Rafael Nadal has chosen to launch his clay-court season in Madrid during the week that follows the US Open.

The world number two could face a hectic schedule if he elects to travel to New York to defend his grand slam title.

That tournament will be behind closed doors at Flushing Meadows and it remains to be seen whether the Madrid Open, a Masters Series event, must also operate in the same circumstances.

Madrid's showpiece event was postponed from May and is now scheduled to begin on Sunday, September 13, the day of the men's US Open final.

Nadal may not need to play in Madrid until possibly the Wednesday, but it is possible he could be considering skipping the trip to the United States, focusing instead on the delayed clay-court swing.

After Madrid comes the Internazionali d’Italia in Rome, with the French Open, which Nadal has won a record 12 times, then beginning on September 27.

The 34-year-old Nadal has previously indicated he was unsure about travelling to New York, questioning whether that event should happen given the COVID-19 crisis.

Playing closer to home is more straightforward for Spain's 19-time grand slam winner.

Madrid tournament director Feliciano Lopez, who as a player won the Queen's Club singles and doubles titles last year, wrote on Twitter that Nadal had agreed to play his tournament.

"I've spoken with my friend @RafaelNadal and he's confirmed he will take part in Madrid this September," Lopez said.

He said Nadal would be welcomed "with open arms" at the event.

Nadal responded by writing: "Same with you Feli. See you in September in Madrid."

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

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

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

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

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

This is tennis then, midway through 2020.

What's happened so far?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How realistic is a resumption?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What has been said?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saint Nick?

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

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

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

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

What happens next?

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

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

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

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

Andy Murray will be focusing on the US Open and French Open when professional tennis returns, but only if they are "safe".

The ATP Tour has been suspended since March due to the coronavirus pandemic but is scheduled to get back under way with the Citi Open on August 14.

However, questions have arisen after Grigor Dimitrov and Borna Coric tested positive for COVID-19 after participating in the Adria Tour, which was backed by world number one Novak Djokovic.

Strict health and safety protocols will be in place for the US Open, with the United States Tennis Association (USTA) potentially limiting players to just one member of support staff for the tournament.

Djokovic branded that "extreme" and "impossible", but Murray would be happy to abide by such a rule if it reduced the risk of exposure to the virus.

"Playing the grand slams would be my priority. I think the schedule is tricky and I understand the reason why it is like that," said Murray, who will take part in the Battle of the Brits exhibition event this week.

"I don't know exactly which tournaments I will and won't play in terms of the lead up to the grand slams.

"The proposals that the USTA have made, I don't know if all of them are set in stone. They seemed to have changed quite a bit over the last couple of weeks.

"I don't mind what the situation is, providing it's safe. If I was told I could take one person with me, for example, you can make that work.

"I would probably go with a physio in that situation, with some coaching done remotely. That's not a perfect situation, obviously. From a performance perspective, that's tricky.

"But I also appreciate that these are unprecedented times, so you have to make do with what's possible. That sort of thing wouldn't bother me much. For me it's more about safety."

The US Open is slated to start on August 31, with the French Open scheduled to begin on September 27.

Having seen players dancing together at nightclubs and playing basketball during the Adria Tour events, Murray questioned how US Open authorities will stop players breaking protocol.

"In a bubble – if that's what people are doing – what's the punishment for people who are not sticking to the rules there that have been put in place?" Murray said.

"You imagine a situation where you're in the last stages of the US Open but, because someone's gone out [of] that bubble and broken those rules and gone into Manhattan or done something he shouldn't have been doing, and you then contract the virus and are not able to compete in the quarter-finals and semis of the US Open. It would be extremely frustrating.

"So how do they police that exactly? I don't know how they go about it."

Murray has not played competitively since November due to a bruised pelvis and now feels in better shape than he did in March, when he was initially planning to return.

"My hip has been feeling better for probably the past three or four weeks. It feels better than it did in March," said Murray.

"Right now, I feel a little bit more confident because I've had more training under my belt, more practice. In March time, I'd only been practising for four or five weeks since I'd had the issues."

Rory McIlroy and LeBron James produced memorable moments on June 19, a date that means much to England cricket fans but one their Australian counterparts will always want to forget.

McIlroy was magnificent as he won the 2011 U.S. Open, five years before James and the Cleveland Cavaliers completed a memorable triumph over the Golden State Warriors.

As for the Ashes rivals, England's batsmen were undoubtedly on top in 2018 as they put Australia's poor bowlers to the sword in Nottingham.

Take a look back at some of the memorable moments that have happened on this day through the years.

 

2011: Major breakthrough for McIlroy

Just over two months after enduring a last-round meltdown that ended his hopes of Masters glory at Augusta, McIlroy secured his first major - and in some style, too.

The Congressional course was no match for the Northern Irishman, who left the field fighting it out for second place - Jason Day would eventually finish a distant runner-up - and had the statisticians trawling through the records.

