With tennis suspended until at least mid-July because of the coronavirus pandemic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray are among 32 of the world’s leading ATP and WTA players replacing the buzz of competitive action with an online fix.
This week they are swapping their racquets for PlayStation 4 controllers, to play on the Tennis World Tour video game for the Madrid Open Virtual Pro titles.
There will be 16 men, 16 women, two knockout singles tournaments – all played in a digital representation of the Spanish capital’s Manolo Santana Stadium.
It is the first time a virtual tennis tournament has been contested solely by professional tour players. The event will be streamed on the Madrid Open’s Facebook page and the platform’s new gaming app.
Lopez, the ATP tour veteran who became the Madrid Open tournament director last year, said “The idea is based on two things: firstly, to give something to the fans while they are at home and let them watch their favourite players. And secondly, to help players who are struggling right now”.
Both tournaments have separate prize pots of 150,000 euros (£131,210). Each champion will decide how to distribute the money into the relief funds set up to support lower-ranked players whose incomes have dried up during the pandemic.