Alison Riske and Danielle Collins and Aussie Ajla Tomljanovic were part of those that won on Friday at the opening day of a women’s tennis mini-tournament in Florida that offered pros a chance to play amid the coronavirus disaster.
The WTA women’s tennis tour canceled another four events this week and will not restart until July 20. But four women ranked in the top 60 in the world turned out for the UTR Pro Match Series event in Palm Beach.
World number 51 Collins toppled 28th-ranked compatriot Amanda Anisimova in the opening match 4-1, 4-2 and said she was “grateful” to be back on the court even with no fans in attendance.
“I’m familiar with playing without fans but I definitely miss it. One of the things that makes it so special to be a professional athlete is having people supporting you,” she said.
Tomljanovic ranked 56th, beat 19th-ranked Riske 4-3, 4-1, and in the final round-robin match of the day Riske downed Anisimova 0-4, 4-0, 4-3. The tournament concludes Saturday with more round-robin matches, a third-place and a championship match.
All games were played in a shortened format whereby the first player to four games with a two-game lead pockets a set. “Just getting into the competitive spirit again was kind of got me really excited today,” said Tomljanovic.
She said her first few weeks off had been a welcome break, but when she felt the need to return to training it was difficult to find motivation with no tournaments scheduled.
“I need that competition to keep me going,” she said.
Before the mini-tournament started, health protocols were put in place to protect players from contacting the coronavirus. Players had their temperatures taken upon arrival at the venue and carried their own equipment and towels onto the court.
They also observed social distancing which was why a racquet tap had to suffice for a handshake, and the umpire wore a mask. Moreover, each player had her own set of marked balls and collected the balls herself, with no ballkids in attendance to pick balls.
Although some parts of the United States remain under strict lockdowns, FloridaFlorida has begun to open up and state officials have specifically welcomed the return of sports without spectators being allowed to join.