McIlroy's eight-shot triumph was the biggest margin of victory in the tournament's history, while his final score of 16 under was a record for strokes under par (a feat matched by Brooks Koepka in 2017). 

2016: Cavs stun Warriors to reign at last

Having returned for a second spell with Cleveland, the team that drafted him back in 2003, James finally steered the Cavs to glory in the NBA Finals.

The Golden State Warriors appeared on course to retain their title when they led the best-of-seven series 3-1. LeBron, however, had other ideas, inspiring his team to rally from the brink of defeat to claim the city's first professional sports title in 52 years.

His triple-double was influential in deciding the outcome of Game 7, though his most notable play was 'The Block' on Andre Iguodala late in proceedings. Yet it was Kyrie Irving who made the key shot with just under a minute remaining, sinking a three-pointer that helped clinch a 93-89 triumph.

2018: Australia suffer as England run up the score

Going, going gone. England's one-day team made history in the third match of the series against Australia, smashing their way to a world record total in the 50-over format.

Jonny Bairstow and Alex Hales both made centuries as the hosts amassed 481-6 at Trent Bridge. Captain Eoin Morgan weighed in with a rapid 67, helping England ease past their previous highest score of 444-3, made against Pakistan just under two years earlier at the same venue.

Australia could only muster 237 all out in reply to suffer their heaviest ever loss in ODI cricket in terms of runs (242 runs, to be precise). They would end up being swept in the series too, going down 5-0.

Tiger Woods did not only win the 2000 U.S. Open on June 18, he did so having obliterated the rest of the field.

Two decades ago, no one could get near to Woods and his record-breaking performance at Pebble Beach.

Mike Catt got much closer to Jonah Lomu five years earlier, not that he was able to stop him, while Eoin Morgan was delivering his own dominant performance on June 18, 2019.

Here we take a look at three major sporting events to have occurred on June 18 in previous years.

 

1995 - Lomu steamrollers England

Lomu delivered perhaps the finest individual performance at a Rugby World Cup match when starring for New Zealand against England in the 1995 semi-final.

The wing scored four tries as the All Blacks won 45-29 against an England side that simply could not contain the All Blacks' number 11.

His first score was the best, as Lomu collected a ball that bounced behind him, held off two England players and then dismissively ploughed over Catt when off-balance before dotting down.

In another incredible demonstration of speed, Lomu crossed for the fourth time when side-stepping Catt to leave the England back grasping at air.

 

2000 - Woods goes wire-to-wire at Pebble Beach

Stating Woods was the wire-to-wire winner at the 2000 U.S. Open only begins to explain his dominance given his eventual major record 15-stroke advantage.

Woods arrived at the 100th U.S. Open as a two-time major champion and a third looked assured even before the weekend as he had a six-shot lead after 36 holes.

Only playing against himself by the Sunday, Woods parred the opening nine holes before reeling off four birdies in five holes en route to a final-round 67. It was the first of four majors in a row that Woods would win - which became known as the 'Tiger Slam'.

 

2019 - Aerial Eoin dismantles Afghanistan attack

Prior to hosting the World Cup on home soil in 2019, England players had mused on the possibility of becoming the first team in ODI history to score 500 runs.

It did not quite happen, but the reason for such optimism was evident when they took Afghanistan's attack apart in making 397-6 in a group-stage game at Old Trafford.

Several records did fall as captain Morgan made the most sixes in an ODI (17), England accrued the most maximums in an ODI (25) while poor Rashid Khan went for 0-110 off his nine overs.

Morgan, who would end up lifting the trophy later that tournament, finished with a frankly ridiculous 148 from 71 balls before England claimed a 150-run success.

Serena Williams has confirmed she will play at the 2020 US Open.

On Tuesday the United States Tennis Association (USTA) announced the grand slam at Flushing Meadows will go ahead as planned despite the global coronavirus pandemic.

The WTA will resume on August 3 and there are three tournaments scheduled before the US Open, which is due to run without fans present from August 31 to September 13.

While reigning Wimbledon champion Simona Halep and world number one Ashleigh Barty have expressed concerns about the tournament in New York, Williams has confirmed she will be involved.

"Ultimately, I really cannot wait to return to New York and play the US Open 2020," Williams told reporters on a Zoom conference call.

"I feel like the USTA is going to do a really good job of ensuring everything is amazing and everyone is safe.

"It's gonna be exciting. It's been over six months since a lot of us have played professional tennis.

"I'll certainly miss the fans, don't get me wrong. Just being out there with that New York crowd and hear everyone cheer, I'll really miss that in some of those tough matches. But this is crazy, I'm excited."

Williams needs one more grand slam title to equal Margaret Court's record haul of 24.

The 38-year-old has ended up on the losing side in each of the previous two US Open finals and the last of her six titles there was won in 2014.

