjoyed a strong start to 2022, triumphing at the Melbourne Summer Set 1 prior to the Australian Open, in which she reached the round of 16.

Runs to the semi-finals at the Dubai Tennis Championship and Indian Wells Open have followed, though the 30-year-old will be hoping Mouratoglou can help her recapture the form she showed to end 2017 and 2018 on top of the WTA rankings.

Will Smith has apologised to Serena and Venus Williams and their family, as well as Chris Rock, after his on-stage slap aimed at the comedian marred an Academy Award win.

The Williams sisters were at the Oscars in Los Angeles on Sunday to see Smith win Best Actor for his portrayal of their father Richard in the biopic King Richard.

However, before Smith took to the stage to collect his award, he was involved in the major flashpoint of the night and one of the most remarkable incidents in Academy Awards history.

Smith stormed the stage when Rock, while presenting Best Documentary Feature, made a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith.

Rock appeared to make a comment on Pinkett Smith's hair, which prompted Smith – after originally smiling at the joke – to take to the stage and strike the comedian before telling him to "keep my wife's name out your f***ing mouth".

Smith returned to his seat and was allowed to remain in attendance for the rest of the ceremony, giving a lengthy and emotional acceptance speech in which he apologised to The Academy.

Almost 24 hours past before Smith took to his Instagram page to address the issue again, explaining he took offence to a remark apparently related to his wife's alopecia but also again apologising – including to the Williams family.

"Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive," he wrote. "My behaviour at last night's Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable.

"Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada's medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally.

"I would like to publicly apologise to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.  

"I would also like to apologise to The Academy, the producers of the show, all the attendees and everyone watching around the world.

"I would like to apologise to the Williams family and my King Richard family. I deeply regret that my behaviour has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us.

"I am a work in progress."

In her own post on Sunday, Serena Williams had seemingly sought only to address Smith's success at the Oscars.

"This night has been surreal," she wrote. "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."

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."

Andy Murray has expressed his sympathy for Naomi Osaka over the abuse she was subjected to at Indian Wells but says athletes must deal with it.

Osaka was reduced to tears as she crashed out of the Indian Wells Open with a 6-0 6-4 third-round defeat to 21st seed Veronika Kudermetova on Saturday.

A member of the crowd could be heard shouting "Naomi, you suck" after the four-time grand slam champion had been broken in the first game of the match.

Osaka approached the chair umpire to report the incident and held further discussions with the court supervisor after being insulted again.

Murray says there is no place for such conduct, but believes players must be able to ignore it.

He said: “It's a difficult one. I've often thought watching certain sports, I wouldn't say I've often seen it loads in tennis … but if I watch a football or a soccer match and a player's going to take throw-in or a corner kick and the crowd are just hurling insults at those individuals.

"I always think, how is that allowed? Like, you can't do that. If you're doing that to someone when you're walking down the street or in any other sort of work environment, that's obviously not tolerated.

"I've played in certain atmospheres as well myself in tennis, like Davis Cup atmospheres, away from home, especially where the atmosphere's intense, and sometimes things are said and it's not that comfortable.

"The people that come to watch, you want them to be there and supporting the players and not making it more difficult for them. I don't know, but it's also something that's always just kind of been part of sports as well."

He added: "If you go and watch a basketball match, for example, and a player's taking free throws, I would say like almost every basketball match I've been to one of the players has been heckled by the crowd as well

"While it's wrong for those individuals to be doing it, the athletes obviously have to kind of be used to that as well or be able to deal with that too, even though it's not pleasant.

"I feel for Naomi, that obviously it upset her a lot, but it’s always been something that's been part of sport, I guess, as well.

"You have to be prepared for that in some ways and be able to tolerate it because it does happen regularly across all sports."

An emotional Naomi Osaka says being targeted by a heckling spectator during her loss to Veronika Kudermetova reminded of abuse the Williams sisters were subjected to at the Indian Wells Open.

Osaka was reduced to tears as she crashed out with a 6-0 6-4 third-round defeat to 21st seed Veronika Kudermetova at Indian Wells on Saturday.

A member of the crowd could be heard shouting "Naomi, you suck" after the four-time grand slam champion had been broken in the first game of the match.

Osaka approached the chair umpire to report the incident and held further discussions with the court supervisor after being insulted again.

Serena and Venus Williams were subjected to verbal abuse at the prestigious tournament in the Californian desert back in 2001.

