Day 2 of the Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro began with a few hiccups, as it seems high speed internet connection isn’t a priority for some of the games top players (looking at you Mr. Thiem & Mr. Khachanov). But as play continued things began to smooth out and the draw began to take shape. Here are five takeaways from Tuesday’s nonstop action.
Look good, feel good, play good?
Belinda Bencic set the tone on Monday with her St. Petersburg-like entry into the gaming arena.
On Tuesday, many more players followed suit, but none as serious as Bianca Andreescu, who pulled her controller from her racquet-bag to the tune of Drake & Future’s “Life is Good.”
LFG ???????????????????????? pic.twitter.com/cMplpakh1P— Bianca (@Bandreescu_) April 28, 2020
The WTA stars are clearly missing the competition, and they are currently dominating their ATP counterparts in terms of effort and attention to detail. Bencic, Andreescu, Kiki Bertens, Kristina Mladenovic, Donna Vekic, and Elina Svitolina donned full match attire for today’s action. You love to see it.
Last year in Madrid, David Ferrer laid down his headband on the clay of Caja Magica stadium after losing to Alexander Zverev in his final match. One year later, one of the game’s grittiest players in history returned to his home court, dismantling an overmatched John Isner with ease.
While Tennis World Tour, the PlayStation 4 game being used to virtually replicate the Madrid Open, isn’t the most realistic game in the world, it seemed to accurately depict John Isner’s less than stellar on-the-run backhand. As he often did in real life, Ferrer planted his avatar in the ad-court and ripped his forehand inside-out and inside-in, running the less mobile Isner straight off the court. Ferrer owns a 7-2 head-to-head record over Isner, so the result wasn’t all that shocking, especially on Ferrer’s home clay.
Caroline Wozniacki also came out of “retirement” to compete in the event, and although she just got her game console a week ago, she was brilliant in her destruction of Madison Keys. While the American doesn’t pick up the controller very often, Wozniacki’s court sense and anticipation were as impressive as ever. “I guess I’m a natural,” Wozniacki said in her post-match interview.
With the round-robin stage complete, it revealed who the real heavy-hitters are in the virtual tennis world. Unsurprisingly, Andy Murray remains the favorite on the men’s side, followed closely by Stefanos Tsitsipas who hasn’t dropped a single game and “feels like Rafa on clay” with a controller in hand. Murray made quick work of Rafael Nadal, while Tsitsipas was beating Frances Tiafoe so badly, he started telling the American where he was going to serve.
Don’t sleep on Benoit Paire, who may or may not have subbed in a professional gamer in his stead. Paire’s selfie-cam was conveniently malfunctioning, but that didn’t stop the Frenchman from throttling left hander’s Denis Shapovalov and Nadal. Paire frustrated his opponents, as he often does on the court, with a combination of brilliant shot-making and just plain peculiar plays. With drop shots on returns, backhand swinging volleys, and a surprising amount of net-rushing for a clay court, Paire looks like a serious dark-horse contender.
ATP Group 1⃣ complete— #MMOPEN (@MutuaMadridOpen) April 28, 2020
1. ???????? @andy_murray ✅ Qualified
2. ???????? @benoitpaire ✅ Qualified
3. ???????? Rafa Nadal
4. ???????? Denis Shapovalov#PlayAtHome ???? | #MMOPEN Virtual Pro pic.twitter.com/FE30vvXx34
The women’s field doesn’t have an Andy Murray-like favorite, but three players have separated themselves from the pack. Timing is everything in video game play, so it makes sense that Belinda Bencic’s uncanny knack for ball-striking in the game mimics her spectacular timing on the actual tennis court.
Before the event, you might not have expected world No. 53 Fiona Ferro to take home the title, but after dominating Carla Suarez Navarro, Ferro upset Bencic in a thrilling tiebreak set of virtual tennis. For Ferro, practice is paying off, "I've tried to play one hour every day for the past two weeks,” she said. And let’s not forget Romania’s Sorana Cirstea, who cruised into the quarterfinal round without dropping a match.
Tennis, for the most part, is a game free of trash talk. But trash talk is a vital part of gaming, so it makes sense that things heated up a notch on day two of competition.
After Pliskova’s character struck a clean, on the rise backhand crosscourt winner, Bencic couldn’t contain her emotions.
“You NEVER hit this backhand in normal life!” she screamed.
“No, never.” Pliskova responded, “But you also never kill forehands in real life.” It’s well known on tour to keep the ball far away from the Bencic backhand.
But that was just the beginning.
"You're moving like a grandmother."— TENNIS (@Tennis) April 28, 2020
"I can't finish a point against you—just like in real life."
"I just got my PlayStation a few days ago, so I guess I'm a natural."
The best quotes, all the results and a live stream of the @MutuaMadridOpen Virtual Pro https://t.co/KEQdie1HLk
After a quick victory over Nadal, Murray had some choice words for the Spaniard.
Some banter between Nadal and Murray ????— #MMOPEN (@MutuaMadridOpen) April 28, 2020
- Andy: 'If you speak to Rafa, tell him not to be such a bad loser next time!'
- Rafa: It makes sense because when we used to play on the PlayStation years ago in pairs, he used to play with Dani (Vallverdú) and it was always Dani's fault pic.twitter.com/TLWi50gCJo
There was even some cross-tour trash talk, as Frances Tiafoe and Andreescu exchanged blows on Twitter.
me results show otherwise ???????????????? https://t.co/89jfAnIGKW— Bianca (@Bandreescu_) April 28, 2020
Both Karen Khachanov and Dominic Thiem pulled out of the competition due to technical difficulties.
Khachanov racked up $632,329 in prize money before the tour was suspended, while Australian Open finalist Thiem accrued nearly $2 million. Certainly more than enough money to afford a high-speed internet connection. Be better next time, guys! Quarterfinal action begins Wednesday at 9 AM ET.