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."

Roger Federer and Andy Murray provided promising injury updates in an Instragram live session with Rafael Nadal, who quelled a myth during the chat with his fellow legends.

Prior to the ATP Tour going on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, Federer underwent knee surgery in February and ruled himself out of the clay-court swing.

With Wimbledon cancelled due to the proliferation of COVID-19, tennis will not return until mid-July at the earliest and Federer said the extended break means there is no rush in his recovery.

"I've been hitting it a little bit against the wall," Federer said. 

"Rehab with the knee. It's okay. I had a really good first six weeks, then it was a bit slower, now it's getting better again, but I have plenty of time.

"So there is no stress, no rush, if there's anything positive, that's the only thing really. At the end of the day I just want the knee to be good, it doesn't matter when I return.

"I feel happy. I think after the second surgery. It's easier the second time around, but I don't need to experience a third one, that's for sure."

Murray has played just one competitive match since winning the European Open in October, a remarkable achievement after the Briton underwent hip resurfacing surgery.

The three-time grand slam winner will reassess how soon he can be back on the practice courts when the global health situation improves.

"It's good. I've been training a lot," Murray said.

"I'm still able to do lots of things but I haven't practised for five weeks, since everything started to get shut down here.

"So I've not hit any balls but I'm still doing lots of training and I feel pretty good so we'll see what happens when we're able to start doing things again."

When Federer had the chance to quiz Nadal a little, he asked the Spaniard about the origins of him playing left handed when it has always been said he could play with his right.

"That's just a legend. I can write with the right hand, my basketball skills are with the right, but not in the tennis court and not in football," Nadal replied.

"I started with two hands, backhand and forehand. So probably the people, because I was hitting two backhands, didn't know whether I was lefty or righty."

Murray and Nadal also exchanged memories of playing games consoles with one another, with the pair signed up to play a virtual Madrid Open starting on April 27.

With the two attempting to organise a practice session for Monday, Murray said: "I'm up for that, for sure, just not too late because I have to get up with the kids in the morning.

"I'm 6am every morning the kids are getting us up so enjoy your late nights and your lie-ins whilst you don't have kids!"

Nadal replied: "I hope to be in your situation in a not very long period of time."

Novak Djokovic revealed he had spoken to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal about a relief fund that would see up to $4.5million distributed to lower-ranked players.

The ATP Tour is suspended until at least July 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 160,000 people worldwide.

There are financial concerns for several sports, including tennis – particularly lower-ranked players with the season paused.

ATP Player Council president Djokovic said he had discussed a relief fund with fellow members Federer and Nadal.

"I spoke to Roger and Rafa a few days ago," he said during an Instagram Live with Stan Wawrinka on Saturday.

"We had a long conversation about the near future of tennis, what's going to happen, how we can contribute and how we can help, especially lower-ranked guys who are obviously struggling the most of anybody.

"Majority of the players who are ranked between, whatever, 200 and 250 to 700 or 1,000, don't have federation support, don't have sponsors so they are completely independent and kind of left alone.

"I'm really glad that ATP, grand slams now most likely, and players, hopefully, if we all get together, will contribute collectively to the player relief fund that ATP will distribute using certain models and criteria."

Djokovic added: "Right now, it looks like there's going to be hopefully somewhere between $3 million and $4.5 million, there is going to be distributed to these lower-ranking guys."

A 17-time grand slam champion, Djokovic said tennis needed to respect its lower-ranked players.

"I'm really glad that the tennis ecosystem is coming together because I think everyone realises the importance of the base of the tennis and these guys that are ranked from 250 onwards," he said.

"They are the ones that make the grassroots of tennis, that make the future of tennis and I feel we have to be united, we have to support them, we have to show them that they are not forgotten, that we are there for them.

"But also I feel we have to send a message to the younger generations that are taking in consideration to be professional players and to show them that they can live out of tennis even at the times when there is a pandemic and there is a financial crisis, that they still can rely on the support of the top guys of the ATP as a governing body, of the ITF, of grand slams."

Novak Djokovic insisted he did not expect to have the crowd on his side when playing Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal.

A 17-time grand slam champion, Djokovic is still behind Federer (20) and Nadal (19) on the all-time list for majors won by men, while the Serbian still struggles for support compared to the Swiss and Spaniard.

In an Instagram Live with Stan Wawrinka on Saturday, Djokovic discussed why that was the case, accepting he would often find himself on the wrong side of the support against the duo.

"For sure one thing is that Roger is arguably the greatest player of all-time," he said.

"He's the guy that is liked around the world so I don't expect, to be honest, in most of the cases, as long as he's playing, the crowd to be majority on my side. Some places, maybe, but most of the places are going to support Roger and I'm okay with that because it's Roger.

"It's very similar situation with Rafa so it's hard for me to answer to that question. Why is it like that? Am I contributing to that in a negative way that I'm taking away the crowd support for me? I don't think so.