Halep and Barty are not the only elite players to raise concerns about participating in the grand slam while curbing the spread of COVID-19 continues to be an issue for the USA and beyond.

Defending men's champion Rafael Nadal admitted he was not comfortable with travelling while the pandemic continues and world number one Novak Djokovic complained about protocols, which could see players remain at hotels between matches and have only one other person with them at Flushing Meadows.

June 17, 2010 was the date Kobe Bryant got his fifth and final NBA ring.

The Los Angeles Lakers icon, who died in a helicopter crash earlier this year, helped his franchise beat the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals.

Two years ago Brooks Koepka became a back-to-back champion at the U.S. Open while in 1999 Australia and South Africa played one of the most thrilling Cricket World Cup contests ever.

We take a look at major sporting events that have happened on June 17 in previous years.

 

1999 - Australia edge past Proteas in dramatic semi

Until England's incredible Super Over win over New Zealand in last year's World Cup final, the 1999 semi-final between Australia and South Africa was perhaps the greatest ODI ever.

Shaun Pollock and Allan Donald managed to restrict Australia to 213 and though Shane Warne (4-29) kept his team in the match, South Africa entered the final over nine down but needing nine more to reach the final.

Successive fours from Lance Klusener (31 not out) tied the scores but, with the Proteas needing only one run from their final four deliveries, a mix-up between Klusener and Donald resulted in the latter being run out.

The game finished as a tie but Australia went through to the final because they had a superior run rate in the Super Six stage, with South Africa left to reflect on some all-too-familiar World Cup heartache.

 

2010 - Kobe leads Lakers past Celtics

Boston, who had beaten Los Angeles in the 2008 Finals, were 3-2 up after Game 5 but knew the series would be closed out in the City of Angels.

The Lakers, who were the defending champions, forced a Game 7 and came out on top 83-79 to clinch the franchise's 16th - and to date most recent - championship.

Bryant was voted Finals MVP for the second time in his career and scored a game-high 23 points in the decider.

 

2018 - Koepka wins U.S. Open again

Twelve months after he won by four strokes to claim his first major, Koepka proved to be unstoppable once more at the U.S. Open.

The American began the day in a four-way tie for the lead and his two-under-par 68 on Sunday was enough to earn him a one-stroke success over Tommy Fleetwood at Shinnecock Hills.

Koepka became just the third man since World War II - after Ben Hogan and Curtis Strange - to successfully defend the U.S. Open title.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Nick Kyrgios accused US Open organisers of being "selfish" for reportedly pushing on with plans to stage the grand slam amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Reports on Monday suggested the United States Tennis Association will confirm the tournament will begin on August 31 as planned, even though New York City continues to grapple with COVID-19.

This year's Wimbledon was cancelled in April while the French Open has been pushed back from May to September.

However, the US Open appears set to start on time, albeit without fans present and with protocols in place because of the pandemic.

Men's world number one Novak Djokovic expressed reservations about remaining at a hotel between matches and only being allowed one other person with him at Flushing Meadows.

Rafael Nadal, the defending men's singles champion, indicated he would be unwilling to travel to the United States to defend his title while the virus remains prevalent.

Australian Kyrgios has now added his voice to the chorus of disapproval.

He wrote on Twitter: "Smh [shaking my head] - people that live in the US of course are pushing the Open to go ahead. 'Selfish' I'll get my hazmat suit ready for when I travel from Australia and then have to quarantine for 2 weeks on my return."

There have been over two million cases of coronavirus in the USA, where more than 118,000 people have died due to the virus.

The Golden State Warriors and Tiger Woods both became champions again on June 16 in previous years, while Didier Deschamps' France also started their road to glory in Russia.

Steve Kerr's Warriors have dominated the NBA for much of the past half-decade, but five years ago they were trying to end a long championship drought.

Woods was already a multiple major winner by 2008, though his victory at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines while he essentially played on one leg was one of his most incredible successes.

Here we take a look at major sporting events that have happened on June 16 in previous years.

 

2008 - Wounded Woods wins U.S. Open play-off

The 2008 U.S. Open had been due to finish on Sunday, June 15 but 72 holes could not separate Woods and veteran Rocco Mediate, so the two came back for 18 more on Monday.

Woods had a three-stroke lead through 10 holes but, clearly hampered by a serious knee injury, he was reeled in by the world number 158 and needed a birdie at the last to force a sudden death.

After 91 holes, Woods eventually emerged victorious to claim his 14th major title - four short of record-holder Jack Nicklaus' haul - though it would be another 11 years before he tasted major success again at the Masters.

It was later revealed Woods had played on with a double stress fracture and a torn anterior cruciate ligament, making his victory all the more remarkable.

2015 - Warriors end title drought

Finals between the Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers would become a regular theme, and it was Stephen Curry and Co. who came out on top in 2015, as they did in 2017 and 2018 too.

