MADRID, Spain - Angelique Kerber and Carla Suárez Navarro are set to battle it out in the Caja Magica, but without leaving the comforts of home as they become the first two WTA players announced for the Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro.
With the WTA season on pause until July 13 as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic, the Mutua Madrid Open announced on Monday the creation of a new competition that will take place in the Tennis World Tour video game.
The Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro will be a virtual replica of the tennis competition, with players swapping their racquets for video game controllers as they clash in an “exquisite” recreation of the Manolo Santana Stadium.
“The Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro is a new challenge for us the players, and something that I have never been done before,” Kerber said. “It’s exciting and a good opportunity to compete from home in a new format. I'm looking forward to participate!"
The three-time Grand Slam winner joins retiring Spaniard Suárez Navarro in the WTA draw, while on the ATP side Andy Murray and Lucas Pouille round out the four players announced on Thursday. The tournament will continue to unveil participating players and competition details will follow.
For Suarez Navarro, who confirmed that she still intends to retire at the end of 2020, it’s a unique chance to compete at her home tournament for one last time.
“Forming part of the Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro is an honor,” Suárez said. “The tournament has always been innovative and this is another example of that.
“We all really miss tennis and the adrenaline of competition and it will be interesting to see us play in a different format. I’m sure we will all have a good time, we’ll have fun with the fans and, above all, we’ll be contributing to a good cause.”
“We’re going through some exceptional circumstances and any way of collaborating will always be welcome,” she added. “This is a difficult time for everyone, so we should be united as far as we can.”
The Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro offers equal prize money with a €150,000 purse in both draws. The winning players will be able to decide on how much they donate to the tennis players currently suffering economically, and another €50,000 will go directly towards reducing the social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Since we announced that the Mutua Madrid Open would not take place on the dates planned, we have been working on ideas for bringing tennis to the fans," tournament director Feliciano López said on Monday.
"We have organized a tournament for the professional players that is as true to the conventional Mutua Madrid Open as possible without them having to leave their homes -- and its goal is not just to entertain: we want to do our bit during this period, which is so difficult for everyone."