Daniil Medvedev headlines the list of Russian and Belarusian players who will be banned from competing at Wimbledon this year.

In the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which was facilitated by Belarus, the four grand slams and the ATP and WTA Tours initially confirmed Russian and Belarusian players would be able to continue playing, albeit under neutral flags.

However, the All England Club has now decided athletes from the two nations will be unable to feature at the season's third grand slam.

That means reigning US Open champion Medvedev, ranked second in the world by the ATP behind Novak Djokovic, will not be involved.

With Medvedev a doubt for the French Open having undergone hernia surgery, he could miss two of this year's majors. He has never had much success at Wimbledon, with his best run ending in the fourth round in 2021.

WTA world number four Aryna Sabalenka, who hails from Belarus, is another big name to miss out, along with Russian ATP world number eight Andrey Rublev, who has won two titles so far in 2022.

Russian women's number one Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, compatriot and 2018 Wimbledon quarter-finalist Daria Kasatkina and Belarusian two-time All England Club semi-finalist Victoria Azarenka will all also be absent.

"We share in the universal condemnation of Russia's illegal actions and have carefully considered the situation in the context of our duties to the players, to our community and to the broader UK public as a British sporting institution," a statement on the official Wimbledon website read.

"We have also taken into account guidance set out by the UK Government specifically in relation to sporting bodies and events.

"In the circumstances of such unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players with The Championships. It is therefore our intention, with deep regret, to decline entries from Russian and Belarusian players to The Championships 2022."

Chairman of the All England Club, Ian Hewitt, said: "We recognise that this is hard on the individuals affected, and it is with sadness that they will suffer for the actions of the leaders of the Russian regime.

"We have very carefully considered the alternative measures that might be taken within the UK Government guidance but, given the high profile environment of The Championships, the importance of not allowing sport to be used to promote the Russian regime and our broader concerns for public and player (including family) safety, we do not believe it is viable to proceed on any other basis at The Championships."

Wimbledon's statement confirmed that the ban would be "reconsidered" should circumstances change by June.

The move comes a month after UK sports minister Nigel Huddleston warned Medvedev and other Russian athletes they might be banned from Wimbledon unless they denounced president Vladimir Putin.

Medvedev and Rublev both called for peace in the immediate aftermath of Russia's attack on Ukraine.

Serena Williams appeared to shut down premature talk of calling time on her career by declaring that she hopes to return from injury in time for Wimbledon.

The 40-year-old has not played competitively since losing to Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the first round of last year's tournament at SW19 and is now ranked at 246 in the world.

Williams' future in the sport was called into question on Thursday when her long-time coach Patrick Mouratoglou announced he will now work with Simona Halep.

However, the 23-time major winner – who has been coached by Mouratoglou since 2012 – has moved to confirm her intention to return to top-level tennis in the coming months.

Speaking alongside Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers at an event in Miami, Williams said: "We've been talking about my comeback and he's been hyping me up.

"He's getting me ready for Wimbledon. Can't wait!"

Williams is one major title shy of matching Margaret Court's long-standing record of 24, having been beaten in four finals since her most recent triumph at the 2017 Australian Open.

She missed last year's US Open on home soil, as well as the 2022 Australian Open in January.

Rodgers was surprised at Williams' Wimbledon announcement and asked: "What about the US Open?", to which the ex-world number one replied: "Wimbledon is first".

The grass-court grand slam gets under way on June 27.

Ivan Lendl insists Andy Murray can still compete for grand slam titles after re-joining the Scot's coaching team for a third time.

Lendl has teamed up with Murray in order to prepare the two-time Wimbledon champion for his home grand slam this summer, with the 34-year-old skipping the clay-court season to enhance his chances of being at his best on the grass.

Murray won all three of his grand slam titles, Wimbledon in 2013 and 2016, and the US Open in 2012, under Lendl's guidance, but has not reached a grand slam quarter-final since 2017, undergoing two hip surgeries during that time.

Lendl, who himself won eight grand slams during a glittering playing career, cited Rafael Nadal's victory in January's Australian Open as evidence that class remains permanent, and expressed confidence in Murray's ability to follow his lead.

"You are asking this [whether Murray can compete] with a straight face after what Rafa [Nadal] has done in Australia," Lendl said after watching Murray's second-round defeat to Daniil Medvedev in Miami.

"They are just like bulldogs, and they want to do things because they haven't been done before.

