Serena Williams remains tantalisingly close to Margaret Court's all-time grand slam record of 24 major victories.

The American, still going strong at the age of 38, has lost her last four grand slam finals against Angelique Kerber, Naomi Osaka, Simona Halep and Bianca Andreescu.

Wimbledon is a special event for Williams, who has reached the final on 11 occasions, including those recent losses to Kerber and Halep.

The tournament therefore represents one of the best chances for the seven-time champion to draw level with Court's historic mark.

However, the event in 2020 was cancelled – the first time that has happened since World War II - due to the coronavirus pandemic, complicating Williams' record pursuit.

Ahead of what would have been the start of Wimbledon next week, Stats Perform News debated whether Williams can already be considered the greatest player in women's tennis history.


Graf is the greatest

By Joe Wright

Serena is a modern powerhouse, her serve and shot-making unrivalled at its best; Martina Navratilova's serve-and-volley skills delivered 59 majors across singles and doubles from 1981 to 1990; Margaret Court still tops the tables for grand slam singles titles, winning 24 between 1960 and 1973, spanning the shift to the Open era.

The greatest, then, would be a player who could feasibly have thrived in any of those eras. The greatest, then, is Steffi Graf.

The German ruled women's tennis for more than a decade after winning the 1987 French Open. A year after that triumph in Paris, she became the first to win tennis' 'Golden Slam' - all four major singles titles and Olympic gold in the same year. She was 18.

Between 1987 and 1996, she won 22 grand slam singles titles spread neatly across the four events: four in Australia, six in France, seven at Wimbledon and five in the United States. She held the number one ranking for 377 weeks, a record never beaten in the women's or men's game.

Her 107 tour titles puts her behind only Navratilova and Chris Evert on the all-time list and only she and Court have won three majors in a single calendar year five times.

'Fraulein Forehand' could overpower opponents from the baseline, unbalance them with a wicked sliced backhand and demoralise them with ferocious serves and precision volleys.

She combined power and elegance in such a way that she could dominate on every surface. She would have been a match for Court in the 60s, she beat Navratilova in four of six slam finals and, had she not retired at just 30 in 1999, she'd have known how to handle a young Serena.

In that same year, Billie Jean King proclaimed: "Steffi is definitely the greatest women's tennis player of all time." That should be proof enough.

 

Serena has dominated in toughest era

By Chris Myson

On and off the court, Serena has had a monumental impact in taking women’s tennis to incredible heights.

Twenty-one years after her first grand slam title at the 1999 US Open, she remains a fierce contender for the sport's biggest accolades, having changed the game with her unrivalled talent, athleticism and longevity.

Seven Wimbledon titles, six US Open crowns and three French Open wins are on her record.

Throw in another seven Australian Open victories, including her remarkable 2017 triumph while pregnant with her daughter, and you have a resume that may never be topped.

Thirty-three major finals in a 20-year span is a statistic made all the more remarkable when you factor in she missed 15 slams over that period.

Serena held all four grand slams when she won in Australia in 2003, while 11 years later she was celebrating a three-peat at Flushing Meadows by beating close friend Caroline Wozniacki.

Not that it is needed to bolster her claim, but Serena has also won 14 women's doubles majors with her sister Venus, having never lost a grand slam final in that format.

She has two mixed doubles crowns as well, taking her total major haul to 39.

Most significantly, these incredible feats have taken place in the modern era, where the level of competition has never been so strong and so deep, due to the global growth of tennis.

Top-tier rivals are more plentiful than in the eras of Graf, Navratilova and Court, while they are stronger, fitter, better equipped and more prepared than ever before.

Serena’s impact and staggering commercial success off the court has paved the way for future generations like Osaka to thrive.

But it is her play on it that means her place as the greatest women's player of all time is secure, even if the cancellation of Wimbledon has made her path to the elusive 24th crown more complicated.

The Davis Cup and Fed Cup have both been postponed until 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was confirmed on Friday.

Due to be hosted in Madrid, the Davis Cup Finals were supposed to have taken place from November 23-29, but following a three-month review it was deemed too challenging to stage this year.

