Nick Kyrgios claims Andy Murray is better than Novak Djokovic during Instagram chat

Nick Kyrgios has reiterated his belief Andy Murray is a better tennis player than world No 1 Novak Djokovic while the British great has offered an encouraging update on his injury recovery.

The pair, who are known to be on good terms on tour, shared an entertaining – if not bizarre at times – chat via Instagram Live as the coronavirus continues to provide an intriguing access into athletes’ lives.

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Murray, who has already spoken to long-time rivals Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic on social media since the start of the pandemic, appeared embarrassed as Kyrgios told the Scot is “one of the good ones” while drinking red wine.

“I think you should have one of the best careers ever,” said world No 40 Kyrgios.

“I think you are better than Djokovic. Djokovic was playing dodgeball on my serve and you were slapping it for a winner. He was trying to dodge it; you were on it like a light.”

In a typically expressionless reply, Murray said: “The results would suggest otherwise.”

Kyrgios showered Murray with continued praise during the light-hearted conversation, telling the former world No 1 he was “better than the Big Three”.

The Australian referenced a one-sided defeat to Murray at the Rogers Cup in Montreal in 2014, a month after Kyrgios emerged to wider consciousness with a stunning victory against the Spaniard at Wimbledon.

“I literally felt like I didn’t know what tennis was that day,” Kyrgios said. “I wanted to walk off after the first four games, honestly.”

He added: “When you returned my serve, which Rafa didn’t, I knew I was in trouble.”

Novak or Nadal or feds or anyone next? Let’s be OPEN & HONEST

Kyrgios also pleaded with Murray to “give the people what they want” and form a doubles partnership, while the two-time Wimbledon champion indicated he should return to tour from a pelvic injury when the ATP Tour eventually resumes.

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The Ultimate 80s Tennis QUIZ! Think you know everything about the 1980s?

The time has come to try your hand at the ultimate 80s tennis quiz. Think you know everything about the greatest decade of them all?

‘I’ve got love for you if you were born in the 80s, the 80s!’ From Back to the Future to the Rubik’s Cube, how’s your tennis knowledge from the decade?

From John McEnroe to Martina Navratilova, we’ve compiled 18 of the very best questions for all you fun-loving retro 80s fans.

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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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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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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 and Novak Djokovic build the ultimate tennis player

As part of their Instagram Live discussion, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic went on to build their ultimate tennis player. Do you agree with their choices?

The Serve

Djokovic: John Isner or Nick Kyrgios.

Murray: I’d say exactly the same. If you gave Kyrgios Isner’s height. I’ve practised with him and seen him warming up.

Djokovic: He warms up?!

Murray: Yeah, he’s done absolutely nothing on his shoulder and he serves unbelievable, no problem. He’s got such easy power. I love that you said that as well because a lot of the guys that I chat to about tennis are always ‘no way’ it’s not Nick. I’m in agreement with you there.

The Return

Djokovic: I’d go with you. Playing against you on any surface was always a challenge but out of the three biggest rivalries that I had, Rafa, Roger and yourself, I found it the hardest to serve against you because it just felt like everything was coming back.

If I win a free point on the first serve against you, I’m celebrating like I won the set. You could read it so well, position, anticipation, you could block it, you could hit it.

Murray: I appreciate that and I’m taking you on the return for the same reasons. Rarely missing returns. If you look at the stats of returns in play, it’s probably over 93-94 per cent – that’s rough!

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The Forehand

Djokovic: The Thor from Tandil – Del Potro. I love the forehand of Fernando Gonzales, but I would go Roger or Del Potro, it’s hard to pick one. I’ll go Delpo.

Murray: I’m going Rafa (Nadal). I just feel like the leftyness has helped him. There may be a small period in his career where it let him down in a couple of matches, but very rarely would that have been the shot that contributed to him losing matches.

The Backhand

Murray: I’m taking you… very few mistakes, able to change direction on both wings. The one shot that you hit that no one else is able to on hard courts is the sliding backhand defensive shot. It means the court becomes a lot smaller for your opponent and you’re able to recover quicker and you can move into the court.

Djokovic: I would take you. Consistency, the same things that you said but the fact that you don’t miss much and you make the life of your opponent very difficult because I feel when I played against you I just couldn’t penetrate through that side.

I would also like to mention Stan Wawrinka’s backhand which I think is amazing on clay and higher bouncing surfaces. When he has time on the ball, he positions himself very well – it’s probably the best backhand out there. His cross-court is like Rafa’s forehand.

From the younger guys, Daniil Medvedev. His backhand reminds me of yours.

