Toni Nadal's loyalties will be split between nephew Rafael and current charge Felix Auger-Aliassime after the French Open served up a delicious last-16 clash.

Known popularly on the tour as Uncle Toni, the man who was at superstar Nadal's side for so many of his greatest triumphs signed up to coach Canadian Auger-Aliassime last year.

Nadal and 21-year-old Auger-Aliassime have had just one past competitive meeting, three years ago on clay in Madrid, but they will go head to head in Paris in the fourth round, and the prospect could hardly be more appetising.

According to Rafael Nadal, who says he has "zero problem" with the scenario, Uncle Toni "wants the best for me".

But Toni Nadal has been hired by Auger-Aliassime, so in theory, he should want the best for the man who grew up in Quebec, too.

Auger-Aliassime earned a hard-fought 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-2) 7-5 win over Serbian Filip Krajinovic on Friday, while Nadal fended off Dutchman Botic van de Zandschulp for the loss of only nine games.

There is seemingly no prospect of the Nadals staying away from one another ahead of the tussle.

"I already talked with Toni after my match," said Rafael Nadal after sinking the hopes of Van de Zandschulp.

"For me, it's very simple. He's my uncle. I don't think he will be able to want me to lose, without a doubt, but he's a professional and he's with another player.

"I don't know what's gonna happen, if he's gonna stay in the box or not, but I don't care. I have zero problem with that. So it's not a story at all for me. I know what the feelings are that we have between each other. I know he wants the best for me."

Nadal said he had no issue with Uncle Toni working for another player, adding: "He's old enough to make his own decisions, no?

"I can't thank him enough for all the things that he did for me during so many years. I don't have any problem with any position that he's making. I want the best for him, and he wants the best for me. We are family more than anything else.

"Not only family; we are a family that stay together all the time. We are in the same village. We spend time in the academy together. We lived incredible emotions together. So he's not only an uncle. He's more than that."

All of which may have made for interesting listening for Auger-Aliassime, who has joined Nadal in the world's top 10 since their meeting three years ago, with the Canadian at a career-high ninth in the rankings.

Auger-Aliassime's clay-court form has been patchy this season, and it would be a major surprise if he took the scalp of the 13-time French Open champion, who is defying ongoing foot pain to keep his career going.

Toni Nadal joined Frederic Fontang in Auger-Aliassime's coaching set-up, and it may be the latter who does much of the tactical planning for the next match.

"I don't know if I need insight on how Rafa plays, to be honest," said Auger-Aliassime. "I think we all know what he does well.

"It was black and white from the first time we started working together. We knew it was a possibility that eventually I would play Rafa when I'm working with Toni. And actually now he's present here in this grand slam. But I think Toni will watch from a neutral place and enjoy the match.

"From my part it's another match, another opportunity to try to play a good match and win, but of course it's very difficult. I don't know how Toni feels. Maybe we should ask him, but he hasn't talked to me about it."

Auger-Aliassime called for observers to consider the "bigger picture", and what Toni and his nephew, the record-holding 21-time men's grand slam winner, achieved together.

"It's one match, let's play, but his career and everything is much bigger than this," said the Canadian.

Rafael Nadal intends to attend the Champions League final between his beloved Real Madrid and Liverpool, despite the ongoing French Open.

Paris' Stade de France plays host to the Champions League showpiece on Saturday, with Madrid aiming for a 14th European Cup as Liverpool look to add to their EFL Cup and FA Cup successes this season.

Meanwhile, across the city in the French capital, Nadal remains in contention at Roland Garros after defeating Botic van de Zandschulp 6-3 6-2 6-4 on Friday.

Madrid great Zinedine Zidane was in attendance as the Spaniard cruised to victory, with the 35-year-old setting up a last-16 clash with Felix Auger-Aliassime.

While Nadal did not get to converse with Zidane, he was aware of the Frenchman's presence as the record 21-time grand slam winner outlined his plans to make the short trip to support Carlo Ancelotti's Madrid.