Organisers Kosmos Tennis and the International Tennis Federation (ITF) pointed to the fact more than 90 athletes would have been expected to be involved, while the international event attracts thousands of fans, officials, staff and other stakeholders from across the globe, with many countries at differing stages of the pandemic.

With the competition now set to begin on November 22, 2021, it was confirmed the 18 teams that have already qualified for the men's global team tournament will have their places secured, while the draw for the finals remains the same.

Kosmos president and Barcelona defender Gerard Pique said: "It's a huge disappointment for all of us that the Davis Cup Finals will not be held in 2020.

"We don't know how the situation will develop in each qualified nation, or if restrictions in Spain will remain sufficiently eased, as such it is impossible to predict the situation in November and guarantee the safety of those travelling to Madrid.

"This postponement has no long-term bearing on our collective ambitions for the Davis Cup. The ITF and Kosmos Tennis look forward to delivering an outstanding competition in 2021, when it is safe and feasible to do so."

The women's equivalent, the Fed Cup, has also unsurprisingly hit a similar stumbling block and will now take place from April 13-18.

Budapest remains its location and, much like the Davis Cup, the teams that have already qualified will retain their places. The Fed Cup Play-offs will go ahead at the start of February.

Neither postponement has come as a surprise, particularly following the chaos caused by the Adria Tour event earlier this month.

Organised by world number one Novak Djokovic and played across locations in Serbia and Croatia, the event did not adhere to social distancing procedures and attracted large crowds. Legs in Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina were ultimately postponed due to COVID-19 concerns.

Several of the marquee players ended up testing positive for the virus, including Djokovic himself, Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki, and the event was met with widespread criticism.

As Novak Djokovic and the Adria Tour gang cavorted in a Belgrade nightclub, the limbo-dancing tennis stars demonstrated precisely how low the sport could go.

If the president of the ATP player council can get it so egregiously wrong in a time of global crisis, and if Nick Kyrgios can pipe up as the voice of reason, then tennis has just thrown up the most shocking of double faults within its established conventions.

So tennis is in crisis: Wimbledon is cancelled, the US Open will attempt to go ahead without fans, and the French Open is clinging to hope it could happen starting in September.

People have lost their jobs, tournaments have been scrapped and might struggle to return, and coronavirus has caused untold damage, aided and abetted by bewildering human assistance.

A relief fund for low-ranked players whose livelihoods were under threat was openly scorned by multi-millionaire Dominic Thiem, whose argument was put brutally dismantled by near-penniless Algerian player Ines Ibbou.

This is tennis then, midway through 2020.

What's happened so far?

The season was suspended on March 12, days after the Indian Wells Masters was cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns, and there has been no tennis on the ATP or WTA Tours since.

Rafael Nadal said in May that he doubted there could be any more tennis played in 2020, but the harsh economic reality means there is a strong will to find a way.

And that means tennis is coming back in August, public health and player buffoonery permitting, with a string of tournaments leading up to the US Open, which has kept its regular place on the calendar.

The Cincinnati Masters is moving to Flushing Meadows, but Washington is staying in D.C., and Kitzbuhel, Rome and Madrid are all billed ahead of Roland Garros.

On the women's side, tennis will relaunch in Palermo, Italy, with 20 tournaments scheduled to happen before the end of the year.

Wimbledon, to which the eyes of the sporting world routinely turn at this time of year, looks poised to come out of this intact because of pandemic insurance cover.

Other tournaments have not been so prudent, and are feeling the pinch.

How realistic is a resumption?

If anyone needed a warning about how badly wrong this could all go, Djokovic's exhibition Adria Tour at least provided that. That he, Borna Coric, Grigor Dimitrov and Viktor Troicki – others too – should test positive for COVID-19 was a damning indictment of an event set up with good intentions that descended into an apparent free-for-all.

Tennis within a bio-secure bubble, with regular testing and restrictions on movement, should allow the sport to push ahead with some of its plans.

But that is a highly expensive exercise and many tournaments will inevitably come to rely on self-policing.

Tennis without fans, living out of hotels, promises to be an austere experience. At the US Open, the stars will be able to see the Manhattan skyline, but they reportedly face being banned from visiting the island.

