By Alessandro Mastroluca

  • The first virtual Madrid Open will take place from Monday. Andy Murray and Johanna Konta will take part to the pioneering event
  • Sixteen each male and female players will be divided into four groups.
  • Live-streaming will be on Facebook Gaming
MADRID, SPAIN – Andy Murray and Johanna Konta will play in the pioneering virtual Madrid Open, using Tennis World Tour.

 

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Andy Murray and Johanna Konta signed up to compete in the virtual version of the Madrid Open. Sixteen each male and female players made up the cast in the tournament. On Friday, the draw divided them into four groups for each event. The round-robin clashes will take place on Monday and Tuesday. The first two in each group will move to the quarter-finals, scheduled for Wednesday. On Thursday, the semi-finals and final will take place. Every match will be contested in the Manolo Santana Stadium, recreated in the video-game Tennis World Tour (Nacon Gaming), chosen for the event. The whole tournament will be streamed on the tournament’s Facebook page.

 

Virtual Madrid Open: The men’s draw

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In a blockbuster group 1 Murray will face Rafael Nadal, who confessed to the Brit in an Instagram live chat he only recently played the game for the first time. Benoit Paire replaces Gael Monfils (who had a conflict of streaming interests!)  and Denis Shapovalov, will complete the group.

Dominic Thiem, twice runner-up in Madrid, and his close friend Diego Schwartzman are expected to face off in Group 2, competing with John Isner and David Ferrer.

Stefanos Tsitsipas who reached last year’s final at the Caja Magica, will battle against Fabio Fognini, Frances Tiafoe and Kei Nishikori for a spot in the quarter-finals.

Group 4 includes 2018 Madrid champion Alexander Zverev, David Goffin, Karen Khachanov and Lucas Pouille.

 

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Virtual Madrid Open: The women’s draw

The female’s draw looks no less intriguing. In Group 1, Carla Suárez Navarro will take on Karolina Pliskova, Belinda Bencic, and Fiona Ferro.

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Konta has been drawn in Group 2 with Elina Svitolina, Sorana Cirstea, and Victoria Azarenka, a twice finalist in Madrid in 2011 and 2012.

Bianca Andreescu will join Madison Keys, Caroline Wozniacki, and Kristina Mladenovic in Group 3, while defending champion Kiki Bertens will play Angelique Kerber, Donna Vekic and Eugenie Bouchard in Group 4.

This pioneering tournament will donate a total of €50,000 to the Madrid Food Bank to reduce the social impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Each winner will also receive a purse of €150,000. They will be able to decide how much to donate to their peers on the respective tours.

 

Tennis and the future of the e-sports

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In these unprecedented times, the virtual Madrid Open marks a new beginning the world of tennis as a whole. Tennis, in fact, remains probably the biggest sport without an official video game yet. Football, in fact, has an established tradition thanks to FIFA by EA Sports, Formula 1 and MotoGP have their official titles from the Nineties as well. Also in the USA the main sports leagues, NBA, NFL and NHL, have their own best-selling video games.

Tennis has always struggled to give gamers a convincing match experience. It seems hard to recreate a realistic simulation of a match, of the various kind of strokes a player can exercise and the different trajectories involved.

Tennis World Tour, the chosen video game for the virtual Madrid Open, seems to sacrifice realism for more fun, arcade-like gameplay.

However, tennis is looking to the future. And the future of sports lies in e-sports, on the rise to become the most financially lucrative market on the planet.

As Forbes reported in December 2019,

Esports has continued its rapid global growth with revenues exceeding $1 billion and audiences of more than 443 million across the globe, according to research by Green Man Gaming.

That following is already greater than American Football and rugby combined—and is predicted to reach 645 million by 2020.

The sky is really the limit.

The Virtual Madrid Open takes place between 27-30 April and will be on Facebook Gaming, starting at 3pm (BST) on Monday.

 

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