Andrey Rublev described the Hamburg European Open as "the most special tournament" in his life just now after setting up a final showdown with Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The 22-year-old Russian lost to Nikoloz Basilashvili in last year's final and will look to go one better after battling past Casper Ruud in the semi-finals on Saturday.

Rublev, aiming for a third title of 2020 and fifth of his burgeoning career, outfought Ruud on the way to a 6-4 6-2 win at the clay-court event.

"The match was really tough. I think everyone saw how tough it was, how [many] long rallies we had, how many chances both of us had," said Rublev.

He added, quoted on the ATP website: "It could [have been] easily 6-4, 6-2 to Casper’s side, but I was a little bit lucky. In the most important moments and at the end, the match was for me. I am really happy with the way I played today."

Rublev fell in the second round in Rome last week, following a run to the US Open quarter-finals, and his form has been inconsistent this year, yet sporadically brilliant.

Titles came in Qatar and Adelaide at the start of the year, and now another beckons in Germany.

The fifth seed said: "[It is] my first ever time that two years in a row I reached a final at the same tournament. For the moment, it is the most special tournament for me. We will see how it goes [on Sunday]."

Tsitsipas, seeded second, halted Chilean Cristian Garin in a three-set thriller he described as "nerve-wracking".

The Greek second seed will chase a second title of 2020 on Sunday, before joining Rublev in heading to the French Open.

A 7-5 3-6 6-4 success against Garin sent the world number six through to a 12th career ATP final, battle-hardened for the clash with Rublev.

The French Open also begins on Sunday, but Tsitsipas and Rublev are not due to begin their challenges in Paris on the opening day of the grand slam.

Novak Djokovic insists he is "back to normal" ahead of the French Open and determined to be the "best version" of himself in Paris after being thrown out of the US Open.

Djokovic left Flushing Meadows in shame this month, having been disqualified for striking a linesperson with the ball during his last-16 match against Pablo Carreno Busta.

The world number one was full of remorse but responded by winning the Internazionali d'Italia in Rome last week to take his tally of ATP Masters 1000 titles to a record 36.

Djokovic, who will play Mikael Ymer in the first round in a Paris major that starts on Sunday, says the dramatic incident in New York is still on his mind but it will not affect him in the final grand slam of the year.

"Obviously I am going to be extra careful of hitting a tennis ball around the court," said the 17-time major champion.

"That's something that is obviously staying in my mind after what happened in New York. It's going to stay there for a long time.

"Of course, I will make sure I don't make the same mistake twice. Whatever happened, happened. I had to accept it and move on. Of course, it was a shock for me and a lot of people.

"But that's life, that's sport. These things can happen. But I don't think that this will have any significant negative impact on how I feel on the tennis court.

"I mean, I won the tournament in Rome just a week later after what happened in New York.

"I did not feel any kind of emotional disturbance or difficulty to actually be able to play or still express my emotions in whatever way. Of course, I try to keep my negative reactions on the court as less as possible.

"But I guess it happens as well. I'm not going to be down on myself because of that. I also try to kind of accept it and forgive myself for what happened and move on. I'm human being. I have flaws as everybody else.

"Regardless of the amount of years and experience that I have on the tour, these things can still happen. It's because I care. I really want to be my best version as a player, as a human being on the court, and win a tennis match.

"Because of the care that I have for that, I sometimes express my emotions in good way or maybe less good way. But it is what it is.

"As I said, I don't think significantly it does impact me that I'm unable now to show the fist pump or scream or something like that. It has happened in Rome already and everything is fine. I'm back to normal."

Roger Federer was once a habitual racket smasher but give him a chance and he'll duck this argument.

Rafael Nadal possesses just about the meanest snarl in tennis but he could let this argument drop happily too.

Even Novak Djokovic, no stranger to an argument, is averse to causing a rumpus in this case.

