Eugenie Bouchard secured an upset in the only main-draw match that could be completed on day one of the Prague Open.

Former Wimbledon finalist Bouchard was playing for the first time since the WTA Tour was shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the weather prevented a number of her contemporaries from taking to the court.

The wildcard Canadian - now ranked 330th - was a 6-0 6-3 victor over eighth seed Veronika Kudermetova.

Reflecting on her return to action, Bouchard said: "It's hard to know what to expect. I haven't played a real match since January.

"I've played a couple of exhibitions, which helped a lot, but it's still different, it's not a real tournament. I didn't set any expectations.

"I'm so grateful to have a job and to have this opportunity. You appreciate things more when they're taken away from you."

"I didn't know what to expect in terms of my level. I played better than I expected. I just wanted to be there mentally, no matter what."

Kristyna Pliskova had already played at last week's Palermo Open but was frustrated in her efforts to get past 15-year-old WTA debutant Linda Fruhvirtova on Monday.

The match was twice stopped due to a thunderstorm, with the second heavy downpour leading to the suspension of play for the day.

That meant no action for third seed Elise Mertens and Jasmine Paolini, who each lost to Aliaksandra Sasnovich in Italy.

Meanwhile, Dayana Yastremska and Daria Kasatkina withdrew from the tournament due to dental and hamstring issues respectively.

Simona Halep was belatedly set to make her WTA comeback on Tuesday.

She told WTA Insider: "Honestly, I don't really know how to manage now the comeback.

"The good thing is that everyone is in the same position. I was not injured and forced to stay away from tennis. Everyone is in the same position and now we will see who is going to manage the comeback better.

"I feel like I have the experience to deal with it and, if I take it relaxed and give my best every match, I'm pretty sure that soon I will touch the level again.

"But I'm also sure I will struggle a little bit because my style and my type of personality is to keep playing matches and always I needed matches to find the rhythm.

"Now it's different. So I cannot complain but I also cannot be happy. It's in the middle."

Fiona Ferro overcame fourth seed Anett Kontaveit to land the Palermo Open title and climb into the world's top 50 for the first time.

In the first WTA Tour event since March, Ferro saw her hard work during lockdown pay off as she earned a 6-2 7-5 win over her Estonian opponent.

Unseeded Ferro at one stage looked set to be taken to a deciding set by Kontaveit, who served for the second set at 5-3 but was broken.

The relinquishing of that lead allowed Ferro, who will nudge up from 53 to number 44 in the WTA rankings, to seize control and she powered to victory in a match spanning an hour and 43 minutes.

The Frenchwoman had continued with a practice routine during lockdown and won two domestic tournaments while the WTA Tour remained suspended.

Victory gave 23-year-old Ferro a second WTA tournament success, after also winning on clay last year in Lausanne.

 

Anett Kontaveit will tackle Fiona Ferro in Sunday's final of the Palermo Open, the first WTA tournament since March.

Kontaveit overcame top seed Petra Martic 6-2 6-4, before Ferro sank Italian title hopes in Sicily with a 2-6 6-2 7-5 win over Camila Giorgi.

Fourth seed Kontaveit is ranked seven places below world number 15 Martic and she won impressively in an hour and 29 minutes.

The Estonian will be targeting just a second career singles title and a first on clay, having previously won on grass in 2017 at Rosmalen.

She said: "I felt like I played a very good match today. I was quite aggressive, consistent, and I served especially well in the first set. It got a bit close in the end, but I played a good game at 5-4 and I'm happy to be in the final."

Martic called the match "a tough one" and spoke of missing chances to make the scoreline tighter than it became.

Ferro and Giorgi slugged it out for two hours and six minutes before their clash produced a finalist, with the home player falling agonisingly short.

World number 53 Ferro go after her second WTA title. Her first also came on clay at Lausanne in July last year.

The 2020 tennis season was suspended for almost five months amid the coronavirus pandemic, and the women's tour has returned with fans in Italy, socially-distanced crowds having been in attendance all week in Palermo

Petra Martic and Anett Kontaveit set up a Palermo Ladies Open semi-final clash with hard-fought wins on Friday.

Top seed Martic battled past qualifier Aliaksandra Sasnovich 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-3) in their quarter-final.

The Croatian converted four of seven break points and saved seven of 11 to advance at the WTA International event, which marks the first tournament back after the coronavirus-enforced break.