The legendary siblings' father, Richard Williams, claimed he had been racially abused at Indian Wells, while Venus Williams said she "heard whatever he heard".

Former world number one Osaka said while trying to hold back the tears after her exit: "I've been heckled before and it didn't really bother me.

"But being heckled here... I've watched videos of Venus and Serena get heckled here and if you've never watched it, you should watch it.

"I don't know why, but it went into my head and got replayed a lot. I just want to say thank you and congratulations [to Kudermetova]." 

Serena Williams boycotted the competition for 14 years before making her Indian Wells return in 2015.

Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Australian Open as she is not yet ready to make a comeback from injury.

Williams has not played since suffering a torn hamstring at Wimbledon in June.

The 40-year-old stated last month that she was "better" and planned to play in the first grand slam of 2022 at Melbourne Park.

Williams will not go in search of a record-equalling 24th major title next month, though, revealing she is not fit enough to take her place in the draw.

She said in a statement: "Following the advice of my medical team, I have decided to withdraw from this year's Australian Open. While this is never an easy decision to make, I am not where I need to be physically to compete. 

"Melbourne  is one of my favourite cities to visit and I look forward to playing at the AO every year. I will miss seeing the fans but am excited to return and compete at my highest level."

The legendary American's last grand slam triumph came at the Australian Open in 2017.

While Williams will not compete, world number one Ash Barty will participate, as will US Open champion Emma Raducanu and four-time grand slam winner Naomi Osaka.

Novak Djokovic has been included in the official entry list for the 2022 Australian Open, with Tennis Australia adamant that no loopholes are being explored.

The world number one, who has won nine of his 20 grand slam titles in Melbourne, has not yet disclosed his COVID-19 vaccination status, meaning there is doubt over whether he will be able to participate.

Every person competing or attending the grand slam next month will need to have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus.

However, despite the uncertainty, the 34-year-old was named in the official list of players for the tournament draw.

Djokovic had already been named in Serbia's team for the ATP Cup, which is to be held in Sydney, leading to speculation that he could enter Australia by travelling directly to New South Wales, which has different COVID-19 restrictions to the state of Victoria, and may then seek a medical exemption to get around the rules applying to unvaccinated travellers.

James Merlino, Victoria's deputy premier, responded to these reports, which also suggested Djokovic had the backing of Tennis Australia.

"My view on this is really clear and really simple," Merlino said on Wednesday. "Everyone's looking forward to the Australian Open and everyone who will attend – spectators, players, officials, staff – everyone is expected to be fully vaccinated.

"They're the rules. Medical exemptions are just that – it's not a loophole for privileged tennis players. It is a medical exemption in exceptional circumstances if you have an acute medical condition."

Tennis Australia responded to Merlino's comments with a statement of their own.

"Any suggestion that Tennis Australia is seeking 'loopholes' within this process is simply untrue. Adjudicating on medical exemptions is the domain of independent medical experts. We are not in a position to influence this process and nor would we," the statement read.

"Any application for a medical exemption must follow strict government guidelines based on ATAGI (Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation) clinical advice. This is the same process that applies to any person wanting to enter Australia."

While Djokovic's participation is unclear, Serena Williams is a big-name absentee. The 40-year-old, who is one shy of matching Margaret Court's record tally of 23 grand slams, had been expected to play in Melbourne.

Roger Federer had already confirmed his absence, but Rafael Nadal is set to compete for the first time since August.

World number two and US Open champion Daniil Medvedev takes his place in the draw, as does 2020 Australian Open finalist Dominic Thiem.

Australian world number one Ash Barty headlines the women's field, with Naomi Osaka, US Open winner Emma Raducanu and WTA Finals champion Garbine Muguruza also in the draw.

Bianca Andreescu, the 2019 US Open champion, has decided to skip the event to focus on her mental wellbeing.

Serena Williams has said she is "devastated and shocked" by the case of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, whose whereabouts have become a mystery sparking international concern.

Doubles grand slam winner Peng is said to have been missing since making sexual assault allegations against a former top Chinese government official.

She posted on Chinese social media site Weibo allegations against Zhang Gaoli – the ex-vice premier and member of the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee – claiming he had forced her to have sexual relations with him.

The head of the women's tour, WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon, has questioned the veracity of an email purportedly written by the two-time major doubles champion saying that she is safe.

Now 23-time grand slam singles winner Williams has added her powerful voice, stating: "I am devastated and shocked to hear about the news of my peer, Peng Shuai. I hope she is safe and found as soon as possible. This must be investigated and we must not stay silent."

