Petra Kvitova wins all-Czech crown on return to action

Petra Kvitova returned to court dressed for the French Open as she triumphed in an all-Czech tournament.

The Prague tournament – played without fans and with ball boys and girls wearing gloves and face masks – was one of the first after professional tennis was suspended in early March as the world went into lockdown to contain the spread of the virus.

  • Coronavirus: Latest sports updates
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With the French Open originally set to take place this week, Kvitova wore the clothing collection she had ready for the season’s second Grand Slam.

“If there will be the French Open, then Nike has something else for me,” Kvitova said.

“I played better every day, so that is very positive,” she added on her return to action.

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Kvitova did not drop a set in the three-round tournament, beating Karolina Muchova 6-3 6-3 in a rain-delayed final.

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Rafael Nadal reveals two reasons why he has dominated tennis with Federer and Djokovic

Rafael Nadal says it is a love for tennis which is one of the key reasons for the longevity and success he has enjoyed with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

Nadal, Federer and Djokovic have had unparalleled success in the men’s game, winning a combined 56 Grand Slams.

Nadal and Djokovic are approaching their mid-thirties while Federer will turn 39 in August yet they still remain as hungry as ever, enthused by the challenge provided by the latest crop of talent.

Speaking in an interview with ESPN, Nadal was asked to give the secret to the success of the ‘Big Three’ and the Spaniard explained their careers would not have been the same for two simple reasons.

“We can talk about many technical things, but the most important thing is the love for tennis that the three of us feel because, without all that, everything else is not possible,” he said.

“I think what makes the greats of sport really great is the desire and passion to do what they do and to be better.

“With that and the right people in our environment, we have found the way to always improve.”

Meanwhile, former British No 1 Greg Rusedski has called on tennis officials to do whatever they can to resume the season, even if it means excluded fans.

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Due to the coronavirus pandemic, no tennis has been played since March and a decision will be made in June over whether it will resume in August.

And Rusedski feels players will need to get used to matches without fans for the foreseeable future.

“Roger expressed his views on wanting fans there, but I would definitely be willing to come back now if I was still on the tour,” he told Tennis365.

“I look at the new-look Davis Cup finals last year and even though it was a fantastic first year for the new-look Davis Cup with an amazing final, let’s not forget how they blacked out the fans because there were low crowds outside of the matches featuring the hosts Spain. No one complained about the matches not having too many fans in there because the tennis was spectacular, so we can play our sport without fans.

“The first example of sport coming back in the UK will be the Premier League and I’m assuming that will start up next month.

“Football has much more contact than tennis and if they can get matches back on, there’s no reason why we can’t do that same in tennis.

“To get any live sport back on television would be welcome for a number of reasons and as tennis and golf are the two easiest sports to play while observing social distancing guidelines, we need to look at how we do it.

“If you are going to try and experiment to get sports back, then tennis and golf are the two sports we should do it with.”

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Murray and Konta offered route back into tennis with domestic events

Andy Murray and Jo Konta offered a return to tennis amid coronavirus through a series of domestic events for Brits at Roehampton from July… with a winner’s cheque of just £2,250!

  • The outbreak of coronavirus has curtailed the global tennis circuit 
  • But, starting in July, British players could make a steady return to action
  • The LTA have announced four three-day tournaments to be held in Roehampton 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Andy Murray, Jo Konta and the rest of Britain’s top players will be offered the chance to return to competition in early July after a series of domestic tournaments were unveiled.

The Lawn Tennis Association announced an initial four events as part of British circuit that is planned to run through July and August, starting on July 3.

Four three-day tournaments involving 16 men and 16 women will first take place at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton, and there will be a one-day doubles event running alongside.

Andy Murray could make a return to tennis in July at a domestic tournament in Roehampton

There was the promise that further playing opportunities will follow as part of this expanded British Tour, designed to fill a void while the international circuit remains in hibernation.

Although players have yet to enter, it is expected that the likes of Murray (if fit), Konta, Dan Evans and Kyle Edmund will take some part, with a winner’s cheque on offer of £2,250.

As expected there will be different tiers, with weeks two and four offering the biggest overall purse of a comparatively modest £16,000. The plan is that, as government guidelines permit, there will be more events spread around the country following on from the first quartet.

