Djokovic and Nadal vow to stay off court until tennis resumes in Spain

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal vow to stay off court until tennis officially resumes in Spain on Monday after world’s top two misinterpreted government advice and broke lockdown laws to practise

  • World No 1 Novak Djokovic has been spending lockdown in Marbella, Spain
  • Djokovic wrote next to the video: ‘So happy to play on clay… just for a bit’  
  • Elite athletes in professional leagues were given go-ahead to train or practise 
  • But the move did not apply to tennis, which can only resume next Monday
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Great rivals Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal were united by the same misdemeanour this week – breaking the lockdown rules in Spain in order to practise.

Both of them appear to have misinterpreted government advice about athletes being allowed train, and assumed that they were entitled to have a hit.

Djokovic, who has been hunkered down at his base in Marbella in the current crisis, on Tuesday night received an apology from the famous Puente Romano resort for giving him the wrong guidance.

Novak Djokovic shared brief footage on Instagram of him on a clay court in Spain on Monday

Spanish authorities decreed that on Monday elite athletes competing in professional leagues were allowed to resume training or practice at facilities. It turns out that this does not apply to tennis, which can only resume next Monday, May 11.

Djokovic and Nadal were clearly so desperate to get back on court that they assumed they were covered by the directive. In the case of Djokovic he excitedly filmed himself hitting again and posted it on social media.

On Tuesday night the Puente Romano club absolved him of blame, explaining that he had contacted them to ask permission and that they had given the go-ahead, thinking it was fine for him to resume.

Spain loosened lockdown measures on Monday but sports facilities are still to remain closed 

‘We are sorry that our interpretation of the regulation could have been erroneous, and this could have inconvenienced Mr. Djokovic or any other citizen acting in good faith,’ said the resort a statement.

Over in Mallorca Nadal made a similar misjudgement. Knowing that public courts are not meant to open next Monday, instead of playing at his own academy he went to a friend’s private court for a hit, thinking it was in line with official advice.

According to Nadal’s spokesman, on Monday evening a clarification was issued by the Spanish tennis authorities, saying that no tennis should be played under any circumstances until next Monday, for fear of an injured player taxing medical services.

The Spanish Tennis Federation said on Monday players were not yet allowed to use a court

Neither the world No 1 nor the world No 2 will be taking to the court again until then.

Djokovic has had an interesting lockdown, courting controversy with his theories about vaccines and the science behind them and espousing his ideas on health in various social media conversations.

Nadal has also made some eyecatching statements. These include appearing to have undergone a Pauline conversion to the idea of the men’s and women’s tours merging, while also declaring that he doubts official tournaments will be able to resume this year. 

Rafa Nadal made a similar misjudgement by using a friend’s private court in Mallorca for a hit

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Taylor Fritz does not expect tennis to return before the US Open in August

Taylor Fritz believes it is “unrealistic” to expect tennis to return to normality before the US Open in August.

The coronavirus outbreak has played havoc with the tennis season, causing the cancellation of Wimbledon and pushing the French Open back until September.

Tournament organisers are hopeful that the US Open, scheduled to begin in New York on August 25, can go ahead but world No 24 Fritz isn’t so sure.

“They are aiming for a certain time, but I think that time is a little bit unrealistic,” Fritz said. “The goal is to play the US Open but personally I don’t know how they are going to be able to do that.

“They want to be optimistic but it is tough as it keeps being pushed back.”

I have been practising enough to keep my level and then with all the gym stuff I have been doing I am in the best shape ever

Taylor Fritz

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With both the ATP and WTA tours suspended until mid-July at the earliest due to the coronavirus pandemic, Fritz is making the best of isolation at his house in Los Angeles.

Fritz, who reached his first ATP Final before losing to Rafael Nadal at the Mexican Open, has a gym set up at home and use of a private tennis court.

He believes his extra work during isolation could pay dividends when play resumes.

“I am spending more time working out than in training these days. There is nothing else I can really do,” the 22-year-old said. “I could [play] right now. I have been practising enough to keep my level and then with all the gym stuff I have been doing I am in the best shape ever.

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Novak Djokovic appears to break lockdown rules in Spain

Novak Djokovic has appeared to break coronavirus lockdown rules in Spain by returning to the tennis court on Monday.