Murray: It’s a tricky backhand, I’ve practised with him a few times.

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The Volley

Djokovic: Roger (Federer) is one of the most complete players ever to play the game. We all know how great he is. I don’t think people talk so much about his ability to come up with a serve and volley accurate play at the most challenging times in a match. He was not so much intimidated by the return.

We both have great returns, but we prefer when a player would stay back and we would get into the rally. He takes away your time. The quality of his first volley and positioning at the net is probably underrated.

Murray: I’d agree with that. There might be some guys that hit certain volleys better, but all round, because he has the touch and feel as well, he’s able to hit more volleys better than any of the other guys. He’s one of the few guys that has come up with that shot under pressure.

Mentally

Djokovic: It’s obvious Nadal has the champion’s mentality. What he’s managed to produce over the years on all surfaces, the way he was bouncing back after numerous injuries that he had. I think he was the most injured out of any of us four. Every second season, he has got something for several months and he managed to come back and kind of build his game.

The resilience he has on the court, the intensity he brings – when you see him jumping around before you walk onto court, it already intimidates you. You think, ‘oh my god, I’m going in with a gladiator’. A mental giant and a physical giant.

Murray: I would say if I was looking at an entire career and everyone’s matches, consistently, Rafa has been the strongest. There’s times where you would have been ahead of him in the mental department, but over an entire career, even from when he was very young, he’s always been unbelievably mentally strong.

Even when he was 18, 19 years old, which is so rare for the young guys coming through. It’s the mental part that normally takes the longest.

Physicality

Djokovic: I would say Dominic Thiem of David Ferrer. I love Ferrer’s fighting spirit. He’s always physically so fit and he hasn’t been injured so much. He’s always been a warrior on the court.

I would give Ferrer an edge over Thiem because he’s been on the Tour longer. Dominic is going to last for hopefully many more years.

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Billie Jean King says tennis shutdown has exposed the ‘inequities’ of tennis

Tennis great Billie Jean King says the financial fallout from the coronavirus shutdown has exposed the unfairness of the sport.

The Tour was suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the shutdown will continue at least until mid-July, depriving lower-level players, who depend solely on playing tournaments, of the chance to earn a living.

In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports, Britain’s Tara Moore and Georgia’s Sofia Shapatava have spoken up for tennis’ lower-ranked players, asking the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to hear their voice.

The sport’s governing bodies have joined forces to devise plans to provide relief and 12-times Grand Slam singles champion King said the sport had the chance to emerge stronger from the health crisis.

“This is a good time to reset and to have one voice in the sport, which we really never had. We need that desperately,” King told the Tennis Channel.

“I hope they will all work together more after the COVID-19 situation calms down.

“Maybe some day, and I didn’t think it is possible, we might have a commissioner. I don’t know. We are not the biggest sport in the world, we don’t have as much money as say soccer. So we need to stick together and everyone needs to help each other.

“The thing that’s also good is it shows the inequities that go on. So this is a good time to reset and think about how we want our sport to look in the future. What can we do to make it better, stronger and more secure?

“This is a really good chance to have a new normal for tennis.”

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While tennis is a lucrative sport for those at the top, those in the lower echelons often struggle to make ends meet.

The men’s ATP, the WTA, which runs the women’s circuit, the world governing body International Tennis Federation and the organisers of the four Grand Slams have come together to work on creating an emergency relief fund.

World No 1 Novak Djokovic has said he had been in touch with fellow men’s Player Council members Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal and the players were looking to contribute collectively to assist those in the lower rankings.

King said the WTA was also working on ways to provide financial relief for its players.

“Some money has gone out to the players but we need to think about more,” said the 76-year-old American.

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Nicolas Jarry given 11-month doping ban by the International Tennis Federation

Top 100 tennis player Nicolas Jarry has been given an 11-month doping ban by the International Tennis Federation (ITF).

Jarry was provisionally suspended in January after metabolites of two substances on WADA’s banned list – SARM LGD-4033 (ligandrol) and the anabolic steroid stanozolol – showed up in a urine sample he gave while playing for Chile at the Davis Cup Finals in Madrid at the end of last year.

After an investigation, the ITF said it accepted the 24-year-old’s explanation as to how SARM LGD-4033 and stanozolol entered his system – namely that he had taken ‘multi-vitamins’ made in Brazil that his doctor had recommended because they were supposedly free from banned substances.

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Despite clearing him of significant fault or negligence for his violation, the ITF still imposed a sanction, although his period of ineligibility will be back-dated to start on the date of last occurrence of his violation (Dec 16 2019).

