‘King of Clay’ Rafel Nadal set to face a stern test in virtual Madrid Open

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Things are slightly unusual this year and when we talk about the Madrid Open and its favourites to win, the first name on people’s heads would be claycourt King, Rafa Nadal. The Spaniard, who won the tournament five times, will be in action when his play begins next week on gaming consoles.

Due to coronavirus pandemic, every other tennis tournament since March, and at least until July has been stopped while Madrid holds a ‘virtual’ event next week. Nacon Gaming has invented Tennis World Tour video games in which 16 men and sixteen women will battle it out on a Manolo Santana Stadium that has been simulated in a fascinating manner.

On a live session of Facebook, saw Nadal placed in Group 1 alongside Britain’s Andy Murray, Frenchman Gael Monfils and young Canadian Denis Shapovalov.

Nadal said during a live Instagram session with Murray this week that the Spaniard will surely be determined with his controller in his hand as he would be with a racket.

He also said Murray will not be able to play as himself because he is not one of the players available to gamers while he hinted that he may play as Australian Nick Kyrgios. Dominic Thiem John Isner, Diego Schwartzman and David Ferrer will make an appearance in the virtual world after retirement from real tennis will feature in Group B.

Kiki Bertens, who won the actual Madrid open title last year along with Angelique Kerber, Dona Vekic and Eugenie Bouchard will be in women’s Group 4. The Group 3 includes Canadian Bianca Andreescu, winner of last year’s U.S Open, Madison Keys, Kristina Mladenovic and Caroline Wozniacki.

While the Esports tournament, is the first to feature real players, looks more fun distraction from the lockdown, which is available for fans who will able to watch the action live on Facebook Gaming from 1400GMT on Monday.

The fans will be able to watch post-match interviews on which one screen will show the action and another window will focus on the actual player. There will be 150,000 euro ($161,790.00) purse for both draw and winner will decide how much they want to donate to tennis players who are suffering financially and 50,000 euros will donate to help to reduce the social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I like this original idea very much and I am excited to be part of it”, Shapovalov said.

According to Phelan Hill, Escort specialist at Nielsen Sports, while desperate times have meant tennis has had to conceal Esports, it could unlock the doors to a new fanbase.

“We’ve seen it in F1 with Lando Norris and (Charles) Leclerc actually playing the online game and in football, we’ve seen Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Trent Alexander Arnold playing the games and the fact they engage drives a huge increase in audience. Tennis is now taking it on and it will drive engagement. Kids’ first engagement these days is not through watching it on TV. It’s a different journey, it’s another touchpoint to get people on the customer journey,” he added.

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