Coronavirus pandemic

No slams without fans, says Kvitova

Czech star backs Federer's call, wants events held back till part of stadium can be filled

Barbora Strycova and Petra Kvitova at Monday's press conference for the all-Czech tennis tournament.
Barbora Strycova and Petra Kvitova at Monday's press conference for the all-Czech tennis tournament.PHOTO: REUTERS

PRAGUE • If tennis has to resume behind closed doors owing to the coronavirus pandemic, two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova would prefer that Grand Slams did not take place at all.

"I have my age and of course I would like to play another Grand Slam, but if it's like this, I'd rather cancel them," the 30-year-old said ahead of her court return in an all-Czech tournament yesterday.

"Playing a Grand Slam is the greatest thing there is, and playing without fans who are our engine doesn't look nice to me and the Grand Slam doesn't deserve it."

Her thoughts echoed that of Roger Federer, who said last week that he would be against the idea of an empty Roland Garros or Flushing Meadows.

"Most of the time when we are training, there is no one," the 20-time Grand Slam champion told former world No. 1 Gustavo Kuerten during a video call.

"For us, of course, it is possible to play if there are no fans. But on the other hand, I really hope that the circuit can return as it normally is.

"And hold off until the time is appropriate, minimum a third of the stadium or half full. But, for me, completely empty when playing big tournaments is very difficult."

This year's French Open has been moved to September, Wimbledon has been cancelled and the ATP and WTA Tours will not resume until at least the end of July.

The three-day competition in Prague has eight men and eight women in separate draws but there will be no spectators or handshakes. There will be referees and ballboys at the tournament, but they will not hand towels to those on court.

"We are here to reintroduce tennis not only to the Czech Republic, but also to the world," said Kvitova, who faced doubles specialist Barbora Krejcikova yesterday.

"The hardest thing will be to find the rhythm, we haven't played a match for a very long time."

World No. 3 Karolina Pliskova has pulled out of the event, which ends tomorrow, as she recovers from a back injury, while 18th-ranked Marketa Vondrousova is getting ready for the final exams at her secondary school.

There will be more exhibition tennis next month after world No. 1 Novak Djokovic announced that he has organised an event which will be contested across the Balkans.

World No. 7 Alexander Zverev will join world No. 3 Dominic Thiem and No. 19 Grigor Dimitrov in Belgrade on June 13 and 14 for the first stop of the Adria Tour.

The Adria Tour will run till July 5, with stops in Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia on clay courts.

The money raised from the Tour will be donated to various charities.

Asked about his shape, Djokovic said he had been training throughout his period of confinement in Spain, where he was staying with his family in a home in Marbella.

"I had a tennis court so I could train every day," said the 17-time Grand Slam champion.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2020, with the headline 'No slams without fans, says Kvitova'. Subscribe