Andy Murray will be hoping to compete in his first match since November when competitive tennis returns to Great Britain at the end of next month with a national tournament organised by his brother, Jamie.
Murray has not competed since his appearance in the Davis Cup Finals was followed by complications with his hip. He had returned to practice shortly before the tour was suspended because of the Covid-19 outbreak. Details of the event in June, including venue and dates, are still to be confirmed.
Murray will have numerous options as he eases back into competition, because the LTA is also planning to host a series of British Tour events beginning a week later. More events are planned around the country but the LTA has chosen the outdoor hard courts of its National Tennis Centre in Roehampton for the sport’s return.
The first of the three-day events will begin on 3 July, behind closed doors, with further tournaments running each week throughout the month. Both the men’s and women’s singles will host draws of 16 players, while eight teams will convene for the doubles events. One feature that risks putting off top players is the best of three sets format of four rounds over three days, requiring players to compete twice in one day.
Should the top male and female British players choose to participate, it will not be for the prize money. The British Tour is a well established circuit that usually exists to provide competition for lower-ranked Britons. These special circumstances mean its prize money will be increased by 50%, the event split into Premier and Tier 1 categories, and first-round losers awarded prize money for the first time. Entrants in the Premier event will compete for a total purse of £16,000 with £2,250 going to the champion.
The LTA’s initiative is one of numerous events cropping up around the world to fill space left by the suspension of tour events. Other national competitions featuring Dominic Thiem (in Austria) and Petra Kvitova (in Czech Republic) are already under way. Novak Djokovic is also hosting a series of competitions across the Balkans from 13 June that will include Thiem and Alexander Zverev. In Charleston, USA, a women’s team event featuring Bianca Andreescu and Sofia Kenin begins on 23 June.
Earlier confusion about the possibility of top-level competition with travel restrictions and lockdowns has given way to considerable hope as the final grand slams of the year work towards staging their events in some form. The US Open’s final decision on its status is slated for mid-June but last week the US issued an exemption from travel restrictions for athletes and their support staff.
The date of the rescheduled French Open, to be held in late September or early October, is still being finalised but organisers are now preparing for competition and the tournament has installed lights on eight courts, including its new retractable roof.
As optimism grows, organisers are looking beyond playing behind closed doors. “It’s not even a hypothesis we’re considering anymore,” Hughes Cavallin, the general treasurer of the French tennis federation, told the Tennis Majors website. “What we do envisage is letting in 25,000 people instead of 40,000. We still want to put on a good tournament.”