Just about the only thing “normal” with the (Re)Open UTR Pro Match Series over the weekend was the run-up, with a knee injury to Tennys Sandgren requiring Miomir Kecmanovic to step in as replacement.
Yet, as the clever name of the affair underscores, the conditions that prevailed may well be as close to routine as the sport can get moving forward. It may have run for just two days and involved round-robin matches among a mere four players employing Fast4 rules, but it served to lay the ground
work for future tournaments under stipulations that ensure the health and safety of all and sundry.
Indeed, the endeavor backed by The Tennis Channel had to hurdle obstacle after obstacle despite its meager size. That it actually pushed through is due as much to circumstance as to planning. It used a private court in a state with relatively relaxed quarantine guidelines, and all involved, from the players to the chair umpire, were already situated near the venue in West Palm Beach, Florida. There were no line judges, no ball kids, and, most crucially, no spectators — a notable bummer to the protagonists, though nonetheless acknowledged as a critical component to competition in the midst of the new coronavirus pandemic.
And so the first of two scheduled events in the (Re)Open UTR Pro Match Series wound up a success, and not simply because the live broadcast was likewise carried by a local station and two Major League Baseball networks. No doubt, the measures employed would be replicated for full-fledged tournaments, even as a host of other more complicated ones remain question marks. Winner Reilly Opelka, Hubert Hurkacz, Tommy Paul, and Kecmanovic all brought their own sources of nourishment, used their own balls, and called their own lines, not to mention retreated to their own tents during breaks in the action.
In two weeks, women will have their turn. Amanda Anisimova, Danielle Collins, Alison Riske, and Ajla Tomljanovic will exchange groundstrokes under similar conditions, but, hopefully, sans the injury replacement and shortened schedule due to rainout. Because of the utter lack of sports programming, it figures to make waves as well. Beyond its value as escapist fare, however, it looks to serve a bigger purpose; in an environment where information is sparse and at a premium, it serves as requisite fodder for discussions. If nothing else, the (Re)Open UTR Pro Match Series has pointed decision makers in the right direction.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.