"I didn't see him, but I knew it was him, I knew he was there because I was listening to the crowd shouting his name all the time," Nadal told reporters when asked about Zidane. 

"So I imagine he was there, but I didn't have the chance to see him after my match or talk with him at all.

"Tomorrow, let's see how I wake up, because, you never know with my body how the surprises are there.

"But if nothing happens, and I expect nothing happens, and if I'm able to have the right practice tomorrow, my intention and my goal is to be there [at the Stade de France]."

Novak Djokovic hopes to have his visa reinstated so he can return to feature at the Australian Open following a change of government Down Under.

Djokovic eased to a 6-3 6-3 6-2 victory over Aljaz Bedene at the French Open on Friday to set up a last-16 clash with Diego Schwartzman.

The world number one remains on course to meet record 21-time grand slam winner Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals at Roland Garros, in what is the Serbian's first major of the year.

Djokovic was banned from playing at the Australian Open in Melbourne and was deported from the country due to his unvaccinated COVID-19 status in January.

The 34-year-old cannot be granted another visa for three years due to Australia's immigration laws, but former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison previously suggested he could be allowed entry sooner under the "right circumstances".

Djokovic hopes the arrival of new Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will boost his visa-related hopes of featuring in Melbourne at the start of 2023.

"In terms of the government, yes, I heard the news, but, I mean, I don't know anything about whether my visa is going to be reinstated or whether I'm going to be allowed to come back to Australia," he told reporters.

"I would like to. I would like to go there and play Australian Open. I don't hold any grudges. Look, you know, it was what it was.

"If I have an opportunity to go back to Australia and play a place where I made the biggest success in my career in Grand Slams, I would love to come back."

As for the next clash with Schwartzman as Djokovic aims to equal Nadal's 21 grand slams, the Serbian is expecting a tough test in Paris.

"Well, he's one of the quickest players we have on tour, and his best results in his career came on clay, so of course he's a tough opponent without a doubt," he added. 

"I know him well. We played some really good matches on different surfaces. So playing against him, you always have to expect another ball coming back. I'm ready for the physical battle.

"I haven't spent too much time on the court. I have been striking the ball really well, so I look forward to that challenge."

Rafael Nadal eased into the last 16 at the French Open as he cruised to a 6-3 6-2 6-4 victory over Botic van de Zandschulp on Friday.

Nadal breezed past Jordan Thompson and Corentin Moutet to reach the third round, where the Spaniard had few difficulties on Court Suzanne-Lenglen against world number 29 Van de Zandschulp.

The pair exchanged breaks to begin the match, but the 13-time winner at Roland Garros soon took control as he only lost four points on his service in the first set, all of which came in the first game.

Van de Zandschulp continued to struggle in the second set as Nadal triumphed in a lengthy third game to break again, before following suit in the Dutchman's next service to further his advantage en route to taking a two-set lead.

World number five Nadal again opened the third set by battling to break Van de Zandschulp twice and had the opportunity to go 5-0 up with points in hand.

The Dutchman fought back to win three straight games before claiming another, leaving the set finely poised at 5-4 to Nadal.

However, the 35-year-old Nadal regained his composure to wrap up victory and will next face Felix Auger-Aliassime, who defeated Filip Krajinovic.

Data Slam: Nadal on course for Djokovic meeting

Only Novak Djokovic (325) and Roger Federer (369) have more grand slam match wins than Nadal (301), who remains on course to meet the world number one in the quarter-final.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Nadal – 25/13
Van de Zandschulp – 19/31

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Nadal – 2/1
Van de Zandschulp – 3/3

BREAK POINTS WON
Nadal – 6/12
Van de Zandschulp – 2/3

Novak Djokovic cruised to a straight-sets win over Aljaz Bedene in the third round of the French Open, beating the Slovenian 6-3 6-3 6-2 to set up a last-16 clash with Diego Schwartzman.