"If they set their mind to it then they can achieve amazing things.

"Rafa said he wasn't even sure he's going to be able to play again [after his own injury problems], then he goes and wins the Australian Open. So yes, these guys can do it.

"I would say grass is probably Andy's best surface. 

"[For] a lot of the players, it's their worst surface. That would obviously increase his chances." 

Murray made his first ATP final since 2019 earlier this year, losing in straight sets to Aslan Karatsev in the final of the Sydney International in January, and is 85th in the ATP world rankings.

You don't know what you've got until it's gone.

That is how tennis fans the world over will be feeling after women's world number one Ash Barty shockingly announced her retirement on Wednesday.

Barty noted that achieving a lifelong goal of winning Wimbledon last year and being "spent physically" were motivating factors behind her decision.

The 25-year-old bows out on top having lifted her home slam at the Australian Open back in January, and is a three-time singles major champion.

Following news of her retirement, Stats Perform has delved into some of Barty's best facts from a stellar career.

SECOND ONLY TO OSAKA IN SLAMS SINCE 2016

There have been 14 different singles grand slam champions in a stacked women's game since 2016.

In that time, Barty has women three major titles – the second most alongside Angelique Kerber. Indeed, the only player to have more in the women's game over that period is Naomi Osaka with four.

Barty retires on a 13-match winning streak (all on hard courts), a run that of course includes her triumph at the Australian Open.

It matches the best run of her career, with Barty proving 13 is not unlucky for all by racking up the same amount of wins on clay and grass between May and June 2019 – that stretch having seen her lift her first slam at the French Open.

KVITOVA A FAMILIAR FOE

Barty has mixed it with the best in the women's game but she has faced no player more than two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.

She has faced the Czech on 10 occasions, with the two sharing five wins apiece. Barty has also beaten Sofia Kenin, Karolina Pliskova, Shelby Rogers and Kiki Bertens on five occasions.

Caroline Wozniacki (3) and Mona Barthel (2) are the only players Barty has faced more than once but never beaten in women's tennis.

Conversely, Barty has defeated each of Marketa Vondrousova, Camila Giorgi, and Saisai Zheng four times from as many attempts, her most matches against any players against whom she has maintained a 100 per cent win rate.

STILL GOING STRONG

Never has the saying "always leave them wanting more" been truer than in the case of Barty.

She has averaged seven aces per match in women's tennis in 2022, the joint-most of any player alongside China's Qinwen Zheng and Hailey Baptiste of the United States.

Barty has made 77 aces in total in 2022, the joint-sixth most of any player but 30 fewer than WTA leader Madison Keys (107).

Moreover, she has won 94 per cent of service games, the highest rate of any player and eight percentage points higher than second-ranked Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan.

Barty won 71 per cent of her points when serving this calendar year, the highest rate of any player and four percentage points higher than second-most Rybakina.

Indeed, Barty did not lose a match in her shortened 2022 season, finishing 11-0 and winning 25 of her final 26 matches. 

114 WEEKS AND OUT

Barty is the second female player to step away from the game when ranked world number one, with Justin Henin having done so in 2008 after 61 consecutive weeks at the top.

Barty does so having racked up 114 straight weeks at the summit of the rankings, a run which represents the fourth longest in the history of the WTA Tour behind only Steffi Graf (186 weeks), Serena Williams (186) and Martina Navratilova (156).

Her accumulated total of 121 weeks represents the seventh highest of all time. Barty finishes her career with 15 singles titles in total and 12 in doubles, while she ends with a 305-102 win-loss singles record, and 200-64 in doubles.

Ash Barty stunned the sporting world on Wednesday by announcing her retirement from tennis, bowing out as the top-ranked player in the women's game.

The popular 25-year-old has not featured since winning her home grand slam at the Australian Open in January, becoming the first female Aussie singles champion of the tournament since Chris O'Neil in 1978.

Announcing the news on her Instagram page, Barty cited achieving a lifelong goal of winning Wimbledon last year as a primary factor behind her decision as well as being "spent physically".

But Barty is by no means the first sporting hero to retire at the top of their game. Below we take a look at some other examples of those who have exited as champions.

ALAIN PROST

The 1993 Formula One season was largely dominated by one man – Williams driver Alain Prost. The Frenchman had to battle hard with the iconic Ayrton Senna at the start of the campaign, with them each taking three wins from the first six races of the season. However, a run of four straight victories for Prost were followed by a string of retirements for Senna, ensuring a fourth world title that provided the ideal ending to a glittering career.

