Tennis player Jamie Murray is organising a Battle of the Brits socially distanced tournament – featuring his brother Andy among his team of aces. The special Grand Slam tennis championship will be a boon for players and fans missing their favourite summer sport due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
Tennis has been severely affected during the pandemic. Usually, people can enjoy the ultimate sport for the summer at this time of year, with various Grand Slams and of course Wimbledon (the most famous lawn tennis tournament in the world) to look forward to.
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Sadly, the global tennis circuit has ground to a halt as a result of coronavirus. Wimbledon 2020 was cancelled in April and won’t be back until 28th June next year. The vast majority of major tournaments have been postponed or cancelled altogether.
The latest casualty of the virus is the Adria Tour exhibition tournament in Croatia, which had already started when Bulgarian player Grigor Dimitrov, 29, confirmed he had tested positive for coronavirus, leading to the immediate suspension of the event earlier this month.
Now Jamie is co-organising a safe and socially distanced tournament with Martina Navratilova’s agent Mary Greenham in the hope of raising more than £100,000 for NHS Charities Together. The Schroders-sponsored event will be streamed live on Amazon Prime Video from 23rd to 28th June. It will feature the leading eight British men and six doubles teams competing to become the top Brits.
Matches are being held at the Lawn Tennis Association National Tennis Centre in Roehampton, near Wimbledon’s famous All England Club. Fans will be eating strawberries and cream and sipping Pimms at home, as they watch some of the top British players competing for the honours. The event, which is also being sponsored by sports brand Slinger Bag Inc, is taking place behind closed doors for safety reasons and no members of the public will be present at the venue.
Who’s taking part?
Jamie, 34, will be taking part in the doubles event with his regular partner, Davis Cup teammate Neal Skupski. Andy Murray, 33, will be competing in the singles, with his first match being against Liam Broady. Other leading Brits will include Dan Evans, Cameron Norrie, Jay Clarke and Jack Draper.
There won’t be any ball boys or girls – the players will be collecting their own balls and handshakes will be replaced by racket-bumps to avoid contact as much as possible. Jamie says the players will have to dig deep to compensate for the boost they normally get from the cheering fans.
Viewers’ high-tech experience
Jamie says they have been creative with the tech to make sure the fans watching from home have the best experience possible. Amazon will provide live data, analysis and insights from coaches, while players will be able to communicate with the commentators during the match.
The event has been organised in just six weeks, creating a lot of work, but Jamie says it’s great to have something to train for again. He said there was a “fun atmosphere” at Roehampton, as all the British pros enjoyed training. There has also been a lot of light-hearted “trash-talking” between the players via WhatsApp.
The tournament also marks the start of Andy’s return to competitive tennis. The former world number one was out of action for three months prior to lockdown due to issues connected with his hip operation last year.
All of the players have put in a lot of training in a short time, after seven weeks of inactivity due to the lockdown. Jamie says this will make it more exciting, as there’s more chance of an upset, due to the top players not being in peak condition. He has been keeping fit outdoors and sharing his workout videos with fans on YouTube.
The Schroders Battle of the Brits will be played using a round-robin format. Eight singles players will be split into two groups of four and the six doubles teams will be split into two groups of three. Each groups’ winners and runners-up will progress to the semi-final knockout round, before going on to compete in the respective finals.
Scrap of the Scots
The Murray brothers also announced they were organising a “Scrap of the Scots” junior tournament at the Bridge of Allan Sports Club and Cromlix Hotel in Stirling to mirror the Battle of the Brits event. Each youngster has been mentored by a senior British player and will receive a message of support from them.
Tennis coach Judy Murray said the young players could experience the same kind of format, gaining valuable experience at the youth event this weekend. The tournament in Scotland is for Under-15s and Under-12s and will take place on a show court. The finals will be contested on Sunday.
The latest advice from the British government is that tennis is a sport where close personal contact can be avoided, so it can be played in a way that complies with social distancing rules. Tennis courts reopened, subject to certain restrictions, earlier this month, following the easing of some lockdown measures on 1st June.
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