Novak Djokovic sealed his place in the final four at the Tel Aviv Open after beating one of his "best friends" Vasek Pospisil on Friday.

The Serbian was made to work hard by his Canadian opponent, particularly in the first set, but eventually won 7-6 (7-5) 6-3.

Djokovic was particularly impressive on his second serve, winning 70 per cent of them, only four per cent less than his first serve success rate, and he hit just eight unforced errors compared to Pospisil's 21.

"It was a great, positive win," Djokovic said afterwards. "Vasek is one of my best friends on the Tour. We have known each other for many years. It is never easy playing someone you respect so much and like so much, but we are both professionals and wanted to win the match and you can see that.

"I think the level of tennis was really high. Especially towards the end of the first set and the second set. Credit to him for fighting. It's great to see him back."

The number one seed will play Roman Safiullin in the semi-finals after the Russian beat Arthur Rinderknech 6-4 6-1.

Constant Lestienne came through a tight contest with Maxime Cressy, winning 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 7-6 (7-3), and will face number two seed Marin Cilic in the other semi after the Croatian was handed a bye following Liam Broady's withdrawal prior to their match.

At the Sofia Open, Jannik Sinner remains on course for a third successive title at the tournament, setting up a final-four encounter with Holger Rune after easing past Aleksandar Vukic 6-2 6-3, with Rune eventually dispatching Ilya Ivashka 6-2 5-7 6-4.

The other semi-final in Bulgaria will see Lorenzo Musetti take on Marc-Andrea Huesler after both won their respective quarter-finals against Jan-Lennard Struff and Kamil Majchrzak.

Novak Djokovic cruised past Pablo Andujar to reach the quarter-finals of the Tel Aviv Open on Thursday, showing no signs of rustiness on his first Tour-level outing since July.

Djokovic had not featured in an ATP-level match since his final victory over Nick Kyrgios at Wimbledon, having been forced to miss the US Open due to his COVID-19 vaccination status.

But the Serbian needed little time to find his feet in Israel, winning the first seven games of the match and breaking the Spaniard's serve four times en route to a 6-0 6-3 victory.

Speaking on court afterwards, Djokovic said: "Fantastic atmosphere here tonight, thank you very much. I like the court, it's very intimate and it's very loud. 

"The crowd here is very passionate about the sport, about tennis and I'm really, really happy to be here and to perform here in front of you, so thank you for your support."

The 21-time grand slam winner will face Canada's Vasek Pospisil in the last eight after he beat home hopeful Edan Leshem 6-3 6-2.

Two of Djokovic's fellow seeds fared less well, however, with Diego Schwartzman and Botic van de Zandschulp both being ousted after three-set contests.

Third seed Schwartzman failed to capitalise on a third-set match point in his 6-3 2-6 7-6 (9-7) loss to Arthur Rinderknech, while Britain's Liam Broady teed up a clash with Marin Cilic by beating Van de Zandschulp 6-4 4-6 6-3.

The Sofia Open also saw a couple of seeds fall to surprise defeats on Thursday, although Jannik Sinner avoided any drama in his 6-3 6-4 win over Nuno Borges.

Sinner now has a perfect 10-0 record at the event, which he won in both 2020 and 2021, and will face Australia's Aleksandar Vukic for a place in the final four.

Holger Rune also progressed to the last eight, though he was forced to rally after losing the opener against Lorenzo Sonego, but Pablo Carreno Busta and Oscar Otte were both dumped out.

Second seed Carreno Busta fell to a 6-3 3-6 6-2 reverse against Switzerland's Marc-Andrea Huesler, who will face Poland's Kamil Majchrzak in the quarter-finals after he came back to beat Otte 4-6 6-2 6-4.

Novak Djokovic wants to replicate Roger Federer's emotional farewell by having all his tennis rivals present when he brings down the curtain on his own career.

Federer played his final top-level tennis match in last week's Laver Cup when partnering long-time rival and friend Rafael Nadal in doubles competition

Djokovic and Andy Murray, two of Federer's other great adversaries, were also part of the 41-year-old's side at London's O2 Arena.

Despite boasting an all-star cast of talent, Team Europe fell to a first ever defeat against Team World, yet it was Federer's teary send-off that made the headlines.