"I think it's more just the greatness of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and not just them as tennis players, but them as people, as very charismatic, nice guys, humble guys, great champions that have made a huge mark in our sport and I am part of their era, so in one way I am lucky and in another way maybe not so much."

Djokovic asked Wawrinka – a three-time grand slam champion – for his opinion on the matter.

The Swiss felt tennis needed something closer to a villain, a role the 32-year-old Djokovic assumed.

"I think it's a bit of for sure what you said that they are amazing champions like you are," Wawrinka said.

"I think in your young age you were a bit different of course like we all are and they took this spot already of the nice player, humble, always fair play and all. In a movie you cannot have three good guys, you need someone who's a bit against, you know what I mean? I'm saying that with a lot of respect.

"When you were all three younger, that's the direction that everybody took a little bit and now it affects a little bit right now."

Andy Murray is convinced Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are the greatest men's tennis players of all time - just don't ask him to put them in order.

The Scot might have had a stack more grand slam titles had it not been for the 'Big Three' of the modern era.

As well as his two Wimbledon triumphs, two Olympic golds and a 2012 US Open success, Murray has lost five major finals to Djokovic and three to Federer.

While Murray feels the likes of Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors would be competitive in this age, he sees his direct rivals as the best there have ever been.

Murray told Djokovic in an Instagram Live chat on Friday: "The thing that's special now is you have three guys who are playing at the same time, so you can compare them because - I wrote it down - you played 55 times against Rafa and 50 times against Roger, and Roger and Rafa played 40 times.

"So you have that many matches between the best players in the biggest tournaments - so you actually don't have to compare the generations, and I think the best three players are playing now.

"It's difficult to judge it. We don't know what's going to happen in the future, so we don't know what everyone is going to finish on slam-wise and how many matches everyone will have played and won against each other."

Addressing Serbian star Djokovic, Murray said: "Also in this conversation, which is maybe different to other sports because we have the different surfaces, is that to me right now you have Rafa's record on clay nobody competes with, Roger's current record at Wimbledon is the best, and your record on hard courts is the best.

"So because we have these different surfaces, it's difficult, and when people ask me what's the toughest match in your career, who are the hardest guys to play against, I'd be like... I feel like I'm competing against the best hard-court player ever, I've competed against the best clay-court player ever and the best grass-court player ever, so for me it depends on the surface."

Federer has 20 grand slam singles titles, Nadal has 19 and Djokovic landed his 17th at the Australian Open at the start of this season. The campaign is now on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Whenever tennis resumes, there will be a host of young players vying with the old guard for the biggest titles in the sport.

As Djokovic pointed out: "We are also not that young anymore.

"You have guys like Dominic Thiem, [Stefanos] Tsitsipas and [Alexander] Zverev, these guys they're maturing so quickly and they're ready - they're ready to get the grand slam titles and they're very close."

But Djokovic suspects it will be hard to budge the likes of himself, Federer and Nadal, as well as Murray and the Scot's fellow three-slam winner Stan Wawrinka.

He said: "When it comes to slams, I think it seems like we - including yourself and [Wawrinka] - you turn to another gear, because I think every next slam that keeps coming I feel more comfortable playing in. And I feel there's always even a bigger mental or emotional edge over the young guys coming in.

"Because you've played so many times you have the experience, you feel good in your own skin, it's really hard that anything really surprises you."

Matteo Berrettini still gets goosebumps when he thinks about being complimented by Roger Federer.

Despite starting 2019 outside the top 50, Berrettini ended the year with a place in the ATP Finals as the world number eight.

Titles in Budapest and Stuttgart, an appearance in the final in Munich and a run to the US Open semi-finals proved key to the Italian's remarkable ascendancy.

His impressive rise did not go unnoticed by Federer, who praised Berrettini's performances when they were in action at the Halle Open.

The 20-time major champion offered more words of encouragement when their first on-court meeting ended in Federer triumphing 6-1 6-2 6-2 in the fourth round of Wimbledon.

Berrettini told Stats Perform: "Before Wimbledon I played Stuttgart and Halle. I won Stuttgart whose defending champions was Federer.

"In Halle I met him and he complimented me. Before we only exchanged some hellos but to be complimented by him still gives me goosebumps.

"We didn't speak during Wimbledon because we were in the same half of the draw, so no tips. But then he told me: 'Congratulations for your grass season. Go on like this and you will go high.'

"Then we met again in London for the ATP Finals. He was very kind because we chatted during the famous boat trip from the hotel to the arena. We chatted about the holidays and his plans.

"The relationship with all of them is so weird. I grew up looking up to them, you know. But the relationship is good, they are special."

Berrettini will not get to continue his development on grass this season with the whole swing, including Wimbledon, cancelled due to the coronavirus.

