With sporting events on hold due to the coronavirus, athletes continue to compete via games. The trend took off after football teams and streamers started hosting virtual matches, but it's since expanded to all sorts of sports. Today it's tennis, with 32 pros knocking some balls around in the Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro via Tennis World Tour.
Some of the best players in the world, including Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, Karolína Plíšková and Angélique Kerber, will be swapping their rackets for a controller, starting today and running until April 30. Conveniently, Tennis World Tour already contains a replica of the stadium it was going to take place in, so the pros should feel right at home.
The players will also be joined by eight streamers in a second event. The streamers are likely to have a bit of an edge here, but tennis pros have a lot of downtime between matches, so maybe they've got some skills of their own to show off.
It's a charity event, so the prize pool of €350,000 (£305k/$380k) will be donated by the winners to tennis players who are struggling now that they're currently out of work. €50,000 will also be donated to the Madrid Food Bank.
My family is pretty obsessed with tennis, which is another reason why I'm convinced I'm adopted. I decided to poll them to see if there was much appeal for the over-60s crowd. Apparently it's not for them, my old man explained to me, as "they're just playing a game." Yes, a game, much like the sport. Never one to back down when my hobby and career is on the line, I spent my lunch break convincing them to give it a chance. It's not like they've got any real tennis matches to watch.
If it sounds like your cup of tea, you can tune in via Facebook.
Tennis World Tour touts its realism, so it seems like a good fit for the tournament—at least on the surface. Unfortunately, realism does not necessarily translate into a good game, and the reviews for it have largely been negative. It launched in 2018 and was criticised for its dearth of features, plenty of bugs and poor presentation. On Steam, it's still Mostly Negative after 192 user reviews, while the PS4 version, which is what the pros will be playing, has an aggregated score of 45 on Metacritic.
If you've been able to overlook this and are still playing Tennis World Tour, you can now play as Denis Shapovalov, Alex De Minaur and Caroline Garcia. They've been added to all versions of the game for free, apart from Switch, where they're coming soon.