The world number one posted a video on Instagram showing him exchanging shots with another man at a tennis club in the coastal city of Marbella, where the Serb has reportedly stayed.

Djokovic filmed the video while hitting shots and wrote he was “so happy to play on clay .. well, just for a bit with my phone in the hands.”

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On Monday Spain loosened some of the lockdown measures that had been in place since mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic, allowing professional athletes to return to practice.

But sports facilities are supposed to remain closed at least until next week in most parts of the country, with the exception of training centres for teams in professional leagues in sports such as football.

The Spanish tennis federation said in a statement on Monday that professional players in Spain were allowed to exercise by themselves or with a coach, but not yet on a tennis court. It said it would work on a set of guidelines to inform players and clubs about what they would be permitted to do beginning next week.

The federation’s statement did not appear to be related to Djokovic’s appearance on the court in Marbella.

Requests for comment made to the federation and to Djokovic’s staff late on Monday were not immediately answered.

It was not clear if Djokovic would be subjected to fines or sanctions if it was confirmed he broke the lockdown rules.

Djokovic recently said he was against taking an anti-coronavirus vaccination if it became mandatory to travel once the pandemic subsides, though he later said he was open to changing his mind.

Spain was one of the hardest hit countries by the pandemic but it started loosening some of its restrictions on movement as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 started to go down in recent weeks. The country went into a lockdown on March 14.

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Coronavirus: Dustin Brown says it feels ‘surreal’ to have returned to action

Germany’s Dustin Brown said returning to competitive action at the Tennis Point Exhibition Series in Germany this week amidst the coronavirus pandemic was a surreal experience.

Brown, who famously beat Rafa Nadal at Wimbledon in 2015, is the highest-profile player in the eight-man field at the event being held at the Base Tennis centre near Koblenz.

The ATP and WTA Tours remain suspended until mid-July at the earliest, but the event in Brown’s home country, the first of three that will form the Exo Tennis Series, has at least offered the chance of some competitive action.

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“It’s nice to finally play, it’s a little surreal to be honest, with everything that is actually going on in the world,” former world number 64 Brown said after winning his opening two round-robin matches on Friday.

“With all the safety guidelines I think everyone has done pretty well, doing their best. Even sometimes when it’s not that easy. Very happy to be out here and have some fun.”

The event is taking place without spectators, line judges and ball kids and there are no handshakes after the match.

Players arrive alone and have their own designated space in the venue to prepare. Once on court they sit at opposite sides during the changeovers. The event continues until Monday.

Matches on the indoor claycourt are played over a short format, first to four games and no advantage scoring.

Brown, speaking to the Tennis Channel who are streaming the action live, said in some respects it was a little easier.

“There is not that much pressure,” the 35-year-old, who helped devise the format with Base Tennis owner Rodney Rapson, said. “It’s hard to get up and train when you don’t know when you can play so this event has definitely helped the mindset for the last couple of weeks, knowing something might happen.

“It’s been a little light at the end of the tunnel.”

Brown, who missed the second half of last year because of injury and slipped to 239th in the world, is back on court on Saturday when he will face Britain’s Jan Choinski.

After the conclusion of the eight-man round-robin group, a series of playoff will be contested on Monday to decide the standings. The next Exo Tennis event starts on May 7. Reuters

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Kiki Bertens on winning virtual Madrid Open WTA title on the PlayStation 4

Madrid Open virtual champion Kiki Bertens says her hands were hurting because she practised so much before ‘defending’ her title in a PlayStation battle between the world’s leading stars.

Taking on her fellow WTA professionals on a computer game was the nearest the Dutch player could get to returning to the Spanish capital, where she won the biggest event of her career last May.

And the Dutch number seven managed to back up last year’s clay-court win by triumphing in the esports tournament that replaced the real thing because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bertens, 28, won the WTA Madrid Open Virtual Pro, while Britain’s Andy Murray claimed the ATP title.

“I got the PlayStation about a week and a half before the event and then I played almost every day,” she told BBC Sport.

“But my hands were hurting because I was not used to using the game controller! So some days I could not even play.

“In the days before the event started we were practising with the girls, playing some matches and I was feeling well.

