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.

  • ATP and WTA Tours extend suspension until July 31
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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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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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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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  • French Open postponed until September

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.”

  • Coronavirus: Latest sports updates
  • The Ultimate Andy Murray QUIZ!

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 will find return to ‘big four’ tough despite recovery during lockdown, believes Greg Rusedski

The extended lockdown of tennis will help Andy Murray‘s return from injury but it will be “a big ask” for him to add to his three Grand Slam titles, according to former British number one Greg Rusedski.

Murray underwent hip re-surfacing surgery at the start of 2019 and resumed playing doubles in June before returning to singles action in August.

He did not compete at the US Open but won the title in Antwerp in October – his first on the ATP Tour for two years.

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Murray, 32, has not played a competitive match this year because of bone bruising near the site of his surgery.

With tennis unlikely to return until at least late July because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Scot has plenty of time to get himself 100 per cent fit for when play resumes.

Yet Rusedski says it will be tough for twice Wimbledon champion Murray to regain his former place in the so-called big four of men’s tennis alongside Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

“The good news for him is that he’s had more of a rest at this point,” Rusedski told Sky Sports on Sunday. “Hopefully his body comes back, but to challenge week in week out with Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, (Stefanos) Tsitsipas is going to be hard.

“Can he win matches? Can he possibly win a Tour event? Yes, he can do so. But to win Slams, that’s three out of five sets, seven matches, that’s a little bit difficult. It’s possible he can get to a quarter-final, fourth round, but to go all the way with the surgeries he’s had, that’s a big ask.

“But I hope he proves me wrong, like he’s done on several occasions.”

Former world number one Murray is now ranked at 129. Next week he will swap his racket for a controller as he plays in the ‘virtual’ Madrid Open, featuring 32 of the world’s best players including Nadal and Dominic Thiem.

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Day 46 without sports 😭: Dennis Rodman to be featured in part three of ‘The Last Dance’

Former Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman perfected his role masterfully with rebounding, hustle and even good behavior. But once Scottie Pippen returned to the lineup after missing the first 35 games because of foot surgery, Rodman announced something that left the Bulls worried.

“I need a vacation,” Michael Jordan recalled Rodman saying.

So at least for a day, NBA hoops fans will be entertained. Sure, it's frustrating that it's Day 46 without sports because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. But “The Last Dance” documentary on the Bulls has given sports fans something to look forward to. Episode 3 of the documentary's 10-part series should offer enough levity. The reason? The show will focus on Rodman (ESPN, 9 pm ET).

The intrigue will go beyond Rodman’s colored hair, body piercings and on-court intensity. The show will also detail Rodman's off-court behavior, including when Rodman asked Bulls coach Phil Jackson if he could take a brief vacation in Las Vegas during the 1997-98 season.

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“Phil, you let this dude go on vacation, we’re not going to see him," Jordan recalled saying. "You let him go to Vegas, we’re definitely not going to see him."

“I need a vacation…”#TheLastDance continues Sunday, April 26 at 9:00 PM ET on ESPN. pic.twitter.com/fIiLZ75J7q

If this sounds bizarre, well, it is. Rodman also skipped practice between Games 3 and 4 of the 1998 NBA Finals so he could attend a WCW wrestling match in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

The kicker: the Bulls allowed Rodman's quirky behavior because it did not affect his on-court excellence. It only enhanced it.

“There was a real connection that existed that gave Dennis the freedom and space that he needed,” said Golden State Warriors coach and former Bulls guard Steve Kerr recently on a conference call. “It wasn’t a thing where we were all complaining of Dennis not making it to a practice. We sort of understood that he was his own man and he did so much for our team that we allowed him to have that freedom."

Sports Video of the Day

Rodman’s antics aside, he became a Hall of Famer for an obvious reason. Rodman was the NBA’s best rebounder. He bullied his opponents with his strength. He crashed the boards with his hustle. He raced for loose balls with his quickness. The video below captures Rodman’s body of work perfectly.

On this day in sports

1905: The Chicago Cubs’ Jack McCarthy became the only major league player to throw out three runners at home plate in one game.

1912: The Boston Red Sox’s Hugh Bradley hit the first home run at Fenway Park

1964: The Boston Celtics won the NBA championship after beating the San Francisco Warriors in five games

What we're watching

► “The Last Dance” documentary: Parts 3 and 4 on ESPN (9-11 p.m. ET)

► 2013, Seattle Mariners and Anaheim Angels (Mike Trout hits for the cycle). Noon ET & 10 p.m. ET, MLB Network

► Game 7 of 2015 first-round playoff matchup between San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers. Chris Paul banks in a game winner. 6 p.m. ET, NBA TV

Sports we're missing

NBA and NHL playoffs

MLB

  • Toronto Blue Jays at Baltimore Orioles
  • Cleveland Indians at New York Yankees
  • Kansas City Royals at Tampa Bay Rays
  • San Diego Padres at Detroit Tigers
  • Los Angeles Dodgers at Pittsburgh Pirates
  • Oakland Athletics at Houston Astros
  • Arizona Diamondbacks at Cincinnati Reds
  • Boston Red Sox at Minnesota Twins
  • Miami Marlins at St. Louis Cardinals
  • Philadelphia Phillies at Chicago Cubs
  • Seattle Mariners at Texas Rangers
  • Milwaukee Brewers at Colorado Rockies
  • Washington Nationals at San Francisco Giants
  • Chicago White Sox at Los Angeles Angels
  • New York Mets at Atlanta Braves

MLS

  • Chicago Fire FC v. Columbus Crew
  • Philadelphia Union v. New York City FC
  • Atlanta United v. Portland Timbers

Follow USA TODAY NBA writer Mark Medina on Twitter,Facebook and Instagram. 

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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.”

  • Coronavirus: Latest sports updates
  • ‘We don’t seem to exist, we just play tennis’

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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