Unofficial pro events continue to proliferate as the Credit One Bank Invitational on Daniel Island in South Carolina is scheduled to get underway on 23 June and Novak Djokovic announces a series of matches to run from 13 June to 5 July in the Balkan region.
I can’t think of a better way to start up tennis again than at the Credit One Bank Invitational. The uncharted waters that we are currently facing calls for something completely fresh and new. It’s an absolute honor to be selected as one of the captains for this team event. We will fill the sporting world with hope again and show our gratitude and appreciation for all essential workers around the world, and especially in Charleston. Bethanie Mattek-Sands
Djokovic has decided to bring together some of the world’s top players for the unsanctioned series, including World No 3 Dominic Thiem of Austria and Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, who is ranked 19, who have both confirmed their participation in the 8-man event, which will end with the World No 1’s exhibition match against Bosnian Damir Dzumhur in Sarajevo.
Pro tennis has been suspended since early March until 31 July as countries went into lockdown and closed borders to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Some players, including the 33-year-old Serbian, who celebrated his birthday in Marbella on Thursday, 22 May, have returned to the practice courts, strictly maintaining hygiene and social distancing rules, while some exhibition events without fans have already been held in Germany and the United States.
Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia will be the other venues for the Adria Tour matches, which will be broadcast on television.
The World No 1 posted on Twitter: “I’m proud to officially share the news that the #AdriaTour will be held across the #Balkans 13 June – 5 July kicking off with a tournament in Belgrade.”
He also expressed his gratitude that the series will support humanitarian projects across the region.
Women’s tennis also will unofficially get going again in Charleston in June, with a 16-player tournament that will feature Grand Slam winners Bianca Andreescu and Sofia Kenin.
The Credit One Bank Invitational in South Carolina will be aired on the Tennis Channel.
“Charleston has proven time and again to be the poster child for resiliency – and in my mind, this special tournament will help accomplish three very critical things: First, it is a tangible way to show the world we are able to bring back live sport for public enjoyment; Second, it allows our community and tennis fans all over to support the tennis professionals whose opportunities to compete this year have been severely limited; Third, it helps us show our frontline medical professionals how much we care, with half of the proceeds going directly to support MUSC,” said Ben Navarro, Owner of Charleston Tennis LLC.
“Ever since the unfortunate cancelation of this year’s Volvo Car Open due to the Coronavirus, we have been working tirelessly to figure out how and when to appropriately bring a world class event back to Charleston as quickly and safely as possible,” added Bob Moran, President of Charleston Tennis LLC.
“This tournament will have two equal beneficiaries – traditional prize money for the athletes, and a large fundraising structure to support frontline healthcare workers at MUSC.”
The tournament will be conducted without fans and will feature 16 singles matches and 8 doubles matches.
It is currently the largest-scale tennis event confirmed since the sport shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 16 WTA Tour players will be divided into two groups with Americans Madison Keys and Bethanie Mattek-Sands serving as captains, while the event will consist of 16 singles matches and 8 doubles matches.
“I can’t think of a better way to start up tennis again than at the Credit One Bank Invitational”, said Mattek-Sands. “The uncharted waters that we are currently facing calls for something completely fresh and new.
“It’s an absolute honor to be selected as one of the captains for this team event.
“We will fill the sporting world with hope again and show our gratitude and appreciation for all essential workers around the world, and especially in Charleston.”
World No 4 Kenin, who won the 2020 Australian Open, will be the highest-ranked player in the event with World No 6 Andreescu also featuring.
Andreescu, the reigning US Open champion, has not played any competitive tennis since the 2019 WTA Tour Finals due to a knee injury, but is determined to appear in Charleston.
Former World No 1 Victoria Azarenka as well as 2017 US Open winner Sloane Stephens and 2016 Olympic gold medallist Monica Puig will also feature along with Americans Amanda Anisimova, Jennifer Brady and Danielle Collins, Canadians Eugenie Bouchard and Leylah Fernandez, and Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic.
Charleston hosts the WTA’s Volvo Car Open annually in early April, but organisers were forced to cancel this year’s event due to the pandemic.
With sport put on pause and unsanctioned events popping up in tennis, it is clear the players are getting restless and starting to improvise, providing live tennis for television audiences.
The Tennis Channel and the UTR staged a 4-player event last weekend in Florida, which proved popular to viewers, and with travel restrictions in place, events are being planned at academies in Europe as well as in Great Britain.
These are unsanctioned events, with no ranking points or the prize money that the tours would offer, but they are nonetheless professional events.
It is an accepted fact that it is going to be very hard for tennis to get back to normal anytime soon, although the players have little to worry about in terms of social-distancing.
These unsanctioned events are not using ball kids or in some cases even umpires and it seems to be a case of players taking matters into their own hands.
In Britain, the LTA is looking at approving a British men’s competition being organised by Jamie Murray, to be played during the fortnight usually occupied by Wimbledon, with a similar women’s event running alongside.
According to the Times, there will be an 8-player field in two round robin groups, played on hard courts with no spectators and safety protocols will be followed, although the event also would require current restrictions on movement and activities to be lifted by the British government.
The field of British players could include Andy Murray, Dan Evans and Kyle Edmund.
The LTA is also planning to return to holding a British national championships be played indoors during the second half of the season and including men’s and women’s events, in addition to juniors and wheelchair fields.
“The LTA is committed to ensuring that whatever events are staged, they take tennis to the widest possible audience and they focus on addressing the needs of our performance players,” the LTA said in a statement, adding that all required safety protocols would be followed at the events.
The National Training Centre has now reopened for use by British players enabling them to return to training.