Nadal, Murray, Others Set for Virtual Madrid Open

Rafael Nadal

When Rafael Nadal claimed during an Instagram chat with Andy Murray that he had only begun preparing that day for the upcoming virtual Madrid Open, both men broke into laughter.

“Feliciano Lopez told me you have been practising for three or four hours a day,” teased Murray.

Given their competitive spirit, it is easy to imagine both have spent more than a few lockdown hours glued to a PlayStation since last Monday’s chat.

With tennis suspended until at least mid-July because of the coronavirus pandemic, Nadal and Murray are among 32 of the world’s leading ATP and WTA players replacing the buzz of competitive action with an online fix.

This week they are swapping their racquets for PlayStation 4 controllers, to play on the Tennis World Tour video game for the Madrid Open Virtual Pro titles.

There will be 16 men, 16 women, two knockout singles tournaments – all played in a digital representation of the Spanish capital’s Manolo Santana Stadium.

It is the first time a virtual tennis tournament has been contested solely by professional tour players. The event will be streamed on the Madrid Open’s Facebook page and the platform’s new gaming app.

“This idea is based on two things: firstly, to give something to the fans while they are at home and let them watch their favourite players. And secondly, to help players who are struggling right now,” Lopez, the ATP tour veteran who became the Madrid Open tournament director last year, told BBC Sport.

Both tournaments have separate prize pots of 150,000 euros (£131,210). Each champion will decide how to distribute the money into the relief funds set up to support lower-ranked players whose incomes have dried up during the pandemic.

“Players individually can give their support and then there are initiatives like ours, where we are asking the players to give all the prize money to the fund,” added Lopez.

“There will be a lot of money in the funds to help the players struggling right now.”