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.

Bianca Andreescu will not play again in 2020 after confirming her intention to skip the clay-court swing.

The 2019 US Open champion has not played a competitive match since sustaining a knee injury during the WTA Finals last October.

Andreescu's agent had already confirmed her withdrawal from the French Open, with the main draw due to begin on Sunday.

And in a post on social media, Andreescu wrote: "I have come to the difficult decision to skip the clay-court swing this year and will be taking the remainder of the season off to focus on my health and my training.

"As hard as it was to come to this conclusion, I have so much to look forward to in 2021, including the Olympics; I want to use this time to focus on my game so I can come back stronger and better than ever.

"As always, all of your encouraging words and support mean the world to me and I look forward to getting back on the court and competing for Canada next year!"

Andreescu became the first Canadian to win a grand slam title when she defeated Serena Williams in the final at Flushing Meadows last year.

She remains number seven in the WTA rankings despite her elongated period of inactivity.

Elina Svitolina battled past Magda Linette to reach the quarter-finals of the Internationaux de Strasbourg on Tuesday.

The second seed won the first set via a tie-break and came back from a double break down in the second to seal a 7-6 (7-0) 7-5 victory in an hour and 58 minutes.

Linette was just two points away from winning the opener and missed an opportunity to force a decider on set point in the second.

"It definitely was not easy. She was fighting back, she was trying to produce a good level; I was up and down," said Svitolina, who reached the quarter-finals on her return to the WTA Tour at the Internazionali d'Italia last week.

"It's not easy to come from another tournament with different balls, different conditions. I was trying just to fight and, in the end, I was lucky I finished in two sets."

Jil Teichmann awaits Svitolina in the last eight following a 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 win against 2018 champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, while there were also victories for Elena Rybakina and Zhang Shuai.

The United Kingdom government has paused plans for the return of fans to live sporting events in England from October 1 due to the rise in coronavirus cases.

On Monday, the COVID-19 alert level in the UK was raised to a four, meaning transmission of the virus is "high or exponentially rising", with prime minister Boris Johnson set to outline fresh measures to halt the increase in cases.

Plans to bring supporters back into stadia were placed under review earlier this month and pilot events were restricted to 1,000 people in attendance.

However, government minister Michael Gove confirmed to BBC Breakfast on Tuesday that pilot schemes were now on hold, as are plans for fans to return in staged phases, representing a major blow to a struggling sports sector.

"We were looking at a staged programme of more people returning – it wasn't going to be the case that we were going to have stadiums thronged with fans," Gove said.

"We're looking at how we can, for the moment, pause that programme, but what we do want to do is to make sure that, as and when circumstances allow, get more people back.

"The virus is less likely to spread outdoors than indoors but again it's in the nature of major sporting events that there's a lot of mingling."

Sport has been taking place mainly behind closed doors in the UK since it returned following a full lockdown in March.

Approximately 300 spectators were granted access to the World Snooker Championship final at the Crucible in Sheffield, while a friendly between Brighton and Hove Albion and Chelsea in August saw 2,500 fans allowed into the Amex Stadium.

But Gove said the decision has been taken in part due to the criticism the government received for allowing full attendances to sporting events in March, when COVID-19 was posing a growing threat.

The decision to allow the Champions League last-16 match between Liverpool and Atletico Madrid to go ahead brought scrutiny with Liverpool council probing the impact it had on the spread of the disease, while there is pressure to look into whether the Cheltenham Festival should have been permitted to proceed at full capacity.

"People look back now at the beginning of the pandemic at some of the major sporting events then and ask the question why were they allowed to go ahead," added Gove.

"What we must do is look at sporting events now with caution but we also recognise that sport is a vital part of this nation and we're looking at everything we can do to support our athletes, our great clubs, through what will be a challenging time."

The latest development comes at a time where the sports industry continues to count the cost of the global pandemic.

Over 100 leaders from sports bodies have requested emergency funding in a letter to the prime minister.

Sport England has handed out £200million for emergency cases, but with clubs continuing to lose money many have said that does not go far enough.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters told the BBC earlier this month that teams were looking at losing £700m if fans are not allowed back into grounds during the 2020-21 campaign, saying it was "absolutely critical" they were brought back.

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."

