Jamie Murray, Patrick Mouratoglou & Rafael Nadal plan behind-closed-doors events


Patrick Mouratoglou hopes his academy in southern France will stream an event from next month

Tennis fans may soon be able to watch top players in action as plans grow to stream new behind-closed-door events.

Jamie Murray is among those hoping to organise one, with Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou planning to broadcast 50 matches from his academy and Rafael Nadal exploring options.

Murray’s discussions for an event for British players in the UK this summer are said to be at an early and theoretical stage, and dependent on a relaxation of the social distancing guidelines currently in place.

‘We thought: How do we propose something to tennis fans?’

Mouratoglou has announced plans for his academy in southern France to host the Ultimate Tennis Showdown (UTS), starting on 16 May, consisting of 10 matches held every weekend for five weeks with no fans in attendance. France is under a nationwide lockdown until at least 11 May.

The WTA and ATP Tours are suspended until 13 July because of the coronavirus pandemic, with the ATP saying players are “free to make decisions concerning their own activities” in the meantime.

“There’s a big window because there’s no live sport and won’t be for a while and we thought, ‘how can we propose something to tennis fans?”http://www.bbc.co.uk/” Mouratoglou told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“My tennis academy is going to be broadcast live all over the planet. That’s the goal. But we want to continue – we don’t just want to do five weeks of tennis, so we start with five weekends of tennis, 50 matches, 10 players, only very good players.”

Mouratoglou says the UTS will be able to go ahead in France, even though President Emmanuel Macron has banned large public events in the country until 11 July.

The UTS says it will abide by social distancing requirements to protect players and coaches, with minimal on-site staff.

Asked how everyone in the UTS would stay safe, Mouratoglou replied: “The last thing we want is for someone to get sick. It’s going to be behind closed doors, all the players will be tested several times, the staff too.

“The staff will be minimal, we’ll have a chair umpire because we need to, we also thought about how to match the tennis ball so the players don’t touch the same tennis balls with their hands.

“We’ve thought about the same process to have the distance necessary between players but also we respect the rules in order for the virus not to go from one person to another if somebody holds the virus.”

Belgium’s David Goffin, scheduled to play the opening match in the Ultimate Tennis Showdown, is ranked 10th in the world

Australian Alexei Popyrin, the son of co-founder Alex Popyrin, will take on Belgium’s world number 10 David Goffin in the opening match, while France’s Benoit Paire, ranked 22nd, has also signed up – with the full players list to be announced shortly.

“There’s no doubt the UTS, with thrilling single matches and millions of US dollars in prize money, has the potential to be the world’s most exciting tennis competition,” Alex Popyrin said.

World number two Nadal has also said his academy in Majorca