BERLIN, Germany - Over a special six days in Berlin, six stars of women's tennis are bringing the sport back to Germany this week in the latest in a series of exhibition tournaments prior to the resumption of professional tennis next month.
A fixture in the tour's clay court calendar for nearly 20 years, the WTA was expected to return to the German capital this year after a 12-year absence from the tour calendar with a Premier-level grass court event, before the coronavirus pandemic pushed professional tennis into a hiatus.
Nonetheless, an unofficial exhibition event was announced for the city at the end of May, bringing together six WTA players and six ATP players for competition in two locations and on two surfaces - with strict limitations on the number of spectators permitted and other social distancing precautions in place.
The action kicked off on Monday at the Rot-Weiss Tennis Club, on the stadium court named for German legend Stefanie Graf, as Anastasija Sevastova and Petra Kvitova won the two quarterfinal matches that were contested.
In the first women's match, Sevastova was leading Julia Goerges, 6-4, 4-3, before the German was forced to retire as a precaution shortly after slipping at the back of the court, before Kvitova defeated the other German in the draw, Andrea Petkovic later in the afternoon, 6-4, 6-1.
"I feel bad for Julia and I hope it's nothing serious," Sevastova said after the match. "She's playing great on grass, serving so good, and today it was a tough match in the second set. I hope she will be fit soon."
On Tuesday, Sevastova will take on top seed Elina Svitolina in the semifinals, while Kvitova will face No.2 seed Kiki Bertens - who, the Czech revealed, she had practiced against earlier this week - to determine who will advance to Wednesday's final.
"It's for sure going to be a different game," the Latvian previewed. "There are going to be more rallies, and a little bit different there."
The second stage of the exhibition tournament will be held on a hard court at Berlin's Tempelhof Hangar from July 17-19.