Yet the question of which of the Big Three is the greatest men's tennis player of all time can provoke boisterous debate beyond the locker room, sparking hostility even among the sport's Prosecco and prawn sandwich brigade. Never underestimate the ferocity of a tennis stan.

There may never be a satisfactory answer, given that in all likelihood, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic will each end their careers on or around the 20 grand slam titles mark.

Considering Pete Sampras was once portrayed as super-human for reaching 14 slams, the achievements by the three titans of the modern game beggar belief.

Each man has taken tennis to new levels, in his own way, and as a new generation begins to rise, we have reached an apposite moment to examine the numbers that show how they have moved the sport forward.

Men's tennis has three G.O.A.T.s and at this stage to pick one above another would be churlish.

FEDERER: ELDER STATESMAN, STILL LEADING THE RACE

From his Roland Garros debut in 1999 to a semi-final run at the Australian Open this year, the longevity of Federer has been almost as astonishing as some of his easy-on-the-eye tennis.

The list of records he has racked up is bewildering, beginning with his unmatched 20 men's slam singles titles. The Swiss was the first man to go beyond Sampras, and in the men's game he is the only player to win three slams in the same season three times (2004, 2006, 2007), make 10 successful title defences, and win more than 100 matches at two different grand slams - Wimbledon and the Australian Open.

He has reached an unsurpassed 31 slam singles finals (Nadal - 27, Djokovic - 26), and a mind-boggling 46 semi-finals at the four majors. Between the 2004 French Open, where he lost in the first round, and the 2010 edition at Roland Garros, where he fell in the quarters, Federer marched to the semi-final or further at 23 successive majors, winning 14 titles in that time.

Reaching seven or more finals in any grand slam is a superlative feat, but Federer has achieved that in three of the four majors (Wimbledon - 12, US Open - 7, Australian Open - 7), and twice won five consecutive titles at individual majors (Wimbledon 2003-07, US Open 2004-08).

And that is just scratching the surface.

He has spent the most weeks at world number one (310) and the most consecutively so (237), and sits third on the ATP list for the most aces in a career (11,344), behind only the towering duo of one-trick wonders Ivo Karlovic and John Isner.

NADAL: ONCE THE YOUNG UPSTART, FOR WHOM TWENTY WON'T BE PLENTY

Nadal can almost claim to have equalled Federer's 10 successful title defences, after retaining his crown nine times at Roland Garros, while winning Wimbledon in 2008 and 2010, having had to miss the 2009 tournament through injury.

There are plenty of records the remarkable Spaniard can call his own though, beginning with his 12 French Open triumphs, the most titles won by a player in any of the four grand slam tournaments.

From 2005 to 2014, Nadal won at least one slam every season, the 10-year streak setting him apart from Federer and Djokovic who have never managed such consistency.

By securing Olympic singles gold in Beijing in 2008 and doubles at Rio in 2016, Nadal became the first man to claim the Games double on top of the career singles Grand Slam at all four majors.

The Mallorca native's win-loss percentage on tour is the highest in men's tennis, with 992 wins and 201 defeats amounting to an 83.2 per cent hit rate (Djokovic - 83.1, Bjorn Borg - 82.4, Federer - 82.1).

His 19 grand slams is not a record, of course, but another in Paris over the coming fortnight would take Nadal level with Federer.

DJOKOVIC: THE INTERLOPER WHO COULD OUTLAST THE DIAMOND DUO

Like Federer, Djokovic has reached eight or more semi-finals at each of the four majors, on his way to 17 slam titles. He was firm favourite for the US Open and an 18th slam earlier this month until being disqualified for carelessly hitting a ball that struck a linesperson.

Many expect Djokovic to pass both Nadal and Federer and nudge to 21, 22 slams, maybe higher still, yet the 33-year-old may find that a tall order as the likes of Dominic Thiem break through.

On and off the court, there have been moments to regret this year for Djokovic, but his career stands up to the best, and in many aspects he leaves Federer and Nadal standing.