He will lose any prize money and ranking points earned at the Davis Cup and subsequent events. Jarry, who reached as high as 38th in the world last July, will be free to resume his career on November 15. He is currently down at 89th.

“With a clear conscience I tell you that we were able to prove in the investigation carried out by the ITF that the prohibited substances identified in the test, were originated in the Brazilian laboratory which cross-contaminated my vitamins,” Jarry said in a statement on his Twitter account.

“I have accepted the 11-month sanction offered by the ITF.”

In a statement the ITF warned against the dangers of using supplements from South America.

“It is apparent that the consumption of bespoke supplements, in particular those made in compound pharmacies in South America, carries with it a significant degree of risk for sportsmen and women who are subject to anti-doping rules and the escalating bans that have been imposed on tennis players for such violations have not been adequate to deter other players from taking those risks,” it said.

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Coronavirus: Paralympic champion Gordon Reid praises support of LTA

Scotland’s reigning Paralympic Wheelchair Tennis champion Gordon Reid has heaped praise on the LTA for their support during the coronavirus lockdown.

Like others from across the world of sport, Reid and his fellow players on the GB Wheelchair Tennis World Class Performance Programme have been adjusting to new ways of training from their own homes.

Now, attentions are firmly focused on future tournaments once the sport-wide enforced shutdown is lifted, chief among them the rearranged Tokyo Paralympics in 2021 where Reid will defend his titles.

“The LTA have been great in providing us with equipment and support so we can continue training at home for as long as we need to,” said Reid, who is the world No 5.

“I’ve been sent a set of rollers and have my tennis chair set up on those so I can do my cardio, and then there’s a pull-up bar and TRX suspension cable kit, so I can do quite a lot of exercises on that, too.”

Crowned Britain’s first ever Paralympic men’s singles gold medallist in Rio four years ago, as well as silver medallist in the men’s doubles alongside Alfie Hewett, Reid says he has been given a personal programme to assist him in training remotely.

“Between Alex Cockram, our LTA strength and conditioning coach and Claire McDonald, my own personal strength and conditioning coach for the last 12 years, they have devised me a programme and I’m getting a lot of great support,” Reid said.

“The best thing I’m finding is the rollers. I realise it’s not a cheap bit of equipment to get and it’s something not a lot of people have access to. It gives me chance to work on pushing technique and strength and power.”

Four years ago, Reid enjoyed the best season of his career, including his first Grand Slam singles titles at the Australian Open and Wimbledon.

With Wimbledon and the LTA’s British Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships now among the cancelled tournaments, Reid is keen to maintain a sense of perspective.

He also says he has much to be grateful to the NHS for, having been diagnosed with the neurological condition transverse myelitis just before his 13th birthday.

“As British players it’s great when Wimbledon and the British Open come around,” the 28-year-old said.

“When your favourite event gets cancelled it’s obviously bad news, but it’s not such a big deal compared to what this virus is doing to people, their health and their family members.

“You have to look at it from the bigger perspective and realise that it’s not a big thing to miss a few events when it’s about saving lives.

“Obviously, the NHS played a big part in my life in my early teens and I’ve got a lot to be grateful to them for, too. My brother Stephen, who’s back home with my parents in Helensburgh, is also a physio for the NHS, so it puts things in perspective.”

With no date set for the resumption of the tennis calendar, the recently announced dates for the Tokyo Paralympics has provided clarity after the suspension of a season that had started with four successive doubles titles, including his latest Grand Slam title alongside Hewett at the Australian Open.

He also reached the men’s singles final at Melbourne Park in January and with the new 500 days to go landmark for Tokyo passing this week, Reid said: “It gives me a bit more time to prepare for Tokyo.

“I felt like I was coming back into some good form and was on an upwards trajectory, but this gives me a bit longer to get a bit higher in the rankings and to peak at the right time.”

Roland Garros has rescheduled dates for the French Open in September and should the event go ahead it would give Reid and Hewett, the three-time Wimbledon and US Open champions, the opportunity to try and complete a career Grand Slam of men’s doubles titles together.

But for now, away from an intensive training programme, Reid is finding plenty of ways of keeping busy.

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Roger Federer narrates a Wimbledon video urging fans to stay at home

Roger Federer has narrated a Wimbledon video urging fans to stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion put his voice to a video released by the AELTC, which praises frontline workers who are putting their lives at risk.

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In the video titled ‘We cheer for them’ the eight-time Wimbledon champion says “this summer, sadly, we must come together by staying apart.

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