ALEX FERGUSON

One of the most successful managers in world football, Alex Ferguson began a 27-year stint at Manchester United after an excellent spell at Aberdeen. The Scot won 28 major trophies at Old Trafford, including 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups and two Champions Leagues. His final trophy came with top-flight glory in 2012-13, and 17 days later he brought the curtain down.

PEYTON MANNING

Considered one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Peyton Manning won his first Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts in 2007 and, after an injury-blighted season that raised doubts about his ability aged 39, he added a second with the Denver Broncos in 2016, bowing out on the ultimate high.

RICHIE MCCAW, DAN CARTER

New Zealand became the first nation to successfully defend the Rugby World Cup trophy by beating Australia 34-17 in the final at Twickenham in 2015, adding to their success on home soil four years prior. It proved the end of the line for captain Richie McCaw, who was at the time the most capped player in rugby union with 148 appearances for the All Blacks, as well as mercurial fly-half Dan Carter. Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Kevin Mealamu were also among an influential contingent that opted to end their international careers.

PETE SAMPRAS

In defeating Andre Agassi in the final of the 2002 US Open, the same opponent he overcame to win his first grand slam 12 years prior, Pete Sampras secured his place among the greats in men's tennis. It was a then-record 14th major singles title for a male player for the American, a milestone that has since been surpassed by Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, but he did not compete again and announced his retirement almost one year later.

PHILIPP LAHM, MIROSLAV KLOSE

At 31 you still have a number of years ahead of you in football. However, after lifting the World Cup trophy with Germany in 2014, Philipp Lahm decided to call time on his international career and focus on club football with Bayern Munich. The versatile full-back made 113 appearances for his country and was joined by fellow centurions Per Mertesacker and Miroslav Klose – whose tally of 71 international strikes is a German record – in switching focus to domestic matters.

MARION BARTOLI

A first grand slam at Wimbledon in 2013 appeared to be the breakthrough moment for a 28-year-old Marion Bartoli, but reality proved very different. The Frenchwoman defeated Sabine Lisicki – who had overcome pre-tournament favourites Serena Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska – in the All England Club final, but announced her retirement during the Western and Southern Open just 40 days later due to persistent injuries. She attempted a comeback in 2018 but continued setbacks and injuries curtailed those plans.

NICO ROSBERG

Nico Rosberg had engaged in several intense battles with Lewis Hamilton before finally getting the better of his Mercedes team-mate to become Formula One world champion in the 2016 season. Still only 31, Rosberg had potentially several more years in F1 but the German instead opted to depart having reached the pinnacle of his sport.

Rafael Nadal, the 21-time grand slam winner, says the recently announced introduction of final-set tie-breaks across all grand slams will make the biggest impact at Wimbledon, rather than the French Open.

Tennis' Grand Slam Board announced this week that first-to-10 tie-breaks will be trialled across all grand slams with immediate effect, as a means of providing "greater consistency" to matches which go the distance.

Previously, each grand slam was free to adopt its own rules for deciding longer matches, with the Australian Open the only one to use first-to-10 tie-breaks at 6-6 in a deciding set.

Wimbledon, for example, used a first-to-seven tie-break to decide final sets which reached 12-12.

Speaking after dispatching Reilly Opelka in straight sets at the Indian Wells Masters, Nadal, who will look to add to his Australian Open triumph in the year's other three majors, explained he was not for or against the changes.

The 35-year-old also, however, predicted the alterations would have a bigger impact at Wimbledon than at the French Open, which he could win for a 14th time at Roland Garros in May.

"I don't care much, honestly!" said Nadal. "I am not in favour or not against, that's what they decided, and happy with it or not, I don't think I'm going to make a big difference.

"But I read that every [tournament] is going to have the same, and in some ways that's positive.

"I don't think at Roland Garros it will make a big impact. In my opinion the biggest impact is going to be at Wimbledon, [where] sometimes it's so difficult to break serve, so the matches become very long.

"I don't feel that for Roland Garros it will change a lot. Okay, [without the changes] it can be a few more games, but I don't think at Roland Garros you're normally going to go to 22-20. At Wimbledon, that can happen."

 

The longest men's singles match played at a grand slam, judged by the number of games played, came at Wimbledon in 2010, when John Isner beat Nicolas Mahut 6-4 3-6 6-7 (7-9) 7-6 (7-3) 70-68.