The Serbian is the only player in tennis to have won all four majors, the end-of-year ATP Finals and each of the nine highly-prized Masters 1000 tournaments.

With his run of triumphs from Wimbledon in 2015 to the French Open in 2016, Djokovic became the first man to hold all four grand slam singles titles at the same time since Rod Laver in 1969 achieved a calendar clean sweep.

Nobody has won as many Masters 1000 titles in a career (Djokovic - 36, Nadal - 35, Federer - 28), or reached as many ATP finals in a season as Djokovic's 15 in 2015, when he won 11 tournaments.

Again, scratching the surface. Djokovic's records run to page after page, his place in the pantheon assured.

To think, he was once the interloper on the celebrated Nadal-Federer rivalry. Now he has a chance to outstrip both in the numbers game.

TOGETHER: DOMINANCE LIKE TENNIS HAS NEVER KNOWN BEFORE

Federer won his first major at Wimbledon in 2003, and taking in that and the grand slams that have come since, the combination of Basel's favourite son, Spanish superstar Nadal and Belgrade favourite Djokovic have scooped 56 of 68 singles titles.

Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, with three titles each, are the only two other men to win more than one slam during that 17-year span. Barely anyone else had a look-in.

Such dominance is without equal in tennis.

To take previous eras as comparison points, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors won all their grand slams between the 1974 Australian Open and the 1984 US Open, collectively gathering 26 titles across those 44 tournaments. Sensational, and it remains important to make that point, but the haul has been blown out of the water by the modern-day Big Three.

Ivan Lendl, Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg were the next generation and scooped 20 slams (Lendl - 8, Becker - 6, Edberg - 6) from a 48-tournament stretch beginning at the 1984 French Open and running through to the 1996 Australian Open.

The mighty American triumvirate of Sampras, Andre Agassi and Jim Courier together earned 26 majors (Sampras - 14, Agassi - 8, Courier - 4) from the 1990 US Open through to the 2003 Australian Open - a 50-slam span.

Agassi won in Australia in 2003, and Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero took the French Open title in the spring. Come the English summer, it was Federer's turn at the wheel for the first time, that first Wimbledon title signalling the dawning of a new era.

LEGACY: THESE RECORDS COULD STAND THE TEST OF TIME

As the sun begins to slowly descend, with Federer now 39 years old and Nadal and Djokovic well into their mid-thirties, the famous wins in Melbourne, Paris, London and New York will become fewer, and soon they will belong to memory.

Another great generation will rise; perhaps not for some years to come, but doubtless they will rise.

Yet asking them to scale the winning heights of the Federer-Nadal-Djokovic triad might be another matter entirely.

Stefanos Tsitsipas is into the semi-finals of the Hamburg European Open after eventually seeing off Dusan Lajovic in relatively straightforward fashion on Friday.

The 22-year-old Greek did not have it all his own way in the 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 win, but after coming out on top in a tricky first set, he maintained his level and saw off Lajovic.

Tsitsipas had been in good form during wins over Dan Evans and Pablo Cuevas in the previous two rounds, not dropping a set in the process, though world number 24 Lajovic looked likely to pose more of a threat.

And the Serbian appeared poised to take the first set when going 5-3 up in the tiebreaker, only for Tsitsipas to rattle off four points in succession and take the lead.

Although there were then three straight breaks of serve to start the second set, it was mostly plain sailing from then on for world number five Tsitsipas, who once again relished the setting, with up to 2,300 fans permitted to attend the tournament despite the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

"It was a perfect day, sunny, good people, good atmosphere and good clay," Tsitsipas said in his on-court interview. "Dusan is a difficult opponent to play on clay, with a lot of spin and variation in his shots. I think I had to do something extra for the victory today. I will keep working hard."

Up next for the 2019 Australian Open semi-finalist is Chile's Cristian Garin, who impressively fought back from a set down to beat Alexander Bublik 3-6 6-4 6-4 to reach a third semi-final – all on clay – this year.