Serbian star Djokovic, who is bidding to become the first player other than Rafael Nadal to win consecutive men's singles titles at Roland Garros since Gustavo Kuerten triumphed in 2000 and 2001, produced a ruthless display to blow away world number 195 Bedene in just one hour and 44 minutes.

Djokovic started as he meant to go on, launching an onslaught which forced Bedene to save five break points throughout his first two service games, before the Slovenian finally succumbed to a break in his third.

The top seed was virtually perfect on his own serve, winning 94 per cent of points on first serve in the opening set before picking up another decisive break just three games into the second.

Despite appearing to struggle with the glare at times on a sun-bathed Court Philippe-Chatrier, Djokovic continued his professional display to move closer to victory, recording just three unforced errors to his opponent's 13 in the second set.

To the delight of some in the crowd, Bedene forced his first and only break point of the encounter in the opening game of the third set, only for Djokovic to power a fierce volley past the 32-year-old before recovering to hold serve.

The world number one did not look back from there, breaking to love in the fourth game before wrapping up a routine win after forcing two match points on Bedene's serve to set up a seventh career meeting with Schwartzman, against whom he boasts a 100 per cent record.

Data Slam: Dominant Djokovic wraps up another straight-sets win

The world number one looks to be hitting form at the perfect time after a troubled start to the year: Djokovic has won 19 straight sets of tennis since the start of the Internazionale d'Italia earlier this month, recording a series of perfect displays since his Madrid Open final loss to Carlos Alcaraz.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Djokovic 30/18
Bedene 23/37

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Djokovic 9/1
Bedene 4/2

BREAK POINTS WON

Djokovic 5/11
Bedene 0/1

Stefanos Tsitsipas called Zdenek Kolar a "complete player", despite ultimately defeating his Czech opponent in the second round of the French Open.

Tsitsipas was relatively untroubled in the first set, but was made to work for the win after that as he and Kolar exchanged one tie-break each before the number four seed finally secured victory with another tie-break in the fourth set, sealing it 6-3 7-6 (10-8) 6-7 (3-7) 7-6 (9-7).

Kolar is ranked 134th in the world but looked every bit a threat to Tsitsipas on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, hitting 57 winners and succeeding with 29 of 37 net points (78 per cent).

Speaking at a news conference after his win, Tsitsipas explained the difficulties he experienced, saying: "He's someone I knew a little bit. It's never easy playing guys that don't really play on the ATP Tour. You don't really know what to expect. I guess they play more free.

"It's always like this. They really have a nothing-to-lose mentality. It's a different mentality than what we have, I think, which sometimes can really be brutal on the court and create some good tennis.

"He was really pushing a lot today, getting after every ball. His body was behind every ball. Running fast, reacting fast. Good net game. Complete player, I would say. Yeah, it wasn't easy out there to face him and come up with some good solutions."

Tsitsipas - who hit 25 aces - displayed some of his oft-seen frustration as he struggled to stay on top of his opponent, and was asked if his hardest obstacle was Kolar or himself.

"I guess both today," he said. "I had a lot of opportunities, break points, playing quite well, staying within the game. He was coming up with some really good ideas and I think dealt with all of the situations so maturely, not overexaggerating anything. He's an intelligent player, I would say.

"Look, last year there were moments where it was about me and the way I deal with situations on the court, not focusing that much on who is on the other side. It's all about perspective. It's sometimes good to focus on what you are doing, but also if you're not feeling great, you have to see the other side too."

Having rallied from two sets down to beat Lorenzo Musetti in the first round, and now being made to work hard by Kolar, Tsitsipas will now face Mikael Ymer after the Swede beat 29th seed Dan Evans on Thursday.

Daniil Medvedev is outgrowing his phobia of spiders while learning how to handle his tennis fears as he targets a long run at the French Open.

The popular Russian made pain-free progress past Serbian Laslo Djere on Thursday, winning 6-3 6-4 6-3 to set up a third-round clash with Miomir Kecmanovic.