By contrast, the longest men's singles match in French Open history saw Fabrice Santoro beat fellow Frenchman Arnaud Clement 6-4 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 3-6 16-14, in 2004. 

After defeating Opelka in his round-of-16 tie at Indian Wells, Nadal will now face Australia's Nick Kyrgios for a place in the semi-finals.

Earlier in the week, the Spaniard became the first-ever player to reach 400 wins at Masters 1000 tournaments by beating Dan Evans in the last 32. 

The Grand Slam Board has announced that first-to-10 tie-breaks will conclude the final sets of all four majors with immediate effect.

Starting with May's French Open, the decision is being adopted on a trial basis with the aim of providing "greater consistency" to the rules when matches go the distance.

Prior to Wednesday's announcement, the French Open, Australian Open, US Open and Wimbledon each had their own rules when games went to a deciding tie-break.

The Australian Open is the only grand slam to already employ the first-to-10 rule at 6-6.

Wimbledon previously played first-to-seven at 12-12, while the US Open played a first-to-seven at 6-6.

There has not previously been a deciding tie-break at Roland-Garros, with all matches continuing until a player secured a two-game lead in the decider.

A statement released on behalf of Grand Slam Board members Jayne Hrdlicka, Gilles Moretton, Ian Hewitt and Mike McNulty confirmed the changes.

It read: "The Grand Slam Board's decision is based on a strong desire to create greater consistency in the rules of the game at the Grand Slams, and thus enhance the experience for the players and fans alike.

"This trial, which has been approved by the rules of the tennis committee governed by the ITF, will apply to all Grand Slams across qualifying, men's singles and doubles, women's singles and doubles, wheelchair and junior events in singles, and will commence at the 2022 edition of Roland-Garros."

The rule change will be reviewed after a full Grand Slam year and will remain in place should it be deemed a success.

The tweaks to the current format will ensure no repeat of John Isner's marathon battle with Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010, which the American edged 70-68 in the final set of their first-round match.

Daniil Medvedev and fellow Russian tennis stars could be banned from playing at Wimbledon unless they denounce president Vladimir Putin.

That was confirmed by UK sports minister Nigel Huddleston on Tuesday, as he told a parliamentary committee there were concerns about Russian representation in sport.

With Russia's military invasion of Ukraine ongoing, Huddleston warned it would not be appropriate for anyone to be seen to be flying the flag for their homeland, or showing any support for Putin's regime.

Speaking at a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee session, Huddleston was asked about Wimbledon and Medvedev, the current men's world number one player and reigning US Open champion.

Huddleston said: "We are looking and talking to various sports about this and what the response and requirements should be there. Absolutely, nobody flying the flag for Russia should be allowed or enabled."

He added: "We need some potential assurance that they are not supporters of Vladimir Putin and we are considering what requirements we may need to get some assurances along those lines.

"In short, would I be comfortable with a Russian athlete flying the Russian flag? No."

Asked about the All England Club, which hosts Wimbledon, Huddleston said: "We are in discussions."

Russia has four players in the men's top 30, and three in the women's top 30.

They are playing under neutral flags at present, after the ATP and WTA tours decided Russian and Belarusian players should not be permitted to represent those nations while conflict continues in Ukraine.

Wimbledon runs from June 27 to July 10 this year, with a week of qualifying preceding the tournament.

Demanding each player from Russia directly comes out against president Putin would be going a step beyond what is currently required.

Huddleston said: "We are looking at this very issue about what we do with individuals, and we are thinking about the implications of it, because I don't think people would accept people very clearly flying the Russian flag, in particular if there is any support and recognition for Putin and his regime."

Speaking last week at Indian Wells, Medvedev spoke about being allowed to continue to play on the tour.

"It's definitely not for me to decide. I follow the rules. I cannot do anything else," he said. "Right now the rule is that we can under our neutral flag.

"I want to play my favourite sport. Until I have the chance to do it, I'm going to be there to try to play for the fans, play for other people, for myself also of course.

"Also I think tennis is a very individual sport, so far what we are seeing [being sanctioned] are more national teams or some team sports. Let's see how the situation evolves."

The ATP, WTA, International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the four grand slam organisers have announced the Tennis Plays for Peace campaign.

Along with the campaign, which will include efforts on social media and at tournaments, each of the seven organisations has pledged to donate $100,000 to humanitarian relief efforts in Ukraine.

