Top tennis resumes in Palermo with no handshakes or showers
Published Monday, August 3, 2020 1:44PM EDT
Aryna Sabalenka tosses the ball for a serve to Donna Vekic during the semifinals of the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic tennis tournament in San Jose, Calif., on Aug. 3, 2019. (Jeff Chiu / AP)
Tour-level tennis resumed after a five-month enforced break on Monday, and players at the Palermo Ladies Open had to handle their own towels and not shake hands of opponents.
The strict rules because of the coronavirus included no showers on site, and no autographs or photos with fans. Players in the singles main draw come from 15 countries, all in Europe.
A limited number of fans were allowed into the 1,500-seat stadium court and had to follow social distancing measures.
They watched sixth-seeded Donna Vekic of Croatia beat Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands 6-1, 6-2 in windy conditions in the first official match -- for men or women -- since early March.
"I'm definitely happy I didn't forget how to play tennis, how to play matches, how to win," Vekic said in a video conference. "It's a huge relief so I'm really happy right now.
"It was definitely a bit strange. I was really nervous yesterday, even more today, but after the first few games I just kind of relaxed and I was focused."
Vekic sealed a place in the second round on her second match point, breaking for the sixth time in the match when Rus hit a forehand wide.
Vekic will next face either Polona Hercog or Elisabetta Cocciaretto. But beyond this week she has little idea if her plans could change as the pandemic continues to affect events worldwide.
Vekic is hoping to compete in the U.S. Open, where she reached the quarterfinals last year, and the French Open as well as Rome.
"Things are changing every week so I think we just have to take it week by week and try to adapt as best as we can, and hope to play as much as we can," Vekic said. "The uncertainty gives everyone a lot of anxiety."
The U.S. Open is scheduled to begin Aug. 31, and the French Open from Sept. 27.
Players and anyone who comes into contact with players were tested for COVID-19 before they departed for Palermo, upon arrival, and then again every four days.