And Djokovic, who has no current plans to retire, would like to share a similar moment at the end of his playing days.

"It was just a very touching, very emotional moment," Djokovic told reporters ahead of his second-round match against Pablo Andujar at the Tel Aviv Open.

"Seeing his kids and his family, it got me emotional as well. I also must say I was thinking about how it would look for me when I say goodbye to tennis.

"There is definitely one thing that I will wish to have, other than, of course, my family and the close people in my life, I would love to have my biggest rivals and competitors there. 

"Because it added something more special; it added more importance to that moment."

Federer retires as a 20-time grand slam winner – one fewer major title than Djokovic, who is himself one behind men's record holder Nadal.

With Federer now out of the picture, Djokovic says Nadal remains his biggest rival on the court.

"We played the most matches against each other of any other rivalry in the history of tennis," he said. "The rivalry is very special and keeps going. 

"Hopefully, we'll get a chance to play against each other more times. Because it's exciting for us and also for tennis fans and sport fans around the world."

Roger Federer said he felt the pain of Team Europe's first Laver Cup defeat as the World team crashed the Swiss great's farewell party in breathtaking style.

The final event of Federer's playing career veered off the script as he and Rafael Nadal lost in doubles on Friday, before the team collectively succumbed to a 13-8 defeat in London.

Stunning singles wins for Felix Auger-Aliassime and Frances Tiafoe on Sunday, against Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas respectively, followed a doubles thriller that saw Auger-Aliassime and Jack Sock topple Andy Murray and Matteo Berrettini.

After Team Europe won the first four editions of the Laver Cup, this time they had to swallow the bitter pill of defeat, with Federer sorry to sign off on a losing note.

"Of course I'm disappointed," he said. "I was on the team. I almost lost my voice. My hands hurt from clapping.

"So, yes, I am disappointed. We wish the result would be different. I told Andy [Murray] in the locker room, I don't like losing. It's not fun. It just leaves not the best taste, you know. I think once you have been there and taste success, it's just not the same."

He said his goodbye tournament had been a mix of highs and lows.

"This weekend has been all over the place for me," said the 41-year-old Swiss. "I enjoyed it, but it's unfortunate that we couldn't get the win tonight."

Federer denied he has his eyes set on becoming the next Team Europe captain. Incumbent skipper Bjorn Borg and Team World counterpart John McEnroe have indicated next year's match could be the last that they helm, which would create an appealing vacancy.

"No plans there. Bjorn's doing a great job," said Federer. "Who knows, maybe one day, but we don't have any plans so far."

Next year's match takes place in Vancouver, and Federer will certainly have a role of some sort to play, given he is a co-founder of the event.

"I went through all different types of Laver Cups so far: the first one, the winning teams, now this time on the losing team," Federer said. "There was also one where I was hurt last year but seeing it more from the stands and from the fans' perspective, and now deep on the inside with retirement.

"I have enjoyed the Laver Cup in many different ways, and next year again will be totally different. I'm looking forward to it, and I'm sure Vancouver is going to be fantastic."

Asked what he would miss about tennis, Federer said: "Not the losing press conferences, I tell you that. They are the worst."

Felix Auger-Aliassime and Frances Tiafoe played starring roles as Team World won three matches on the spin on Sunday to claim a first Laver Cup triumph over Team Europe.

Team World went into the final day of action at the O2 Arena in London sitting four points behind their opponents, but they produced a stirring fightback to claim the trophy at the fifth time of asking.

Central to their success was Canadian Auger-Aliassime, who beat Novak Djokovic in singles after successfully teaming up with Jack Sock in the doubles.

Holding an 8-4 lead from Saturday, many expected Team Europe to breeze it from there, but John McEnroe's World team had other ideas and earned a 13-8 victory. 

Up first in the doubles were Auger-Aliassime and Sock, who lost the first set to Team Europe's Andy Murray and Matteo Berrettini.

However, the World duo roared back to deliver three points for their team by claiming a 2-6 6-3 10-8 victory.

Djokovic won two matches for Team Europe on Saturday, yet he was powerless to stop Auger-Aliassime in their singles clash. The 22-year-old Canadian landed a 6-3 7-6 (7-3) over the Wimbledon champion.

That moved Team World 10-8 ahead in the overall contest, setting the stage for a decisive clash between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Frances Tiafoe, with a further three points at stake.