Russia invaded the country on February 24 and the conflict is still ongoing. Well over one million refugees are estimated to have fled to neighbouring countries in Europe.

A joint statement from tennis' governing bodies on Tuesday explained that the campaign is not just about donations.

"The seven bodies will also signal support via their social and digital platforms by prominently featuring the Ukraine ribbon icon, with everyone in the tennis ecosystem encouraged to use the hashtag #TennisPlaysforPeace," it read.

"In addition, physical ribbons will be distributed for ATP and WTA players to wear at the upcoming BNP Paribas Open tournament in Indian Wells."

Last week, the ITF banned Russian and Belarusian teams from competing at the Davis Cup or the Billie Jean King Cup. Russia are the holders of each title.

The ATP and WTA, meanwhile, allowed Russian and Belarusian athletes to carry on competing, but only under neutral banners.

That includes ATP world number one Daniil Medvedev and WTA world number three Aryna Sabalenka.

Roger Federer says he hopes to return to action by the end of the summer, with his recovery from knee surgery likely to rule the 20-time grand slam winner out of Wimbledon.

The 40-year-old underwent surgery on his right knee for the third time last August, and has missed five of the last seven grand slams.

Federer made the quarter-finals at Wimbledon last year, but coach Severin Luthi recently said that he "can't imagine" the eight-time Wimbledon winner featuring in London this summer.

Federer has now provided an update on his recovery to Swiss broadcaster SRF, saying that the end of summer or start of autumn is a realistic target for his return, which could mean he is back for the US Open that starts on August 29.

However, he feels "positive" about his return to the court whenever that comes.

"It will certainly be a while," Federer said. "The end of the summer, early autumn, [that's] where I'm aiming for a comeback.

"It's [the knee] fine. Much better. Obviously, I was on crutches for two months, so you have to start from the bottom.

"It [the surgery] was certainly the right thing to do, the knee wasn't right after Wimbledon [last year], so it couldn't go on.

"Currently I'm in three parts. First, the whole rehab, getting back on your feet at the beginning. Then afterwards, learning to walk and building up the whole thing.

"It's only now where I'm at the phase where I can start thinking about my comeback. I had a very good MRI a few weeks ago, which makes me feel very positive."

 

Federer's tally of 20 career Grand Slam titles was surpassed by Rafael Nadal in January's Australian Open, and the duo are set, fitness permitting, to team up to represent Europe in the Laver Cup, which takes place in September.

The timeline for Federer's recovery also means that he will miss the second slam of 2022, May's French Open at Rolland Garros.

Rafael Nadal would "welcome" seeing Novak Djokovic play at future grand slam tournaments if he is granted permission to do so unvaccinated against COVID-19.

World number one Djokovic has courted controversy for his views on being jabbed and was last month deported from Australia on the eve of the Australian Open.

Djokovic has confirmed he is willing to miss future slams after stating he was prioritising his right to choose what to put into his body above his sporting ambitions.

In Djokovic's absence, Nadal became Australian Open champion and now has 21 titles – the most for a male player.

Nadal believes that any further omissions from Djokovic would only be harmful to the Serbian's chances of history not the slams themselves, but he would have no issue with his rival playing in the sport's biggest tournaments.

Speaking ahead of his return to the ATP Tour in Acapulco, Nadal said: "It will affect Novak's [grand slam] history if he can't play.

"It will affect him, not the grand slams themselves. Whoever wins the most slams – it will be what it will be. Everyone takes their own decisions and must live with them.

"In that sense, hopefully the pandemic subsides and we stop having so many deaths around the world and this horror ends, and we can return to normality – not for Novak but for the world in general.

"There are many people that have suffered, but if Novak can play the grand slams unvaccinated, then he is welcome."

 

Nadal defeated Daniil Medvedev in an epic Melbourne showpiece to become the first man to 21 slams, but he says the achievement has not changed his life.

"Absolutely nothing has changed having 21 slams, I won't lie to you," he added.

"From 20 to 21 there is not a very large difference. Life goes on exactly the same. The only thing that has changed is that now I play tennis, which a few months ago I couldn't.

"I am very happy for everything that happened in Australia, it was very unexpected, especially before the tournament started. In my life, nothing has changed. No title is going to change what is important in my life, which are other things.