It was a characteristically cautious announcement from the governing body, and Britain will lag well behind other European countries who already have domestic tournaments underway in the absence of the ATP and WTA Tours.

There was no mention of the tournament that has been planned for London by Jamie Murray, and there remains no word of a women’s championship that has been floated by prominent British coach Barry Fulcher. It was also not initially made clear whether there will be any way for the public to watch either on TV or via an internet stream.

Jo Konta could be back in action at Roehampton in July at the National Tennis Centre

It is, at least, a start, and British players can now start planning which tournaments they will enter. With nothing happening for another six weeks, they will have plenty of time to prepare.

‘I’m delighted to announce today the next stage of elite tennis’ return to competing safely behind closed doors as part of a five-phase plan coordinated by UK Sport with Government,’ said LTA Chief Executive Scott Lloyd. 

‘The LTA is actively engaged in developing the necessary guidelines for behind closed doors events, which we hope will be determined by the Government in the coming weeks.’




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French Open most likely Grand Slam to happen this year

The French Open is fighting for survival as the most likely of the two remaining Grand Slams to happen this year but the US Open has not been written off yet

  • The French Open is the most likely of the two Grand Slams to happen this year 
  • Roland Garros has officially been switched to a later start of September 20 
  • Tournament director Guy Forget expressed optimism the event will happen 
  • The US Open has not been written off yet with a decision expected soon 

The French Open is the most likely of the two remaining Grand Slams to happen this year, although the US Open has yet to be entirely written off.

Roland Garros has been officially switched to a start of September 20 and the French Tennis Federation is keen to see it go ahead in some form.

Its lack of pandemic insurance, in contrast to Wimbledon, has been highlighted — although sources in France point out that abandonment might not be quite the calamity that is painted. 

The French Open is the most likely of the two remaining Grand Slams to happen this year

Roland Garros has now been officially pushed back to a later start date of September 20

From next year the event’s income should rise sharply, due to a new roof on Court Philippe Chatrier leading to night play, with higher ticket sales and more money from broadcasters.

The chances of it happening this year depend on how the crisis plays out — as is the case for the Tour de France. 

This week, French horse racing postponed a return to courses in the ‘red’ zones which are still more affected and this included the Auteuil track just down the road from Roland Garros. 

Tournament director Guy Forget expressed optimism that the event will go ahead as planned

The febrile world of French tennis politics is also in play. President of the French Federation Bernard Giudicelli is up for re-election in the next nine months and wants to be seen to be doing everything he can to save the event. 

Roland Garros tournament director Guy Forget expressed optimism that the French Open will happen ‘some time around the end of September and beginning of October’.

A decision on the US Open is expected in the next few weeks. Some kind of truncated version, possibly relocated to Florida, might be feasible.




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Roger Federer opts against copying Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic decision to practise

Roger Federer says he has no intention of returning to practise with uncertainty surrounding when the tennis season will resume.

With the deadly impact of the coronavirus pandemic, tennis at all levels is suspended with tournaments like Wimbledon forced to cancel.

It is hoped tennis can resume in August but given the global nature of the sport, it remains to be seen whether that target date will be met.

In a world without the coronavirus, Federer would have been working on his fitness following knee surgery in February and getting prepared to return for the grass-court season.

But speaking in a video call with Brazilian tennis legend Gustavo Kuerten, Federer said that with no tennis to prepare for, he is content to put his feet up and enjoy time with his family.

He said: “We have never stayed at home for more than five weeks since my last surgery in 2016.

“This is a great time for us, as a family, of course, we sometimes drive each other crazy, like any family.

“But honestly, we are healthy, our friends and family did not have the virus, which is important for us. And we’re doing well despite the circumstances.

“I’m not training at the moment because I don’t see a reason for that to be honest.

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“I am happy with my body now and I still believe that the lap of the circuit is a long way off.

“And I think it’s important for my head at this point to enjoy this break after playing so much tennis. I don’t miss it so much.

“I will feel, eventually, when I am close to returning and have a goal to train for. I’m going to be super motivated.”

Federer’s decision is in direct contrast to several of his rivals, who have restarted training in recent days.

After the lifting of lockdown restrictions in Spain, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have both been pictured practising again.

World No 3 Dominic Thiem is training on the clay in Austria while Federer’s compatriot Stan Wawrinka is working on his game indoors in Switzerland.