For the players that cannot afford to rent a house – which will come from a limited supply – then the US Open fortnight will see them split their time between Flushing Meadows and a hotel next to JFK airport.

It will take discipline to make not only the US Open work, but every tournament until the end of the season and beyond. Pockets of infection could be economically ruinous, and from a health perspective the worst-case scenario ought to be lost on nobody.

What has been said?

Serena Williams says she "really cannot wait to return to New York". Her involvement is a huge boon to the US Open, with the United States Tennis Association (USTA) in need of good news, having made 110 job cuts during the pandemic period, change in the organisation hastened by the crisis.

In a recent conference call, USTA chief executive Mike Dowse said US Open net operating income stood to be down by "about 80 per cent" for 2020, but he said keeping prize-money at a high level by delving into reserves amid the fall in revenue was "not a model that can continue".

Expect that to be the case practically across the board, with tournaments pulling out all the stops this year in the hope of saving tennis from the prospect of a season all but wiped out.

While the grand slams can just about cope without fans, many other events face an uncertain future if they face behind-closed-doors orders.

Herwig Straka, who manages Thiem and is tournament director of the Vienna Open, told German newspaper Der Standard the event would be "doable" provided it could operate at least at 50 per cent of crowd capacity.

"It is of course not enough," Straka said. "We'd be in the red. We don't want the public to take a year off. It would be impossible below 40 per cent."

Saint Nick?

Australian firebrand Kyrgios has quite the rap sheet, punished at various points for insulting umpires, his vulgar tongue, and even showing a lack of effort.

But this has been open season for the mercurial 25-year-old, who sniped after the news of Djokovic's positive test: "Don't @ me for anything I've done that has been 'irresponsible' or classified as 'stupidity' - this takes the cake."

If Kyrgios is enjoying his break from the tour, so too must the umpires be relishing their time away from him.

His greatest misstep during the pandemic, however, appears to have been going perhaps a touch heavy on the red wine during an Instagram live session with Andy Murray in May.

What happens next?

For all the best intentions, it remains hard to imagine every ATP and WTA tournament going ahead as planned, once the season resumes.

Tennis, like golf, relies on its biggest stars travelling from city to city, country to country, and the speed at which this virus moves and takes hold is hardly conducive to such a lifestyle.

Golf's PGA Tour is already encountering problems, and so will tennis.

The sport is living on the edge. At this point, it needs its star players to be setting a high bar, rather than going low, danger-dancing like nobody's watching.

The French Open has been provisionally put back a week, while the WTA and ATP Tours are set to resume in Palermo and Washington respectively in August.

US Open organisers on Tuesday confirmed the grand slam will start as scheduled behind closed doors on August 31.

September 20 was due to be the revised date for the French Open to begin, but the Paris major was listed as getting under way seven days later when the WTA and ATP announced their revised calendars on Wednesday.

The tournament could not be held in May and June due to the coronavirus pandemic, which brought sport all over the world to a halt in March.

Five months after the season was suspended, it is hoped WTA Tour action will return at the Palermo Ladies Open on August 3.

Events will only take place if medical experts give the green light along with governments and travel restrictions are relaxed.

There were 20 tournaments listed on the new WTA schedule, including the Western and Southern Open, which has been switched to New York, and the Madrid Open leading up to Roland Garros.

August 14 is the proposed date for the resumption of the ATP Tour, with the Citi Open the first tournament for the men to return if the all-clear is given.

There were just seven events listed on the ATP Tour schedule, with the potential for an Asia swing to be included on the next update in the middle of next month.

As with the Madrid Open and Western and Southern Open, both the men and women have the prestigious Internazionali BNL d'Italia clay-court tournament in Rome on the calendar.

The US Open can showcase tennis as "the ideal social distancing sport", United States Tennis Association (USTA) CEO Mike Dowse said after plans to stage the grand slam were approved.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo confirmed on Tuesday the tournament will go ahead behind closed doors at Flushing Meadows from August 31 to September 13.