"Already, at 35 years old, I have a lot of experiences behind me, of successes and bad moments and these sensations already help me to live in a more calm and different way."

Novak Djokovic has said missing grand slams including the French Open and Wimbledon will be "the price I am willing to pay" for resisting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Last month, the world number one and 20-time grand slam winner was deported from Australia on the eve of the Australian Open after his entry visa to the country was cancelled.

That stemmed from Djokovic refusing to join the overwhelming majority of fellow tennis stars in being vaccinated against coronavirus, and amid controversy over how he handled getting the virus himself in December.

In a new interview with the BBC, Djokovic said he was prioritising his right to choose what to put into his body above his sporting ambitions.

The 34-year-old Serbian declared his stance is likely to keep him sidelined for "most of the tournaments" at present.

Djokovic is set to make his return to the court at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships later this month, with vaccination not a requirement. He has been included on the entry list for next month's Indian Wells Open, but that is a tournament he may have to sit out.

He confirmed in the BBC interview that he has still yet to be vaccinated, though did not entirely rule out the prospect in the future.

"I have not," he said. "I understand and support fully the freedom to choose whether you want to get vaccinated or not."

Prior to entering Australia, where he was obliged to confirm his status, it was only widely assumed that Djokovic had not been inoculated.

Now he is keen to "speak up ... and justify certain things", adding: "So I was never against vaccination. I understand that globally everyone is trying to put a big effort into handling this virus and seeing hopefully an end soon to this virus.

"And vaccinations are probably the biggest effort that was made on behalf of the planet. I fully respect that, but I've always represented and always supported the freedom to choose what you put into your body. For me that is essential. It's really the principle of understanding what is right and what is wrong for you.

"And me, as an elite professional athlete, I've always carefully reviewed and assessed everything that comes in, from the supplements, food, the water that I drink or sports drinks. Anything really that comes into my body as a fuel.

"Based on all the information that I got, I decided not to take the vaccine as of today. I keep my mind open because we are all trying to find collectively a best possible solution to end COVID. Nobody really wants to be in this kind of situation that we've been in collectively for two years."

Djokovic is the reigning French Open and Wimbledon champion and, after Rafael Nadal's Australian Open triumph, he has been bumped down to joint second on the all-time men's grand slam list. Missing majors at this stage of his career could be a crushing blow to Djokovic's hopes of finishing top of that pile.

"I'm part of a very global sport that is played every single week in a different location, so I understand the consequences of my decision, and one of the consequences of my decision was not going to Australia, and I was prepared not to go," Djokovic said.

"I understand that not being vaccinated today I am unable to travel to most of the tournaments at the moment. That is the price I am willing to pay."

He looked to disassociate himself from the anti-vax community by saying he had "never said I am part of that movement" and declaring that was a "wrong conclusion" to draw.

At the same time, Djokovic concurred when asked if he was willing to sacrifice the chance to be seen as the greatest player of all time, and to travel to Roland Garros and the All England Club this year.

"Because the principles of decision-making on my body are more important than any title or anything else. I'm trying to be in tune with my body as much as I possibly can," Djokovic said.

"I say that everyone has a right to choose to act or say whatever they feel is appropriate for them."

Andy Murray has decided to skip the entire clay court season, including the French Open, as he feels the surface aggravated "issues" in the past.

Former world number one Murray has endured a torrid time with injuries in the past few years, but he has featured more regularly since the second half of last season.

While he only made it as far as the second round at last month's Australian Open, his preparation for the year's opening grand slam saw him reach a first final on the ATP Tour since October 2019.

He lost to Aslan Karatsev in the decider of the Sydney Classic, going down 6-3 6-3, but the Scot's run to the final provided evidence he still has plenty to offer.

Murray will not be playing in the next grand slam, though.

The eyes of the tennis world will be on Roland Garros in late May and early June, but Murray is opting to miss that and every other event on clay for fear of worsening his condition, with Wimbledon scheduled to begin on June 27.

"Right now, I am not planning on playing through the clay," the three-time grand slam winner said.

"The past couple of years, the clay has made issues worse; last year I had some issues at the beginning of the year, the clay didn't help, so I've spoken to my team about that and this year while I feel good and healthy, I don't want to take that risk.

"It's not that I wouldn't potentially play on clay in the future. Last year I almost missed Wimbledon, was close to not playing the grass season. I'm not planning on playing the clay. I will still try to compete a bit during that period, I won't do nothing, that's my plan just now.