The other last-four clash will see the in-form Casper Ruud – 7-5 3-6 6-1 winner over Ugo Humbert – face Andrey Rublev, who impressed with his aggression in a 6-2 7-5 defeat of Roberto Bautista Agut.

Rafael Nadal is braced for the most difficult conditions he has ever faced at the French Open and believes new heavier balls could be "dangerous" for players at Roland Garros.

Nadal is a firm favourite to take his record tally of titles at Roland Garros to an astonishing 13 in Paris, where the final grand slam of the year starts on Sunday.

The Spanish great has the chance to match Roger Federer's record haul of 20 major triumphs in a tournament he has dominated, with his Swiss rival absent after undergoing knee surgery.

Yet Nadal comes into his favourite event, staged four months later than usual due to the coronavirus pandemic, on the back of a rare clay-court loss to Diego Schwartzman in the Internazionali d'Italia quarter-finals.

Novak Djokovic said Nadal is beatable on clay and the 34-year-old agrees, particularly in much cooler climate with slower balls that he has become accustomed to. 

Asked about world number one Djokovic's comments, he said: "Yeah, 100 per cent true. I always have been beatable on clay. He beat me a lot of times. But at the same time is true that I had a lot of success in this surface.

"The situation is special. Conditions here probably are the most difficult conditions for me ever in Roland Garros for so many different facts. The ball is completely different.

"The ball is super slow, heavy. It's very cold. Slow conditions. Of course, the preparations have been less than usual. But you know what, I am here to fight and to play with the highest intensity possible, to practice with the right attitude, to give me a chance.

"That's the main goal for me. Be competitive on Monday [when he plays Egor Gerasimov in the first round], and let's try. Just day by day. I know very well this place. Is about be patient, be positive just trying to find the positive vibes every single day."

Nadal says he has practiced with the new balls in his homeland and is not happy with the change, which he believes could cause players to sustain injuries.

"I practiced with the balls in Mallorca before the comeback. In Mallorca with warm conditions, the ball was very slow, I do not think it is a good ball to play on clay.

"That is my personal opinion. Is not the right ball to play on clay court. Even with these conditions it makes things tougher. But I knew before arrived here. No problem at all. I'll just accept the challenge.

"I really believe that the organisation needs to take a look on that for the next couple of years, for the health of the players, too, because the ball super heavy becomes dangerous for the elbow and for the shoulders, I think.

"But this year it is what we have. I'm just staying positive with this. I know we are going to have to play with this ball, so I need to find the best feelings possible with these conditions.

"That's what I am looking forward to, just practicing with the right motivation, right ambition, and then let's see what I can do or what I can't do."

The French Tennis Federation (FFT) says it "deeply regrets" new government restrictions that will only allow 1,000 spectators per day into Roland Garros to watch the French Open. 

Tournament organisers were forced to reduce the number of people allowed into the famous venue on a daily basis from 11,500 to 5,000 last week due to new rules introduced to try and stop the rise in coronavirus infection rates. 

Just two days before the grand slam gets under way, the FFT has had to inform those with tickets that they may be left disappointed due to further restrictions. 

A daily draw will now take place to determine who will be able to attend what will be the last major of the year. 

A statement on the French Open website said: "Following the announcements made by government authorities, 1,000 spectators will be permitted to enter the Roland Garros grounds per day. 

"This cap applies across all 16 courts in the 12-hectare site and is equivalent to one 35th of the usual number of spectators that have attended in the first week of the main draw in previous years.    

"From the very outset of the public health crisis that our country is experiencing, the French Tennis Federation has consistently worked closely with government departments, to determine how to organise the tournament in the current situation.  It deeply regrets these new restrictions. 

"On Sunday, 27 September, the world's greatest players will compete in the main draw, in a transformed stadium, in a tournament broadcast in 222 countries around the world. 

"The new rules mean that we will be required to adapt our ticketing situation, by organising a draw for each day of the tournament among the current ticket-holders. These draws will be supervised by a legal custodian."