Greek Tsitsipas won the first set, but 24-year-old American Tiafoe stormed back to win an epic tie-break in the second on his way to a 1-6 7-6 (13-11) 10-8 success.

Novak Djokovic played a vital role in Team Europe opening up a four-point lead in the Laver Cup as he won in singles and doubles upon his return to the ATP Tour after a three-month absence.

Djokovic had not played since taking his grand slam count to 21 with the Wimbledon title in July, but he looked as if he had hardly been away as the Serbian beat Frances Tiafoe and then teamed up with Matteo Berrettini in the doubles.

Tiafoe beat Rafael Nadal at the US Open earlier this month and combined with Jack Sock on Friday to defeat the Spaniard again in what was Roger Federer's last ever match, but the American could not get to grips with Djokovic in Saturday's final singles contest.

Djokovic's 6-1 6-3 win secured two points for Team Europe to put them out in front, and he was involved again in the last of the day's action as the team's advantage doubled to four points.

Berrettini and Djokovic tussled with Sock and Alex de Minaur and ultimately had too much, winning 7-5 6-2 in less than an hour and a half.

Earlier, Taylor Fritz's three-set triumph over Cameron Norrie put Team World briefly back on level terms.

Fritz made a brutal start but ended up being forced to a match tie-break, eventually coming through with a 6-1 4-6 10-8 victory.

That wiped out the two-point lead Berrettini had given Europe in the first match of the day, with the Italian edging Saturday's most gruelling tussle.

He saw off Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6 (13-11) 4-6 10-7, and despite finding himself on court for over two hours, Berrettini was still sharp enough to emerge victorious alongside Djokovic.

An emotional Roger Federer bid farewell to the game he loves following Friday's Laver Cup doubles loss alongside long-time rival Rafael Nadal, calling his send-off "exactly what I hoped for".

Federer and Nadal went head-to-head with American duo Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe in the 20-time grand slam champion's last ever match, but after taking the first set, the megastars lost a second-set tie-break as well as the match tie-break for a 4-6 7-6 (7-2) 11-9 result.

The 41-year-old was then given the stage to reflect on his incredible journey to becoming one of the greatest players to ever grace the court.

After sharing his fear that he would not be able to get any words out due to the emotions of the moment, he said it was a perfect way to wrap up a perfect career.

"It's been a wonderful day," he said. "I told the guys I'm happy, I'm not sad. It feels great to be here, and I enjoyed tying my shoes one more time, and everything was the last time.

"Funny enough, with all the matches, and having the guys, and being here with fans, family and friends – I didn't feel the stress so much, even though I did think something was going to go. Pop a calf, or lock my back or something.

"I'm so happy to make it through, the match was great, I couldn't be happier. It's been wonderful.

"Of course, playing with Rafa on the same team, and having the guys all here, the legends… thank you."

With Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray among those in the Team Europe corner, Federer said it was a special feeling to get to share his finish line with other icons of the sport.

"It's amazing, it really is," he said. "I didn't want it to feel lonely out there… to be saying goodbye in a team, I always felt I was a team player at heart.

"Singles doesn't really do that a whole lot, but I've had a team that travels with me around the world, that's been amazing with them.

"It does feel like a celebration to me. I wanted to feel like this at the end, and it's exactly what I hoped for, so thank you."

When asked to reflect on his legacy and standing in the game, Federer became overwhelmed with emotion, saying "it was never supposed to be that way".

"I was just happy to play tennis, and spend time with my friends really," he said. "And it ends here. It has been a perfect journey and I would do it all over again.

"It's been great. It's been so much fun. It's been amazing."

Rafael Nadal is "definitely the next on the list" to retire as middle age catches up with the 'Big Three' of men's tennis, according to Marion Bartoli.

Former Wimbledon champion Bartoli expects Nadal to call it a day in 2023, following the lead of Roger Federer who has chosen the Laver Cup as his farewell tournament.

This weekend's showpiece in London is marking the end of the Swiss great's stellar career, after complications with a knee injury left the 41-year-old resigned to his fate.

Amid the attention on Federer, conversation is turning to how long his great rivals might have left at the top, with Nadal's ongoing foot trouble seemingly making him a prime candidate to step off the tour and give his body a rest.

