Alison Riske and Danielle Collins of the US and Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic were among the winners on Friday, the opening day of a women’s tennis mini-tournament in Florida that offered professional players an opportunity to play amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The WTA women’s tennis tour canceled four more events this week and is not to resume until at least July 20.
However, four women ranked in the top 60 in the world turned out for the UTR Pro Match Series event in Palm Beach, which followed a similar event for men two weeks ago.
World No. 51 Collins toppled 28th-ranked compatriot Amanda Anisimova in the opening match 4-1, 4-2 and said that she was “grateful” to be back on the court even with no fans in attendance.
“I’m familiar with playing without fans, but I definitely miss it,” she said. “One of the things that makes it so special to be a professional athlete is having people supporting you.”
Tomljanovic, ranked 56th, defeated 19th-ranked Riske 4-3, 4-1 and in the final round-robin match of the day, Riske beat Anisimova 0-4, 4-0, 4-3.
The tournament was to conclude yesterday with more round-robin matches, as well as a contest for third place and a championship match.
All are played in a shortened format in which the first player to four games with a two-game lead pockets a set.
“Just getting into the competitive spirit again kind of got me really excited today,” Tomljanovic said, adding that her first few weeks off had been a welcome break, but when she felt the need to return to training it was difficult to find motivation with no tournaments scheduled.
“I need that competition to keep me going,” she said.
Players had their temperatures taken upon arrival at the venue, and carried their own equipment and towels onto the court.
With social distancing in place, a racket tap had to suffice for a handshake and the umpire wore a mask.
Each player had her own set of marked balls and collected them herself, with no ball kids in attendance.
OSAKA TOPS WILLIAMS
Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka has become the world’s highest-paid female athlete, making US$37.4 million in the past 12 months for an earnings record, Forbes magazine reported on Friday.
The 22-year-old Asian star, a two-time Grand Slam champion, edged US rival Serena Williams by US$1.4 million in prize money and endorsement income over the past year.
Both shattered the old single-year earnings mark of US$29.7 million set in 2015 by Russia’s Maria Sharapova, who retired in February with five Grand Slam titles, including a career Slam.
“To those outside the tennis world, Osaka is a relatively fresh face with a great back story,” University of Southern California sports business professor David Carter told Forbes. “Combine that with being youthful and bicultural — two attributes that help her resonate with younger, global audiences — and the result is the emergence of a global sports marketing icon.”
Osaka, whose father was born in Haiti and whose mother is Japanese, ranks 29th on this year’s Forbes list of the world’s 100 top-paid athletes, four spots ahead of Williams, who has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles.
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