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UTR Pro Match Series: Return of Tennis on a lonely court

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Tennis is back, although not with a bang. The UTR Pro Match Series being played in Florida with 4 players and a new scoring system is a novelty for the whole world. The first Tennis event since the lockdown, the tournament is sponsored by Novak Djokovic Foundation. 

On a sunny day, surrounded by the fresh grass, and a couple of canopies for seating, we sight a single hard court amidst the lonely atmosphere. The blue court looked weird to be witnessed in May when we would watch the player skidding on the clay surface at this time of the year.

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Yet more disturbing was such qualified players showcasing excellent skill in the presence of no fans. Due to the measures of social distancing, there were no linesmen, no ball kids or security personnel.

UTR Pro Match Series

(Credits: Twitter/ UTR Pro)

Ever since the tennis tour has been suspended this was the first tournament to be played. The UTR Pro Match Series invited 4 tennis players to come back on the court. It included four ATP ranked players- Poland’s highest-ranked Hurkacz (world No 29), Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic (No 47), Americans Opelka (No 39) and Tommy Paul (No 57)

The players from WTA were Amanda Anisimova (No.28), Alison Riske (No. 19) , Ajla Tomljanovic (No.56) , and Danielle Collins (No.9) who are also top 60 players in the world. While experimenting with a new scoring system, the match played in Florida amidst the COVID-19 pandemic provided some action for tennis lovers.

It was the first time in a long time that commentators were again scrutinizing the gameplay, critics were observing the effect of such a long pause on players and spectators were watching a LIVE match.

Brought back normality

Player shaking hands while maintaining distance at UTR Pro Match Series. (Credits: Twitter/ UTR Pro)
Player shaking hands while maintaining distance at UTR Pro Match Series. (Credits: Twitter/ UTR Pro)

The men’s matches were played on May 8th  and 9th, thus becoming the only sporting event to happen, during the lockdown. It was played in the backyard of a 5.5-acre private property with a tennis court in West Palm Beach, Florida.

“A big thank you to the owner for allowing us to use the court!” Hurkacz said on the phone from Saddlebrook, Florida. The matches played were watched live in America while Andy Murray provided commentary on Skype.  

According to the Tennis Channel, the UTR series showcased “how tennis can be played locally—and most importantly, safely—as the world looks to reopen during the Covid-19 pandemic”.

The women’s matches happened in the latter part of the month and finished this weekend. Riske expressed her views via a press conference, “I think with the safety precautions that are in place here, it makes us all feel comfortable,”

“We know we’re being looked after, being taken care of and just are smart about it. I think it’s really exciting, just to have something that makes us feel normal again,” Riske added about the UTR Pro Match Series.

Should we get used to new normal?

Player sanitising her basket after the match at UTR Pro Match Series. (Credits: Twitter/ UTR Pro)
Player sanitising her basket after the match at UTR Pro Match Series. (Credits: Twitter/ UTR Pro)

The UTR Pro Match Series saw number of new things being tried to ensure the matches on court while ensuring safety and health of the players and stakeholders involved.

There were no linesmen, means the players made their own calls. The problem at times could be a counter call from the opponent who may not agree to the call made by the other player.

Another new sight was the absence of ball boys or girls. While every match has 6 ball kids, the UTR Pro Match Series saw the players collecting balls for themselves. This may remind them of their old days, as the matches aspiring professionals play as beginners during early teenage days usually have them fetching their own ball.  But, the players may miss playing in front of large crowd, cheering, clapping, whistling and applauding their winners. 

There have been other tournaments too that were in deliberations to play without any spectators around the court. Will the world witness a grand slam with such restrictions too? We shall have to wait to know. 

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