Dubai: Briton Andy Murray will be up against Frenchman Lucas Pouille in the opening round of the Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro, an innovative tournament that will be a virtual replica of the tennis competition at the end of this month.
Murray and Pouille are up first in the pioneering online competition to be held from April 27-30 with players switching their racquets with a gaming controller from the comfort of their homes.
Angelique Kerber and Carla Suarez will get the women’s competition under way on the opening day.
With the coronavirus pandemic bringing tennis to a grinding halt worldwide after the end of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on February 29, Madrid Open organisers hit upon the idea of a virtual competition for some of the big stars expected to confirm.
The competition format for the ATP and WTA Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro competitions has been kept simple. The 16 singles players will be divided into four groups with the champion and runners-up from each group progressing to the quarter-finals. After that, the tournament will be contested as a knockout event.
In addition, in parallel with the official competition, there will be a series of benefit matches that will see some of the biggest content creators in the gaming world take on the professional tennis players to raise funds to help those affected by COVID-19.
The 2020 Mutua Madrid Open held at the Manolo Santana Stadium was scheduled to take place from May 1-10. But the ATP and WTA have taken a decision to postpone all activity on their tours at least until July 13, forcing the cancellation of The Wimbledon Open for the first time since World War II.
Former World No. 1 and three-time Grand Slam champion Murray has won 46 tour-level titles in his career, including two trophies in Madrid (2008 and 2015).
The Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro is meant to be a show of solidarity to raise money and help the tennis players most in need during this time, all those that have no income to help them through these months of inactivity and those affected by the pandemic.
Both the ATP and WTA competitions will include a purse of 150,000 euros (Dh600,000), from which the winners will be able to decide on how much they donate to the tennis players currently suffering economically, and an additional 50,000 euros that will all go towards reducing the social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fans can follow the tournament online, on television and on the various social media platforms of the Mutua Madrid Open. The production of matches will also include commentary of all the matches, analysis and highlight programmes and interviews with the winners after each match. The names of the remaining participants of the Mutua Madrid Open will be revealed over the next few days.