“Of course it doesn’t compare to playing for real on the court, but when I do something I always want to win, even for a good cause. That’s how I am, how competitive I am.”

  • Virtual Madrid Open: Andy Murray & Kiki Bertens clinch titles

Each tournament featured 16 of the world’s top players, with Bertens taking the WTA prize after beating France’s Fiona Ferro in Thursday’s final.

Prize money of 60,000 euros (£52,500) was awarded to each winner, with Bertens giving half to the relief fund providing financial assistance to lower-ranked players.

The other half will go towards fundraising efforts in the Netherlands. The nation has almost 40,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19, according to the Johns Hopkins University, and has recorded 4,795 deaths to date – the seventh highest tally in Europe.

“I will use this money to help people in our country because I think a lot are struggling here,” she said.

“I am still deciding which funds to help exactly, but everything will go to a good cause.”

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Rafael Nadal favourite for the French Open once again, says Robin Soderling

Playing the French Open in late September will not affect Rafael Nadal’s chances of winning a record-extending 13th French Open, says Robin Soderling.

The Swede, who famously became the first man to defeat Nadal at Roland Garros in 2009, is not in the bit surprised by the Spaniard’s longevity in the sport.

The French Open – one of tennis’ four Grand Slam events – was scheduled to take place from May 24 to June 7, but is now slated to run from September 20 to October 4.

Soderling feels Nadal, 33, still remains the indomitable force on his favourite surface despite the fierce challenge coming from Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem.

I can’t believe it’s been 11 years since I beat him at Roland Garros, but it just shows you how good he has been for so long.

Robin Soderling on Rafael Nadal

“Of course it’s going to be a completely different tournament but Rafa on clay – it doesn’t matter if it’s in June or September – for me, if he’s healthy, he’s still going to be the favourite,” Soderling told Sky Sports’ Raz Mirza.

“There are a couple of players who I actually feel can win the French Open. I think Thiem and Djokovic can do really well on clay but it’s just amazing to see Rafa as the favourite again.

“I can’t believe it’s been 11 years since I beat him at Roland Garros, but it just shows you how good he has been for so long. He won his first French Open title in 2005 and he’s still the favourite which is amazing.

“If this break is not going to be too long, it will help Rafa and Roger (Federer) recover. It may even help prolong their careers.”

Nadal enjoyed a successful 2019 after collecting French Open and US Open titles to close to within one Grand Slam of Federer’s mark of 20.

The debate as to who will end up with most majors between Rafa, Roger and Novak Djokovic will rumble on with Soderling keen to have his say on the topic.

“It is more likely that Rafa will win a Grand Slam this year or next year than Roger. He can still do it but I don’t believe he has the hunger in him now, but we will see. When they’re all retired it’s going to be Nadal of Djokovic who will end up with the most Grand Slams.”

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Soderling, who retired from the sport in 2015 due to a long-running illness, says there are a number of key ingredients that make Nadal so special on the dirt.

“I’ve played against all the top guys many times and the thing about Rafa is that it doesn’t matter if he’s down a set and 5-0, he will still fight until the end,” he said.

“Against all the other top players you can see there might be a lack in concentration and of course it’s tough to play when you’re losing, but with Rafa it doesn’t matter if it’s the first point in the match or if it’s 5-0 in the fifth, he will fight for every point.

“His game is just perfect for clay. The ball bounces higher which helps his top-spin and gives him a bit more time on his forehand. He doesn’t have any problems stepping into the court, creating space for angles. When he gets that time then it’s really difficult to stop him.”

Soderling also discussed the new French Open dates which could cause significant disruption to the sport’s calendar. The Swede feels players have been let down by a lack of communication and has also questioned whether or not the tournament will go ahead at all.

He said: “In one way I think it’s still good that they’re still planning to play if they can in September, but of course it’s difficult because there’s other tournaments going on that week, so I’m not even sure if they will be able to play it at all.

“In any case, they should have communicated before with players and told everybody what they were planning to do.”

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The US Open is due to take place in New York from August 31 to September 14, just one week before the start of Roland Garros.