WTA boss Simon said he had "a hard time believing" the email in Peng's name had come from the 35-year-old player herself. The message stated the allegations of sexual assault were not true and that Peng was "resting at home".

Former world number one Williams said she was "sending love to her and her family during this incredibly difficult time", adding the hashtag "#whereispengshuai" to her Twitter message.

Williams and Peng have faced each other four times in their careers, with the American winning each of their singles matches, the most recent in 2014, while Peng and Sun Tiantian beat Williams and sister Venus Williams in doubles in Bangalore in 2008.

There has been concern throughout sport and beyond for the wellbeing of Peng, a French Open and Wimbledon doubles winner.

On Wednesday, Simon said it was important that there was "independent and verifiable proof that she is safe", saying the statement issued in her name "only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts".

He said he had made efforts to contact Peng "via numerous forms of communication, to no avail", saying she must be allowed to speak "freely, without coercion or intimidation from any source".

Peng's social media post containing her allegations, along with all of her other content, has been removed from Weibo.

Four-time major winner Naomi Osaka also spoke up this week, with the Japanese star stating: "Censorship is never ok at any cost, I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and ok. I'm in shock of the current situation and I'm sending love and light her way."

Serena Williams says the hamstring injury that forced her out of Wimbledon in the first round is "better" and she plans to play at the 2022 Australian Open. 

The site of her last grand slam crown in 2017 will be Williams' next chance to equal Margaret Court's record of 24 career slam titles. 

The 40-year-old tore her hamstring while playing Aliaksandra Sasnovich at SW19 in June and recounted the injury in an appearance Thursday on Jimmy Kimmel Live. 

"I was actually winning and I went for a shot and I heard this noise and I was like ‘oh no’," Williams said. "I felt it but I felt like 'OK, let me just keep trying', but it was bad and I was like, ‘oh man’.

"I love the grass, it’s something special walking out at Wimbledon, wearing all white and being on the green grass [but] it just wasn’t for me this year.”

The injury kept Williams out of the US Open, where she has not won since 2014 but reached the semi-finals in 2020 and the final in 2018 and 2019. 

While disappointed to miss her home slam, which she has won six times, Williams told Kimmel her recovery is on track and she "definitely" expects to play in Australia in January. 

"The hamstring is better," she said. "It took a long time. It took forever, but it's much better now." 

Williams is a seven-time champion in Melbourne, the most of any woman in the open era. 

 

 

Novak Djokovic has history in his sights as he begins his US Open quest; after three grand slam titles in 2021, a fourth beckons at Flushing Meadows.

Rod Laver was the last man to achieve a sweep of the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open singles in the same year, 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 winning any title at that level is never easy, and Williams famously came unstuck when she faced Roberta Vinci in the semi-finals.

Djokovic will be mindful that what seems an inevitability to the outside world remains very much still only a possibility. After his US Open tribulations last year, and a recent jolt at the Olympics, he will know anything can happen.

Here, Stats Perform looks at how Djokovic's situation at Flushing Meadows carries most of the hallmarks of Serena's own position as she headed into the tournament six years ago.

 

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE SLAMS

It was not always this way, but Djokovic has reached the point in his career when he can choose targets, decide which records he wants to break, and throw everything at those goals.

At the start of the year in Australia, he savoured triumphing at Melbourne Park for a ninth time and pointed to how Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Williams and Margaret Court had achieved so much.

"They've made history already," Djokovic said. "They made a tremendous mark in our sport. I'm trying to build that and develop that myself in a very unique, authentic way that is suitable to me.

"Whether I think about winning more slams and breaking records, of course. Of course, I do. And most of my attention and my energy from this day forward, until I retire from tennis, is going to be directed in majors, trying to win more major trophies."

It had very clear echoes of Williams in 2015, also in Australia, setting out her own ambitions for the year and specifically targeting the French Open and Wimbledon.

"Those are the two I really have my eye on, because I would like to do better at those. And I know I can do better," she said.

Williams set her heart and mind on that twin challenge and won both.

"I definitely am not going to play as much this year, and I'm just going to go for everything when I do play," said Williams.

 


BUILDING UP

When Williams reached New York in August 2015, she had delivered a 48-2 win-loss record for the season, landing each of the majors alongside the Miami Open and the Western and Southern Open. Petra Kvitova in Madrid and Belinda Bencic in Toronto had been the only two players to get the better of the 33-year-old Williams.

