Wimbledon should have been getting under way on Monday and the queue would have been building all weekend long, a tented village of flag-waving, gin-swigging tennis diehards doing whatever it takes to land a prized ticket.

The practice courts would have been bustling, news conferences with the world's elite players running all day Saturday and into Sunday, and the first bumper delivery of fresh strawberries would have arrived fresh from the fields of Kent.

Elite athletes and their entourages would have been milling around the grounds, before at 10.30am on Monday morning the paying spectators would have been released from their holding bay, many racing straight to the grass bank that is officially named Aorangi Terrace but better known as Henman Hill.

And at 11.30am, the first players would have been walking on court, the championships getting under way. To be there at such a time is a delicious thrill, the waiting over, the grounds teeming, the first points being played, and the anticipation escalating as to what might unfold over the next fortnight.

Yet this year Wimbledon was all quiet across the weekend; thousands did not queue for tickets; the line painters, the stewards, and the ball boys and ball girls stayed at home; and a whole lot more strawberry jam is being produced in England this year than last.

The 2020 championships were cancelled on April 1, the only reasonable decision available to the All England Club amid the coronavirus pandemic, but organisers are already preparing for next year's return.

And from the plot lines that are already emerging, it is clear we can expect a classic Wimbledon.

A farewell to great champions?

There is the very real prospect of tennis losing a huddle of its biggest stars practically all at once, with anyone that was considering bowing out this year surely now giving the glad eye to 2021.

Roger Federer will be just weeks short of his 40th birthday by next year's Wimbledon, and the same applies to Serena Williams, whose sister Venus will already be 41.

Andy Murray will be a relatively young 34 but his body has taken a battering, the Scot desperate to play more grand slams but also realistic enough to know there may not be many left for him. He longs for another Wimbledon, maybe just one more.

Between them, that quartet have won 22 Wimbledon singles titles, and all four could choose the 2021 tournament as their opportunity to bid farewell to the All England Club.

It's going to be an emotional tournament in any case, if we are back to normal, but if there are goodbyes to be said too, the championships promise to be one packed with indelible memories, and so many tears.

The magic numbers

Serena Williams has lost each of the past two Wimbledon women's finals and has been stuck on 23 grand slams since winning the 2017 Australian Open, agonisingly one short of Margaret Court's record.

Could Wimbledon be where Williams matches or even passes Court's total? The American remains the player to beat at Wimbledon, and her hunger for grand slam success has not remotely diminished over time.

There can be little doubt she is playing not purely for the love of it, but because of the thrill of the chase, and Williams might wind up disappointed at the end of her career, still marooned one adrift.

But what a story it would be if Williams were to win another Wimbledon, the last of her thirties. Don't put anything past her.

And the race to finish as the all-time leader on the men's side keeps rolling, a devil of a duty to predict who will come out on top between Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

Another Wimbledon win for any of them could take on momentous significance in that respect.

A new men's Centre Court king, at last?

The last player to win the Wimbledon's men's singles, besides the 'Big Four' of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray, was Lleyton Hewitt in 2002.

And while the era of those four great players dominating in SW19 has been one to treasure, seeing a new champion crowned would be rather special.

There have been nine winners of the women's singles over the same period of time, multiple champions among them but also terrific one-off stories such as Marion Bartoli's triumph, the 17-year-old Maria Sharapova's big breakthrough, Amelie Mauresmo's great achievement, and the unbridled joy of Simona Halep last year.

Certainly there is so much to admire about the quartet that have ruled the men's singles, but a little novelty feels overdue.

Those queueing up to form a new dominant group need to push themselves forward, rather than play a waiting game.

Gauff gunning for major breakthrough

Gauff gunning for major breakthrough

What a revelation Coco Gauff became last year, defeating her great hero Venus Williams and reaching the fourth round, where it took eventual champion Halep to halt the 15-year-old's run.

She dramatically followed up by reaching the third round of the US Open and then round four of the Australian Open at the start of this year.

Between those two grand slams, Gauff also landed her first WTA title, in Linz, Austria, where she became the youngest winner on tour for 15 years.

The American teenager is the real deal, that much is clear, and she has a bright future.

Gauff demonstrated wisdom beyond her years off the court in early June with a terrific, powerful address at a Black Lives Matter rally in her Florida home town of Delray Beach.

May she return many times to Wimbledon.

Roger Federer has been urged to quit tennis by Novak Djokovic's father, who claims his son and Rafael Nadal are destined to topple the Swiss on the all-time list of male grand slam winners.

The bold comments from Srdan Djokovic came as he spoke to Serbian broadcaster Sport Klub, in a week where Novak Djokovic described Federer as "possibly the greatest tennis player in history".

It remains to be seen which of the men's tennis 'big three' finish with the most grand slam singles titles, but 38-year-old Federer leads the way with 20 at present.

That puts him one ahead of Nadal and three clear of Djokovic at the top of the list, with the coronavirus interruption to this season having seen Wimbledon cancelled.