Dowse described the USTA as "incredibly excited" after the green light was given for the hard-court major and the Western and Southern Open to be held at  the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

The US Open will go ahead as planned without spectators beginning in August, New York governor Andrew Cuomo has confirmed.

Both the ATP and WTA have been suspended since March due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the respective Tours announcing in May no competitions would take place until at least the end of July.

Consequently, Wimbledon was postponed for 2020, while the French Open was controversially rescheduled to begin a week after the final of the US Open.

The future of the slam at Flushing Meadows remained unclear but Cuomo announced on Tuesday that the event will take place between August 31 and September 13.

 

 

Jelena Jankovic says "the door is open" for her to resume her tennis career after the former world number one made a long-awaited return to partner Novak Djokovic on Friday.

Jankovic has not played competitively since losing to Petra Kvitova in the first round of the 2017 US Open due to a back injury.

The 35-year-old showed she may not be finished yet when she linked up with Djokovic for a doubles match at a charity event in her hometown of Belgrade.

Jankovic, a winner of 15 WTA singles titles, savoured being back on court and is not ruling out making a professional comeback.

She said: "This is the first time I've held a tennis racket in a very long time and I was as overjoyed as a child in a candy shop.

"It felt like the very first time. I was sidelined by a back injury which not only hampered my tennis career, it was so bad I couldn't walk properly or sleep.

"I've made a full recovery but I don't know if this is a comeback. The door is open, I never officially retired but I am living a different life now."

 

June 9 is a momentous sporting date that Maria Sharapova and her fans will not forget in a hurry.

Eight years ago on this day, the Russian achieved a career landmark that few tennis players can even dream of with her triumph at the French Open.

This date also represents the 35-year anniversary of a famous day in NBA history, when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar set a mark that still has not been beaten.

We look back at some of the top moments to occur on June 9 in the world of sport.

 

2012 - Sharapova achieves career Grand Slam

After winning her first grand slam in 2004, Sharapova had triumphed at two of the four majors by 2006 and won three by 2008.

The Russian had to wait until 2012 before finally getting her hands on the French Open and sealing an emotional career Grand Slam.

Having made a long recovery from shoulder surgery and lost major finals at Wimbledon and in Melbourne over the previous 12 months, Sharapova was not to be denied in Paris.

She became the 10th woman to complete a career Grand Slam with an easy 6-3 6-2 win in the final against Italian Sara Errani and only dropped one set in the whole tournament.

Sharapova lifted the trophy once more in 2014, which proved to be her last major title in a conclusion to her career that was clouded by injury woes and a positive test for meldonium in 2016.

 

1990 - Seles becomes youngest French Open champion

Teen sensation Monica Seles became the youngest French Open singles champion in 1990 when she won the title at the age of 16 years and six months.

The title was sealed in style with success over world number one Steffi Graf in the final, Seles saving four set points to win a dramatic first set 7-6 (8-6), before claiming the second 6-4. 

Seemingly undaunted by the pressure, she had also won her semi in straight sets against Jennifer Capriati.

Seles went on to triumph at Roland Garros again in 1991 and 1992, with her three consecutive crowns representing a tournament record in the Open Era that was later equalled by Justine Henin.

She did not win the French Open again after recovering from being stabbed on court in Hamburg in 1993, going closest in 1998 before losing a deciding set in the final against Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.

Her final tally of grand slam titles was nine.

 

1985 - Kareem is NBA Finals' oldest MVP

The Los Angeles Lakers defeated fierce rivals the Boston Celtics 111-100 on the road in Game 6 to seal a 4-2 series victory in the NBA Finals.

Abdul-Jabbar was named the Finals MVP at the age of 38, making him the oldest winner of the honour in a record that still stands.

The veteran was the Lakers' leading scorer in four of the six contests, including Game 6 when he went for 29 points and Magic Johnson contributed 14 assists.

Abdul-Jabbar's award came 14 years after his other NBA Finals MVP accolade, which he collected after leading the Milwaukee Bucks to their first and only championship in 1971.

The Lakers made eight of the 10 NBA Finals that took place in the 1980s, winning five, and the remarkable Abdul-Jabbar was still playing when they tasted success in 1987 and 1988.