Aryna Sabalenka revealed her decision not to take on Dieter Kindlmann as a coach after she cruised to a straight-sets win over Ellen Perez at the Internationaux de Strasbourg.

Number four seed Sabalenka was in fine form as she made a convincing start to her campaign, taking just over an hour to beat qualifier Perez 6-4 6-3 and move into the second round.

Perez was last year's doubles champion in Strasbourg but was no match for the world number 12, who is currently operating with her hitting partner as a coach.

Sabalenka had been working with Kindlmann, who used to coach her doubles partner Elise Mertens, heading into the US Open, but the Belarusian elected not to keep him on.

"I told him that I think I'm not ready for a new person on my team," Sabalenka explained.

"He's a great guy, great coach, but I'm just not ready. I'm going to work with my hitting partner for now as my coach."

Anna Blinkova, who beat Myrtille Georges 6-1 6-2, awaits Sabalenka in round two.

Former US Open champion Sloane Stephens succumbed to the shock result of the day, meanwhile, as she crashed out to world number 83 Nao Hibino. 

Stephens was going up against an opponent who was 0-3 across her first three events since the season was restarted, but Hibino secured a hard-fought 6-2 3-6 6-1 triumph.

"Last week, I lost in qualies in Rome and it was not a good match, so I learned from that," Hibino said after the match. "Of course, Sloane is a good player, especially on clay courts. I prepared mentally and with tactics, so I think it helped a lot today."

It was a bad day for Stephens' compatriot Christina McHale, who went down 6-7 (4-7) 7-5 7-6 (7-3) to Zarina Diyas.

Magda Linette beat Pauline Parmentier to set up a tie with second seed Elina Svitolina, while third seed Kiki Bertens will meet Jelena Ostapenko.

There were also victories for Elena Rybakina, Ekaterina Alexandrova, Alize Cornet, Shuai Zhang and Katerina Siniakova.

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.

Simona Halep is not putting any pressure on herself ahead of the French Open after Karolina Pliskova's retirement handed her the Internazionali d'Italia title.

Halep was leading the two-time defending champion 6-0 2-1 in Rome when Pliskova retired in tears because of injury.

The Czech called a medical timeout between sets and had treatment on her lower back and leg.

It is Halep's third consecutive title, with the two-time grand slam champion on a 14-match winning streak after a triumph that further solidifies her status as French Open favourite.

The 2018 Roland Garros champion is not willing to burden herself with the weight of expectation despite her hugely impressive form.

"It's just another tournament," Halep said. "I'm not going to put pressure on myself. I've played really well this year, with three titles already.

"I've played so much on clay, so I feel confident and happy that I'll have a chance to play another grand slam this year.

"I'm not going to let myself be bothered by things like the weather. I'll just be happy to take positives from this tournament and go there smiling.

"It's a dream for everyone to win the grand slam tournament from the first day, so it's my dream as well, but I'm not thinking that far.

"I just want to go there, get used to the courts and the atmosphere, and try to win every match I play. Every match is a battle, so I'll be ready for it."

Pliskova had won three of the previous four meetings with Halep but was full of appreciation for the Romanian after falling short this time around.

"Disappointing for me to not finish today, but Simo, obviously too strong," said Pliskova. 

"I always have to be 100 per cent to play a good match against you. Congratulations for the whole week. I think you deserve the title."

World number two Simona Halep extended her winning streak to 13 matches as she reached the final to delight the fans in attendance at the Internazionali d'Italia. 

Spectators were allowed at a WTA Tour event for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic suspended competitions, the Rome crowd witnessing Halep defeat Garbine Muguruza 6-3 4-6 6-4 in two hours and 14 minutes. 

Muguruza was the last woman to beat Halep, in the semi-finals of the Australian Open in January, but she was unable to produce a repeat in Italy, where the Romanian will be hoping to add to the recent titles she won in Abu Dhabi and Prague either side of the break. 

Halep, a two-time runner-up at this tournament, was 5-1 up in the third set but was pegged back to 5-4, only for Muguruza to produce back-to-back double faults that handed her opponent the victory.

"The victory is really important against Muguruza, always," Halep said afterwards.

"She's a very, very difficult player and a good player. It's always a good vibe and feeling when I win against her.

"I feel confident now that I was able to win this match."

Next up for Halep is Karolina Pliskova after the defending champion overcame Marketa Vondrousova 6-2 6-4.

