27 April 2020

Murray and Nadal 'back in action' as virtual Madrid Open gets underway

Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal are preparing to ‘return to the court’ as they kick off the action on day one of the Mutuau Madrid Open Virtual Pro on Monday.

The two former World No 1s are among the star-studded line-up of 32 professionals who are replacing the thrill of real match play with a virtual tournament via Playstation.

16 ATP and 16 WTA players from all over the world will play men's and women's knockout singles tournaments, with their sights set on a charity prize fund of €150,000 (£131,210).

Champions will then decide how the money will be distributed to lower-ranked players whose incomes have been hugely impacted due to lack of tournament play during the pandemic.

Feliciano Lopez, an ATP veteran and director of the Madrid Open tournament, told BBC Sport: "The 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.

“Secondly, to help players who are struggling right now,” he added.

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

The ‘King of Clay’ Rafael Nadal will open proceedings as he swaps his infamous Babolat racket for a Playstation4 controller to take on Denis Shapovalov in the first Group A match, followed by Britain's Andy Murray's first round show-down against Frenchman Benoit Paire.

World No 9, Gaels Monfils, who was tipped by Lopez as a pre-tournament favourite, will be replaced by Benoit Paire after ‘conflicting rights between streaming platforms’ forced him to withdraw.

For both Murray and Nadal this withdrawal could prove a boost to their chances, as Frenchman Monfils is famed on the circuit as a prolific gamer; often demonstrating his skills on Twitch.

Amid the rest of the action on Monday are British No 1 Johanna Konta, who will take on Sorana Cirstea, and Canada's Eugenie Bouchard who will match up against Kiki Bertens.

Players all have identical Playstation 4 set-ups that have been sent to them and will also have microphones in the room so viewers can hear all of their reactions.

Matches will be streamed on ‘Facebook gaming’ and will be available in both Spanish and English.

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