He spoke afterwards about the difficulties of staying informed about off-court matters, particularly whether there could be twists to come surrounding Wimbledon's ban of Russian and Belarusian players this year.

Medvedev is keen to keep his focus on what happens on court, and while tennis may stoke up emotions, such as when the world number two was cut up by his defeat to Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final, he is determined to develop mechanisms to deal with trauma.

"I think fear is one of the toughest emotions in people's lives, because a lot of mistakes we do in life are because we are scared of something," Medvedev said.

"That's how I think. And yeah, I'm a little bit scared of spiders, but I need to say I was much more scared when I was 10 or 12.

"When you grow up you need to sometimes face your fears. I never saw a tarantula, so I think I'm going to be scared if I see one. I'm not scared any more of small spiders.

"Fear is actually what we can feel every day in tennis. You're scared to lose. Sometimes you are scared what people are going to think about you.

"For example, I was number one in the world for two weeks, if I'm not mistaken. I'm not scared if people are going to say, 'Well, yeah, it doesn't matter, you were only two weeks'.

"But you can be scared of this. I think in every sport, especially the higher you get, the more you can have this situation.

"I try to work hard on not being scared of anything and just learning, even if I do mistakes, not being scared to repeat them but try not to repeat them.

"To be honest, I'm not scared of much right now in my life."

World number one Novak Djokovic highlighted the joy of having fans back in full attendance after he collected his second consecutive straight sets win to advance to the third round of the French Open, beating Alex Molcan 6-2 6-3 7-6 (7-4).

In his first-round fixture against Yoshihito Nishioka, Djokovic won 55 per cent of the total points in the first set, and increased that number in the second and third.

This time, however, it was Molcan who was slowly improving as the match wore on, as Djokovic won 70 per cent of the first-set points, 57 per cent in the second and 53 per cent as he was taken to a tie-breaker in the third.

Speaking to the media after his win, the Serbian star said he feels in good touch, and gave credit to his "tricky opponent".

"I'm pleased with the way I'm feeling on the court [and] the way I’ve been striking the ball," he said.

"I think today was also under challenging conditions and playing against a specialist on clay, someone that is a tricky opponent and coming off from the [Lyon] final last week. 

"It was never going to be an easy match, but I thought I performed very well."

He went on to discuss how energising it is to have a full crowd after there was a limited capacity for his 2021 triumph.

"It's great to see the crowd back [and] the full capacity on all courts," he said. "Lots of young people, lots of kids, this is something that I really love to see.

"It always gives you energy. For me at this stage of my career, a crowd and this energy of people coming to watch me play is one of the biggest reasons why I keep on competing [and] playing professional tennis."

Djokovic will play Slovakian Aljaz Bedene in the third round, and despite being aware of his collision course with Rafael Nadal set for the quarter-finals, he said looking ahead that far serves little purpose.

"You are aware what's going on with the other guys, at least in my case, and I know that everyone else is watching everybody else," he said.

"[But] that cannot be dominating most of your time and energy that you invest in a day. 

"So you are aware, but then of course it's really not up to you what they do. It's what you have to do, win matches and make good results."

Carlos Alcaraz kept the nerves at bay when facing match point against Albert Ramos-Vinolas by forgetting that he was playing at the French Open.

The sixth seed saved match point in the fourth set and rallied from 0-3 in the fifth set to complete a 6-1 6-7 (7-9) 5-7 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 success on Court Simonne-Mathieu.

Teenager Alcaraz enjoyed an emphatic start against his fellow Spaniard, but the experienced Ramos-Vinolas showed admirable poise to take the second and third sets in Paris on Wednesday.

Ramos-Vinolas' ability to fight off break points – coupled with Alcaraz's lack of ruthlessness – gave him the upper hand, and he came within one point of knocking out the Madrid Open champion.