"I had a busy end of last year and the next couple of months I won't take any risks and hopefully get a good build up to the grass season."

Murray parted ways with long-term coach Jamie Delgado in December and then decided against making Jan de Witt a permanent member of his team following a trial period leading up to and through the Australian Open.

The 34-year-old is now once again working with Dani Vallverdu, Stan Wawrinka's coach, having teamed up with him between 2010 and 2014.

But Murray accepts the situation is far from ideal, with Vallverdu only available while Wawrinka continues his rehabilitation from a foot injury that has kept him out since March last year.

"It's not been easy to find someone," Murray added.

"Obviously, Stan Wawrinka has been rehabbing for quite a long time and is hopefully coming back to the tour, but he agreed for Dani to come and work with me for a few weeks over the next month or so, which is great for me in the short term, but still trying to find a longer-term solution.

"It's not that straightforward, I'm not as in demand as a few years ago. Ultimately, I want it to be the right person. I'm aware there's no perfect setup, but medium, longer term I want some stability and will try and get that in the next few weeks."

Roger Federer still has the drive to return to the ATP Tour but is yet to run and is still months away in his recovery from a third knee operation.

The 40-year-old 20-time grand slam winner missed last month's Australian Open after a knee operation in August.

Federer has not played since a quarter-final loss to Hubert Hurkacz at Wimbledon last year and previously said he would be "incredibly surprised" if he was fit to play at the event in 2022.

"It's a very important next few months ahead of me," Federer said at a sponsor's event on Wednesday. "I'll know a whole lot more in April what my body is going to be like.

"Up until now I was not able to run yet and do the heavy workload. I hope that starts in the next couple of weeks and then we'll see how my body reacts.

"For now, the drive is there. I'm really motivated to do my work and what I'm allowed to do. I'd love to do way more, but the doctors are holding me back a bit."

The eight-time Wimbledon champion elaborated on his recovery, revealing he hopes to put weight on his knee again in the coming weeks.

"I can still not run. But I'm working daily in the gym," Federer said. "I really hope that I can put weight on my knee again in two to three weeks. Then we'll see how the body reacts so we can hit the ball again in April or May."

He added: "Of course I wish that everything could go quicker. But the doctors don't want me to overdo everything."

Crowds came flocking back in force, we had the full complement of golf majors and tennis grand slams, and sport almost ran smoothly over the past 12 months.

To boot, there were sensational moments, featuring both the biggest names in sport and some that few had heard of at this time last year.

Here, Stats Perform looks back at some of the biggest stories of the year, and the numbers that made them so remarkable.

Jacobs, the shock Tokyo Olympics sprint king

Entering 2021, Italy's Lamont Marcell Jacobs had a career-best of 10.03 seconds for the 100 metres. By most standards that is staggeringly quick, but at the very elite level of sprinting it ranks as only middling. To put it into some context, 34 men ran quicker than 10.03 seconds in 2021. Jacobs finished only 19th at the 2019 World Championship and few outside of athletics circles knew the name. The former long-jumper grabbed a little attention when he produced a world-leading 6.47 seconds to win the 60 metres at the European Indoor Championships in March, then he ran 9.95 for the 100m in Savona in May, but he still headed to the Tokyo Olympics as a big outsider, not expected to be a factor. Jacobs made a mockery of his lowly billing, as he powered to personal bests in the heats and semi-finals before doing so again in the final, dashing home first in 9.80 seconds to grab gold and leaving rivals gasping in astonishment. He led Italy to sprint relay gold too, a glorious double in that country's remarkable year of success.

Emma Raducan-who? From A level exams to US Open top marks

Twelve months ago – no, make that barely six – London-based Raducanu was simply not a factor in grand slam discussions. Fresh out of school, she had to fight to earn a wildcard for Wimbledon when organisers initially baulked at the idea, but they were persuaded and Raducanu went on to reach the fourth round. The teenager who was born in Canada and has a Romanian father and Chinese mother had arrived, but it was at the US Open that she roared into the history books. There was no wildcard in New York for the British youngster, but Raducanu won three qualifying matches and then raced through the main draw, defeating 19-year-old Canadian Leylah Fernandez in the title match. She did not drop a set in 10 matches and became the first women in the Open era to win 10 main-draw matches in her first two grand slams. It made her the first qualifier to win a slam and the first US Open women's singles winner since Serena Williams in 2014 to triumph at the tournament without dropping a set along the way. The $2.5million in prize money was followed by endorsement offers from across the world as Raducanu became an instant superstar. The tennis world waits to see what comes next.

