While discussions are ongoing about whether the US Open or the French Open can even take place later this year, a new digital tennis tournament begins on Saturday in the south of France with four players ranked among the 10 first. Co-founder Patrick Mouratoglou hopes that the Ultimate Tennis Showdown (UTS) – the first edition of which features Stefanos Tsitsipas, winner of the ATP final and Matteo Berrettini, semi-finalist of the US Open – can change the way tennis is perceived by allowing a younger audience to access the raw feelings of the players.
“I would like fans to have better access to the emotions of the players, especially on the pitch where the code of conduct is a big barrier to that,” said Mouratoglou. “UTS aims to attract a new generation of younger, more engaged fans to grow its fan community.”
Players compete each weekend for five weeks in a round-robin format, with their matches broadcast on a live platform, with multiple screens, cameras and speakers capturing each view and each sound, depending on organizers.
And that’s the point: to allow viewers unprecedented access to everything that happens in a game. Increase brutality rather than filter it out.
Mouratoglou, who is also the 23-time grand slam coach Serena Williams, founded the UTS with Australian player Alexei Popyrin, who also plays.
They want to change the way tennis is experienced through a faster format with more interaction, where field coaching is encouraged rather than disapproved.
“(The players) will interact with their fans in real time, share conversations between them and the coaches and be more free on the pitch,” said UTS. “Spectators play a role in what takes place; they interact with players and can ask questions about changes, see what goes on behind the scenes in players’ lives and hear every word exchanged between coaches and players. ”
This could well make Benoit Paire a world star online.
The 30-year-old Frenchman, ranked n ° 22, is known as much for his explosive temper and his rant on the ground – often directed against himself – as for his erratic but sometimes ingenious game of shots.
The event takes place at the Mouratoglou academy near Antibes on the sunny French Riviera. Due to coronavirus restrictions, no fans are allowed on the site. A security protocol with social distancing and limited staff has been put in place.
David Goffin, 10th, is also playing and the latest member of the Top 10 will be announced this week. The other registrants are: Felix Auger-Aliassime, n ° 20; No. 50 Richard Gasquet; N ° 58 Lucas Pouille; and No. 239 Dustin Brown.
Auger-Aliassime is the youngest at 19 and exactly half the age of 20 times Grand Slam champion Roger Federer, with whom he shares a birthday on August 8.
Brown, who defeated Rafael Nadal, 19-time major league winner in the second round at Wimbledon five years ago, is the oldest player at 35.
Several players live in Monaco, which facilitates access to the tournament given that it is only 30 miles (approximately 50 kilometers) along the coast.
The tournament is not part of the ATP circuit and the format and rules have not yet been officially announced, but the matches themselves are likely to be shorter.
The price depends on a player’s ranking and performance – a winner receives 70% and the loser 30%. Players also get a share of advertising and broadcasting revenue, said UTS on its website.
Tsitsipas, 21, is a flamboyant and emotionally expressive player who appeals to a younger audience, but is also a return to a bygone era when players like John McEnroe and Björn Borg wore headbands.
The tall, long-haired Greek player, who reached the Australian Open semi-finals last year and has five career titles, has been a member of the Mouratoglou Academy since 2015.
“In 2017, as the world No. 203, I received a joker in the Sophia Antipolis Challenger, which was held at the academy,” said Tsitsipas. “Three years later, I am grateful for the progress we have made.”
Berrettini boosted the standings last year with a solid race at the US Open, where he led a tiebreaker in the first set 4-0 against Nadal – the eventual champion – in the semifinals.
The 24-year-old is impatient to return to the field after playing only two competitive games this year, both at the Australian Open – where he lost in the second round to Tennys Sandgren.
“After an endless period of inactivity, I am really hungry to compete,” said Berrettini.