Novak Djokovic is putting together a stellar year in a year like no other.

The world number one heads into the French Open on the back of another title – at the Internazionali d'Italia – and carrying a 31-1 win-loss record in 2020.

That '1' is also one he would prefer to forget, after being defaulted for hitting a linesperson with a ball in his fourth-round clash with Pablo Carreno Busta at the US Open.

But his own brain fades aside – the organisation of the ill-fated Adria Tour amid the COVID-19 pandemic included – Djokovic has been unstoppable this year, before and after the coronavirus-enforced break.

While Roger Federer is sidelined, Rafael Nadal is back and the 'King of Clay' will take some stopping at Roland Garros.

The rescheduling of the major – from a May start to September – has given Djokovic an additional boost in his bid for a second French Open title amid questions over how the different weather could affect Nadal.

In his current form, Djokovic will also be hard to stop. We take a look at his 2020 in numbers.

Complete and utter dominance

When you consider the manner of Djokovic's only loss in 2020, it has thus far been a year of complete dominance.

The Serbian has won 72 of the 82 completed sets he has played, and none of those were dropped in his meetings with Nadal (ATP Cup) and Federer (Australian Open) this year.

While Federer will miss the rest of 2020 after knee surgery, Nadal returned to action in Rome, where he lost to Diego Schwartzman in the quarter-finals. That was the Spanish great's first tournament since the ATP Tour season, suspended in March, resumed.

The world's top 20 men have not been a problem for Djokovic so far this year. He is 12-0 against players ranked in the top 20, including 7-0 when playing top-10 players. Djokovic's last meeting with a top-10 opponent came in his final win over Stefanos Tsitsipas in Dubai in February.

Djokovic – who has four ATP Tour titles in 2020 and also helped Serbia win the ATP Cup – has made his best start since an extraordinary 2011.

It is just the second time in his illustrious career that he has won at least 31 of his first 32 matches in a year, having made an incredible 41-0 start nine years ago.

Given Nadal's inferior record at Melbourne Park, it is no surprise the Spaniard has never managed such a start, while Federer got away strongly in 2005 and 2006, also going 31-1 before extending those runs to 35-1 and 33-1 respectively prior to his next losses.

But after being defaulted at the US Open and with Wimbledon not held due to COVID-19, Djokovic will want another grand slam win at Roland Garros to truly make his form in 2020 count. If he can, it will mark his sixth year with at least two major victories, joining Federer in achieving that feat and moving clear of Nadal and Roy Emerson.

And another piece of history could await. Djokovic is aiming to become the first man in the Open Era to win every grand slam twice, and just the third in history after Emerson and Rod Laver.

The 41-0 start in 2011

Nine years ago, Djokovic put together an extraordinary year on the back of a staggering start.

He won his first 41 matches of 2011 before the run was ended by Federer in the French Open semi-finals.

Djokovic won the Australian Open and titles in Dubai, Indian Wells, Miami, Belgrade, Madrid and Rome heading into Roland Garros.

The streak included four wins over Nadal, three against Federer and two defeats of Andy Murray, and Djokovic would finish the incredible year with three grand slam titles.

After a difficult ending to the campaign, he ended up with a 70-6 win-loss record, achieving a win percentage (92.1) he has only bettered once since – when he went 82-6 (93.2) in 2015.

Stefanos Tsitsipas enjoyed having fans watching his match so much that he forgot he needed to win as he defeated childhood 'idol' Pablo Cuevas 7-5 6-4 to reach the quarter-finals of the Hamburg European Open.

The ATP 500 clay-court competition was given special permission by local authorities to allow up to 2,300 people to attend on each day, with the tournament originally postponed in July due to the coronavirus pandemic.

And Tsitsipas relished having fans in attendance, which, along with playing against someone he idolised as a youngster, created the conditions that caused him to lose focus for a little while.

"I have a lot of respect for him. He is a very difficult opponent to face, particularly on this surface," Tsitsipas, 22, said of his 34-year-old opponent. "He is a good friend and one of my idols growing up. It was a great match and I enjoyed it.

"There was a certain point in the match when I forgot I needed to win, as I was enjoying the game and the atmosphere, the crowd. I was playing with positive vibes and energy."

Tsitsipas will now meet Dusan Lajovic, who swept aside Karen Khachanov in emphatic fashion, winning 6-1 6-2 in just over an hour.

Casper Ruud was similarly impressive as he saw off Fabio Fognini 6-3 6-3, and he will meet Ugo Humbert – the Frenchman having eliminated Jiri Vesely 6-4 6-3.

 

US Open champion Dominic Thiem was dealt a difficult hand in an exciting men's French Open draw, while Serena Williams was handed a tough route in the women's competition.

Thiem finally ended his wait for a first major title in New York earlier this month, beating Alexander Zverev in a five-set epic after losing his prior three finals.

Two of those came in the most recent two French Open finals against Rafael Nadal, although there will be no repeat this year.

Thiem is in the bottom half of the draw along with Nadal, who starts against Egor Gerasimov, and has a tricky schedule right from the outset.

The Austrian has grand slam winner Marin Cilic in the first round, and Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka – two other former major champions – are potential fourth-round opponents as they begin against one another in an intriguing clash.

Nadal could have to tackle John Isner in the last 16, while Zverev is also in the bottom half of the draw.

World number one Novak Djokovic has Mikael Ymer up first and could meet Pablo Carreno Busta in the quarter-finals, having been defaulted from the US Open when facing the Spaniard – his only defeat of the year.

Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas are in the top half, too.

Meanwhile, Williams, still bidding for a record-equalling 24th major title, is set to meet Victoria Azarenka in round four.

Azarenka came from a set down to beat Williams in the semi-finals at Flushing Meadows before she was defeated in the championship match by Naomi Osaka, who is absent in France.

Defending champion Ash Barty and 2019 US Open winner Bianca Andreescu are also missing, while world number 10 Belinda Bencic withdrew shortly before the draw.

But Williams still faces a difficult task just to reach the final.

A potential victory over Azarenka in the last 16 could see the 38-year-old paired with third seed Elina Svitolina in the quarters, while top seed, world number two and 2018 champion Simona Halep is also in the same half.

Williams starts against Kristie Ahn, who she defeated in her US Open opener.

Kiki Bertens is in the same quarter as Halep, which sees arguably the pick of the first-round matches as Coco Gauff takes on Johanna Konta, last year's semi-finalist.

Marketa Vondrousova, beaten by Barty in the 2019 final, is a potential fourth-round opponent for Halep.

Karolina Pliskova and Petra Kvitova are in the same section as former champion Jelena Ostapenko and Germany's Angelique Kerber, who could complete a career Grand Slam.

Garbine Muguruza, another previous winner, is in Sofia Kenin's quarter with Aryna Sabalenka.

Stefanos Tsitsipas was delighted to be back on clay after he overcame Daniel Evans 6-3 6-1 in the first round of the Hamburg Open.

World number six Tsitsipas has largely failed to find his best form since the ATP Tour season got back underway in August, and he was eliminated in the US Open third round.

However, the 22-year-old defending ATP Finals champion was back at his best in a 59-minute victory over world number 34 Evans on Wednesday.

Tsitsipas struck 24 winners and offered up just one break point – which Evans failed to take – and the Greek was thrilled to return to form ahead of the French Open.

"It's very satisfying to be playing that level of tennis, as I've missed playing on clay," said Tsitsipas, who will face Pablo Cuevas in round two.

"It helps for my confidence. I've watched this tournament on TV since I was very young and I'm delighted to have gotten off to a strong start."

Elsewhere, Benoit Paire was forced to retire hurt against Casper Ruud, while Cristian Garin ended Yannick Hanfmann's run to take a spot in the last eight.