Federer is taking the rest of the year off after undergoing knee surgery, which rules him out of the US Open and the French Open, with both tournaments still hoping to go ahead in 2020, the latter having been delayed from its scheduled May start.

Srdan Djokovic has suggested the eight-time Wimbledon champion, who turns 39 in August, takes a permanent break from the tour.

"Why do you think he is still playing at 40?" said Srdan Djokovic.

"Imagine that, a 40-year-old man still playing tennis, when he could go home and do some more interesting things.

"But since both Nadal and Novak are breathing down his neck, he simply cannot accept the fact that they will be better than him. Go man, raise children, do something else, go and ski, do something."

According to his father, Novak Djokovic, at 33, has "another two, maybe three years" left in tennis.

"After that, he will be as successful as he was successful in tennis," said Srdan Djokovic.

The rest of the 2020 ATP season remains uncertain due to the coronavirus pandemic, but one thing we know for sure is Roger Federer will play no further part.

Federer announced on Wednesday that, having undergone another arthroscopic procedure on his injured knee, he will not play again until 2021.

The 20-time grand slam singles champion said: "Much like I did leading up to the 2017 season, I plan to take the necessary time to be 100 per cent ready to play at my highest level."

That will be music to the ears of Federer fans. After sitting out the second half of 2016 in order to shake off lingering injury concerns, the 38-year-old's comeback heralded one of the most remarkable seasons of his storied career: 54 wins, just five defeats, and seven titles – all in the year he turned 36.

January: Australian Open

Having made his return to action at the Hopman Cup, Federer entered the opening major of the year – and his first since losing the 2016 Wimbledon semi-final to Milos Raonic – seeded only 17th.

He needed four sets to defeat Jurgen Melzer in round one but seemed to find his groove against Noah Rubin and then Tomas Berdych, although defending champion Novak Djokovic's shock defeat to Denis Istomin caught the headlines. Federer was due to face world number one Andy Murray in round four but, when he lost in four sets to Mischa Zverev, the draw suddenly looked wide open.

Federer beat the German and won mammoth contests against Kei Nishikori and Stan Wawrinka en route to a final against Rafael Nadal that nobody had expected. Nadal had won their previous six meetings at majors, but it was Federer who triumphed 6-4 3-6 6-1 3-6 6-3 to claim his first Melbourne crown in seven years and his 18th slam in total.

March: Indian Wells Masters

Federer lost to world number 116 Evgeny Donskoy in Dubai in February but bounced back in style, winning the Indian Wells Masters without dropping a set and defeating Nadal and Wawrinka again along the way.

It was his first title in California since 2012 and set him up for a happy few weeks in the United States.

March/April: Miami Open

Federer's third career Sunshine Double came despite an ominous-looking draw at the Miami Open. Rising star Frances Tiafoe and Juan Martin del Potro fell to straight sets, before Roberto Bautista Agut, Berdych and Nick Kyrgios – all in the top 20 – failed to stop him.

In the final, he beat Nadal for the fourth time in a row and surpassed his own record as the oldest winner of a Masters 1000 event – a record he set weeks earlier and would break again later in the year.

June: Halle Open

Federer skipped the clay season to return refreshed for the grass tournaments, but he lost to veteran Tommy Haas in the round of 16 in Stuttgart.

Order was restored at the Halle Open. He again reached the final without dropping a set and swept aside Alexander Zverev 6-1 6-3 to win the tournament for the ninth time.

July: Wimbledon

Such was Federer's form coming into his favourite slam that it looked unlikely anyone could stop him from winning a record eighth title.

So it proved: the Swiss was nigh-on faultless as he breezed into the final, again without dropping a set, where he beat Marin Cilic 6-3 6-1 6-4.

October: Shanghai Masters

August did not quite go to plan for Federer as he lost the final of the Montreal Masters to Alexander Zverez before Del Potro ousted him at the quarter-final stage of the US Open.

Further hard-court success did not elude him for long, though. He won his second Shanghai title in October, gaining revenge on Del Potro in the semi-finals and dispatching Nadal 6-4 6-3 in the final.

October: Swiss Indoors Basel

It was fitting that the last title win of Federer's spectacular comeback year would come on his own turf.

Roared on by the home crowd, Federer had few concerns in reaching a final against Del Potro, which he won 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-3.

His eighth Swiss Indoors Basel triumph was the 95th Tour title of his career and ensured 2017 was his most successful season since 2007.

Roger Federer will not play again until 2021 due to complications in his recovery from a knee injury.

The Swiss star was expected to be sidelined for four months after undergoing an operation back in February, his initial plan to return in time for the grass-court season.

With Wimbledon having been cancelled and the ATP Tour suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was anticipated the 20-time grand slam singles champion could compete at the US Open in August.

However, Federer says a setback in his rehabilitation means he requires a further arthroscopic procedure, and he intends to give his body as long as possible to recover.

In a Twitter post, the 38-year-old wrote: "A few weeks ago, having experienced a setback during my initial rehabilitation, I had to have an additional quick arthroscopic procedure on my right knee.

"Now, much like I did leading up to the 2017 season, I plan to take the necessary time to be 100 per cent ready to play at my highest level.