Martic will meet Kontaveit, who beat teenage wildcard Elisabetta Cocciaretto 6-1 4-6 6-1.

Unseeded pair Camila Giorgi and Fiona Ferro will meet in the other semi-final.

Giorgi got past seventh seed Dayana Yastremska 4-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 after saving two match points, while Ferro brushed past Italian veteran Sara Errani 6-4 6-1.

Elina Svitolina and Kiki Bertens will not take part in this year's US Open due to concerns about coronavirus.

Svitolina and Bertens on Friday became the latest high-profile players to opt out of the tournament that is due to be played behind closed doors in New York from August 31.

With women's world number one Ash Barty having already decided against competing, three of the WTA Tour's top 10 players have now pulled out.

Svitolina, ranked fifth in the world, posted on Twitter: "Considering all the aspects, I have decided not to play the US Open 2020.

"I want to thank the USTA [United States Tennis Association], organisers and WTA for giving the players a chance to play and the fans a chance to watch this great event.

"I understand and respect all the efforts they are putting in to make it happen in a safe environment, but I still don't feel comfortable to travel to the US without putting my team and myself at high risk."

World number seven Bertens said the 14-day quarantine upon returning to the Netherlands from the USA would prove too much of hindrance to her preparation for the French Open, which will take place from September 27.

"After long consideration I have decided not to go to the States for Cincinnati [the Western and Southern Open, which has been moved to New York] and the US Open," Bertens posted on Instagram.

"The situation around COVID-19 is still that worrying and the health of everyone and the control over this virus is priority.

"[The Dutch] prime minister indicated yesterday that we should be quarantined for 14 days after coming back from the States. Of course, we respect this as a team and this would disturb our preparation for my beloved clay court tournaments in Rome and Paris.

"I hope the situation will soon take a positive turn and wish everyone good health."

The WTA Tour returned this week with the Palermo Open and, after skipping that event, world number two Simona Halep has arrived in the Czech Republic to play in the Prague Open next week.

Halep previously admitted to having concerns about participating in the US Open.

Reigning men's singles champion Rafael Nadal will not take part due to worries about COVID-19, while Roger Federer will miss out after undergoing knee surgery.

Novak Djokovic is expected to make a definitive announcement on his participation this week.

Petra Martic and Anett Kontaveit battled into the Palermo Ladies Open quarter-finals, while Dayana Yastremska cruised through.

Martic, the top seed at the WTA International event that marks the return of the Tour amid the coronavirus pandemic, overcame Liudmila Samsonova 5-7 6-4 6-2.

Croatian Martic, the world number 15, needed two and a half hours to get past the qualifier in Italy on Thursday.

She will face Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the last eight.

Kontaveit was also pushed before recording a 3-6 6-2 6-2 victory over Laura Siegemund.

Yastremska and Camila Giorgi will meet in a quarter-final after respective wins over Oceane Dodin and Kaja Juvan.

Talented Ukrainian seventh seed Yastremska was too good for Dodin 6-2 6-4, while Giorgi beat Juvan 3-6 6-2 6-4.

Kim Clijsters and Andy Murray are heading back to Flushing Meadows after receiving wildcards for the US Open.

The former champions, who both won their first major title at the New York grand slam, will bolster a line-up that has lost some of its star appeal.

Confirmation of their wildcards came on Thursday from organisers of the tournament, which begins on August 31 and is set to be played behind closed doors.

The tournament will go ahead without its reigning men's champion Rafael Nadal and women's world number one Ash Barty, with both opting out after expressing COVID-19 concerns.

Clijsters has won three US Open titles, in 2005, 2009 and 2010, and announced late last year she would be coming out of retirement after seven years away from top-level tennis.

She played just two tour matches before the coronavirus pandemic caused the WTA Tour to shut down, losing to Garbine Muguruza and Johanna Konta.

The 37-year-old has been playing World Team Tennis for the New York Empire while the regular season has been suspended, producing impressive form she will hope to take onto the bigger stage.

Clijsters has been a wildcard entrant before, famously winning the 2009 title just weeks after returning to action following a two-year retirement in which she became a mother.

Murray, who made his slam title breakthrough when beating Novak Djokovic in the 2012 US Open final, has been battling hip injury problems in recent seasons and has fallen outside the world's top 100, largely because of inactivity.