While former British No 1 Andy Murray, who hasn’t played a match in 2020, has been at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton practising with his brother Jamie.

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In a world of social media abuse, Madison Keys wants to spread kindness

In the life of a tennis player, it’s not always obvious to see kindness.

Hardened pros are taught to fight for every point – battle is hardly synonymous with being kind.  

But for Madison Keys, the world No. 13 from the USA, spreading kindness has been at the forefront of her mind as professional tennis takes a collective pause amid the coronavirus crisis.

Professional athletes like Keys are not always on the receiving end of kindness.

Behind their computer shields, keyboard warriors regularly fire abuse into the social media sphere, which remains laxly moderated. Keys has had her fair share.

‘Honestly, for me, a lot of the time it’s sort of more anger after I lose matches from people who have bet on the matches. It’s just very nasty stuff,’ Keys, 25, tells Metro.co.uk over the phone from her Florida base.

‘Often it’s bad stuff about my family, wishing harm to them and things like that. It’s not something I would wish on anyone else.

‘I’ve dealt with it personally, but also know that pretty much every other tennis player on the tour has dealt with it.

‘But I’m sure even though we all are used to getting it, every once in a while you are cut deep a little bit.’

The problem is far from limited to tennis. Earlier this month, former Arsenal striker Ian Wright highlighted vile racist abuse directed at him on Instagram; many athletes are subjected to vitriol on a daily basis.

On Friday, Keys hopes to reset the balance.

Her foundation, Kindness Wins, wants to celebrate and spread kindness across the internet on a special day of recognition – aptly named #KindnessWinsDay.

Each ‘kindness call-out’ will recognise an individual who has done something kind for others, while nominating others to do the same.

‘So often you see negative comments on social media,’ she adds. ‘I really just wanted to have a day where all we were trying to do was put out positive messages for other people and acknowledge the great things they are doing.’

Her initiative was not driven from her own experiences. In her work with Fearlessly Girl – the name of the foundation before it was rebranded to become ‘broader and more open to everyone’ – she engaged with young girls who had become accustomed to witnessing negative messaging on social media. According to statistics gathered by her foundation, 87% of young people have witnessed cyberbullying.

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Many of you know that I’ve been the face of Fearlessly GiRL for several years. Together we reached so many young girls and I learned so much during our partnership. Now I’ve decided to launch my very own new initiative called Kindness Wins. Spreading kindness is and always will be my passion. Everyone has something they’re going through or have gone through or something they’re being negatively affected by. Including me. I want everyone to know they’re not alone and that there is something we can do about it – spread kindness. I want to be a champion of kindness and encourage others to do the same – being kind to themselves and kind to others. Soon I will be joined by some of my fellow champions to continue this mission of spreading kindness. Kindness doesn’t know one sport, gender, age or ethnicity so I’m excited for the greater impact we’ll all have together! I can’t wait to share more information with you on how we can do this together. I hope you’ll join me on this journey of positivity so we can show everyone that Kindness Wins. 🤍 @kindnesswinsfoundation

A post shared by Madison Keys (@madisonkeys) on

‘We’d open questions for younger kids and they were asking about “how do you deal with cyber bullying? We’re dealing with it right now”. It was so sad that at such a young age they’re already dealing with it,’ says the former US Open finalist.

Her organisation works with other athletes – skier Mikaela Shiffrin is the latest on board – to show that kindness can still thrive, even in the most competitive of environments.

‘I think you can want to win and you can try your best and be as competitive as you possibly can be but also still be nice to people,’ says Keys. ‘I don’t think it’s one or the other. I think it can be both.

‘For the most part, I think it is both. On the tour we’re all pretty close. We see each other more than we see our families most of the time so we’re definitely there for each other most of the time.

‘We can go out and play each other and you want to win the match that day but once the match is over and you’re back in the locker room, you’re just people.’

In her own sport, one example of kindness sticks out above the rest.

At the US Open last year, teenage sensation Coco Gauff was beaten comfortably by defending champion Naomi Osaka. As the tearful youngster attempted to head off court, Osaka invited her for an emotional dual on-court interview after the match.

‘The way they both just talked to each other – it was a real moment,’ says Keys. ‘I always get really happy when I see those.’

At the same tournament, two years earlier, Keys was the recipient of kindness from her compatriot and good friend Sloane Stephens.

