Tennis tours consider options as Madrid Open organises virtual event

The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) are considering pushing back the end of their 2020 seasons amid continued suspensions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ATP and WTA announced last week that their respective seasons would remain suspended until July 13 due to COVID-19. It coincided with the announcement that this summer’s Wimbledon Championships had been cancelled due to the pandemic.

Contingency plans for the tours’ returns are now being weighed up and the Associated Press news agency has reported that the rescheduling of tournaments into weeks that already have events is among the plans being considered. The tours are due to finish in November but an extension of the season is said to be another option that is being considered by the two organisations.

In a statement given to the AP, WTA chairman Steve Simon said that the tour is “diligently working with our tournaments to maximise earning possibilities when the professional tennis circuit is able to resume and is considering an extension to the current 44-week season to enable more tournaments to take place.”

Simon’s counterpart at the ATP, Andrea Gaudenzi, told the AP: “We are currently assessing a number of revised calendars based on different return dates for the Tour, with the aim of rescheduling as many tournaments as possible.

“We are liaising closely with the other governing bodies with the common goal of trying to salvage as much of the season as possible, once it is safe for the Tour to resume.”

One upcoming event that has been forced to make alternative plans is the Madrid Open. The event, which forms part of both the ATP and WTA Tours, had been due to run from May 1-10 but will now hold a virtual competition instead.

The Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro tournament will feature some of the sport’s biggest names facing off against each other from their own homes. Madrid’s Caja Mágica venue will be recreated in the Tennis World Tour video game as part of the initiative.

Gaudenzi said: “The Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro will be a first of its kind for the ATP Tour, providing an exciting and new way for players and fans to connect and engage with our sport. This is a win-win for all – the Mutua Madrid Open, the players, and the fans. We are particularly pleased that funds raised from this initiative will contribute towards supporting the wider playing group, which is critical during these challenging times.”

The virtual event will take place from April 27-30 and will include a purse of €150,000 (£132,000/$164,000) in both ATP and WTA draws. The winners will be able to decide how much of this they donate to tennis players currently suffering financially due to COVID-19, while an additional €50,000 will be donated towards reducing the social impact of the pandemic.

Sixteen players will compete in each of the two draws, with competitors to be initially divided into four groups. In parallel with the official competition, content creators will take on professional players to raise funds for COVID-19 causes. A list of participants will be announced in due course.

Image: Madrid Open