The 33-year-old sits at 129th in the ATP rankings and, like Clijsters, will play at the Western and Southern Open before the US Open.

That tournament, ordinarily held in Cincinnati, has been moved to Flushing Meadows as tennis builds its bio-secure bubble.

Unusually, the US Open will be the second major of the year rather than the last, Wimbledon having been cancelled and the French Open moved to a September 27 start.

Elisabetta Cocciaretto scored the biggest win of her young career by defeating Donna Vekic to reach a maiden WTA quarter-final at the Palermo Ladies Open.

The 19-year-old, the youngest player in the draw, was a 6-2 6-4 victor over the Croatian sixth seed in Thursday's round-of-16 match.

It marks the first time Cocciaretto has defeated a top-30 player in her career.

There was more Italian joy as Sara Errani, a two-time champion, made it to the last eight in Palermo for the eighth time after coming back to defeat Kristyna Pliskova 3-6 6-4 6-3.

Home favourite Errani lost the first 13 points of the match but roared back for a 180th career win on clay – more than any other active player – and will next face Fiona Ferro, who defeated eighth seed Ekaterina Alexandrova 7-5 6-2.

Rounding out the action, Aliaksandra Sasnovich hammered Jasmine Paolini 6-0 6-2.

This year's US Open winners will receive $850,000 less than the 2019 champions, but the United States Tennis Association (USTA) upped the first-round prize money.

The major will take place behind closed doors in New York amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and is scheduled to begin on August 31.

Men's and women's singles winners in 2020 will receive $3million, down from the $3.85m that was paid out last year, with the total player compensation package dropping from a record $57.2m for the previous edition to $53.4m.

While runners-up, semi- and quarter-finalists will also see their payouts reduced, a first-round appearance will earn $61,000 in 2020 – an increase from $58,000 in 2019.

The USTA will also provide $6.6m in grants and subsidies to players due to the absence of a qualifying tournament and a reduced doubles draw.

"We're proud to be able to offer a player compensation package that maintains nearly 95 per cent of the prize pool from 2019," said USTA CEO and executive director Mike Dowse.

"The prize money distribution for the 2020 US Open is the result of close collaboration between the USTA, WTA and ATP, and represents a commitment to supporting players and their financial well-being during an unprecedented time."

Men's reigning champion Rafael Nadal and women's world number one Ash Barty have opted out of the US Open due to concerns about COVID-19.

Petra Martic admitted to feeling more nervous than usual in her first outing at the Palermo Open, though she had little need to worry as she brushed aside Alison Van Uytvanck.

Martic – the tournament's top seed – triumphed 6-0 6-3 in just over an hour as she played for the first time since February, the WTA Tour having been suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The clay-court event in Italy has seen action resume on the Tour, though world number two Simona Halep withdrew before the event started due to travel concerns.

Her absence is a boost for Martic's hopes of success, with the Croatian showing few signs of rustiness against Van Uytvanck.

"I think I felt my nerves a little bit more, because the break was so long," Martic told media via video chat.

"It's such a big uncertainty going on the court not knowing how you're going to be.

"I played well before the break, so I was happy with the rhythm, but obviously five months off disrupts everything. Once the match started, I kind of let go and just played."

Anett Kontaveit also progressed in straight sets, the fourth seed winning the final six games to record a 6-3 6-3 victory over Patricia Maria Tig in a late finish.

However, there were some big-name casualties on Tuesday.

Marketa Vondrousova won the opening set with ease, yet the second seed slipped up after such an impressive start, serving up double faults during her 1-6 7-5 6-4 defeat to Kaja Juvan.

Elise Mertens, the fifth seed, is also out. The Belgian went down 6-4 6-1 to Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

The Madrid Open will not be staged this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

September 12-20 were the revised dates for the prestigious tournament to be held after it was originally due to take place from May 1-10.

It emerged last week that local health authorities had advised Madrid Open organisers to cancel the event next month due to the "complex situation that COVID-19 continues to generate".

A spike in coronavirus cases has since prompted new measures to control the spread of the virus to be introduced, including a directive that social gatherings are to be reduced to 10 people - both in public and private meetings.

Organisers on Tuesday confirmed the tournament at the Caja Magica, due to start a fortnight before the French Open, has been cancelled and the 2021 edition will be held from April 30 to May 9.

Madrid Open director Feliciano Lopez said: "We have given our all to stage the tournament.