“The French Tennis Federation (FFT) just want to play the tournament. They wanted to play it this year but they couldn’t play it any later because of the weather so it’s good they want to play it, but I really doubt it because will people start flying around the world again already? I’m not sure.”

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Murray leaps out of his seat to celebrate winning Virtual Madrid Open

Delighted Andy Murray leaps out of his seat to celebrate winning Virtual Madrid Open in front of devastated David Goffin after clinching tie-break

  • Andy Murray defeated David Goffin 7-5 in tie-break following tense final
  • Former British No 1 had earlier in the day been given spot in the final despite loss
  • Diego Schwarzman had beaten Brit but claimed it was only via technical glitches
  • Murray received £130,000 to donate after his victory in the Virtual Madrid Open 

It might not have the usual challenges presented by the clay courts but Andy Murray has proven he can be just as devastating behind a controller as well as a racket by winning the Virtual Madrid Open.

The Brit triumphed in the final of the tournament having seen off David Goffin 7-5 in a tie-break, leaping off his chair with delight after landing yet another title.

Goffin could only bury his head in his hands as he watched the Brit return an unbeatable crosscourt forehand to secure victory.

Andy Murray punches the air in delight (right) after winning the Virtual Madrid Open

Murray  said afterwards: ‘Of all the matches I played, that felt like a proper match, we were a similar level.

‘It was good. I enjoyed it, there’s not much we can do just now, we spend most of the days indoors and can’t get out much so it was a fun thing to do.’

Murray’s success on the virtual court via the Playstation game Tennis World Tour came despite losing earlier in the day in the semi-finals to Diego Schwarzman.

However their last four encounter was plagued by technical issues and bizarre glitches that the Argentine felt were too unfair on the former British and world No 1 and thus offered his place in the final to the 32-year-old.

‘I don’t deserve to be in the final,’ Schwartzman told Murray. ‘You play the final. If you’re in Europe the transmission is much better because of the internet.’

Murray saw off some competitors along the way, even defeating the ‘King of Clay’ Rafael Nadal in the group stage.

Murray’s crosscourt winner saw him clinch the title as he leaps off his seat to celebrate while David Goffin buries his head in his hands

Murray’s prize for winning the tournament is £130,000 to give to those most affected by the shutdown of the ATP Tour

After his comprehensive dismantling of Zverev in the quarter-finals, Murray joked he was just too good for the opposition.

The Brit laughed off mischievous accusations from tournament organiser Feliciano Lopez, delivered with a smile, that his rivals were claiming the competition was being fixed in his favour.

‘I know it looks that way but I’m just much better than the other guys,’ said Murray.

The tournament was part of a charity initiative that will donate 50,000 euros (£43,600) to the Madrid Food Bank to help reduce the social impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The winner of each tournament will get 150,000 euros (about £130,000) from which they will be able to decide how much they donate to their colleagues on the tour who have been worst affected by the sport’s shutdown.


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Tara Moore calls for larger percentage of revenue to be distributed to players on tour

Britain’s Tara Moore has called for Grand Slam prize money to be revised in order to help lower-ranked players struggling financially.

Andy Murray has suggested Grand Slam prize money could be cut to help lower-ranked players struggling financially, but Moore, ranked 447 in the world, believes a bigger pot would be more beneficial in allowing the tour to thrive.

“If you’re number one in the world or top 10 in the world you’re totally deserving of the salary you’re getting. I feel there’s a bigger problem with the distribution of prize money,” Moore told Sky Sports News’ presenter Roger Clarke.

“Of the Grand Slams only 14 per cent of gross revenue is generated back out to players so if that pot is bigger and say they put in another 10 per cent, that 10 per cent can help the rest of the tour survive.

“They don’t have to necessarily have to put it back into tournaments but create a sort of revenue-based source or a salary or some sort of health care or pension for players just to make it a little bit more enticing to play. I think that will help grow the sport in general.”

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Roger Federer repeated calls for the men’s ATP and women’s WTA to join forces – with many believing the current system is too confusing for fans given separate ranking systems, subscriptions services and websites.

Moore thinks a merger between the ATP and WTA would cut costs and allow the sport to flourish at junior level.

The ATP, WTA, ITF and the four Grand Slams have always been a separate entity with a separate voice. I think this is a great time for all of them to come together because we’re all in the same situation.

