Following the cancellation of the 2020 edition of the Mutua Madrid Open the organisers decided to set up a virtual online tournament for 16 men and 16 women, all top pros from the ranks of the world tours which are currently on hold thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
I’ve not really trained for this because I’ve been cooking and looking after my baby Fabio Fognini
The players, swapping rackets for PlayStation controls and playing Tennis World Tour videogame from the comfort of their own homes, contested their opening matches on Monday.
The event is being played over four days (27-30 April) in the Caja Mágica’s Manolo Santana Stadium, which has been recreated in minute detail for the occasion.
Andy Murray kicked off the competition with a comprehensive 3-1 win over Benoit Paire and put his heart and soul into his victory with his gaming skills as evident as if he were on a proper clay court.
At times chastised his virtual self, shouting: “Why am I playing to your backhand?” after losing a point. And, after breaking the Frenchman’s serve, he launched into a thunderous cry of “That’s the one, come on!”
Murray is in a four-man group which includes Rafa Nadal, who also opened with a 4-3(3) victory over Denis Shapovalov.
Britain has another representative, Johanna Konta competing in the women’s draw but she was not as successful suffering a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Sorana Cirstea but she followed that up by getting the better of Victoria Azarenka 4-2 to keep her group hopes alive.
Stefanos Tsitsipas and Fabio Fognini had to hit the re-set button before their armchair tussle could begin — Tsitsipas winning comfortably as Fognini’s strutting computer character threw its racket with relish.
“I’ve not really trained for this because I’ve been cooking and looking after my baby,” Fognini said.
The duel between Donna Vekic and Angelique Kerber was lost in cyberspace — presumably because of WiFi issues.
Despite the understandable teething problems caused by players logging on from all over the world, it was an entertaining day.
Swiss world No.8 Belinda Bencic staged a “walk-on”, emerging from up her stairs in full tennis kit before pulling her controller out of her racket bag and polishing off Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro.
The four-day charity initiative will donate 50,000 euros (£43,592) to the Madrid Food Bank to help reduce the social impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The winner of each tournament will get 150,000 euros (about £130,000) from which they will be able to decide how much they donate to their colleagues on the tour who have been worst affected by the pandemic.
Results | Women’s draw
Belinda Bencic bt Carla Suárez 3-1
Fiona Ferro bt Karolina Pliskova 3-0
Sorana Cirstea bt Johanna Konta 3-0
Johanna Konta bt Victoria Azarenka 4-2
Sorana Cirstea bt Elina Svitolina 4-2
Results | Men’s draw
Rafa Nadal bt Denis Shapovalov 4-3(3)
Andy Murray bt Benoit Paire 3-1
Diego Schwartzman bt David Ferrer 4-3(4)
Diego Schwartzman bt John Isner 3-1
Stefanos Tsitsipas bt Fabio Fognini 3-0
Frances Tiafoe bt Fabio Fognini 4-3 (4)