Both were playing in their first Grand Slam final, on home soil, but it was a one-sided affair, with Stephens claiming her first major title.

After a heartfelt embrace at the net, Stephens sat next to her friend – rather than in her own seating area, as is typically custom – in a touching moment that still resonates with Keys.

‘In the moment it was really tough for me to handle, obviously, in public, with so many people watching and all that,’ she adds.

‘For Sloane to comfort me and give me all of her support in that moment was really nice and special. It’s one of the reasons she’s one of my closest friends.’

While all too aware of the negativity in the online realm, Keys is appreciative of how it has allowed her to be better connected to her fan base and is still adamant that the positives of social media outweigh the negatives.

The message of spreading kindness is particularly pertinent, she feels, in the current Covid-19 climate.

‘I definitely think we’re more appreciative of people because we’re not really busy, we’re not running around, we’re not preoccupied with other things and I think we’ve been able to take a pause and think about how grateful we are for so many things that we take for granted,’ she says.

‘So I definitely think there’s a gratitude and an appreciation that’s been pretty apparent during this time period. Hopefully it can stick around.

‘If someone is kind to you then it makes you happy and it makes you acknowledge, “Wow, that was something so small but it meant a lot to me”. Just having that happen to you, it makes you think about how you could do that for someone else.

‘When you’re doing that, it might start off as something you’re thinking about but eventually it just becomes a habit and I think that would be a great thing for basically the entire world right now, just to be a little bit kinder to each other.’

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How Roger Federer helped Man Utd win the 2008 Champions League final

Former Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen revealed how he used footage of Roger Federer to help the players with their mental focus ahead of the 2008 Champions League final.

United had gone nine years without winning Europe’s biggest club competition and the pressure and expectation was rising on Sir Alex Ferguson and his players.

However, on this occasion Ferguson had the world’s best player in Cristiano Ronaldo in his ranks alongside the passion and quality of Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez.

The final would be against Chelsea, the first time two clubs from England would meet for the trophy in the history of the competition.

And to give his players that extra edge, Meulensteen convinced Ferguson that using Federer as an example would be beneficial.

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“I am a keen tennis fan and I have always admired Roger Federer and the way he controls his emotions,” Meulensteen told Planet Football.

“I selected five clips of Federer for the boys to watch and asked them to write down which tournament he was appearing in, which set it was and which point.

“They would identify, say, Wimbledon as the competition, but they couldn’t tell me which point or set it was.

“The point I made to them was that wherever Federer was playing, he was winning and performing at the highest level when it really mattered.

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“He would win the first set, then lose the second and the third but, by the time the game reached match point, everything which had happened before didn’t matter because he was so focused on winning.”

It ultimately worked as United would hold their nerve to beat Chelsea in a penalty shoot-out at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia and complete a Premier League and Champions League title double.

Former United defender Gary Neville recently called that squad the greatest in the club’s history but Paul Ince strongly disagreed.

He told the Evening Standard: “I disagree with that. If you take out Ronaldo and Rooney – Gary Neville was one of the best right-backs in the world.

“I’m not going to say (Patrice) Evra was a better left-back than Denis Irwin, that’s for sure. Pallister was similar to Rio (Ferdinand) in the way they play. We know how great Brucey was for Man United.

“The midfield wouldn’t touch our midfield in 94 and then you’ve got obviously Ronaldo and Rooney who were world-class, but Cantona was world-class.

“When I look at that overall 2008 team, in my opinion, there is probably only Rooney and Ronaldo, definitely, I’d have in my team.

“People forget how good Denis Irwin was. Football has changed, it gets quicker and [with] social media and radio with fans ringing in, players get more highlighted than in our time.

“If you watch Denis Irwin play, two-footed, took free-kicks, scored penalties, I don’t see many left-backs doing that. I didn’t see Evra doing that. I’ve got to disagree with Gary Neville there, I think he was way off the mark.”

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Wimbledon pumps £50m into the LTA for the first time

Wimbledon pumps £50m into LTA for the first time as the governing body remains in a strong financial position amid the uncertainty of the coronavirus crisis

  • The LTA received revenue from Wimbledon in 2019 totalling £52.1m
  • The governing body returned a profit of of £8.7m – the first time in four years
  • Roughly 50% of LTA staff have been placed on government’s furlough scheme
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Wimbledon continues to play the role of British tennis’s generous uncle, pumping in more than £50million last year for the first time.