The 23-year-old is disappointed he will not get to play at the All England Club, having gained a greater affinity for the surface following his displays in 2019.

"Without a shadow of a doubt, Wimbledon is my favourite slam. I reached the US Open semis but I regard Wimbledon as the temple of our sport," said Berrettini.

"I always say that in this place even people who are not experts or passionate about tennis, go there and get keen to be participating and playing. It is wonderful and its cancellation is very tough for us.

"It is a peculiar situation. It is on grass and in England where the weather is mostly rainy, they can play only in certain dates. They can't move it to November because in London it would be five degrees. That's why the cancellation.

"Until last year, though, my relationship with grass was not ideal at all. But since the Davis Cup tie in India, everything changed for me.

"Maybe I improved in some aspects, but I didn't even realise at the end of the season I had played many high-level games on that surface and now it is one of my favourite."

Tim Henman believes the enforced break from tennis could help Andy Murray, saying he hoped the Brit had "a few Wimbledons left in him".

Wimbledon was cancelled this year for the first time since World War II due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Murray was said to be nearing a return from a hip injury, having last played at the Davis Cup Finals in 2019.

Henman feels the break could be beneficial for two-time Wimbledon champion Murray, who turns 33 in May.

"He has missed so much tennis but perhaps [the break] will give him the opportunity – if his body and his hip enable him – to play longer, in age terms," he told UK media, via The Guardian.

"I remember playing with Agassi after Andre had 18 months out, for very different reasons, but he came back fresh and invigorated to play. He kept going until he was 36.

"In those days that was old for a top tennis player. I stopped when I was 33 and that was pretty old at the time, but with training techniques and injury prevention, players are certainly playing longer.

"You would like to think that if Andy's body permits and he still has the motivation that I think he does there can still definitely be a few Wimbledons left in him yet."

A player who appears closer to the end of his career is Roger Federer, with the 20-time grand slam champion turning 39 this year.

Henman – an All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC) board member – said the Swiss great, who underwent knee surgery in February, would be shattered by the cancellation of Wimbledon.

"Someone like Federer, coming to the end of his career, is devastated but understands the decision," said Henman, a four-time Wimbledon semi-finalist.

"It will affect a lot of people in a lot of different ways."

Rafael Nadal "doesn't give a damn about tennis right now", according to Toni Nadal, his coach and uncle.

The ATP and WTA Tours have been suspended until June due to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving the clay season effectively wiped off the calendar, with the French Open having been pushed back to September.

Wimbledon has also been cancelled, making 2020 the first time since the Second World War that the famous grass-court grand slam will not be held.

With the season on hold, the battle for the outright lead in major singles titles in the men's game has also been paused. Roger Federer has 20, with Nadal on 19 and Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic on 17.

Given Federer's best chance of a major this year has arguably gone due to Wimbledon's cancellation, and with the French Open still due to go ahead, it has been suggested 2020 could finally be the year that the Swiss great is caught at the top of the standings by long-time rival Nadal.

However, Toni Nadal insists such things are far from his nephew's mind while the world battles against COVID-19.

Spain has been particularly badly affected, with more than 153,000 confirmed cases and over 15,000 fatalities.

"With the huge problem we have, all this has been forgotten," Toni Nadal told Mundo Deportivo. "It's secondary. Coronavirus is what counts, not tennis.

"We [Rafa and I] were talking and he told me he doesn't give a damn about tennis right now. That's logical if you have a little sensitivity."

Rafa, it seems, was given an indication of what the pandemic could bring when speaking to Bill Gates at a charity event in South Africa in February.

However, Toni has dispelled fears it could take some of the top players a long time to recapture their rhythm when tennis finally returns.

"I understand Bill Gates spoke to Rafa, who was with him and Roger Federer at the exhibition match in Cape Town," said Toni.

"They were chatting and at one point in the conversation, Bill Gates told my nephew that in two months, you wouldn't be able to travel. And so it is.

"When he was a kid, Rafael was away from playing for a week and then he had a hard time hitting the ball again. But from a certain age, with more experience, that's no longer the case.

"Because of injury, he could go up to three months without touching the racquet, but when he returned, he was fine in a week, or at most 10 or 15 days. This will be a similar situation."

The decision to move the French Open to a slot a week after the scheduled end of the US Open has caused some consternation but, again, Toni Nadal was keen to point to the bigger picture.

He added: "There are people who complained about not being consulted, but I'm not Roland Garros and I don't consult about it. 

"I said a few weeks ago that things were going to be totally stopped for a while. How do you want us to play tennis? It's unthinkable. It won't be played until there is a very clear security measure.

"If not, how do I go to an event? What if another wave [of infections] comes back in October? How many countries won't make restrictions on movement? How long will lockdown last? I don't know.

"Tennis is a sport that moves many people from one country to another."

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