No country for old men as US win Ryder Cup

The youngest Ryder Cup team ever assembled by the United States torched European hopes at Whistling Straits in September, scoring a 19-9 victory. That was the widest margin of victory by either side since Europe, rather than Great Britain and Ireland, became the USA's opposition in 1979. Dustin Johnson bounced back from losing four of his five matches in the 2018 edition to finish with a 5-0 record, just the third player in US v Europe battles to finish with a perfect record (after Larry Nelson in 1979 and Francesco Molinari in 2018). Johnson, at 37, was the oldest player on the team. European veteran Lee Westwood matched Nick Faldo's record of 11 appearances in the match, while Sergio Garcia stretched his points record from 25.5 to 28.5 as he and Jon Rahm combined well, but it was emphatically an event that belonged to the host Americans.

Veteran Mickelson still had his day 

He might have been absent for the US team's Ryder Cup triumph, but Phil Mickelson's name was up in lights again as he became the oldest winner of a men's golf major, landing the US PGA Championship title in May. At the age of 50, Mickelson caused a huge upset at Kiawah Island, scooping his sixth career major when he held off Brooks Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen on the final day. It was his only top-10 finish of the year on the PGA Tour.

Federer bagelled, Djokovic denied Golden Slam

Strange things happened in men's tennis in 2021, not least the sight of Roger Federer suffering a 6-0 'bagel' at the end of a straight-sets Wimbledon quarter-final defeat. That happened against Hubert Hurkacz in July, and it was the last match Federer played in the year. He wants to play again, and the 40-year-old believes he can, but knee surgery will keep him out of action until mid-2022 at the earliest, by his own reckoning, and that Centre Court defeat to Hurkacz could turn out to be how his eight-title Wimbledon career ends. Novak Djokovic joined Federer and Nadal on a joint-record 20 grand slam titles by cleaning up at the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, and he has now spent a record 353 weeks at number one, passing Federer this year. But Djokovic could not make it a Golden Slam, losing to eventual champion Alexander Zverev in the Olympic Games semi-finals, and a Grand Slam was just beyond him too, Daniil Medvedev winning his first major when he swept the Serbian in straight sets in the US Open final.

Another year, more records for Brady

At the age of 43, Tom Brady was MVP in the Super Bowl as he led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to their 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in February. He now has seven Super Bowl wins behind him, another outright record, and has been MVP in the game on an unmatched five occasions. Brady, having turned 44 in August, is in the hunt for another Super Bowl ring and perhaps outright NFL MVP honours this season, although Aaron Rodgers will likely deny him the latter accolade. Still, the records keep coming for Brady. He has moved in front of Drew Brees to have the most pass completions in league history (7,200 and counting), become the first ever 15-time Pro Bowler, and in December became the first quarterback to throw 700 career touchdowns.

England's Ashes surrender calls for Root and branch review

Joe Root became the first England captain – or player, indeed – to suffer nine defeats in Tests starting in a single calendar year, in a strange 12 months for the Yorkshireman. His form with the bat has been up there with the best of his career, the 31-year-old scoring 1,708 Test runs to go third on the all-time single-year list, with only Mohammad Yousuf and Viv Richards ahead of him. Even in the Tests that England have lost, Root has made a number of handy contributions with the bat, scoring 648 runs at an average of 38.11. Overall he has scored 26 per cent of England's Test runs across the year, the highest proportion of any player for their respective team in 2021. Yet the Ashes were lost by lunch on day three of the third Test, an outrageously dismal result. Root top-scored in England's two innings in Melbourne, typically, but he cannot get a tune out of many of his team-mates, so ends the year with his future as skipper in doubt.

Curry still hot as NBA records fall

In January, LaMelo Ball became the youngest player to post a triple-double in the NBA, as the 19-year-old Charlotte Hornets prospect grabbed 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in a win over the Atlanta Hawks. Come December, the Memphis Grizzlies set two records in the same game, scoring a franchise-high number of points and winning by the biggest margin in NBA history, as they handed out a 152-79 thrashing to the Oklahoma City Thunder. December was also the month when Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors set a new three-pointer record, becoming the first man to make 3,000 threes in a career after going past Ray Allen's previous NBA record of 2,973.

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