The profits from The Championships led to a total of £52.07 million going in to the wider sport, although in the tournament’s absence this summer that figure is unlikely to be replicated next time round.

The grateful recipient was the Lawn Tennis Association, for whom 60 per cent of their income was made up by the annual contribution from the big fortnight.

 For the first time in Wimbledon history, the annual payments to the LTA has scaled £50m

Wimbledon’s record donation was boosted by a specific £5m given towards the running costs of the grass courts events leading into the main tournament, none of which are happening this summer.

The rest was a lump sum of just over £45 million and a £1.36m grant for officiating costs – the sort of money which many of the more successful tennis nations can barely dream of.

Internally it is estimated that, for next year only, the sum may reduce by around 30 per cent due to Wimbledon’s cancellation. That figure would doubtless be worse had the All England Club not wisely taken out pandemic insurance, which should protect them from a more severe hit.

With the LTA reporting total equity of £175m, including £14.9m cash in the bank, the governing body remains in a strong financial position.

Simona Halep (above) was denied the chance to defend the women’s singles title this year

This puts into further perspective the dubious morality of them using the taxpayer-funded furloughing scheme during the current crisis.

Around 50 per cent of the organisation’s 279 employees are currently laid off on the government scheme designed to shield businesses from the temporary slump.

The year’s staff head count was down by three, but overall employment costs are up to an eyewatering £19.93 million. That continues to swallow up a huge part of Wimbledon’s largesse.

Chief Executive Scott Lloyd, who continues to be a non-executive director of David Lloyd Leisure, is on £429,000 per year, although he is taking a twenty per cent pay cut during the crisis. The main board overseeing the executive continues to suffer from a chronic lack of elite tennis knowledge.

More encouragingly, the LTA are claiming success in increasing participation numbers – although there is little excuse for that not to happen, given its lavish budgets.

A LTA spokesperson said: ‘The current outlook for 2020 and beyond will be very different due to the financial impact of the pandemic. Our responsibility is to protect the long term growth and future of the sport in Britain and our reserves in isolation can only support our efforts for a matter of months. The Government furlough scheme is an essential measure to assist organisations like the LTA.’ 




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Boris Becker calls on young guns to dethrone Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic

Boris Becker has called on the new generation to stand up and be counted in their quest to dethrone the likes of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

The extended tour lay-off could play into the hands of the next generation of players, including Alexander Zverev, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

But Federer, Djokovic and Nadal continue to dominate the men’s game with ‘The Big Three’ still on top in the Grand Slam stakes.

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I think it’s for the younger generation to step up.

Boris Becker

Becker said: “Maybe 2021 will see the breakthrough of the young guns because they will be a year more experienced, and the older players are another year older.

“I would like to see the top three still at their best, and being beaten. I don’t want the young generation to take over when the top three won’t play any more or are actually too old.

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Novak Djokovic targets Grand Slam and world No 1 records

Novak Djokovic believes he will break the record for most Grand Slam titles and become the longest-reigning world No 1 by the time he retires.

The 32-year-old has 17 Grand Slam titles to his name – two behind Rafa Nadal and three fewer than Roger Federer – and has no doubt in his ability to overtake the other members of the so-called ‘Big Three’.

“I’m always very confident in myself,” Djokovic said in an interview on In Depth with Graham Bensinger. “I believe I can win the most slams and break the record for longest No 1. Those are definitely my clear goals.”

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Djokovic was in imperious form before the coronavirus pandemic brought the circuit to a halt in early March.

He lifted the ATP Cup with Serbia, won an eighth Australian Open title and then completed a fifth triumph at the Dubai Tennis Championships, extending his unbeaten run to 21.

Swiss great Federer also owns the record for total number of weeks at No 1 (310) and consecutive weeks at the top position (237), compared with Djokovic’s 282 and 122.

Federer turns 39 in August and Djokovic said he could envision himself still playing at 40.

“I don’t believe in limits. I think limits are only illusions of your ego or your mind,” he said.

It wasn’t too long ago that Djokovic had an entirely different outlook on the game.

After falling in straight sets to unseeded Benoit Paire at the Miami Open in 2018, his wife, Jelena, said he was ready to hang up the racket.

“He said to me that he’s quitting and that’s the truth,” she said in the interview.

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