June 8 is likely to be a date forever remembered fondly by Rafael Nadal, who secured two of his historic 12 French Open titles on this day.

Serena Williams also twice had reason to celebrate on the clay of Roland Garros on this date, although one final was tinged with the regret of having beaten her sister.

The Golden State Warriors tasted glory once again in 2018, while there was truly a shock for the ages when Argentina faced Cameroon at the World Cup in 1990.

Going back nearly 60 years, there was also a moment of baseball history for the Milwaukee Braves.

 

1961 - Milwaukee Braves hit home-run record

There were six teams scrambling for top spot in the National League when the Braves met the Cincinnati Reds at Crosley Field.

In front of a sparse crowd of just over 5,000 fans - many seem to have been exhausted by three previous night games in the series - the Reds claimed a 10-8 victory.

The Braves did at least make history with four consecutive home runs through Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron, Joe Adcock and Frank Thomas in the seventh inning.

 

1990 - Argentina shocked by Cameroon

Perhaps the biggest World Cup upset in history, the reigning champions were beaten 1-0 by Cameroon at Italia 90.

A solitary goal from Francois Omam-Biyik was enough for the Indomitable Lions to defeat Diego Maradona's Argentina at San Siro.

Cameroon progressed as group winners and reached the quarter-finals, where they lost to England. Argentina made it to the final again but were beaten by West Germany.

 

2002 - Serena wins all-Williams final in Paris

The first of Serena's three French Open singles titles came 18 years ago when she defeated sister Venus 7-5 6-3.

It was the first step in the American's path to winning all four majors in a row, which would become known as the 'Serena Slam'; she claimed Wimbledon and the US Open later that year before winning the 2003 Australian Open, defeating her sister in each of those finals.

Twelve years later, Serena would achieve the feat a second time.

This date also marks seven years since Serena beat Maria Sharapova in the final at Roland Garros.

 

2008 - Nadal equals Borg record with Federer thrashing

Nadal became the first man since Bjorn Borg to win four French Open singles titles in a row when he defeated Roger Federer in the 2008 final.

The Spaniard, a 12-time champion at Roland Garros, triumphed 6-1 6-3 6-0 in a decidedly one-sided contest against his long-time rival.

Six years later, Nadal won French Open number nine on the same date, defeating Novak Djokovic 3-6 7-5 6-2 6-4 to draw level with Pete Sampras on 14 major singles titles. He has won a further five since.

 

2018 - Warriors claim third title in four years

Inspired by NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant, the Warriors claimed their third NBA championship in four seasons on this day two years ago.

Golden State completed a 4-0 sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers with a 108-85 win at what was then known as Quicken Loans Arena.

It was the second time in his career that LeBron James suffered the ignominy of a Finals sweep, having also endured it against the San Antonio Spurs in 2007.

Rising United States tennis star Coco Gauff was more mature at 14 than other players at 25, according to Patrick Mouratoglou.

Gauff became an overnight sensation last year when, at the age of 15 and at her maiden grand slam, she defeated Venus Williams at Wimbledon and went on to reach the fourth round.

She also became the youngest WTA Tour singles title-holder since 2004 when she won the Linz Open in October last year.

Gauff has won praise for her efforts off the court too and delivered a powerful speech at a Black Lives Matter rally in Florida this week, which was held amid widespread protests following the death of George Floyd in police custody.

Mouratoglou, whose academy is affiliated with Gauff, says the youngster has an inner strength that sets her apart even from vastly more experienced players on the Tour.

"She's just different," he told the Guardian. "It's something I have known since I met her – she came to my academy at 10. I spoke to her, I had an individual one-on-one discussion with her. I said: 'Guys, she's different.'

"When you meet people who are exceptional, you know it. I feel it straight away. Since that day, she's been surprising me all the time, even though I know she's so special. At 14 she was more mature than women on tour who are 25. That's incredible.

"She has an inner strength that is completely unusual. She has a self-confidence that serves her in her tennis, but to be able to come and make a speech at 16 the way she did? You don't see that. Again, she surprised me. I'm not surprised that I am surprised, but I'm surprised."