"I will be missing my fans and the tour dearly but, I will look forward to seeing everyone back on tour at the start of 2021."

In February 2016, Federer suffered a torn meniscus while running a bath for his children and then pulled out of the French Open due to a back problem.

He chose to skip the rest of the season after losing to Milos Raonic in the Wimbledon semi-finals, saying: "The doctors advised that if I want to play on the ATP World Tour injury free for another few years, as I intend to do, I must give both my knee and body the proper time to fully recover."

Federer enjoyed a spectacular comeback in 2017, winning seven titles including the Australian Open and Wimbledon, marking his most successful season for over a decade.

Roger Federer enjoyed a history-making day back on June 7, 2009 as he finally won the French Open.

The Swiss great overcame Robin Soderling, the man who had earlier in the tournament dealt Rafael Nadal his first ever defeat at Roland Garros, in the final.

Federer's 6-1 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 triumph saw him complete the career Grand Slam and in the aftermath he described it as his "greatest victory".

Given the 20-time major winner's laundry list of achievements, that claim may seem dubious.

Here we look at the statistical context around his success in Paris to examine whether – 11 years on – it is worthy of the title bestowed upon it by Federer.

SHOCKS, COMEBACKS KEY TO CAUSE

Federer faced zero of the other three members of the big four in winning the title. Nadal's loss to Soderling was obviously key, while Novak Djokovic was beaten by Philipp Kohlschreiber in the round of 32 and Andy Murray came up short against Fernando Gonzalez in the quarter-finals.

His route to the final proved an arduous one. Federer endured three matches that lasted over three hours and came through two five-setters. 

He recovered from two sets and a break down to beat Tommy Haas in the last 16 and turned around a two sets to one deficit against Juan Martin del Potro in the semi-final.

The recovery against Haas was a remarkable Houdini act. Haas was two games away from victory and had break point at 7-6 7-5 4-3, but a clean winner from Federer turned the tide.

Recalling the match recently for Roland Garros' official website, Haas said: "I looked at that as a match point because he hadn't broken me up until that point I believe and I was serving well.

"I could see him running around that inside-out forehand... he was preparing for it. And he just hits it inside the line for a clean winner. It's almost like the Rocky IV movie. It's almost like I start bleeding after that game. And he cut me and got the momentum and never looked back."


MARATHON MAN FEDERER DOMINATES ON SERVE

Federer's trio of epics contributed to him spending a total of 18 hours and 35 minutes on court across his seven matches.

He needed such powers of longevity despite dominating on his serve.

Indeed, Federer served 80 aces, the most of any player to reach the last eight and won 78.9 per cent of points on his first serve.

Among quarter-final participants, only Del Potro was superior in that regard.

Federer also had the unenviable task of facing two French players en route to the final. He defeated Paul Henri Mathieu and Gael Monfils while surrendering just one set.

The home crowd may not have backed Federer in those contests, but they were roaring in approval come his performance in the final.


SODERLING SQUASHED

The final lasted just one hour and 55 minutes, Federer's second-fastest match of the tournament.

He needed only 23 minutes to wrap up the first set and there was to be no surprise comeback from Soderling despite a tight second.

Federer sent down 16 aces and won 84.6 per cent of his points on first serve, saving the only two break points he faced.

The win came in his 11th appearance at Roland Garros and his fourth final, Federer having lost his previous three appearances in the showpiece to Nadal.

Only once has he reached the final in Paris since, losing to Nadal in 2011.

Federer became the sixth man to achieve the career Grand Slam, with Nadal and Djokovic later following in his footsteps.

By defeating Soderling, Federer tied Peter Sampras with his 14th major title, reaching that total in 40 grand slam appearances, 12 fewer than Sampras (52). He would take sole ownership of the record 28 days later with a five-set win over Andy Roddick in the Wimbledon final.


IS IT HIS GREATEST?

"I just think it's an unbelievable achievement. I'm very proud of my career, obviously. I achieved more than I ever thought I would," said Federer afterwards.

"My dream as a boy was to win Wimbledon one day. I won that five times. To get [the Roland Garros title] at the end, as the last remaining grand slam, it's an incredible feeling.

"The waiting and the age definitely has a big impact on how important and how nice this victory actually is. It's been a long time coming and I'm happy I got it today. I'm very proud."

Federer will have felt an extra significance to the win given the scale of achievement it brought up and his previous issues getting over the line against Nadal.

The lack of a big-four opponent probably prevents it from being considered Federer's greatest slam triumph, with the victories against Nadal in the final of Wimbledon in 2007 and the Australian Open in 2017 among those that stand out from the pack.

Between his dominance of serve, the speed with which he swatted aside a dangerous opponent in Soderling, and the powers of recovery he showed against a player in Del Potro who would defeat him in the US Open final later in the year, it stands as one of the more underrated glories of his incredible career.

June 7, 2009 was the date Roger Federer finally reigned at Roland Garros.

The Swiss completed his grand slam collection when beating Robin Soderling in the French Open final and, in doing so, equalled a record held by Pete Sampras.