Fifth seed Andrey Rublev also booked a quarter-final berth with a 6-1 3-6 6-2 defeat of Tommy Paul and Felix Auger-Aliassime went down 6-4 6-2 to world number 56 Alexander Bublik.

Bublik pulled off an audacious underarm serve at one point, catching Auger-Aliassime unaware as the Canadian slumped to a shock defeat.

In Wednesday's final match, world number 11 Roberto Bautista-Agut needed just over two hours to see off Dominik Koepfer 6-3 3-6 6-3.

Benoit Paire has claimed he was given permission by doctors to compete at the European Open in Hamburg despite twice testing positive for coronavirus.

The world number 25 retired from his opening round match with Casper Ruud on Wednesday when a set and break down.

He was competing in his second tournament since withdrawing from the US Open with a positive COVID-19 test in August, having also fallen at the first hurdle at last week's Internazionali d'Italia.

Speaking after his exit in Germany, Paire revealed he had been self-isolating in his hotel room in the lead up to the match and was only allowed to practice for one hour but was still given the green light to compete.

"I spent 10 days in a hotel room during the US Open and again now," he said. "I am tired. I practiced for one hour and then went to the hotel room - it is impossible to do. I was tired and had to stop.

Asked to clarify if he tested positive again during his time in Hamburg, Paire replied: "Yes, I was positive here in Hamburg since I arrived. The only negative test I got was yesterday. 

"Before that, there was two in a row where I was positive. But the rules seem different here. The ATP has to explain what the rules are. In Paris right now, players are testing negative, but because the coach is positive, they cannot play. 

"Here in Germany, you test positive and can play. So again thank you to the tournament and the doctor here in Hamburg for letting me play. There are some rules I obviously don't understand too much.

"I was negative after the US Open, negative in France, negative in Rome and then positive in Hamburg. That's all I know. 

"It's tough for me to understand when I arrive here in Hamburg and they tell me to stay in my room again. I really don't understand. Honestly, it is not easy for me."

Paire is due to take part in the French Open, his home grand slam, which begins on Sunday.

Daniil Medvedev was dumped out of the European Open in the first round following a shock 6-4 6-3 loss to Ugo Humbert.

World number five Medvedev was in action for the first time since his US Open semi-final defeat to eventual champion Dominic Thiem and the top seed in Hamburg was defeated in straight sets.

Humbert overcame Kevin Anderson and Fabio Fognini in straight sets at the Internazionali d'Italia last week and he claimed another impressive scalp – his first against a top-10 player – after an hour and 22 minutes.

The 22-year-old Frenchman ensured Medvedev did not enjoy his first match on clay since last year's French Open, and he will now face Jiri Vesely in the second round.

Reigning champion Nikoloz Basilashvili went down 6-4 6-3 to Roberto Bautista Agut, while third seed Gael Monfils bowed out with a 6-4 6-3 loss to Yannick Hanfmann.

Fognini came from a set down to beat Philipp Kohlschreiber, and Karen Khachanov rallied back from a double break down in the decider to progress at the expense of Jan-Lennard Struff.

Felix Auger-Aliassime downed Lorenzo Sonego 6-2 7-6 (7-2) and Cristian Garin got the better of Kei Nishikori in straight sets.

Novak Djokovic believes Rafael Nadal is still the favourite to win the French Open despite his quarter-final exit at the Internazionali d'Italia.

Djokovic continued his stellar year by claiming the title in Rome thanks to a 7-5 6-3 win over Diego Schwartzman in the final on Monday.

The Serbian won his 36th ATP 1000 title, moving him ahead of Nadal into the outright lead, in the ideal preparation for the French Open starting on Sunday.

While Nadal was beaten by Schwartzman in the last eight in Rome, Djokovic said the 12-time French Open champion still deserved favouritism at Roland Garros.

"It's Nadal. Even though he lost this week I still think, and a lot of people will agree, he is the number one favourite," Djokovic told a news conference.