Mouratoglou has been promoting his new Ultimate Tennis Showdown, an event geared towards filling the void of a season wrecked by the coronavirus pandemic while also attracting a new generation of fans.

Wimbledon was cancelled and the French Open moved to September, while the US Open has put forward strict new protocols in a bid to be given the go-ahead to take place from August 31 to September 13.

Players including Novak Djokovic have expressed concern around the plans, which include limiting the members in player support teams, using charter planes from a handful of cities and possibly scrapping the qualifying rounds.

Mouratoglou does not believe the big names will be put off from competing, though.

"I don't think any player will miss a grand slam if they can play," he said. "Especially at the moment, most of them would not have any competition until the US Open. If the US Open can take place, I think they will go. Whatever the conditions are."

Serena Williams, who has been coached by Mouratoglou since 2012, will be 39 in September and has not played since losing to Anastasija Sevastova in the first round of the Fed Cup qualifiers in Everett, Washington, in February.

But Mouratoglou has no concerns about her ability to come back and challenge for majors again.

"I don't think six months is gonna make a big difference," he said. "Six months ago, she was 38 and a half and she's going to be 39. I don't see any change. It's the same for her as for everyone: find the inner motivation to continue to grow. That's the challenge for everyone."

Coco Gauff delivered a call for action at a Black Lives Matter rally in Florida as the 16-year-old American tennis rising star said: "I demand change now."

In a powerful speech, Gauff told a crowd outside Delray Beach City Hall to engage in "tough conversations" and "use your voice", stressing racism was a problem that involved everyone.

The death last week of African-American man George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has sparked protests across the United States and beyond.

Gauff has called on her social media followers to campaign for justice to be served in that case, and in her speech she repeated a message she shared earlier in the week: that "being silent is choosing the side of the oppressor".

Protests have centred on police brutality towards the black community.

Gauff said it was "sad" she was having to deliver a message on injustices her grandmother fought against half a century ago.

The teenager is a major rising star in her sport. She reached the fourth round of Wimbledon last July as a 15-year-old and won her first WTA singles title in Linz, Austria, in October. She is ranked 52nd in the world and is expected to be a future top-10 star.

Billie Jean King, who led the fight for gender equality in tennis, praised Gauff's stance by tweeting: "Thank you, @CocoGauff, for using your platform to speak to both the young and the not so young about injustice. We stand with you and the entire black community."

This is the full text of the speech Gauff gave in Delray Beach:

"Hi everyone. My name is Coco and I just spoke with my grandma and I think it's sad that I'm here protesting the same thing that she did 50-plus years ago.

“I'm here to tell you we must first love each other, no matter what. We must have the tough conversations with friends. I have spent all week having tough conversations and trying to educate my non-black friends on how they can help the movement.

"Second, we need to take action. Yes, we're all out here protesting and I am not of the age to vote - but it is in your hands to vote for my future, for my brothers' future and for your future, so that is one way to make change.

"Third, you need to use your voice: no matter how big or small your platform is, you need to use your voice.

"I saw a Dr [Martin Luther] King quote that said the silence of the good people is worse than the brutality of the bad people. So you need to not be silent, because if you are choosing silence, you are choosing the side of the oppressor.

"I've heard many things in the last week and one of the things I've heard is, 'It's not my problem'. This is why I have to tell you this: if you listen to black music, if you like black culture, if you have black friends, then this is your fight, too.

"It's not your job, it's not your duty, to open your mouth to say Lil Uzi Vert is my favourite artist but I don't care what happened to George Floyd? Now how does that make sense?

"So I demand change now. And it's sad that it takes another black man's life to be lost for all of this to happen, but we have to understand that this has been going on for years. This is not just about George Floyd. This is about Trayvon Martin. This is about Eric Garner. This is about Breonna Taylor.

"This is about stuff that's been happening. I was eight years old when Trayvon Martin was killed. So why am I here at 16 still demanding change?

"And it breaks my heart because I'm fighting for the future for my brothers. I'm fighting for the future for my future kids. I'm fighting for the future for my future grandchildren. So, we must change now, and I promise to always use my platform to spread vital information, spread awareness and fight racism.