Speaking to Stats Perform, Bartoli said: "I think he's very much definitely thinking about retirement. His wife is also about to give birth to his first child; that's a huge change in life for anybody.

"And he very much has his fair amount of injuries as well over the years, and especially lately with his foot which is really something that can stop him at any moment from now on.

"I think he will give it another chance at Roland Garros next year, but I don't see him going further than 2023. I think that would be probably about it. I think Rafa is closer to retirement than Novak.

"I think Novak has been able, with being vegan and taking care of his body and obviously because of COVID reasons, he hasn't played that much for the last three years really."

Nadal and Djokovic have inched ahead of Federer on the list of men's all-time grand slam singles champions. Federer was the first to reach 20, but Djokovic has 21 now and Nadal leads the way with a haul of 22 majors.

Bartoli, who was a shock Wimbledon winner in 2013, pointed out that Djokovic, who at 35 is a year younger than Nadal, could have several years left to push the slam record ever higher.

"He monitors those records so badly that I think he will be probably more looking to 2024, maybe 2025 [for his retirement]," Bartoli said of the Serbian. "I think Rafa is definitely the next one on the list."

Bartoli expects Djokovic to finish top of the pile in the men's game, providing he is allowed to compete at future editions of the Australian Open and US Open, having been barred from both in 2022 because of his refusal to accept a COVID-19 vaccination.

"From a tennis analytics point of view, and looking obviously at the strengths of Novak on hardcourts and at the Australian Open and at Wimbledon, it looks like he will end up at the top," said the Frenchwoman.

"But then the problem is about the vaccine, and this is something I just can't reply on. Because if he keeps on having only two chances out of four every single year, that's a totally different story.

"So there is that question mark on such an important thing. If he plays four out of four every single year, yes, I think he will finish on top of everybody. If he can play a full schedule because everything reopened normally then I sincerely think he's going to end up on the top."

Djokovic is hopeful he will be allowed into Australia in January of next year, having been deported from Melbourne at the beginning on this season amid high controversy.

There was previously considered to be a 'Big Four' at the peak of the men's game, but Andy Murray could not keep pace with the slam-winning feats of his rivals.

Bartoli said she remembered how "the whole country exploded" in Britain when Murray won in 2013 at Wimbledon, a first home champion in the men's singles for 77 years.

She was "so happy" Murray could carry on his career after undergoing hip surgery, having at one point planned to retire after Wimbledon in the 2019 season.

Now Bartoli suspects three-time slam champion Murray, 35, could last longer than Nadal on the ATP Tour.

"His fitness level has really improved, so I think he looks to retire for me further than Rafa," Bartoli said. "I think Rafa will be the first one, and probably Andy and then Novak."

Novak Djokovic does not regret missing out on the US Open due to his vaccination stance and is waiting to discover if he will be allowed to compete in the 2022 Australian Open.

The 21-time grand slam winner missed two of this year's four majors owing to his decision to not be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Though Djokovic was able to extend his record at Wimbledon, he lost joint control of the outright Open Era title for most men's single majors to Rafael Nadal, after the latter won in Australia and then at the French Open.

Carlos Alcaraz, meanwhile, won a maiden grand slam to become the new world number one with victory at Flushing Meadows earlier this month.

Djokovic was barred from entering the USA on vaccination grounds, but speaking ahead of this week's Laver Cup, the Serbian says he does not rue his choice.

"No, I don't have any regrets," he said. "I mean, I do feel sad that I wasn't able to play but that was a decision that I made, and I knew what the consequences would be. I accepted them and that's it."

Djokovic was quick to hail teenager Alcaraz, congratulating the Spaniard for his victory, and adding: "He did it in an incredible fashion. He's 19 years old and already the number one in the world.

"I think he's a great addition to our sport, a great star in the making. We can't speak about him as the future because he is already the present."

Djokovic's 2022 started in less than auspicious circumstances when, having been granted an exception to compete in Australia despite the nation's strict COVID-19 protocols, he was subsequently deported.

Questions over whether he would even be allowed back in the country remain up in the air, but the Serbian is hopeful of a reprieve.

"I'm waiting for the news," he added. "It's really not in my hands right now. So I'm hoping I can get some positive news soon."