"The record that he has there, the history of his results, you just can't put anyone in front of him. But Diego showed Nadal is beatable on clay.

"The conditions that they played on, heavy clay, not much bounce, humid, night session, we are going to have that as well in Paris. Night session, under the lights, a little bit less bounce, I am pretty sure he does not prefer that to high bounce. I know he likes the high bounce, he likes hot and fast and warm conditions where he can use his spin a lot.

"Let's see. It's going to be interesting. Even though he's the number one favourite there are players who can win against him there.

"It's obviously best of five. You've got to be really fit to be able to achieve that."

A 17-time grand slam champion, Djokovic won the French Open in 2016, while he has lost three finals at the tournament, including two to Nadal.

But with the event rescheduled from a May start to September, Djokovic hopes the cooler weather will suit him in Paris.

"I cannot hope for Rafa not being in the final. I can hope for myself being in the finals and fighting for the trophy," he said.

"That's probably the player who has the highest chance of being in a final in the French Open and any tournament for that matter. If there is one tournament, that is Roland Garros and that's Rafa that you would bet on. But conditions will be different.

"I think I experienced something that might be the case in terms of conditions in Paris. Little bit of rain, wet court, clay, not much of a bounce, a bit cold. That's what I think people have been talking about from the Paris weather standpoint. I'm fine with those conditions."

Novak Djokovic secured a record-breaking triumph at the Internazionali d'Italia as he sealed a perfect response to his US Open woe.

The world number one defeated Diego Schwartzman 7-5 6-3 in Monday's final, the same scoreline he had recorded to defeat Casper Ruud in the last four to reach a 10th final at the tournament.

Djokovic's 36th ATP Masters 1000 title – which moved him ahead of Rafael Nadal into the outright lead - and 81st overall on the ATP Tour was an ideal response after he was disqualified from the US Open.

That infamous default came after he struck the ball at a line judge during his fourth-round match against Pablo Carreno Busta in New York this month.

After overcoming a nervous start against Schwartzman, victory gave Djokovic a fifth title in Rome, though it was his first since 2015 – having lost three finals and suffered a semi-final exit in the previous four years.

He will now bid to end the French Open dominance of Nadal, who stunningly went out to Schwartzman in the quarter-finals in Italy, when the upcoming last grand slam of the year begins in Paris.

Djokovic won the first set despite losing the first three games, recording 18 unforced errors and seeing a set point go begging at 5-4 when his Argentine opponent unleashed a superb cross-court forehand.

He had three more opportunities in Schwartzman's next service game, though, taking the last of those to move ahead.

A comeback looked to be on the cards when Djokovic sent a forehand wide to give Schwartzman a break in the first game of the second set.

But the Serbian, who converted five of his nine break points on the day, struck straight back and decisively moved 5-3 ahead later in the set with a fine backhand down the line.

After saving two match points, Schwartzman sent a shot wide on the next as Djokovic – who may have expected a different outcome when he fell a double break down to start the match – looked relieved as he raised his arms and congratulated his opponent on a superb tournament.

Andrey Rublev stepped up his French Open preparations with a straight-sets win over Tennys Sandgren at the European Open.

World number 12 Rublev, a two-time winner on the ATP tour this year, is seeded fifth in Hamburg and made light work of Sandgren.

Russia's Rublev broke his American foe three times and did not offer up a single break point on his own serve as he won 6-3 6-3 in an hour and nine minutes.

Elsewhere it was a productive day for qualifiers in the round of 32, with Pablo Cuevas and Jiri Vesely respectively seeing off Taylor Fritz and Gilles Simon in straight sets.

Despite the woes of his compatriots Sandgren and Fritz, Tommy Paul prevailed in a topsy-turvy encounter with Kevin Anderson.

The former Wimbledon and US Open finalist inflicted a bagel upon Paul to level matters in the second set but the world number 59 regrouped to triumph 6-4 0-6 6-4 - the big serving Anderson's 14 aces to his opponent's one counting for little in the final analysis.

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