With 15 days to go until the start of the Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro, players continue to add their names the competition. On Saturday, the tournament organisers announced that Rafa Nadal, Kiki Bertens, John Isner and Fiona Ferro are to take part in the innovative tournament, which will replicate the tennis event in a virtual format where the best tennis players in the world will square off from their homes from 27 to 30 April.
As a result, and due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has prevented the 2020 Mutua Madrid Open from taking place from 1 to 10 May, the biggest ATP and WTA stars will clash in the Manolo Santana Stadium, recreated in exquisite detail in the Tennis World Tour videogame (Nacon Gaming), while swapping their racquets for a PlayStation 4.
Rafa Nadal, one of the best players of all time (five times world number 1 at the end of the year and winner of a total of 85 titles, including 19 Grand Slams), is also the player with the most titles in the history of the Mutua Madrid Open with a total of five (2005, 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2017). The Spaniard, who usually attracts plenty of local support in the Manolo Santana Stadium every May, will this time face the challenge of conquering the Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro, the first online tennis tournament between professional tennis players.
“From isolation and with the strength and encouragement we are all giving each other, I’m happy to play in Madrid’s virtual tournament and, as always, I will be trying to give my all”, said Nadal. “I’m not sure how good I’ll be at it, but I hope to be with you all and feel your support as is always the case when I play at home, this time virtually”.
Kiki Bertens, the defending champion of the Mutua Madrid Open (in 2019 she beat Simona Halep in the final), will not be able to defend her title on the clay of the Caja Mágica due to the current circumstances, but the Dutch player did not hesitate to accept the challenge to try and win the Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro trophy.
“I think the Virtual Project is a fun initiative for a great cause. I will certainly miss not playing in Madrid this year as I really like the tournament but I will do my best to compete from the couch at home in the Tennis World Tour game”, explained Bertens. “I will try my best to perform as well in the virtual game this year as I did last year on-court in Madrid”.
In addition, John Isner and Fiona Ferro will also be playing in the tournament. The US player, currently the world’s number 21 and winner of 15 titles, and the Frenchwoman, who won the Fed Cup with France in Perth a few months ago, will be taking the opportunity to compete in the pioneering online competition, whose clear charity goal is to help the tennis players most in need at this time, those that have no income to help them through these months of inactivity and those affected by Covid-19.
“I am excited that the Mutua Madrid Open is hosting a virtual tennis competition”, admitted John Isner. “Although I am not much of a gamer I will be practicing so I won’t embarrass myself! Love the creativity by the organization and it’s a huge plus that the proceeds will be going to fight the virus”.
“I am looking forward to participate in this great event and show my skill in this high level competition”, said Fiona Ferro. “I like as well the charity angle given to it to help our player colleagues in need”.
The tournament will include a purse of 150,000 euros in both draws (ATP and WTA), from which the winners will be able to decide on how much they donate to the tennis players currently suffering economically, and 50,000 euros that will all go towards reducing the social impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The format for the Pro Virtual Mutua Madrid Open will be as follows: 16 singles players in each of two draws (ATP and WTA) initially divided into four groups. The champion of each group will progress to the quarter-finals, which will also include the runner-up of each group. From there (quarter-finals, semi-finals and final) the tournament will be played as a knock-out. 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.
All fans will be able to follow the tournament online, on television and on the Mutua Madrid Open’s social media, with a spectacular production that will include commentary on all the matches, analysis and highlights programmes and interviews with the winners after each match.
So far there are eight confirmed players: Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, John Isner, Lucas Pouille, Kiki Bertens, Angelique Kerber, Carla Suárez and Fiona Ferro. The organisers of the Mutua Madrid Open will soon reveal the remaining participants, as well as other news of the competition.