Roger Federer looks set to play the final match of his tennis career on Friday after opting to only take part in doubles at the Laver Cup, and has described his great rival Rafael Nadal as his "dream" partner.

Federer is set to join the likes of Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray – the other members of tennis' 'Big Four' – in representing Team Europe at the O2 Arena in London, but his fitness issues have led to doubts over the extent of his involvement.

On Sunday, fitness coach Pierre Paganini said Federer would make "a last-minute decision" regarding the nature of his participation in the Laver Cup.

Paganini added: "His aim is to play something, though whether it's singles or doubles we'll have to see," and Federer appears to have opted for the latter option.

On Tuesday, Federer told the Swiss press he would only be appearing in doubles at the event, though his partner is yet to be revealed.

"I'm happy and surprised at how good my shots are. But I won't be able to play singles, that was pretty clear beforehand," he told NZZ.

"That's why it was no longer an option to compete at the Swiss Indoors at the end of October. I guess I'll play doubles here on Friday night and that's it."

Nadal, one of just two men's players to have won more grand slam titles than the Swiss maestro (22, also Novak Djokovic with 21) appears the most obvious candidate, with Federer telling SRF: "Maybe I can play doubles with Rafa, that would be an absolute dream."

Asked whether he had any regrets at the end of his career, Federer added: "Of course, there are smaller things, but I can't think of any examples. I see it as an absolute dream career.

"I had a relaxed childhood. If I had been a bit more professional when I was younger, I might have been more successful. 

"But then I might have burned out earlier because it would have been too serious for me." 

The Swiss great, who has won 20 grand slam singles titles, announced last week that he was to retire from tennis after battling knee injuries.

When revealing the end of his career was imminent, Federer said: "I've worked hard to return to full competitive form. But I also know my body's capacities and limits, and its message to me lately has been clear".

 

Casper Ruud expects to be "a bit nervous" when he features alongside childhood heroes Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and the retiring Roger Federer at the Laver Cup.

Ruud is the world number two heading into the tournament, which sees Team Europe take on Team World in London, after his efforts at the US Open.

The Norwegian fell just short against Spanish teenage superstar Carlos Alcaraz in the final at Flushing Meadows.

Ruud featured at last year's Laver Cup, held in Boston, and this year is due to join up with the 'Big Four' of Djokovic, Nadal, Murray and Federer, who has announced his impending retirement at the age of 41. The quartet have won 66 grand slam titles between them.

While there are some doubts over whether Federer will be fit enough to play in his farewell tournament, with the action starting on Friday, Ruud is "honoured" to have the opportunity to play alongside his idols.

"It's going to be so special this year, having the biggest four tennis players in my childhood," Ruud said in an interview on the Laver Cup's official website.

"It's going to be an honour. [I'm] probably going to be a bit nervous when I'm out there playing in front of them, but I'll do my best and I'm very happy to be able to represent Europe in front of a crowd full of cheerful fans, and a European bench of legends."

 

Ruud has played six matches against the illustrious quartet who will now be team-mates, winning only once – against Murray in San Diego last year.

The 23-year-old has lost three times to Djokovic and once to Nadal – in the final of the French Open this season – while his sole meeting with Federer, back in 2019 at Roland Garros, went the way of the 20-time major champion.

Federer helped to create the Laver Cup but did not play in the 2021 edition due to injury. He was, however, present to support Team Europe from the stands in Boston.

"I was playing the first match of the whole [2021] Laver Cup against [Reilly] Opelka," Ruud said. "It was the first time they showed Roger on the big screen in TD Garden in Boston, and the whole crowd erupted like I never heard before.

"I can only imagine what it will be like when he's on the team and when he will enter the court."

Federer announced the decision to bring the curtain down on his 24-year playing career on Thursday, having not competed since making the quarter-finals at Wimbledon last year.

Roger Federer "set the tone" for a new breed of tennis high achievers and his retirement brings time for reflection, his long-time rival Novak Djokovic said on Friday.

At the age of 41, battling knee trouble, Federer has decided to call it a day and intends to have a send-off on court at next week's Laver Cup.

Djokovic will join him on Team Europe for the match against Team World in London, with Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray also due to be involved.

An emotional finale to Federer's career is assured, in the city where he won eight Wimbledon men's singles title, just one of many records he established in a 24-year professional career.

