Tennis

Federer, Nadal in the way of Djokovic's bid for historic 'Djoko Slam'

Novak Djokovic can become only the second man in history to have twice held all four Grand Slam titles at the same time with victory at the French Open.

However, a returning Roger Federer and rejuvenated Rafael Nadal will once again stand in his way.

World No. 1 Djokovic completed his first private stranglehold of all four Slams with victory at Roland Garros in 2016.

Having clinched the 2018 Wimbledon and US Open titles and then a seventh Australian Open crown in January, the Serb is tantalisingly close to another "Djoko Slam".

Federer and Nadal, with 20 and 17 career Grand Slam titles each respectively, may be ahead of 15-time Major winner Djokovic in total hauls and have also completed career Slams.

However, not even Federer or Nadal have managed to hold all four of the sport's greatest prizes at the same time.

It is such a rare feat that only Don Budge (1938) and Rod Laver (1962 and 1969) - all calendar Grand Slams - have pulled off the sweep in the sport's history.

Djokovic, who turned 32 on Wednesday, is playing down his potential date with destiny even if it would put him halfway to a 2019 calendar Slam of his own.

After losing to Nadal in the Italian Open final last weekend, the Serb was in no doubt that it was the Spaniard who would likely be celebrating a 12th Roland Garros title in a little over two weeks.

"Nadal, No. 1 favourite, without a doubt - then everyone else," he said.

In the women's event, Serena Williams heads into the tournament as an outsider for a Grand Slam title for possibly the first time in 20 years, with questions surrounding her fitness after a poor start to the season.

Williams is still waiting for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam triumph, with her last victory coming at the 2017 Australian Open shortly before taking a break from the sport due to pregnancy.

World No. 1 Naomi Osaka has not been overly struggling since surprisingly splitting with coach Sascha Bajin in the wake of her Australian Open title.

The Japanese star, 21, has not won a title since, but this has still been her best-ever clay-court campaign. She reached the last eight in Madrid and the semi-finals in Stuttgart, and she feels her big-hitting game is now ready for the red dirt. - AFP

Keith Thurman vows to ‘crucify’ Manny Pacquiao in July

Keith Thurman vowed to retire Philippine boxing legend Manny Pacquiao as the two fighters traded verbal jabs ahead of the World Boxing Association battle for welterweight supremacy yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The undefeated Thurman, 30, takes on Pacquiao in Las Vegas on July 20 in a contest that pits the WBA's "super world champion" against the body's secondary "world" champion.

Thurman (29-0, with 22 knockouts) returned from a near two-year layoff to retain his title with a 12-round decision over Josesito Lopez on Jan 26.

Eight-division champion Pacquiao, who last fought in a one-sided demolition of Adrien Broner in January, is 10 years older than his American opponent.

And as the two men came face to face at a press conference in Beverly Hills, Thurman vowed to make the age difference count.

"Pacquiao's last fight, Pacquiao's last fight," Thurman said, while pledging to "dismantle" the Filipino. "I know he likes to quote Bible verses so I'll let you know - he's getting crucified."

Pacquiao laughed off Thurman's threats of annihilation, saying: "All I can say is that most of my opponents say things before a fight.

"We'll see who's young in the ring on July 20." - AFP

Tennis