"Black lives have always mattered, they mattered then, they matter now, and they will matter in the future. Thank you."

Shane Warne made an indelible mark on the Ashes on this day in 1993.

Daria Kasatkina has no problem playing grand slams behind closed doors amid the coronavirus pandemic, while the former world number 10 talked up the possibility of an ATP-WTA Tour merger.

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc globally, with the WTA Tour suspended since March and not expected to return until August at the earliest.

The French Open has been pushed back to September and the US Open is still scheduled to go ahead, with Wimbledon cancelled for the first time since World War II.

Events are set to be staged without fans when tennis returns, though French Open organisers remain hopeful spectators will be able to attend the rearranged slam at Roland Garros.

World number 12 and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova said she would rather see majors cancelled than be held without fans, but Kasatkina has no issue with a spectator-less slam.

"It's going to be completely different, especially at grand slams and in night sessions on the big courts, it will lose its energy," 2018 French Open and Wimbledon quarter-finalist Kasatkina told Stats Perform News.

"At the same time, at least if we can play the tournament without spectators, for me it's fine. Yes it's different but to play a tournament and gram slam, it doesn't matter spectators or no spectators. As I think Marin Cilic said, it will be different to win a grand slam like the US Open without spectators there, which is true. At least it will be very special and it will stay in the history forever.

"For the moment, Roland Garros looks very positive. If we see how it goes and it keeps like that, I think Roland Garros will happen and they want to do it with spectators, which is really good. It's different to play with spectators, that's for sure.

"The US Open, of course everyone wants to play and I wish to play the US Open – it's such a special tournament – but I'm not that sure because the situation in the United States is still shaky. The main thing is travelling. If it's going to happen, it's going to be very good. I'll be very happy."

The re-arranged French Open in Paris could provide headaches for players, with the clay-court slam set to take place a week after the final of the US Open on hard courts in New York.

"It's going to be an interesting experience, especially to change the surface and the time so much," the Russian said. "At least between Roland Garros and Wimbledon there is one month, but at least it's in one part of the world. If it's like this, players have to accept it. I'll be happy, even if it's going to be like this.

"When we were juniors and just starting to play professional tournaments, we'd play one tournament there on clay and another here and there. For sure, for some players it will be tough and for many players with injuries it will be a little bit dangerous but I hope everything will be okay."

Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, talk of an ATP-WTA merger has emerged – a tweet from 20-time slam champion Roger Federer backing a unified tennis tour sparking the discussions.

Asked about the possibility of the ATP and WTA joining forces, two-time tournament winner Kasatkina said: "I think it would be good to work together because it's much easier to do something with one structure than two structures like the situation we have now. It's easier to promote tennis as a big tour, not like men's or women's tennis.

"I was a little bit surprised because I never thought they were talking about this, I didn't hear anything. So, it was a little bit surprising especially from Roger Federer on Twitter. But I think it's a good idea. Why not be together? It's better."

The coronavirus-enforced break has provided Kasatkina with plenty of time to reflect and recharge, having struggled in 2019 after her breakout season in 2018.

Kasatkina burst onto the scene two years ago by reaching the French Open and Wimbledon quarter-finals before eventually losing to finalists Sloane Stephens and Angelique Kerber, while she also faced Naomi Osaka in the 2018 Indian Wells decider.

However, Kasatkina endured a frustrating 2019 campaign – only progressing beyond the opening round of a slam once last year, at the French Open, and dropping to 66th in the world rankings. There were, though, signs that the 23-year-old was returning to her best prior to the COVID-19 crisis.

Kasatkina reached the last four of the Lyon Open in March, her first WTA semi-final since claiming the Kremlin Cup in October 2018.

"I had a lot of expectations for myself and not only me but the people around after my very successful year in 2018, which I wasn't ready for, especially mentally," Kasatkina, who has become somewhat of a social media queen during the tennis hiatus, said.

"After this, my game fell apart little bit because you have no confidence in your head, there's no confidence in your shots. Rankings drop down as well because I was losing matches.