Djokovic wrote on Instagram: "Roger it's hard to see this day and put into words all that we've shared in this sport together. Over a decade of incredible moments and battles to think back on.

"Your career has set the tone for what it means to achieve excellence and lead with integrity and poise. It's an honour to know you on and off court, and for many more years to come."

Djokovic holds a 27-23 head-to-head winning record against Federer, although their careers did not run precisely side by side, with Federer six years the Serbian's senior.

By the time Djokovic began to make a major impact on tour, Federer had arguably already hit his peak. From Wimbledon 2005 to the US Open in 2007, Federer reached 10 consecutive slam finals, a record that has not been matched.

He went past Pete Sampras' record of 14 majors in 2009, and Djokovic and Nadal have followed in his wake.

His longevity since has set a high standard for those two chief rivals, who have both recently edged ahead of Federer on the all-time list of men's grand slam singles title winners.

Federer won his 20th singles slam at the 2018 Australian Open, going closest to a 21st when he lost a thriller to Djokovic in the 2019 Wimbledon final, squandering two match points. Djokovic has 21, while Nadal leads the way with 22 titles.

Swiss great Federer retires with the most grand slam men's singles main draw wins in the Open Era (369), and as the only man to win 100-plus matches at two different slams (105 in Wimbledon and 102 at the Australian Open).

Addressing Federer, and pointing to his family, Djokovic added: "I know that this new chapter will hold amazing things for you, Mirka, the kids, all your loved ones, and Roger fans still have a lot to look forward to.

"From our family to yours, we wish you much joy, health, and prosperity in the future. Looking forward to celebrating your achievements and seeing you in London."

Roger Federer ranks among sporting greats such as Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Tom Brady.

That was the message from 2013 Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli, who hailed Federer after he announced his appearance at September's Laver Cup would be his last in professional sport.

The 41-year-old won 20 grand slam titles across a legendary 24-year career, only Novak Djokovic (21) and Rafael Nadal (22) can boast more major crowns in men's tennis.

Federer has also won more men's singles main draw matches in grand slam tournaments than any other player in the Open Era (369), leaving behind a magnificent legacy as he prepares to step away from the court.

Bartoli has experienced retirement herself, having called quits on her career after a failed comeback from injury in 2018, and asked by Stats Perform whether Federer was a GOAT – greatest of all-time – Bartoli said: "Yes, he is very much in there – absolutely.

"Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Tiger Woods, Tom Brady, they are people that transcend their sports – they are icons.

"You go in the streets, you say Roger Federer. I'm in Dubai right now [and if] you say 'Roger Federer' everyone would know who he is. And the same for LeBron and Michael Jordan.

"When you transcend your sport and you become an icon and everyone knows who you are, that's when you know you have been one of the greatest of all time across every sport.

"Same for Serena [Williams], you can put Novak and Rafa in there as well. But it's just that amount of fame and that amount of inspiring [the next] generation."

Having spent 237 consecutive weeks ranked as number one, Federer holds the record for the longest such streak in men's singles history after a four-and-a-half-year spell at the summit.

Federer was also present in the top 10 of the men's singles rankings for 750 weeks, an unmatched number for a male player since the rankings were first published in 1973.

Regardless of Federer trailing Djokovic and Nadal for grand slam titles, Bartoli believes the Swiss remains the best of the trio due to his elegant playing style.

"It's very much depending on your own taste in a way. If you like beautiful, elegant, smooth tennis you have to go for Roger Federer," she added.

"Now obviously with Novak having 21 and Rafa having 22 grand slams, if we speak numbers only then you have two players on top of him.

"But I think it's very much a debate because it depends on the style of play you like and, that said, I absolutely love to see Novak play and win.

"I absolutely loved to see Rafa winning again at Roland Garros this year, I think it was one of the most incredible sports achievements that you can possibly witness.

"But in terms of game style, and the way he has revolutionised tennis, I think Roger was the first one. And then they pushed each other to new heights and I think that was really special to see."

While many youngsters look to emulate Federer, Djokovic and Nadal, Bartoli highlighted the importance of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, too.

"You can tell how much impact a player [has] when you see a new generation trying to copy your style. I think Pete Sampras had that impact as well as Andre Agassi on the generation of Roger, Rafa and Novak," she continued.

