The world’s top tennis players are taking part in a virtual tournament later this month to raise money for worthy causes. The virtual version of the Madrid Open is being organised after the real event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Former world number one Andy Murray has agreed to compete in the online championship between 27th and 30th April. A total of 32 players (16 men and 16 women) will compete for total prize money of £264,000 – the winners will decide on the beneficiaries.
Some of the money is expected to go to people who normally rely on the professional tennis circuit in order to make a living. In addition, £44,000 from a parallel tournament, featuring online gamers v pro tennis players, will be donated to charities that are helping to reduce the social impact of coronavirus.
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Tennis World Tour
Professional players will compete in the championship through the Tennis World Tour video game. The virtual Open event will be a welcome relief for fans, as all tennis has been cancelled until at least 13th July due to COVID-19.
The real Madrid Open was due to be held from 1st to 10th May but has now been postponed indefinitely, along with all other events in the ATP and WTA Tours. The e-sports replica of the clay-court Madrid tournament is called the Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro.
A full list of participants will be revealed soon, but professional players who have already signed up to take part include Rafael Nadal, Karen Khachanov, David Goffin and John Isner. All of the players will participate online from the safety of their own homes.
Nadal has won five Madrid Open titles (in 2005, 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2017) and currently holds the record for the most championships won. The Spanish player will be aiming for victory in the first-ever virtual tennis championship between professional players.
He said he would be giving it his all from isolation, praising the “strength and encouragement” everyone was currently giving each other during the coronavirus crisis. However, he admitted he had no idea how good he would be when it came to a virtual tournament.
World number 10, Goffin, reached the quarter-final of the Madrid Open in 2017. He will be hoping to do better in the virtual tournament, although he admits to being unfamiliar with playing online games.
Russian player Khachanov, the world number 15, says he enjoys playing tennis, both on court and online. He said he was “pumped up to get winning again”.
Isner made the quarter finals at the Madrid Open in 2015 and 2018. Although he isn’t an avid gamer, he will be giving it his all to entertain the fans. He described the virtual tournament as “exciting” and said he intended practicing online, so he wouldn’t “embarrass” himself. He felt it was a “huge plus” that the event would help the fight against coronavirus.
Female players from the WTA Tour who have confirmed their participation include Angelique Kerber, Kristina Mladenovic and Carla Suárez Navarro.
Kerber, from Bremen, Germany, is a professional player and former world number one. She has won three Grand Slam tournaments after making her professional debut in 2003, at the age of 15.
Mladenovic is a French professional player, who has won one singles title and 21 doubles titles so far on the WTA Tour. She has also won four singles titles and seven doubles titles on the ITF Women’s Circuit. Her highest ranking to date was world number ten in October 2017.
Suárez Navarro, a Spanish pro player, reached her career-high WTA world ranking of number six in February 2016. She represented Spain in the 2008 Fed Cup and has reached the quarterfinals at six Grand Slam tournaments, including the US Open and Australian Open.
The tournament’s director, Feliciano Lopez, said although the event was intended to entertain, it had a more serious goal during this difficult period. As well as organising an online championship without the players having to leave their own homes, it was also raising funds for worthy causes.
The format for the virtual Madrid Open will begin with 16 singles players in each of two draws – the WTA and ATP. They will each be divided into four groups. The champion and runner-up of each group will progress to the next round. Quarter-finals and semi-finals will be played in a knock-out format, leading to the men’s and women’s finals.
Played by some of the biggest names in the gaming world, the parallel fundraising tournament will include tech experts who create content for online games, against professional tennis players.
Tennis fans will be able to watch the tournament online, on TV and on the social media feed of the Mutua Madrid Open. To make it feel as authentic as possible, the media production will include full commentary on every match, expert analysis, highlights and an interview with the winner of each match.
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