TENNIS’ Grand Slams are working behind the scenes to set up a ‘premier tour’ in an attempt to block Saudi attempts to hijack the sport.

The four big Slams – Australia, French, Wimbledon and the US – are believed to be now looking to partner with six other major tournaments to create an annual 10 venue global tour – in what media sources described last week as tennis’ version of Formula One.

Golf has suffered massive disruption over the past two years because of the Saudi-backed LIV venture and bosses are eager to prevent that sort of damage happening on tennis.

The move would certainly be welcomed by the cash-strapped WTA.

“We all know that premium drives the business,” WTA chief Steve Simon said in an interview last Tuesday.

In Turin last week, after six months of cloak and dagger meetings, the Slam organisations are ready to come together.

The United Cup in Australia has come under threat as a result of Saudi interest.

Slam officials will continue to discuss with ATP and WTA officials with the goal of announcing the new ‘premier league of tennis’ at the Australia Open next month.

One element that shows that this plan is serious is the fact that none of the Slams have yet to sign the next three-year agreement that codifies the system of awarding rankings points.

Several media sources have reported unnamed officials from the tours as saying discussions have been very positive.

Who will make up the team events?

The four Slams will anchor the tour, with Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Rome, Toronto/Montreal, and maybe Cincinnati making up the list, with the latter six extending to 12 days from their original week-long events.

Novak Djokovic receives the ATP trophy from Andrea Gaudenzi in Turin last week.

Andrea Gaudenzi, chief executive of the ATP Tour, told journalists in Turin last week the ATP ‘wanted to grow our premium product’.

“For the sport, closing the gap between the Masters and the slams is good for everybody. Now, there is a very big gap.”

But what of the WTA? Chief executive Simon? Will the WTA be part of the tour, or will it be reduced to second division outfit, assigned to look after lower ranked 500 and 250 events?

There is little doubt that a collective of the ten biggest events could increase sponsorship and TV rights earnings, but don’t expect it in 2024. Executives in Turin were briefing that if such a tour were to happen it would probably take two years minimum to set up.

THE London Daily Mirror’s reporting of attempts to suspend Novak Djokovic after it was alleged he refused to be tested by an anti-doping official ahead of a Davis Cup match against Britain’s Cameron Norrie recently have been criticised by former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli.

Djokovic was required to undergo blood and urine tests before his singles match against Norrie on November 23. The decision upset Djokovic, who was in the middle of his pre-match routine, about 90 minutes before he went on court.

Djokovic did not refuse to provide the samples, as was clarified by the ITIA, who said the Serb followed all protocols and never refused to do the tests.

The retired Bartoli said there was “no difference” in taking a doping test either before or after a match since the player was under constant monitoring by the doping official.

Marion Bartoli criticised the British media for it portrayal of Novak Djokovic. Photo: Roger Parker International Sports Fotos Ltd

“So I don’t see what difference it makes whether it’s done before or after, especially since after the matches the urinary concentration is greater because during the match there is a dehydration effect,” she said.

“The ‘trial’ that we tried to do against Djokovic is linked to this British press which knows nothing, and which allows itself to accuse the players, it’s disgusting, it’s shameful, and completely unjustified.”

A spokesperson for the ITIA said: “Due to the format of team competitions, including the Davis Cup, teams may be notified that they have been selected for testing before matches begin and then provide samples when they are ready. Between notification and providing the sample, they are chaperoned by a member of the anti-doping team.”

THE WTA said that while it does not support an exhibition event being held in Russia this weekend, players who take part in it will not be sanctioned.

The men’s ATP Tour said it also would not penalise its players for taking part in the second edition of the Northern Palmyra Trophies tournament, which will be held in St. Petersburg.

The event, which is sponsored by Russian energy giant Gazprom, is being held while Russia continues its war with Ukraine.

“This event is not affiliated with the WTA nor is the WTA supportive of the event being held,” the governing body of women’s tennis told Reuters.

The ATP took a similar stance on the issue.

He broke all his rackets and had no rackets to play with. I don’t think I’ve ever done that.

Nick Kyrgios dismissing comparisons with John McEnroe

“ATP does not currently place restrictions during the offseason related to exhibition events and, as independent contractors, players are able to choose where they compete,” it said.

Among the WTA players taking part are former French and US Open quarterfinalist Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan, Russian world number 28 Anastasia Potapova and former Roland Garros quarterfinalist Veronika Kudermetova.

ATP players include world No. 15 Karen Khachanov, Roberto Bautista Agut and France’s Adrian Mannarino, according to the event’s website.

AUSTRALIAN Alicia Molik helped save a ball girl who collapsed during a press conference on Thursday in Adelaide.

Molik, a two-time grand slam doubles champion, was being announced as the new tournament director at the Adelaide International when a ball girl collapsed in the background on centre court.

Molik, 42, was chatting with the media when a loud noise from behind prompted her to see what was going on.

After spotting the ball girl she sprinted over to assist.

The teenager is now recovering in hospital.

An injured Rafa Nadal receives treatment in Melbourne in January. Photo: Roger Parker International Sports Fotos Ltd

RAFA Nadal has confirmed he will return from injury to play his first tournament in nearly 12 months at the Brisbane International next month.

Nadal hasn’t played a competitive match since losing to Mackenzie McDonald in the second round of the 2023 Australian in January.

“After a year away from competition, it’s time to come back,” Nadal said on Instagram.

“It will be in Brisbane, the first week of January. I’ll see you there.”

Estonian Anett Kontaveit recently donned a chef’s hat when she made a special appearance on MasterChef in her home country. Kontaveit, who was forced to retire earlier this year due to degenerative back injury, appeared on the show as a guest judge.

IN case you missed it, and many will have, as British media host Piers Morgan is restricted to a limited online channel these days, Nick Kyrgios popped up for an interview during the week, after the pair had exchanged ‘vitriol’ in a feisty online spat earlier in the week.

Kyrgios had called Morgan a D**k in one comment on Twitter- X.

But Morgan, always keen to play the clickbait interviewer managed to get the Aussie firebrand on to his show.

And you can watch here – click below.

AND finally …

SPOTIFY is not our usual go-to site to check on the goings and goings of today’s top players, but improved a useful online click last week to discover the music tastes of many.

And not surprisingly Carlos Alcaraz featured in the Spotify list revealing he loves Latin music, spending a whopping 42,772 minutes listening.

The World No. 2’s favourite artist was Puerto Rican Bad Bunny, followed by Quevedo, Mora, India Martinez, and Feid.

And interestingly, the 20-year-old’s most streamed song was “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor.

Casper Ruud, meanwhile, listened to the Canadian R&B singer Weeknd a lot, American Madison Keys had some interesting names in her top songs, Dua Lipa, Hozier, Kygo, Shania Twain, Paramore, and Maren Morris.

Amanda Anisimova and Linda Noskova loved songs by Ed Sheeran and Nick Kyrgios, meanwhile, boasted his top five that included Rae Sremmurd, Stormzy, Khalid, and Tory Lanez.