Pliskova raced into a one-set lead against her fellow Czech, who was the runner-up at Roland Garros last year, but dropped her serve at the start of the second.

Vondrousova was unable to consolidate and paid the price for failing to stay in the rallies with the former world number one in the closing stages of a match that lasted one hour and 22 minutes. 

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was delighted to have fans in attendance to witness her hard-fought triumph over Alison Van Uytvanck at the Internationaux de Strasbourg.

Pavlyuchenkova, champion at Strasbourg in 2018, overcame Van Uytvanck 6-3 7-5 on Sunday in a contest lasting an hour and 37 minutes.

The world number 36 had to save two set points in the 10th game of the second but held her nerve and quickly wrapped things up without the need for a decider.

With a limited number of fans allowed to attend sporting events in France amid the coronavirus pandemic, Pavlyuchenkova was thrilled to finally be back playing in front of spectators.

"I like this event and I have good memories as I won it two years ago," she said. "It was strange and nice at the same time to see a crowd out there today. There were a lot of people.

"I'm really happy with the win and the way I played. I started the match really well. I was aggressive and solid at the same time."

Jil Teichmann is next up for Pavlyuchenkova after her 6-2 6-3 triumph over sixth seed Amanda Anisimova.

In Sunday's other match, Clara Burel came from behind to beat Kateryna Bondarenko 3-6 6-1 6-4.

Novak Djokovic overcame a first-set scare to defeat Casper Ruud 7-5 6-3 and reach a 10th final at the Internazionali d'Italia.

The world number one remains on course for a record-breaking 36th ATP Masters 1000 title but was forced to save two set points in the opener against Norway's Ruud.

Djokovic will contest Monday's final against Denis Shapovalov or Diego Schwartzman, who stunned Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals to end the clay court maestro's similar designs on title 36 in the highest tier of ATP Tour events.

Ruud has impressed on clay this season, boasting a tour-leading 12 wins on the red stuff.

The 21-year-old was targeting a third final in four events on the surface and pocketed an early break before staying cool under pressure on the forehand side to repel two break-back points at 3-2.

It meant Ruud served for the set at 5-4 but he was unable to convert as Djokovic got back on terms with a fabulous drop shot winner.

The 17-time grand slam champion shut the door on Ruud three times during a 12-minute 11th game and the pressure told on his opponent, with a misfired forehand conceding the set.

Djokovic then put his foot down with some authoritative ground strokes to break for 4-2 in the second.

He continued to batter Ruud to the forehand corner and completed the victory in two hours and 11 minutes.

An imperious 30-1 record in 2020 must now be set alongside Djokovic's less-than-impressive recent efforts in the Rome showpiece.

Despite being a four-time winner in the Italian capital, defeats to Andy Murray, Alexander Zverev and Nadal mean he has finished as runner-up in three of the past four years.

Rafael Nadal suffered a stunning defeat to Diego Schwartzman in the Internazionali d'Italia quarter-finals - a major blow to French Open preparations for tennis' king of clay. 

A 6-2 7-5 loss to Schwartzman in Rome ended Nadal's 100 per cent record in their rivalry, after nine previous wins for the Spaniard. 

In their fifth clash on clay, and first on the surface since Nadal won in four sets in the 2018 Roland Garros quarter-finals, Schwartzman wobbled with victory in sight. 

At 5-4 ahead in the second set he was broken to love by 12-time French Open winner Nadal. 

But the eighth seed magnificently broke back immediately and then held his nerve to complete a memorable success, finishing with a volley at the net out of the reach of the stranded Nadal.

The result ends the prospect of a final between Nadal and top seed Djokovic on Monday, with Schwartzman moving on to tackle Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the last four of the tournament. 

"Today I played my best tennis. [It was] Very similar to Roland Garros against Rafa three years ago and I'm very happy," Schwartzman said in his post-match interview on court.

"I was not thinking to beat him really because I was not playing good lately. But today I did my best and I'm very happy."

There were clear mitigating circumstances behind Nadal's unusually early exit, given this is his first tournament since February. 

The 34-year-old elected to miss the resumption of tennis in the United States last month, skipping the US Open over concerns about long-haul international travel in the coronavirus period.

Shapovalov was a 6-2 3-6 6-2 winner against Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov earlier on Saturday.

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