But he crumbled on his own serve at 5-4 in the fourth, and from there Alcaraz's greater mobility and relentlessness when chasing seemingly lost causes had the 19-year-old looking the favourite.

Eventually he came out on top after the longest match of his fledgling career at four hours and 34 minutes, setting up a third-round clash with Sebastian Korda.

"You always have nerves in the match, but I think today I wasn't nervous," said Alcaraz.

"Just maybe at the end of the fourth when I had the match point [to save]. I maybe thought I was one point away from losing, but just try not to think that I'm in the French Open.

"I'm trying to enjoy the moment. I think that in the fourth set, and in the fifth, I smile with my team.

"I enjoy the battles. I want to play big battles and tough battles against the best players in the world."

Alcaraz was won four titles this year, including success at two ATP 1000 events, and feels at home playing on the show courts.

"I'm still young, but I would say pretty experienced player now," said Alcaraz.

"I feel comfortable playing in big stadiums, big matches, playing in grand slams. Physically. I'm strong. Mentally, I'm strong as well.

"I think I'm ready to play these kinds of matches in these situations, these tournaments. I'm ready."

Rafael Nadal recorded his 300th grand slam match win by easing into the third round of the French Open, beating Corentin Moutet in straight sets.

The 'King of Clay' is in search of a record-extending 22nd major title at Roland Garros, where he was dethroned by Novak Djokovic last year.

On this evidence, Nadal is in the form to re-establish his dominion of the tournament, overcoming a spirited home hope, who enjoyed the benefit of vocal support from the crowd on Court Philippe-Chatrier on Wednesday evening.

Nadal will see room for improvement having failed to serve the match out in the third set, but a 6-3 6-1 6-4 win was never in doubt.

The tone for a procession was established when Nadal raced into a 3-0 lead in the opening set, and Moutet's dream of playing his idol soon appeared to be turning into a nightmare.

Nadal won the second set in commanding fashion behind an excellent first serve, but found Moutet's resistance more stern in the third.

That spirit was exemplified by Moutet breaking Nadal's serve with the Spaniard ahead 5-3. However, Nadal immediately responded in kind, dominating Moutet from the back of the court and wrapping up a landmark victory when the Frenchman sent a lob long at the end of an entertaining rally.

Nadal will face Botic Van De Zandschulp in the third round.

 

Data Slam: Nadal 107-3 opponents

As well as being his 300th grand slam match win, Nadal's triumph was his 107th at Roland Garros. He has still only tasted defeat in Paris three times. The fifth seed won all 11 of his first-serve points in the second set of another impressive display.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Nadal – 27/22
Moutet – 16/24

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Nadal – 1/2
Moutet – 0/3

BREAK POINTS WON
Nadal – 7/12
Moutet – 2/4

Alexander Zverev says he was planning a holiday when he found himself two sets down to Sebastian Baez in the French Open on Wednesday.

Baez was on the verge of a huge win on Court Philippe-Chatrier, but Zverev roared back to win 2-6 4-6 6-1 6-2 7-5 and move into the third round.

It was the third time the German had come from two sets down to secure a victory, having done so at the 2019 US Open semi-finals and at the 2021 French Open.

Zverev, who saved match point, claims he was thinking about being on the beach when he was on the ropes at Roland Garros.

"I couldn't have played any worse [at the start], I just tried to find a rhythm and did that. I'm happy still being in the tournament right now," he said.

"I was planning my holiday in Monaco, where I was going to go and who I was going to with and that relaxed me, thinking about the beach.

"You just have to find a way. You talk about mental strength and the greats, like Rafa [Nadal], Roger [Federer] and Novak [Djokovic], they always find a way.

"I will never be at their level, but I'm trying to get closer to them."

Zverev spoke to Baez at the net following his victory, and asked what he said to the 21-year-old Argentine, he replied: "I told Sebastian this is the worst you will ever feel on a tennis court, right now at this moment.

"I know how he feels as I lost the US Open final from being two sets up and was two points away.

