With the ATP and WTA shut down until for another two months at the minimum, training offers and informal, spectator-less events are popping up, with academies run by Rafael Nadal and Patrick Mouratoglou leading the trend.
Nadal’s Mallorca operation will be opening its doors to any ATP player who wants to base themselves at the inviting Mediterranean island facility to train.
The academy is planning informal matches which could well be televised.
“In recent weeks we have made our facilities available to the ATP with the goal of possibly making the Academy a centre for the coming together of players so that they can train in an environment that is ideal for first-class competition,” Carlos Costa, a close Nadal confident and part-time coach of the world No 2, said.
“While the priority is obviously for a resumption of play for the regular Tour, the ATP is evaluating all options, keeping in mind health & safety as the top priority.”
Nadal himself has been isolating at his neary home village of Mallorca along with his wife, and has missed the entirety of a clay season which was totally wiped out by the COVID-19 crisis.
“Tennis takes a back seat and the most important thing is everyone’s health, but if in the coming months the Academy can be used to help other professional players, I’d be delighted if they could come to train and also to compete,” Nadal said.
“Although we have no upcoming tournaments, I think that competing among ourselves would help us maintain our game for when the tour restarts.”
Costa painted a picture of tranquility for any player ready to take up the academy offer: “We have the capacity to host a significant number of players and coaches so that they can train and compete without having to leave the Academy.
“We have a large fitness centre, a semi-Olympic swimming pool and a spa that would allow them to have a good preseason and to reach peak fitness. The size of the facilities would also allow, if necessary, the logistics to be organised to respect any sanitary and social-distancing protocols.”
In the south of France, Mouratoglou is planning a closed-door tournament starting in mid-May, with Belgian David Goffin and Australian Alex Popyrin already committed and more to come.
The event at the base camp of the coach of Serena Williams – located 35 kilometres west of Monte Carlo where dozens of top players are based – will comply with all strict social distancing rules laid down in France.
“The UTS is simply meant to be an alternative to what already exists,” Mouratoglou said.
“It’s a platform created to showcase the incredible talent, athleticism and personalities of the wide range of players.
“It offers a new and innovative approach, targeting a younger tennis audience and proposes a different way to distribute the money among the players.”
The event is due to begin May 16-17, with 10 matches staged each weekend for five weeks.heading into June
The competition will be streamed to the web to reach frustrated fans who have been starved of their sport for more than a month.
Mouratoglou said that prize money will be awarded; the nationwide French lockdown is due to end on May 11, which will allow some limited local travel.
“We want to create a new tennis show that attracts also young people,” the coach told online media. “I want people lo love or hate the players because they know them better. That is exactly the goal of the UTS.”
Mouratoglou said that competitors will be virus-tested and undergo 15 days in quarantine, with a second test in the run-up to the match.
Players will also sit on opposite sides of the court and each will use a “personal” set of balls to serve. Ballkids will wear gloves.
The coach of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, former French player Thierry Ascione, has announced plans for a series of events in the southeast Lyon region, with backing of the French federation.
In northern Germany 125 kilometers west of Frankfurt, the fan-free Tennis Point Exhibition Series event will provide live scoring so that punters can wager online.
Players will wear masks when not actually competing and no linespeople will be present – only a chair umpire.
The eight-man event will feature 32 matches over four days on indoor clay.
The outing is expected to attract a modest, mainly-German-based field, with No 143 Yannick Hanfmann and dreadlocked No. 239 Dustin Brown involved.
The US-based Tennis Channel is set to broadcast play, according to organisers.