"I spoke with my coach and many things happened. I was pretty lost at that time but I think that helped me a lot to rebuild my confidence, rebuild my game maybe to change something.

"I think I started the year, not in Australia [first round], but after it better in Lyon. I really felt like I was building up my game again and I'm hungry to play the tournaments and win. Because I finally taste this semi-final, this special tournament. When I came to Indian Wells, I was feeling perfect in the practices. I really felt that if there wasn't the situation with coronavirus, maybe that was the point I could really start again.

"What happened, happened. Now I have the time for myself to maybe think a bit more, to work on the things which I'll probably need when the season starts again. Everything is going the way it should be."

Since losing 6-3 6-2 to Osaka in the 2018 Paribas Open final, Kasatkina has watched the Japanese star go on to win the US Open and Australian Open. Is it a motivation for the right-hander?

"Well after that final and during the tournament, of course I felt I was close to a very high level of tennis," Kasatkina continued. "I showed some good results and finished top 10, which was very positive at the time but maybe a little bit early. After the final, I felt like okay it seems like I have something inside that can bring me higher. But mentally, I wasn't ready."

Kasatkina, who believes she was close to rediscovering her 2018 form before the pandemic, believes the enforced break has been beneficial.

"For sure because for the past season, it was really tough," she added when asked about her time away from the sport. "Maybe it was good I had this time to come down a little bit and live a normal life. Not to rush to every tournaments, tournament by tournament, week by week."

Petra Kvitova is not in favour of playing at a grand slam behind closed doors, claiming she would rather see the events cancelled than be held without fans.

The WTA and ATP Tour have been heavily disrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic, with many tournaments postponed – the French Open having been pushed back to September – and others, including Wimbledon, cancelled altogether.

Kvitova is returning to the court in a tournament in her native Czech Republic this week, which will be played without fans in attendance.

However, the possibility of featuring in a grand slam behind closed doors does not appeal to the two-time Wimbledon champion.

"I have my age and of course I would like to play another grand slam, but if it's like this, I'd rather cancel them," Kvitova, 30, said at a news conference.

"Playing a grand slam is the greatest thing there is and playing without fans who are our engine doesn't look nice to me and the grand slam doesn't deserve it."

The event Kvitova is taking part in this week features eight men and eight women, who will not shake hands before or after their matches, while ball boys will not be allowed to hand towels to the players.

"We are here to reintroduce tennis not only to the Czech Republic, but also to the world," Kvitova added.

"The hardest thing will be to find the rhythm, we haven't played a match for a very long time.

"I hope nobody expects us to play fantastic tennis, because it may happen or it may not."

The world number 12 opens her tournament against doubles specialist Barbora Krejcikova on Tuesday.

French Open director Guy Forget says he is working closely with tennis authorities to ensure the tournament at Roland Garros does not clash with the US Open.

The Parisian major was initially scheduled to start on Sunday but the coronavirus pandemic resulted in it being postponed until September 20 – a week after the final of the US Open.

Criticism of the decision was rife, and the calendar for the rest of the season remains up in the air with the ATP Tour and WTA Tour suspended until August at the earliest.

Forget said he is working towards a suitable resolution and expects an announcement on the US Open's plans in June.

"The official announcement has not been made yet. [The French Open] will probably be between the end of September and the beginning of October," Forget told French radio station Europe 1.

"We've been working closely with the ATP, the WTA and the ITF to make a global announcement on what the circuit will be like until the end of the year.

"There are so many question marks. New York City is more affected by the coronavirus than France. They also have a lot of organisational problems.

"They will make an announcement mid-June to say how it's going to be like for the US Open."

According to the John Hopkins University, New York City has seen 197,266 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 28,926 dying as a result. France has had 182,018 cases and 28,218 deaths.

Professional sports have been prohibited in France until September but Forget remains optimistic about the chances of staging a successful French Open.

"The signals are going in the right direction with the reopening of businesses," he said.

"We can imagine that this will also be the case for restaurants and bars in the coming weeks.

"Now we don't know what's going to happen in a month or two. We will adapt to what the government tells us.

"You have to be ambitions and optimistic. We hope that Roland Garros will take place, and in good conditions."

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