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Tennis: Kvitova ready for return in all-Czech tournament

May 27, 2020 12:13 IST
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Kvitova, who last played at the Qatar Open in February, said finding rhythm and playing without support would be the hardest part returning.

IMAGE: Kvitova, who last played at the Qatar Open in February, said finding rhythm and playing without support would be the hardest part returning. Photograph: David W Cerny/Reuters

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova is happy to finally play tennis again for fans around the world -- even if they can only watch on television.

The world number 12 will headline an all-Czech tournament in Prague starting Tuesday without spectators, handshakes or the usual towel service.

The return to action is one of the first after pro tennis tours were suspended in early March as countries went into lockdown to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

Some exhibition events without fans have been held in countries like Germany and the United States while more are planned elsewhere in the coming weeks.

 

Kvitova last played at the Qatar Open in February where she lost in the final to Belarus's Aryna Sabalenka. She said finding rhythm and playing without support would be the hardest part returning.

"That it will be without people is something I still can't imagine at all," she told a news conference on Monday.

"We will play some nice tennis... I think we are mainly here to bring tennis back not only to the Czech Republic, but to the world, too."

The Czech Republic has gradually reversed lockdown measures. It has reported less than 100 new cases of the virus a day for much of May while two thirds of the nearly 9,000 people infected have recovered.

The tournament, with eight players in both the men's and women's draw, will resemble regular tennis as much as possible.

Ball boys and ball girls remain and players' benches are in their usual spots. But players won't shake hands at the net and tap rackets instead, and will take care of their own towels.

Barbora Strycova, Barbora Krejcikova, Katerina Siniakova and Lucie Hradecka -- who have all been part of Fed Cup teams that have won six championships in the past decade -- will compete.

World number three Karolina Pliskova will not play after returning from injury and last year's French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova will also be absent.

On the men's side, 65th ranked Jiri Vesely will be favourite.

Cilic and Coric to join Djokovic's Balkan tour

Croatians Marin Cilic and Borna Coric will join world number one Novak Djokovic's tennis tournament to be played across the Balkans June 13-July 5, the Serb said on Tuesday.

Their inclusion will complete a formidable field also featuring Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Grigor Dimitrov, with the first of four legs set to take place in Belgrade on June 13 and 14.

The series will then move to Croatia's coastal resort Zadar, where 2014 U.S. Open winner Cilic and 23-year old Coric will take centre stage in front of their home fans.

"I thank Marin and Borna for joining the tour without asking for any financial compensation," said Djokovic, the winner of 17 Grand Slam titles who went on an 18-0 run at the start of the season before the stoppage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

 "I have known both of them for a long time, they are great guys and we are good friends, so I am really looking forward to meeting up with them in Zadar.

"Marin is one of the best players ever from this part of the world while Borna has the potential to break into the top five on the men's ATP Tour."

The final two legs of the tour are provisionally to be held in Montenegro and Bosnia, but Djokovic revealed at Monday's news conference in Serbia's capital they might have to be moved if the infrastructure is not completed in time.

Djokovic returned to his hometown Belgrade on Sunday after being stranded in the Spanish resort of Marbella for two months, where he was visiting his younger brother Marko when the pandemic broke out.

All four legs of the tour will feature eight players competing in two pools of four on a round-robin basis, with the winners of each pool advancing to the final.

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