This was also the date when 'The Last Dance' Chicago Bulls shut down the Utah Jazz in emphatic fashion in 1998.

Take a look at events that previously happened on this date through the years.

 

1996 - Chavez's century ends in defeat

Julio Cesar Chavez and Oscar De La Hoya were both multi-weight world champions during their careers and a fight between the two was highly anticipated in 1996.

De La Hoya, who owned a 21-0 record heading into the bout, was 10 years younger and facing an opponent who was fighting for the 100th time, Chavez having won 97 of the previous 99.

However, the light-welterweight contest was short-lived, falling way short of the hype as Chavez suffered a serious cut in the opening round and eventually succumbed to a barrage in the fourth, unable to continue after De La Hoya's left hook broke his nose.

Chavez would fight for another seven years, however, finishing with a 107-6-2 record, while De La Hoya retired in 2008 following losses to Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao.

 

1998 - Jazz fail to hit the right notes as Bulls gain Finals advantage

The series was finely poised at 1-1 when the Bulls and Jazz tipped off in Game 3 of the 1998 NBA Finals.

What followed was the most dominant victory in Finals history as the Bulls won by 42 points, 96-54, as Utah scored what was at the time the lowest total in an NBA game since the inception of the shot clock.

Despite Karl Malone's 22 points, the Jazz went 13-of-59 from the floor as Dennis Rodman, Scottie Pippen and the rest of Chicago's defense delivered a performance that swung the series in their favour.

Chicago would go on to win the Finals 4-2, delivering a second three-peat to end a glorious run in the Windy City for Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson.

2009 - Finally for Federer

Having already triumphed at the other three slams, a French Open title had evaded Federer, thanks mainly due to the presence of Rafael Nadal.

However, in 2009 the Spaniard was suddenly out of the picture after a shock fourth-round loss to Soderling, who would go on to set up a final against Federer.

The showdown proved a mismatch; Federer eased to a 6-1 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 triumph in under two hours to win his 14th grand slam title.

In doing so he equalled Sampras' all-time record, with Federer eclipsing the American's haul with victory at Wimbledon later that year when he overcame Andy Roddick in an epic encounter.

Elite sport is gradually returning to our screens amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Germany's Bundesliga, the UFC and the NRL were among the first top-level events to forge a route back last month after pausing due to the global crisis.

A clutch of Europe's other top football leagues, cricket, motorsport and the United States' major competitions all have designs on behind-closed-doors resumptions in the near future, too, which could create a significant backlog of crucial fixtures.

One positive is that sports fans might now be treated to a number of colossal match-ups back-to-back on the same day at some point over the coming months.

That prospect gives us the opportunity to reflect on five similar occasions with the greatest sporting days since the turn of the century - including one exactly a year ago.

 

JULY 23, 2000

The US had a day to remember as two of their most prominent stars bolstered their still burgeoning reputations with big victories on foreign soil.

The paths of Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong have subsequently diverged a little, however.

Woods became the youngest player to complete golf's career grand slam with a record-breaking victory at The Open in 2000, while Armstrong wrapped up a second straight Tour de France title.

The American duo stood at the top of the world, yet history will recall Armstrong's achievements rather differently now he has been stripped of each of his seven successive yellow jerseys for doping.

Woods at least maintained his high standards and held all four major titles after the 2001 Masters, winning again at Augusta as recently as last year.

FEBRUARY 1, 2004

Two more sporting greats shared the same special page in the calendar early in 2004.

It was a long day for anyone who took in both Roger Federer's performance in Melbourne's Australian Open final and Tom Brady's Super Bowl display in Houston, but they were duly rewarded.

Twenty-time grand slam champion Federer had won just one major before facing down Marat Safin in Australia, also becoming the ATP Tour's top-ranked player for the first time. He stayed at number one for a record-shattering 237 weeks.

Brady similarly then doubled his tally of Super Bowl rings by delivering a second triumph in three years for the Patriots, in what was a classic encounter against the Carolina Panthers.

Brady threw for 354 yards and three touchdowns, before Adam Vinatieri's field goal secured a 32-29 win with four seconds remaining.

AUGUST 4-5, 2012

One would struggle to find a greater array of star-studded athletes of various sports than those who congregated in London across the penultimate weekend of the 2012 Olympic Games.

On the Saturday evening, at the Aquatics Centre, swimming prepared to say goodbye to its greatest name. Michael Phelps and the United States won the 4x100m medley, clinching his 18th gold medal in what appeared set to be his final race.

Indeed, Phelps confirmed his retirement following the Games, only to return in predictably dominant fashion in 2016.

Across the city that same night, Team GB athletes were capping a stunning run of medals that would see the day dubbed "Super Saturday". There were six home golds in all, including big wins for Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah in quick succession.

The drama only continued the next day, too, as Andy Murray finally sealed a Wimbledon win over Federer in the tennis event, while Usain Bolt lit up London Stadium in the 100m.

JUNE 1, 2019

It is 12 months to the day since another epic sporting stretch, one that concluded in stunning fashion with one of boxing's great modern upsets.

