Due to its international nature, professional tennis will probably be one of the last sports to return following the pandemic. But as broadcasting it only requires one camera and two players on the court, it’s already coming back in exhibition format, played between players who live/stay near the tennis clubs.
For the past four days, an exhibition event called International Tennis Series has been taking place in Brandenton, Florida. It will last until the 25th of April. Six matches are conducted every day with the participants including:
- Paolo Lorenzi (ATP 121)
- Evan King (ATP 407)
- Adrian Andreev (ATP 697)
- Preston Brown (ATP 1529)
- Emmett Ward (ATP 1862)
- James Cerretani (ATP 150 in doubles)
Michael-Ray Pallares-Gonzalez (inactive, former ATP 1183)
The competition is played in the first to four games NextGen format, although contrary to what we’ve seen at the year-end Next Gen Finals, the matches are only best of three sets. ESPN3 has been broadcasting the tournament in the United States with as few people as possible taking part in the process. The event is conducted behind closed doors and players have to get the balls themselves, there is no additional staff on the courts.
Unsurprisingly, Paolo Lorenzi has been storming through his opponents. The Italian has compiled an 11-1 record over the first four days with his only loss coming on Monday against the young Bulgarian Adrian Andreev. The 18-year-old has been a big surprise of the competition so far, losing just twice in eight matches (each time to Lorenzi). Doubles specialist James Cerretani is yet to win a rubber in six tries.
On Saturday, Patrick Mouratoglou announced that he would be hosting a series of weekend events in his academy in Nice, France. Called the Ultimate Tennis Showdown, the league is due to start on the 16th of May and will take place over five consecutive weekends. Among the players confirmed there are world no.10 David Goffin, no.22 Benoit Paire, and no. 103 Alexei Popyrin. Mouratoglou is planning to live stream the matches.
On May 1, another tennis exhibition will start in Germany. The competition will be broadcast by the Tennis Channel. 32 matches will be played over four days, all obviously behind closed doors. The participants will include local players like the former world no. 64 Dustin Brown, Yannick Hanfmann, and Jan Choinski.
Russian and Belarusian tennis leagues have conducted a multitude of matches throughout the past weeks. It’s a miracle for sports gamblers but not so much for the fans of the sport. Still, some of Russia’s top players like Roman Safiullin or Evgeny Karlovskyi took the time to participate.
With the main tour officially closed until the 13th of July, this is probably the closest to professional tennis that we’ll get for another three months. These exhibition events are nothing compared to the real thing but be sure to check them out if you’re already longing to see the yellow ball going over the net again!
Main Photo from Getty.