"Then the next season I won an Olympic Games gold medal, so you always get better. He is an unbelievably great kid and he will do a lot of unbelievable things in this sport."

Zverev will next face Brandon Nakashima, who has reached the third round in a grand slam for the first time on his debut in Paris.

The German will hope to sure up his game for that match, given he made 46 unforced errors against Baez - just one fewer than his opponent.

Novak Djokovic progressed to the third round of the French Open with a 6-2 6-3 7-6 (7-4) and progress to the third round at the French Open.

Reigning Roland Garros champion Djokovic needed just half-an-hour to wrap up the first set and looked on his way to a routine win after taking the second set with similar ease.

But Molcan, coached by Djokovic's former mentor Marian Vajda, rallied in the third set, breaking the world number one for the first time.

He forced deuce at 6-5 up on Djokovic's serve, but the 20-time grand slam champion reeled off two straight points to take the set to a tie-break.

World number 38 Molcan started the tie-break by putting Djokovic onto the back foot, forcing the Serbian to scamper across the baseline with some wonderful volleys. He saved the first of three match points with a superb drop shot, but ultimately his opponent had too much.

Djokovic, who struck 10 aces and 40 winners in  a match that lasted two hours and 16 minutes, will face Aljaz Bedene in round three.

Data Slam: Seventeen and counting for Novak

Djokovic, who has won the French Open twice, has now made it into the third round at Roland Garros for the 17th straight year, since making his second appearance at the grand slam back in 2006.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Djokovic – 40/19
Molcan – 31/34

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Djokovic – 10/0
Molcan – 4/2

BREAK POINTS WON
Djokovic – 4/8
Molcan – 1/2

Andy Murray has hit out at the suggestion that Wimbledon will not feel as important without ranking points.

The All England Club's decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from competing at the grand slam has resulted in the WTA and ATP stripping Wimbledon of any ranking points, which has led to the suggestion some players may skip the tournament.

Naomi Osaka, the former WTA world number one and a three-time grand slam champion, suggested after her first-round exit at Roland Garros that she was considering missing Wimbledon as she feels the tournament may feel "like an exhibition".

Other high-profile players, such as Denis Shapovalov, are also considering whether they take part, though Russian Andrey Rublev, who is one of the players who has been banned due to his nation's invasion of Ukraine, believes the likes of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, who have no concern over ranking points but are instead going for history, will feature.

Former world number one Murray, who won Wimbledon in 2013 and 2016, has insisted that the grand slam will forever be a crucial part of the tennis calendar, however, comparing it to the FIFA World Cup and one of golf's majors – The Masters.

Murray tweeted: "I follow golf very closely and have no idea how many ranking points the winner of The Masters gets.

"Me and my friends love football and none of us know or care how many ranking points a team gets for winning the FIFA World Cup.

"But I could tell you exactly who won the World Cup and the Masters. I'd hazard a guess that most people watching on centre court at Wimbledon in a few weeks' time wouldn't know or care about how many ranking points a player gets for winning a third-round match.

"But I guarantee they will remember who wins. Wimbledon will never be an exhibition and will never feel like an exhibition. The end."

Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have paid tribute to the "charismatic" Jo-Wilfried Tsonga after the 37-year-old brought his 18-year professional career to a close.

Tsonga, who reached a career-high ranking of world number five in 2012, confirmed in April that he would retire at the culmination of his French Open campaign.

That duly came in the first round on Tuesday as he bowed out to world number eight Casper Ruud 6-7 (6-8) 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 7-6 (7-0).

He retires having won, according to Opta, 464 Tour-level matches since September 2004.

Tsonga is one of just three players, along with Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro, to have beaten Nadal, Federer and Djokovic while they were ranked world number one.

He is also one of three players, alongside Stan Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych, who have defeated Nadal, Federer and Djokovic at grand slams.

A video tribute was played on court after his defeat to Ruud, which featured messages from the sport's most iconic players.