The 2015 series had been tied at 2-2 but a 104-91 Game 5 win gave Golden State the chance to end a 40-year wait for another title on June 16, which they did with a 105-97 Game 6 victory.

Curry and Finals MVP Andre Iguodala scored 25 points apiece, with the latter winning praise for his defensive display against LeBron James, who would need to wait another 12 months before he brought a title to the long-suffering Cleveland fans.

2018 - VAR helps France edge past Australia

They may have undoubtedly been the best team at Russia 2018, but France had an underwhelming start to a campaign that would end with them winning the World Cup.

Les Bleus were thankful for VAR when it was used - for the first time ever in a World Cup match - to award them a controversial penalty after Josh Risdon's tackle on Antoine Griezmann originally went punished in Kazan.

Griezmann duly dispatched the penalty but Australia pulled level through Mile Jedinak's spot-kick, only for France to claim a 2-1 win 10 minutes from time courtesy of an own goal from Aziz Behich.

Serena Williams would relish the chance to play at this year's US Open and continue her quest to surpass Margaret Court's grand slam haul, the American's coach has said.

It has been reported it will soon be confirmed that the US Open shall begin on August 31 without fans, as planned, despite concerns about the coronavirus safety measures from elite men's and women's players.

Men's world number one Novak Djokovic expressed reservations about being kept at a hotel between matches and the possibility of only having one other person with him at Flushing Meadows, while defending champion Rafael Nadal is not keen to travel to New York while the pandemic continues.

However, Patrick Mouratoglou, who coaches six-time US Open champion Williams, believes last year's runner-up in the women's final is keen to play.

Williams needs one more grand slam title to pull level with Court's record of 24.

"Of course, she would love to play," Mouratoglou told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme.

"For a player to be out of competition is extremely difficult. She's definitely come back to tennis to win grand slams; that's her goal, so the US Open would be the first opportunity to win one.

"You know this US Open will be extremely special, there will be a lot of restrictions and I have to speak with her to see if she will be able to accept and manage those expectations."

Williams gave birth to a daughter – Alexis Olympia Ohanian – in September 2017 and Mouratoglou noted the possibility of her only having one other person at Flushing Meadows may impact him, as he joked the toddler might actually be a better coach for her mother.

"That's exactly what my thought is - I don't imagine her being three weeks without her daughter," he admitted.

"So, she might have a new coach for the US Open... [a] bit younger! Considering our record in the last grand slam finals, her daughter might be more successful than me!"

Andy Murray is "really pumped" about the US Open, according to Feliciano Lopez.

Three-time grand slam champion Murray was nearing a return from injury when the ATP Tour season was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

There remains uncertainty over when the campaign will resume and whether the US Open, scheduled to start in August, will be played.

Lopez said Murray, who he has played doubles with in the past, was looking forward to the event in the United States.

"We are in touch every two weeks or so. We text each other," the Spaniard told UK media.

"Two days ago I was talking to him, and he was really pumped about the US Open. He was starting to practise again. I asked about the hip, how it was feeling, and he was positive.

"He might be able to compete again. I'm crossing my fingers to see Andy playing again, of course. It would be great for everybody, especially for him."

With travel restrictions in place in many countries around the world, just how the ATP Tour season can resume remains to be seen.

But Lopez is eager for it to get back underway, saying: "I think we need to start playing tennis as soon as possible, this situation can't last for longer.

"We need to play, the players, the tournaments, the ATP, we need to resume. It's been already a long time, there's a lot of people struggling."

Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev have cast doubt over whether the US Open can go ahead as scheduled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The grand slam is due to get under way on August 31, but New York has been hard hit by the COVID-19 crisis.

World number one Novak Djokovic this week described the restrictions that players would be subjected to in order for the major to be staged as "extreme" and "impossible".

It has been suggested players will have restrictions on the size of their entourages for the tournament, while access to outside courts at the venue will be limited and players arriving from outside the United States could face a quarantine period.

Rafael Nadal, Ash Barty and Simona Halep are among the other stars to have questioned whether it is realistic for them to be taking to the court at Flushing Meadows.

Thiem and Zverev also expressed their reservations on Friday.

Speaking in Belgrade before featuring in Adria Tour exhibition matches arranged by Djokovic, Thiem said: "All of these circumstances are pretty tough.

"I think some circumstances will have to change [for it to] make sense to go there [New York]."

The world number three added: "Well nobody knows, maybe things improve, maybe not, so we'll have to wait until the facts are out and then decide."

Zverev, the world number seven, said: "It's great if we get the opportunity to play, but under these circumstances I don't think a lot of players will feel comfortable in the environment there.

"So that's my opinion. But it's not really up to us players in that way; in a way, the US Open decides."

The ATP Tour is suspended until at least the end of July.

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