"Roger has had that impact on the new generation with Carlos Alcaraz. So that's why I say that he was really the first one to elevate the game to another level because he brought that dimension of his forehand when he was really almost able to play the ball wherever he wanted.

"I always remember that sentence from Andre Agassi, when he started to play against Roger saying, 'well, I never felt against anybody that I had to play on a 20-centimetre square because that's the only safe spot I can play, which is deep to Roger's back. If I play anywhere, he will take the game away from me'. [Federer] was the first one to [do that] and then obviously Rafa and Novak arrived and sought to change that and they pushed each other to new heights.

"When you have the pinnacle of the 2008 Wimbledon final and all those matches in between them that was just beyond epic for me."

Serena Williams' former coach Rick Macci does not foresee a dream US Open triumph for the retiring legend, but believes the Flushing Meadows crowd could help her enjoy a strong run.

Williams, who announced she was "evolving away" from tennis earlier this month, will begin her final US Open campaign against Danka Kovinic on Monday.

While the 40-year-old's tally of 23 grand slam titles is the most of any player in the Open Era (since 1968), she remains one victory short of Margaret Court's all-time record of 24. 

But Macci, who coached both Williams and older sister Venus at the beginning of their trophy-laden careers, struggles to see her adding one final title before signing off.

"They asked me can Serena Williams win the US Open and I said she already has, six times," Macci told Stats Perform. 

"Can she? It's highly unlikely simply because people aren't afraid of her, the movement and confidence aren't like it was because she hasn't played, she hasn't played that much in the last year and you need to play to get your footwork and stamina. 

"The fighting spirit, the Compton street fight and the heart is there. If she gets a good draw, she could beat some people. I like how she played against [Emma] Raducanu [a 6-4 6-0 loss in Cincinnati earlier in August], I like that she's more aggressive, but this takes time. 

"If she can win a few matches who knows what could happen? That crowd in New York is going to take her down memory lane and make her even more competitive, who knows what's going to happen to the person on the other side of the net?

 

"That's why I was so impressed with Raducanu, the way she handled that moment, she played the best match she had in a year. 

"It cuts both ways but it's highly unlikely she can win the Open. 

"She's not even looking at it like that, she's letting everyone savour the moment and going out on her terms and it's going to be must-see tv."

Asked who he thought would emerge victorious at Flushing Meadows, Macci tipped another American to win on home soil, adding: "I'd love to see Coco Gauff because I know the family and I think she has wonderful potential.

"Iga [Swiatek] is vulnerable now because when you win 35 in a row, you feel like you just show up you're going to win. 

"Now that she's lost a few there's a little doubt there. It's wide open, I'm going to go out on a limb and I'm taking Coco Gauff."

As for the men's draw, which appears balanced after Novak Djokovic's non-vaccinated status prevented him from travelling to New York, Macci thinks third seed Carlos Alcaraz could be set for a maiden grand slam win.

"I've already gone out there and talked about this, Carlos Alcaraz is a generational player, he's going to transcend the game," Macci added.

"I've already had people blow back on me like, 'why isn't he winning?' Trust me, he just turned 19 and is [number] four or five in the world, I think he'll win multiple grand slams and he's the next real deal and he's my favourite to win the US Open on the men's side."

Djokovic is not alone in missing the US Open, with Roger Federer also absent as he continues his recovery from knee surgery, while Rafael Nadal is making his first appearance at the slam since triumphing in 2019.

Four different men have tasted success at Flushing Meadows in the last four years, while each of the last three editions have featured different women's singles champions, and Macci believes the issues endured by several ageing greats have made tennis more competitive.

 

"I think a lot of people are heading toward exit stage left and they're not quite at the top, [such as] Federer, or maybe there's the vaccination and maybe Nadal you're not quite where you were and [Andy] Murray," he added.

"Then you've got Serena, you've got these people who are household names that are out of the equation, more people are coming in and it changes everything when you don't have those roadblocks at the round of 16. 

"You're looking at the semis when before, Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray just dominated. There was a time when those four were always in the semis. The women's you could almost predict, now you can't.

"It has nothing to do with the US Open because the young lady that won Wimbledon [Elena Rybakina], you never heard of her. It's just wide open and it's going to take a while to stabilise everything." 

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