Federer said: "I wanted to congratulate you on an amazing career and it was a pleasure to share the court with and play against you, even to lose against you!

"We had some great battles. Enjoy the moment in Paris with all your friends and family, in front of all your adoring spectators."

Djokovic added: "Jo is one of the most charismatic tennis players ever to play the game. I was very happy to share the court with him many times.

"We get along well and he's a really nice guy. He brought a lot of positive attention and popularity to our sport not just because of his dynamic game style, but also his charisma and his personality, so it's a big loss for professional men's tennis to have him retire.

"I wish him all the best, and he definitely should be happy about his career and his achievements. He's made his mark and his legacy in our sport."

Nadal said: "He is very charismatic. I've known him since we were kids; he is a good guy and I think he brings a lot of positive things to our sport so I'm sad to see him going but we are getting old so it's going to happen for everyone."

Speaking at a media conference after his defeat, Tsonga said he would now spend some time relaxing before focusing on the development of his tennis academy.

He said he will miss the adrenaline of playing on court, as well as how he was able to express himself completely when competing.

"It's adrenaline, to step onto a big court like this one," he said. "It's adrenaline you can feel when you have 15,000 people shouting out your name, supporting you on the court.

"This is what I'm going to miss – the contact with the crowd. And with those who have been supporting me for all these years.

"You know, in real life, it's sometimes difficult to be intense. You don't want to shock, you don't want to be too rude, you don't want to hurt somebody.

"You always try to act to be nice, to be sociable. But, you know, on the court, you can express your fever. You can express everything about you, and it's sometimes freeing."

Andrey Rublev is unsure what the best course of action is ahead of Wimbledon, but hopes tennis can "work together" to ensure the grand slam goes ahead, with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic targeting history. 

Wimbledon was last week stripped of its ranking points by the WTA and ATP over the decision from The All England Club to ban Belarusian and Russian players – including Rublev – from competing.

That decision was made in the midst of Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

With ranking points now not on offer, several high-profile players, including former WTA number one Naomi Osaka, have suggested they may skip the tournament.

Rublev might have no choice not to compete at Wimbledon, unless The All England Club scraps the ban altogether, but he says it is of utmost importance that tennis comes together to find a solution.

And Rublev believes the very elite players – such as Nadal and Djokovic – will compete anyway, regardless of ranking points or prize money, as he suggested tennis owes the duo, along with fellow great Roger Federer.

He told a news conference: "I don't know, because I haven't talked with any player about it, especially top ones. I guess the top players, especially Rafa, Novak, they are not playing now for points or for money.

"They are playing to be the first in history who achieve this amount of slams. So they are playing for a different thing. That's why it's very important to work together, to keep this amazing glory that we are having now, because of these players.

"If we are not going to work together, we just destroy it. What Roger, what Rafa, what Novak is doing, they did all these years. 

"They are other players from another generation, and we have to respect this, and that's why somehow we need finally to defend each other. Players need to defend the tournaments. Tournaments need to defend the players.

"Like this, tennis will grow, grow, grow a lot, because now all the success of tennis is only because of these three players, because of Roger, Rafa and Novak."

Rublev came through his first-round match at Roland Garros on Tuesday, defeating Kwon Soon-woo 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-2 6-4.

However, the seventh seed lashed out after losing the first set, recklessly hitting a ball out onto the court as he approached his chair, before slamming a water bottle into the court in frustration.

"I was quite tight, and I had a lot of emotions and I tried to really control them," Rublev said. 

"I tried to understand the situation. Be positive. I was able to be quiet and just be positive basically until the end of the first set. Then, yes, I lost my mind for a moment, and of course I regret what I did.

"It's unacceptable to hit the ball the way I hit it. It's more, I don't know, better even, if I just hit the racquet on the seat, because the ball can affect – I mean, it's not about me – it can affect someone. That's when the problem comes.

"This is unprofessional from my side, and hopefully I will never do it again."

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