Rugby union and football each had their respective turns in the spotlight earlier, with Saracens following up their European Champions Cup success - a third in four years - by retaining the Premiership title with victory over Exeter Chiefs.

In Madrid, two more English teams were in action as Liverpool edged past Tottenham in the Champions League final.

But as Sarries and the Reds celebrated, focus turned towards Madison Square Garden where Anthony Joshua was expected to make light work of Andy Ruiz Jr, a replacement for Jarrell Miller following a failed drugs test.

The heavyweight title match did not go to script, however, as Ruiz floored Joshua four times and forced a stoppage to claim his belts, albeit only until the rematch where the Briton saved face.

JULY 14, 2019

These crazy spectacles have largely seen sport spread throughout the day, but three sets of eyes were required to keep up with the action on an epic afternoon last July.

With England hosting and then reaching the Cricket World Cup final, the scene-stealing decider fell on the same day as the Wimbledon men's final and the British Grand Prix, ensuring the United Kingdom was the focus of the sporting world.

The cricket started off several hours before either the tennis or the F1 but still managed to outlast its rival events, with Ben Stokes determined to put on a show as England won via a dramatic Super Over at the end of a nine-hour saga against New Zealand.

Novak Djokovic was battling Stokes for attention as he was taken all the way by that man Federer at the All England Club before finally prevailing 7-6 (7-5) 1-6 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 13-12 (7-3) in the tournament's longest singles final.

The respective classics made the British GP, completed earlier in the day, something of an afterthought - but not for Lewis Hamilton, who claimed a record sixth victory.

Roger Federer has eclipsed Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to top the annual Forbes list of the highest paid athletes on the planet.

The Swiss maestro jumped four spots to sit top of the pile, earning $106.3million in the past year as he becomes the first tennis player to lead the way.

That eye-watering figure puts the 20-time grand slam winner ahead of football stars Ronaldo ($105m), Messi ($104m) and Neymar ($95.5m).

NBA icon LeBron James rounds out the top five, raking in $88.2m in a period when some sportspeople took wage cuts amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Endorsements account for most of Federer's income, but he also undertook a tour of North and South America late last year to further boost his earnings.

"The coronavirus pandemic triggered salary cuts for soccer stars Messi and Ronaldo, clearing the way for a tennis player to rank as the world's highest-paid athlete for the first time," said Kurt Badenhausen, senior editor at Forbes.

"Roger Federer is the perfect pitchman for companies, resulting in an unparalleled endorsement portfolio of blue-chip brands worth $100million a year for the tennis great."

Federer's rise to the summit comes after fellow tennis player Naomi Osaka was announced as the highest paid female athlete, her $37.4m putting the Japanese 29th overall.

Novak Djokovic celebrates his birthday on Friday, with the world number one showing no signs of slowing down as he turns 33.

The world number one lifted his 17th grand slam title in January with a five-set win over Dominic Thiem.

Five-set sagas have been the domain of Djokovic throughout his career, with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and Juan Martin del Potro all sharing the court with him for a series of grand slam thrillers that live long in the memory.

Here we look back at a selection of Djokovic's most epic encounters.

2011 US Open Semi-final v Federer ​– Win

Djokovic is renowned for his power to recover from even the most precarious of positions and Federer was on the receiving end of two such Houdini acts in successive years at Flushing Meadows.

Indeed, after saving two match points in a last-four encounter with the Swiss great in 2010, Djokovic repeated the trick en route to a 6-7 4-6 6-3 6-2 7-5 victory after three hours and 51 minutes.

"It's awkward having to explain this loss," Federer said afterwards. "Because I feel like I should be doing the other press conference."

Federer offered little praise for a stunning forehand winner that helped the Serbian save a match point, saying that at that moment Djokovic did not look like a player "who believes much anymore in winning".

He added: "To lose against someone like that, it's very disappointing, because you feel like he was mentally out of it already. Just gets the lucky shot at the end, and off you go."

2012 Australian Open semi-final v Murray – Win

There has arguably been no tournament where Djokovic demonstrated a greater proclivity for endurance than at Melbourne Park in 2012.

His semi-final with Murray, who was weeks into his partnership with coach Ivan Lendl, produced a bewitching prelude of what was to follow in the final.

Murray pushed Djokovic to the limit in a marathon lasting four hours and 50 minutes, fighting back from 5-2 down in the final set of a match in which the ultimate victor battled breathing problems.

Djokovic recovered from surrendering that lead, however, and clinched a 6-3 3-6 6-7 (4-7) 6-1 7-5 victory to set up a final with Rafael Nadal that somehow surpassed the semi-final as the pair etched their name into the record books.

2012 Australian Open final v Nadal ​– Win

With Djokovic needing to produce an exhausting effort to get beyond Murray and Nadal having taken part in his own classic semi-final with Federer, albeit with victory secured in four sets, both would have been forgiven for putting on a final below their usual standards.

They instead did the exact opposite and delivered a showpiece considered by some to be the greatest final ever.

