The tennis tours are suspended during the coronavirus pandemic, but some independent organizers are planning to start circuits of their own during the hiatus.
There could be professional tennis played in May 1, with Tennis Point Exhibition Series in Germany. According to The Telegraph, there will be 32 matches played across four days at a club in the Rhineland-Palatinate state of the southwest. Bordered by France, Belgium and Luxembourg, the region is having some of its lockdown lifted by the German government next week, and local authorities have approved the competition if some safety protocols are followed.
The eight-player field includes Germans Dustin Brown and Yannick Hanfmann; no Top 100 players are scheduled to compete. There will be no spectators, but PlaySight video will allow the competition to be broadcast.
The series will also allow online betting, having secured approval from the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU).
"The TIU is aware of proposals from a number of organizers to stage new tennis events and exhibitions during the current lockdown of the professional game. We encourage them to discuss their plans with us," a TIU spokesperson told The Telegraph.
Dustin Brown, at the 2020 Australian Open. (Getty Images)
In addition, Patrick Mouratoglou, who coaches Serena Williams and runs the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy, has announced plans for a five-week Ultimate Tennis Showdown (UTS) series at the academy in France. It would start with a meeting between ATP No. 10 David Goffin and No. 103 Alexei Popyrin on May 16.
The schedule calls for 10 matches a week, shown online, with no spectators and "minimal staff" on site. The competition will allow coaching and a relaxed code of conduct.
"It offers a new and innovative approach, targeting a younger tennis audience... The UTS defines itself as a player-centric league, and therefore features a system focusing on the redistribution of income among the players," said Mouratoglou in a statement released on Instagram.
But the viability of the series depends on the French government lifting strict lockdown measures across the country, which require tennis clubs to be shut and movement limited. These have been extended to at least the week before the series is scheduled to begin.
Patrick Mouratoglou, coach of Serena Williams, at the 2020 Australian Open. (Getty Images)
As well, the Rafa Nadal Academy is organizing with the ATP Tour to allow players to train at its facilities in the next few months. That would allow them to train with each other, with practice matches potentially broadcast to fans. It was described as Nadal's idea.
"Right now tennis takes a back seat and the most important thing is everyone’s health, but if in the coming months the Academy can be used to help other professional players, I’d be delighted if they could come to train and also to compete," said Nadal in a statement from the academy. "Although we have no upcoming tournaments, I think that competing among ourselves would help us maintain our game for when the tour restarts."
The academy has had an ATP Challenger event for two years, and says the facilities were large enough to allow for safety protocols to be followed.
The Rafa Nadal Academy, in Mallorca, Spain. (Getty Images)
These moves follow an announcement two weeks ago by Thierry Ascione, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's coach and tournament organizer of the ATP event in Lyon, that he was considering hosting a series of events in the South of France during the clay and grass season. Ascione said the French Tennis Federation would be involved and the proceeds would get donated.
More such tennis events appear likely. While the tours have some prohibitions on exhibitions, these do not apply because no events are being played.
But the ATP did issue a statement on the matter, emphasizing the "elevated risk of corruption" during unsanctioned events: