Professional women’s tennis will return this weekend with the second edition of the UTR Pro Match Series in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Grand Slam semifinalists Danielle Collins and Amanda Anisimova, top-20 star Alison Riske and Australian No.2 Ajla Tomljanovic make up the four-player field in action from 22-24 May.
American Reilly Opelka won the inaugural men's event two weeks ago, and now follows the first professional women’s event in the world since tennis’s suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event features strict protocols to ensure it can be carried out safely.
These include daily temperature checks, racquet taps to replace handshakes, players using their own individual set of balls, regular deep-cleaning of the court, plus no fans, minimal personnel and separate player areas on site.
The round-robin stage – featuring a best-of-three Fast4 sets scoring format – takes place on 22-23 May, with the top two finishers progressing to the final on Sunday 24 May.
The final will feature two full-length sets, followed by a match tiebreak if required.
Collins and Anisimova will clash in the first match on Friday, followed by Riske against Tomljanovic.
“I’ve still been training and practising a couple of times a week but I’m definitely not going to be anywhere close to my best game,” smiled Anisimova, a French Open semifinalist last year.
“But it’s going to be nice for me to go out and play some matches, because I’ve really missed it, so I’m not going to care about how I’m going to play or not being at my A-game – it’s just going out and having fun and just being back at it.”
Collins, an Australian Open 2019 semifinalist, said she was especially looking forward to her match against world No.19 Riske, which opens Saturday’s schedule of play.
“It will definitely be a transition not having people and fans to play in front of; I think that’s what makes being a professional athlete so special, is being able to have those interactions with fans and having people supporting you,” she said.
“(But) I’m still going to be expressive, I’m still going to get in Ali’s face, because she was texting my boyfriend earlier this week, so I’ve got to get back at her. I’m kidding (laughter).”
Riske, who reached last year’s Wimbledon quarterfinals before a fourth-round finish at Melbourne Park in January, admitted she jumped at the chance to take part.
“I think it’s an awesome opportunity to have a little bit of normalcy during this time … to compete, to be on the tennis court,” she said.
Tomljanovic, the only non-American player in the field, is nonetheless based in Florida, where she has been hitting with her father and coach Ratko as well as boyfriend Matteo Berrettini, a top-10 player on the ATP Tour.
“I’m so excited just to be a part of this because i think it’s the closest thing we can get to competing nowadays, and I think we’ve all missed just what we’ve all known for all our lives,” she said.
The results from the event count towards the players’ UTRs and will come with prize money.