An undulating attritional battle went for five hours and 53 minutes, making it the longest final in grand slam history and the longest Australian Open contest of all time.

Nadal was on his knees as if he had won the tournament when he took the fourth set on a tie-break and was a break up in a fittingly frenetic decider.

However, it was Djokovic who ultimately prevailed at 1:37am (local time) with a 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 7-5 triumph that clinched his fifth grand slam.

Djokovic said: "It was obvious on the court for everybody who has watched the match that both of us, physically, we took the last drop of energy that we had from our bodies, we made history tonight and unfortunately there couldn't be two winners."

2012 US Open final v Murray – Loss

Having been the thorn in Murray's side in Melbourne for successive years, also defeating him in the final of the 2011 Australian Open, Djokovic succumbed to the Scot at Flushing Meadows, but only after a Herculean comeback effort.

Murray took the first two sets, the opener won in the longest tie-break (24 minutes) of a men's championship match. Djokovic, though, appeared primed to become the first man since Gaston Gaudio in 2004 to win a slam final after losing the first two sets.

However, Murray was not be denied and dominated the decider to close out a 7-6 (12-10) 7-5 2-6 3-6 6-2 victory, the longest final in US Open history.

Gracious in defeat, Djokovic said of Murray's first slam title: "Definitely happy that he won it. Us four [Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray], we are taking this game to another level. It's really nice to be part of such a strong men's tennis era."

2013 French Open semi-final v Nadal ​– Loss

With Nadal back from a serious knee injury that cost him seven months of his career, the Spaniard returned to peak form at his favourite slam with another absorbing duel with Djokovic.

Lasting four hours and 37 minutes, it did not quite match the heights of their Australian Open opus, but there were enough twists and turns to satisfy those clamouring for another Djokovic-Nadal classic.

Nadal was unable to serve for the match in the fourth set and Djokovic led 4-2 in the fifth, but a decider stretching one hour and 20 minutes went the way of the King of Clay.

"Serving for the match at 6-5 in the fourth, I was serving against the wind, so I knew it was going to be a difficult game," Nadal said after his 6-4 3-6 6-1 6-7 (3-7) 9-7 win.

"I was ready for the fight. In Australia 2012 it was a similar match - today it was me [that won]. That's the great thing about sport."

2013 Wimbledon semi-final v Del Potro – Win

"It was one of the best matches I've been a part of."

Given his travails of 2012, Djokovic's words after his victory over the 2009 US Open champion served as remarkably high praise.

It was a match worthy of such an effusive tribute.

Having twisted his knee earlier in the tournament, Del Potro's contribution to a phenomenal last-four clash served as one of more impressive feats of the Argentinian's career.

Against another opponent, his unrelenting and thunderous groundstrokes would have prevailed, but it was Djokovic's court coverage that proved the difference after four hours and 43 minutes.

Following his 7-5 4-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 victory, Djokovic said of Del Potro: "[He showed] why he's a grand slam champion, why he's right at the top, because every time he's in a tough situation, he comes up with some unbelievable shots."

2015 French Open semi-final v Murray – Win

Two days were needed to separate Djokovic and Murray as the Parisian skies played their part in the semi-final.

A storm halted proceedings on the Friday with Djokovic 2-1 up heading into the fourth set.

Murray appeared to have benefited from the delay as he began Saturday by forcing a decider, but Djokovic was clinical in wrapping up the fifth in comfortable fashion.

He triumphed 6-3 6-3 5-7 5-7 6-1, though a first Roland Garros title would have to wait, however, with Djokovic stunningly defeated by Stan Wawrinka in the final 24 hours later.

2016 US Open final v Wawrinka ​– Loss

Wawrinka would again prove Djokovic's undoing in New York as an astonishing demonstration of shot-making saw the defending champion dethroned.

The Swiss' 18 hours on court ahead of the final were double that of Djokovic, but his toil paid dividends as he bounced back from dropping the first set on a tie-break.

It was a rare occasion where Djokovic ​– battling a blister on his big toe – was rendered powerless in the face of Wawrinka's 46 winners.

Wawrinka came through 6-7 (1-7) 6-4 7-5 6-3 after three hours and 55 minutes, with Djokovic saying: "Congratulations, Stan, to your team as well. This has been absolutely deserved today. You were the more courageous player in the decisive moment and he deserves his title."

2018 Wimbledon semi-final v Nadal - Win

Spread across two days having been made to wait six hours and 36 minutes for Kevin Anderson to outlast John Isner in the other semi-final, Djokovic and Nadal combined to deliver a spectacle eminently more memorable than the meeting of the two big servers.

Djokovic led by two sets to one when play suspended at 11:02 pm (local time), Wimbledon's curfew ending any hopes of a Friday finish.

The prospect of a swift Saturday was soon put to bed for Djokovic as Nadal claimed the fourth. However, Djokovic eventually came through a deciding set among the finest ever contested by the two greats to seal a 6-4 3-6 7-6 (13-11) 3-6 10-8 victory after five hours and 15 minutes.

It marked a first Wimbledon final since 2015 and the start of Djokovic's return to the top of the sport after struggles with injury saw him tumble out of the top 20 in 2018.