Djokovic has a 38-5 record for the year, albeit it has the feel of a more dominant year for the 34-year-old Serbian. Two of those losses came at the Olympics, in a semi-final and bronze medal match, and the other three came in his first three events on clay, losing to Dan Evans in Monte Carlo, Aslan Karatsev in Belgrade and Nadal in Rome.

When it mattered on clay, though, Djokovic majorly turned up in Paris, gutsily beating Lorenzo Musetti from two sets down in the fourth round, ending Nadal's streak of four Roland Garros titles by sinking the Spaniard in the semi-finals, and then leaving Stefanos Tsitsipas devastated in the final, with another fightback after dropping the first two sets.

Wimbledon followed, and Djokovic by then was openly targeting a Golden Slam – each major and the Olympic title.

Much like with Williams and her loss to Bencic in the Toronto semi-finals six years ago, however, Djokovic showed he was fallible as history beckoned. From a set up, he lost to Alexander Zverev at Tokyo 2020, a blow that was compounded by missing out on bronze when Pablo Carreno Busta sprang another shock.

 


HISTORY CAN BE A FIERCE OPPONENT

Williams and Djokovic have won non-calendar Grand Slams before, winning four in succession spanning two seasons.

Williams first achieved 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 at the US Open, having begun her dominant streak at her home grand slam the previous year.

She won the first set of the semi-final against Vinci, the world number 43, but was then second best to the Italian, with Williams saying her conqueror "played literally out of her mind".

But the disappointment was stark, underlined by Williams' 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," she said. "If you have any other questions, I'm open for that."

The four-in-a-row feat has only been performed once by Djokovic, from Wimbledon in 2015 to the French Open in 2016. Had he not been disqualified during the US Open last year for carelessly hitting a ball that struck a line judge, he would most likely currently be on a four-slam streak.

Those who win the first three slams of the year often do complete the set, but there are four instances of singles players falling one short by failing in the year's last major.

Before Williams, the most recent case was Martina Navratilova in 1984, when the imperious left-hander headed to the Australian Open – then played at the end of the year rather than the start – in pursuit of the Grand Slam. She lost to Helena Sukova in the semi-finals, and said: "If I'd have won, I'd have done it all. If I lost I had to start from scratch. Both are hard to cope with."

Navratilova had won 74 consecutive matches until that loss and ended the season with a 78-2 record.

In the men's game, Jack Crawford (1933) and Lew Hoad (1956) also fell short, both losing in finals of the US National Championships, the tournament that became the US Open. Don Budge (1938) and Laver (1962 and 1969) are the only men to have won a calendar Grand Slam in singles.

The weight of expectation is immense for Djokovic as he pursues what would be his crowning glory, not only sealing the Grand Slam but reaching 21 majors, one ahead of Nadal and Federer and into the outright lead in the men's game. The prospect cannot be ignored, and it will be a heavy burden to carry over the coming fortnight.

As Djokovic said on Friday: "I would be lying if I said that’s not something that I’m thinking about or that my attention is not going that way.

"I’m very motivated to play my best tennis. But I have to hit one ball at a time, as they say, try to be in the moment, have a guiding star in a way, a dream to win a slam here."

Patrick Mouratoglou says Serena Williams' "heartbreaking" withdrawal from the US Open was the "only possible decision" for the American.

Williams on Wednesday revealed she will not play in her home grand slam due to injury.

The 23-time major champion has not played on the WTA Tour since suffering a torn hamstring at Wimbledon in June and she has not fully recovered.

Mouratoglou, Williams' coach, stated that pulling out of the final slam of the year was the only option for the six-time US Open singles champion.

He tweeted: "Since she had to pull out from Wimbledon, @serenawilliams has been fully committed to her recovery and we've done everything we could so that she could compete at the @usopen. But her body isn't ready. It is heartbreaking, but this is the only possible decision."

Williams posted on Instagram earlier in the day: "After careful consideration and following the advice of my doctors and medical team, I have decided to withdraw from the US Open to allow my body to heal completely from a torn hamstring,

"New York is one of the most exciting cities in the world and one of my favourite places to play – I'll miss seeing the fans but will be cheering everyone on from afar. Thank you for your continued support and love. I’ll see you soon."

Williams, who turns 40 next month, is the latest high-profile withdrawal from the tournament after Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal pulled out through injury

It will be the first time since 1997 that the US Open will be played without Williams, Federer or Nadal.

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