From Virtual Tennis To Real Talk, Murray And Nadal Open Up About Future

WASHINGTON, April 29, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Moments after comprehensively beating Rafael Nadal 3-0 – losing just one point – on Tuesday during the second day of the round-robin play in the Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro, Andy Murray took on a serious tone of voice during an online interview, in which he shifted the focus of of his attention from virtual games back to the reality of the ongoing tennis lockdown due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“All tennis players want to get back to playing as soon as possible,” said Murray, who later shut out Denis Shapovalov 3-0 to reach Wednesday’s quarterfinals against Alexander Zverev. “Now, the most important thing is to get our normal life back, to be able to go out to restaurants, to have our normal freedoms. Over time, hopefully, things will allow for traveling and, hopefully, sports can go back to normal. I don’t see it happening soon. 

“First, we need to find a way to stop the virus spreading. Then, we can do more normal things than thinking about competing in sports. 

“A lot of people want to have sports, again, and athletes want to compete,” Murray continued. “You realize how much you love playing (tennis) and (fans) watching it. However, just because we don’t have sports doesn’t mean we have to speed things up. We need to sort out things properly. I think there’s a danger if we go back to doing things too quickly.”

Meanwhile, on Monday, Nadal said he thinks it will be “very difficult” for tennis to return to competition any time soon. He’s also concerned about the risk of injuries once tennis resumes.

Nadal made his comments during a joint interview with NBA player Pau Gasol that was published in Spanish newspapers.

“I don’t think training would be a problem, but competing … I see it very difficult,” said Nadal. “It’s a moment to be responsible and coherent, so I don’t see how we can travel every week to a different country. 

“I would be OK playing without fans, even though that’s not what we want, but unfortunately, from what I’m seeing, even though things are improving, for our sport, I don’t see it prudent to be competing again any time soon.”

Behind The Racquet – Barbora Strycova

When Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic was 12, she had to decide whether to play tennis or devote her energies to figure skating. Surprisingly, choosing tennis wasn’t an easy decision. She’s been through both the ups and downs of the sport, been married and divorced, too – even took some time off to clear her head. Above it all, she admits “there is no feeling like winning a match, it’s incredible.” Learn more about Strycova in her first-person essay written for the Instagram series Behind The Racquet.

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“When I was 12, I had to make a decision between tennis and figure skating; I decided to go with tennis. It was my choice, not my parents. It’s not as easy as people may think, it’s so freaking hard. It’s not always beautiful hotels or traveling to nice places. I was 16 and number one in the world in juniors. Within a year, I was #56 in WTA rankings and then everything went down. I went through tough times when I was 20. I was 20 years old when I got married. I was so in love. We only knew each other three months before marriage. We were together eight years before divorce. We both knew we were very young when it all started, but it was what we truly wanted. I was one of the few 20 year olds who rather have kids than travel and see players. I wanted to end my career and didn’t want to continue playing. I didn’t want to do it any longer. I couldn’t take traveling to different hotels every week and not remembering my room number. I was winning so often as a junior, and then it just stops. You start questioning the reason for it, that you must not be good or you don’t belong. Everyone has these thoughts. The belief in yourself is lost. That was when I dropped to 220 in the world, it happened so fast. I had to start over at 25, luckily with some good people around me. I am now 34 years old and love the sport more than ever. It also helps that this is one of the few things I know how to do well. It took some time away from the sport to realize just what tennis means to me. You start to realize, ‘Oh, my God. I miss it. I miss this adrenaline. I missed this sport.’ There is no feeling like winning a match, it’s incredible. You will never have this again in your career. I love proving to myself that I can still do it. I always found the strength in the fact that tennis is what I love, even though it seemed I hated at times. I try to remind myself how much I will miss it when I don’t have it anymore. This will and inner power comes from my parents. My father had an awful accident before I was born…” Swipe 👉 pictures to read @barborastrycova full story!

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Cirstea a big surprise as a virtual pro

Sorana Cirstea of Romania, ranked No. 75 on the real WTA Tour, saved three match points to beat Elina Svitolina 4-2 during the opening day of competition in the Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro on Monday. She also defeated Johanna Konta, losing just one point, en route to a 3-0 victory. Looking back, Cirstea said, “I didn’t even realize that there were three match points. I only remember one. I said, Sorana, if you don’t win this point, you’re going to be out!

“It was an unbelievable comeback. I didn’t even believe it. I’m very happy, because I know Elina is very good at this, and for me, the fact that I picked up a PlayStation one week ago, this means a lot.”

On Tuesday, Cirstea beat Victoria Azarenka 3-1 to finish undefeated (3-0) in group play and advance to Wednesday’s quarterfinal round against Bianca Andreescu.

Wednesday’s quarterfinal pairings for both men and women are set. For the men, it’s Andy Murray vs. Alexander Zverev, Diego Schwartzman vs. Fabio Fognini, Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. David Ferrer and David Goffin vs. Benoit Paire. For the women, its Fiona Ferro vs. Donna Vekic, Sorana Cirstea vs. Bianca Andreescu, Caroline Wozniacki vs. Johanna Konta and Kiki Bertens vs. Belinda Bencic.

What they’re sharing on social media

Karen Khachanov / A clever use of Photoshop or the real thing?

Belinda Bencic / Dressing for success

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga / Backyard hit parade