Djokovic said: "Speaking from this position right now it makes it even better for me, makes it even more special because I managed to overcome challenges and obstacles, get myself to the finals of a slam." 

2019 French Open semi-final v Thiem ​– Loss

Djokovic was bidding to become the first man to hold all four grand slams at the same time twice but fell foul of Thiem and the French weather.

The last-four meeting began on a Friday but was suspended three times due to wind and rain before organisers cancelled play for the day.

Thiem eventually edged an enthralling affair 2-6 6-3 5-7 7-5 5-7 in four hours and 13 minutes, but Djokovic was quick to direct his ire at tournament officials.

"It [was] one of the worst conditions I have ever been part of," said Djokovic.

"When you're playing in hurricane kind of conditions, it's hard to perform your best."

2019 Wimbledon final v Federer ​– Win

Few would argue Djokovic did not deserve to retain the Wimbledon title. Grinding down Federer remains one of the most arduous tasks in sport, but most would accept this was a final Djokovic was fortunate to win.

An awe-inspiring match, Federer's was a vintage performance, but it was underscored by missed opportunities that will stay with him long after his dazzling career comes to an end.

Federer had a pair of match points at 8-7 in a captivating fifth set. Both were squandered, and few players in the history of tennis have ever been as ruthless at compounding the missed chances of others as Djokovic. 

He duly exercised his flair for punishing profligacy by winning the first ever 12-all tie-break, clinching a fifth Wimbledon crown 7-6 (7-5) 1-6 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 13-12 (7-3) after four hours and 57 minutes.

"If not the most exciting and thrilling finals of my career, in the top two or three and against one of the greatest players of all time," Djokovic said. "As Roger said, we both had our chances. It's quite unreal to be two match points down and come back."

Milan head coach Stefano Pioli compared star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic to tennis legend Roger Federer.

Ibrahimovic made an instant impact after re-joining Milan in January prior to the Serie A season being postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A title winner with Milan, Inter, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and Ajax, Ibrahimovic had scored four goals across all competitions in his second coming at San Siro following his arrival from LA Galaxy.

Amid doubts over Ibrahimovic's future at Milan – where he only signed an initial deal until the end of the season – due to the COVID-19 crisis, Pioli likened the 38-year-old to 20-time grand slam champion and fellow veteran Federer.

"I spoke to him, he's doing well," Pioli said during an Instagram Live chat. "I think talent is an innate quality and it's not difficult for me to spot it, but talent can be worked on and improved.

"I set the example of Roger Federer, as he was born with that talent, but worked constantly every day to become probably the greatest tennis player who ever lived.

"We also saw great natural talents wasted, perhaps because they were unwilling to make the sacrifices and work hard. I trained Miroslav Klose, the striker who scored the most goals in the World Cup.

"Even Ibra tells me his only objective every day is to improve his performance and that's what it's all about."

World number one Novak Djokovic has revealed he considered quitting tennis 10 years ago.

Djokovic won his first grand slam at the Australian Open in 2008, having lost to Roger Federer in his maiden major final appearance at the US Open the previous year.

By the time the Serbian arrived at the French Open in 2010 he had 17 ATP Tour titles to his name.

But he had lost four of his five major meetings with Federer and been beaten in his four grand slam contests against Rafael Nadal – the two players who were ahead of him in the rankings.

It was Jurgen Melzer who sent him packing from Roland Garros that year, though, as the Austrian 22nd seed battled back from two sets down to claim a shock victory.

It was a defeat that left Djokovic questioning his future in the sport.

"In 2010 I lost to Melzer in the quarter-finals of Roland Garros. I cried after being knocked out. It was a bad moment, I wanted to quit tennis because all I saw was black," Djokovic told Sky Sport Italia.

"It was a transformation, because after that defeat I freed myself.

"I had won in Australia in 2008, I was number three in the world, but I wasn't happy. I knew I could do more, but I lost the most important matches against Federer and Nadal.

"From that moment I took the pressure off myself, I started playing more aggressively. That was the turning point."

Djokovic has gone on to win 17 major titles and become the first player to taste success at all nine ATP Masters 1000 events.

One of his greatest achievements came at Wimbledon in 2019, when he defeated eight-time champion Federer in an epic that concluded with a tie-break after the pair were locked at 12-12 in the fifth set.

"It was one of the two most beautiful matches I've played, along with the final against Rafa in Australia in 2012. They are unique matches, everything happened," said Djokovic.

"From a technical point of view, Roger's game quality was excellent from the first to the last point – the numbers show that.

"I played the decisive points well, I didn't miss a ball in the three tie-breaks and maybe that was the first time in my career.

"These matches happen once or twice in a career and I am grateful to have been able to fight against a great like Roger in a prestigious arena like Centre Court at Wimbledon."

Roger Federer stands above any tennis player in history, according to fellow former world number one Andre Agassi.

Federer beat Agassi in four sets in the final of the 2005 US Open – the sixth grand slam of a career tally that now stands at 20.