Tara Moore has called for unity

“A lot of players on the women’s side have been very vocal about connecting the ATP and the WTA, especially big names,” she said.

“Personally, I think it’s a great venture for both the ATP and WTA. They can cut media costs and also bring in more fans by hosting joint tournaments. I think joint tournaments would be a lot more fun for the fans and it will help grow the sport.

“There’s always been a problem in tennis with the disjointed figureheads of the sport. The ATP, WTA, ITF and the four Grand Slams have always been a separate entity with a separate voice. I think this is a great time for all of them to come together because we’re all in the same situation.”

Moore has started her campaign to run for International Tennis Federation (ITF) council with the organisation looking to give players more of a voice.

“We’ve been advocating that for a while,” said Moore. “They haven’t really taken any input from players for a very long time so it is a positive change. In this crazy time, all players are trying to make the tour a better place to come back to. At the moment, we’re all sat at home doing nothing. We have a lot of free time on our hands so now is the time to speak up and let organisations know what we want as players coming back.

“Tennis has to be a comfortable way of living for a lot of lower-ranked players otherwise the tour won’t survive.

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Andy Murray mocks Rafael Nadal after Virtual Madrid Open thrashing

Andy Murray lost just one point as he thrashed Rafael Nadal in the Virtual Madrid Open as he exerted his dominance on the PS4.

Murray is one of the favourites to win the event and he humbled Nadal – the Spanish world No. 2 who has beaten him in 17 of 24 meetings in real life – in a 3-0 win, which lasted barely more than five minutes.

Both Murray and Nadal had emerged victorious in their first virtual outings on Monday, beating Benoit Paire and Denis Shapovalov respectively, but Nadal curiously withdrew from a charity match against Djmariio.

He may be wishing he didn’t return on Tuesday as Murray put him to the sword, dropping just one point.

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Murray pumped his fist into the camera after his victory and although Nadal did give him a thumbs up, he logged off quickly saying: ‘Thank you, Andy.’

After the match, Murray stuck the knife in during his post-match interview, saying: ‘If you speak to Rafa, tell him not to be such a bad loser next time!’

On his chances of winning the event, Murray added: ‘I think I have a chance, for sure.’

While it was entertaining seeing two of the sport’s greatest stars face off in the virtual world, organisers again missed a trick with the production.

Commentators spoke over the players during the match, meaning viewers couldn’t hear interaction between the pair – which, frankly, is the most interesting part of the online gaming.

Things went from bad to worse for Nadal. He was comfortably beaten by Benoit Paire later on Tuesday afternoon and will struggle to reach the quarter-finals.

Before play had started, two top-20 players were pulled from the competition.

World No. 3 Dominic Thiem and No. 15 Karen Khachanov were announced as being out of the competition ‘due to technical problems with their internet connections’.

Both will lose all their respective group matches 3-0.

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Andy Murray believes he had coronavirus before going into lockdown

Tennis star Andy Murray has revealed he thinks he contracted coronavirus before the UK went into lockdown.

The two-time Wimbledon champion admitted feeling ill prior to the Government-imposed restrictions coming into place, but did not undergo a test to confirm whether it was Covid-19.

Government advice at the time to anyone displaying symptoms was to self-isolate away from the general public, before the whole country were told to stay at home.

Speaking to CNN, Murray said: "I was a little bit sick for two or three days about four weeks ago.

“So actually, before the beginning of when the quarantine started, I was sort of isolating for probably four or five days before that.

"Most people I've spoken to have had some sort of symptoms and felt a little bit sick, but it's quite difficult to know whether you have actually had the virus or not.

"And obviously, the test should be saved for people that are in severe situations and the frontline NHS workers in this country."

Murray had been working on his fitness following a hip injury, in a bid to return for the Miami Open, which was originally scheduled for last month.

Organisers made the decision to cancel the tournament amidst the coronavirus pandemic, before the entire ATP tennis season was suspended indefinitely.

Since then Wimbledon 2020 has also been scrapped, while the French Open has been pushed back from May until September, though Murray is sceptical that it will go ahead.

"I was training to get ready for that [Miami] and that was going to be a good test, he added. "I was fit and feeling pretty strong.

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