Margins in professional tennis are razor thin. A few points often decide the outcome of an entire match. On the PlayStation 4, however, a minor difference in skill can lead to landslide victories, much like the ones on quarterfinal Wednesday of the Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro. Of the eight quarterfinal matches, only two sets were tighter than a 6-3 margin. Here’s how Day 3 went down.
Tournament favorite Murray swatted aside Zverev in routine fashion. Murray makes no bones about his passion for video games, he used to be addicted to them. His wife Kim Sears actually broke up with him in 2009 because she was fed up with his gaming obsession. His former coach Brad Gilbert said the Scot would spend around seven hours a day glued to his PlayStation.
No wonder he’s the tournament favorite. He’s also the tournament's best trash talker. “Everyone’s got their excuses,” Murray said, “the reason is that I’m just much better than them.” He is probably right. Murray racked up 20 winners with no unforced errors in Wednesday’s masterclass.
Ferrer is no slouch on the controller. Early in his career, he used to travel to tournaments with his Playstation 2. Don’t believe it? Here’s an old video of a shirtless Ferrer and Nadal playing FIFA.
For Tsitsipas to dismantle such an experienced gamer 6-2 is beyond impressive. He needs to get through David Goffin first, but his impending matchup with Murray in the finals shouldn’t disappoint. Tsitsipas has shown an uncanny ability to hit clean winners from both wings, both his movement and shot selection is deliberate. The Greek has lost just two games in his four matches. What a beast.
Cirstea’s tiebreak victory over Andreescu was undoubtedly the most entertaining clash of the day. Both players fought off nerves and sweaty palms in the beginning.
“My thumb is out of order right now, my hands are sweating so much,” Andreescu said.
“My girl is playing lazy today— too many matches in a row,” Cirstea responded.
Ultimately cooler heads prevailed.
“Why is my bish always slicing the return? That’s not a good tactic!” Andreescu said.
Cirstea has shown an uncanny ability to win the clutch points all tournament. The Romanian will have her work cut out for her on Thursday against surprise semifinalist Fiona Ferro. In the end there was no love lost between the two classy competitors, “Bianca is a very sweet girl,” Cirstea said in her post match interview.
Virtual Fognini is not unlike the real one, you never quite know what kind of performance he’ll bring. Today against Schwartzman, he certainly didn’t bring his best. Strong body language is a vital part of competition. While Fognini was lounging on his couch, Schwartzman was focused and alert.
When things get serious on the screen, good gamers turn up the intensity, much like this popular meme.
Fognini couldn’t be bothered, while Schwartzman brought the same kind of intensity he normally brings to the tennis court. Good gaming simply doesn't happen with both feet on the couch.
David Goffin def. Benoit Paire, 6-0
Yesterday, we thought Paire might have subbed in a pro gamer due to his lack of selfie-cam and flawless play. On Wednesday the Frenchman came crashing back down to earth, unable to win a single game against the Belgian.
Swift movement appears to be the most important aspect of this game, which makes Goffin’s character extra tough to beat. Goffin’s virtual game mirrored his real one. He held the baseline, and redirected laser-like forehands and backhands just inches from the lines. Paire didn’t make any excuses, though.
“Before the tournament my favorite to win was Tsitsipas or Murray, but now Goffin is my favorite to win, by far.”
Fiona Ferro def. Donna Vekic ,7-6 (3)
Hard work pays off. Just ask Ferro, who now finds herself in the semifinals after “practicing an hour a day for the last two weeks.” Vekic improved her play drastically throughout the tournament, but ultimately fell short. Don’t expect to see Vekic competing in any more virtual tournaments, as she believed technical glitches contributed to her loss. “See you never again on the PlayStation,” Vekic said.
Bertens is two matches away from virtually defending last year’s Madrid Open title. The Dutchwoman thrives on clay, and apparently so does her video game avatar. After Tuesday, Bencic was a popular pick to win the tournament, but the Swiss was no match for Bertens’ overwhelming power from both wings.
Caroline Wozniacki def. Johanna Konta, 6-0
“I guess I’m just a natural,” Wozniacki said after her undefeated performance on Tuesday.
Following the Dane’s 6-0 destruction of Konta, there’s no need for guessing. One of the game’s great tacticians, it makes sense Wozniacki’s video game court sense is off the charts. Some players understand the geometry of tennis better than others, and Wozniacki is one of them.
Semifinal action of the Mutual Madrid Open Virtual Pro kicks off Thursday at 9 AM ET.