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have closed the gap on the Swiss great, with 19 and 17 to their respective names.

Tennis' ongoing hiatus amid the coronavirus pandemic could compromise the prospects of Federer, now 38, adding to his overall haul, having last tasted slam glory at the 2018 Australian Open.

Six years ago, Agassi declared Nadal to be the best of all time but, in an interview with Bild, he reverted to the position he held after being bested by Federer at Flushing Meadows.

"Federer, without doubt," he said. "Nobody stood out from their opponents on the court as much as he did.

"I don't think [I would have had a chance against him at my best]. I played against him in the final of the 2005 US Open. I won a set – more was not possible."

Nowadays, Agassi admits he struggles to take a set off his wife and fellow tennis great Steffi Graf.

"She always wins," he added. "She has this healthy ambition. 

"It's also easier for Steffi to stay in shape than for me. She gets up in the morning, does sports and doesn't even have to think about it. 

"Everything looks so easy with her."

ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi says tennis could be transformed by the improved relationships that have sprung from the coronavirus crisis.

Gaudenzi was speaking in the wake of Roger Federer suggesting a merger between the ATP and WTA, which respectively run the men's and women's tours, would bolster the game.

While former tour pro Gaudenzi gave away nothing in that respect, he believes all parties, including the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the grand slams, can learn from recent experiences.

Gaudenzi said: "Managing the current scenario is extremely complex, especially because of the nature of our calendar, the nature of our business.

"But I'm optimistic in general, by nature, and I try to see the positive side which has been a tremendous collaboration with the other grand slams and the WTA and the ITF.

"So all the bodies coming together and discussing the calendar, the way forward, player relief, and many, many other topics.

"So that could be the positive outcome of this, that finally the governing bodies of tennis and the grand slams get together and work collaboratively on the long-term future of the sport."

Federer spoke out on Wednesday, to a mixed response.

The 20-time grand slam winner said of a possible merger: "It probably should have happened a long time ago, but maybe now is really the time."

Writing on Twitter, Federer added: "These are tough times in every sport and we can come out of this with 2 weakened bodies or 1 stronger body."

The tennis tours are on hold until mid-July at the earliest, with the French Open having been moved to a September start and Wimbledon cancelled.

Roger Federer has been accused of pulling a stunt to win new Twitter followers after proposing a merger between the men's and women's tennis tours.

The surprising claim came from German Tennis Federation (DTB) vice-president Dirk Hordorff, who is well known for having coached Rainer Schuttler, Janko Tipsarevic and Vasek Pospisil.

Federer mooted the possibility this week of bringing both the ATP and WTA tours under the governance of a singular body, and he was backed by Rafael Nadal.

Swiss great Federer, who has won a record 20 men's grand slam singles titles, said a merger "probably should have happened a long time ago, but maybe now is really the time".

He suggested tennis could emerge stronger from the coronavirus pandemic with unified leadership and found support from the likes of all-time great Billie Jean King and reigning Wimbledon champion Simona Halep.

However, Hordorff, who alongside his coaching has built careers in business and sports administration, says Federer's suggestion lacked "substance" and questioned his motivations.

Hordorff told Stats Perform: "That's short thinking. That's not enough. It starts with the ITF [International Tennis Federation] and the grand slams. That's where you start.

"With a merger of ATP and WTA, no problem has been solved for the time being.

"It is also critical to demand this in these media-free times. He just needs more followers on his Twitter account. So, he uses a proposal without substance.

"I am in favour of discussing this whole issue with substance. But a message on Twitter can't seriously bring this forward."

Federer has 12.7million followers on Twitter, while the ATP has 1.5million and the WTA has 834,000. Wimbledon has 3.7million followers, more than any other grand slam.

Federer has gained only approximately 1,000 new followers since making his merger suggestion on Wednesday, according to analysis from the Socialbakers website.

Tennis legends Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal think it is time for a merger of the ATP and WTA Tours.

Both the men's (ATP) and women's (WTA) professional games are suspended until at least mid-July due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Swiss great Federer pondered the possibility of bringing both tours under the governance of a singular body with a post on Twitter.

"Just wondering am I the only one thinking that now is the time for men's and women's tennis to be united and come together as one?" Federer asked.

"I am not talking about merging competition on the court, but merging the 2 governing bodies (ATP and WTA) that oversee the men's and women's professional tours."

Federer's long-time on-court adversary Nadal quote-tweeted his proposal and said he is in agreement.

He wrote: "Hey @rogerfederer as you know per our discussions I completely agree that it would be great to get out of this world crisis with the union of men's and women's tennis in one organisation."

Federer had expanded on his musings to a reply from a supporter's account, explaining that he feels bringing the tours together will provide greater clarity for followers.

"It's too confusing for the fans when there are different ranking systems, different logos, different websites, different tournament categories," he wrote.

The COVID-19 outbreak is causing financial difficulties for professional players further down the rankings.

In a further post, Federer added: "It probably should have happened a long time ago, but maybe now is really the time. 

"These are tough times in every sport and we can come out of this with 2 weakened bodies or 1 stronger body."

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