"After the first cancellation in May, we got to work on the September date with the hope of being able to enjoy first-class tennis in the Caja Magica during this year which has been so hard for everyone.

"However, the continued instability is still too great to hold a tournament like this in complete safety. Once again, we would like to thank the Madrid City Council and all of our sponsors and suppliers for being by our side during every step we have taken."

The cancellation means there will be no WTA Premier Mandatory events this year; with Indian Wells, the Miami Open and China Open already having been scrapped.

It is another big blow in a week that has seen WTA Tour action return at the Palermo Open. The ATP Tour is set to resume in New York on August 22 at the Western and Southern Open.

The US Open is then scheduled to start at Flushing Meadows on August 31.

A relieved Donna Vekic was simply happy she "didn't forget how to play tennis" after easing to the first main-draw win on the WTA Tour for five months at the Palermo Open.

Vekic made up for lost time on Monday following a coronavirus-enforced hiatus, thrashing Arantxa Rus 6-1 6-2 two days after qualifying in Sicily marked the official return of professional tennis.

There was only a small number of people to witness the action, players handling their own towels, no handshakes as well as a smaller team of ball kids and line officials, but Vekic clearly had no problem adapting.

The sixth seed from Croatia said in a post-match video call: "I'm definitely a little bit surprised [at the margin of her victory].

"It was very tricky conditions, it was very windy so the ball was a little bit all over the court. I'm just definitely happy that I didn't forget how to play tennis, how to play matches, how to win. It's a huge relief."

Sara Errani, Laura Siegemund, Ekaterina Alexandrova and Elisabetta Cocciaretto also made it through to the second round.

It would have been a relief for organisers to see the action get under way just a couple of days after an unnamed player tested positive for COVID-19.

Wimbledon champion Simona Halep was among a host of players to withdraw from the first tournament since March due to concerns over coronavirus.

 

Tennis had a rotten lockdown but now the professional tours are emerging from hibernation. 

The men must wait a fortnight, but in Sicily a number of leading women will, from Monday, take part in the Palermo Open, a minor clay-court event that will face scrutiny like it has never known before. 

Tennis must prove it can stage events responsibly, not least because the sport's reputation took a hit with the calamitous ad hoc Adria Tour. That event saw stars including men's world number one Novak Djokovic, whose brainchild it was, and Grigor Dimitrov hit by coronavirus. 

The ATP and the WTA, governing bodies of the men's and women's tours respectively, will apply stringent rules and demand impeccable player compliance over the coming months. 

They have already seen tennis wiped out in China for the rest of the year, on top of Wimbledon's cancellation, and can ill afford any further momentous setbacks. 

At the end of August, the US Open is due to begin at Flushing Meadows, a behind-closed-doors grand slam.

But with a number of leading players already opting out or showing reluctance to travel during the pandemic period, it would be easier to return a barrage of John Isner serves than to accurately figure how the rest of the tennis year pans out. 

Sicily for starters

Palermo organisers expected Simona Halep, the world number two and reigning Wimbledon champion, to join them, and it was with "great bitterness" that they acknowledged the news she would be staying at home in Romania. 

Halep cited rising COVID-19 cases in her home country and her own "anxieties around international air travel". 

Jelena Ostapenko, Johanna Konta and Svetlana Kuznetsova were among others to pull out, with a number of factors behind the loss of a host of the event's star attractions. 

Arguably, though, the standard of the tennis in the week ahead will pale into insignificance against the success of the tournament from a health and safety perspective. 

One player tested positive for coronavirus after arriving in Palermo, organisers said on Saturday, and was kept away from all others, withdrawing from the tournament. 

The eyes of the tennis world will focus on the modest ASD Country Time Club, not least because a small number of tennis fans will also be allowed entry. 

American trilogy

Can the United States, where over 150,000 have died with coronavirus, provide safe haven for the biggest stars in tennis later this month? 

Authorities are optimistic ahead of a disrupted US hard-court swing getting under way, but there can be no guarantees, despite best efforts. There are three major tournaments in the US in August, each brimming with the biggest names in the game. 

A new WTA event in Kentucky was announced in mid-July, and starts on August 10, with a field boasting Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens and Coco Gauff.  

From Kentucky, the best women's players in the world will head to New York for the Western and Southern Open, relocated to Flushing Meadows from Cincinnati this year in a move to save the tournament. 

That event, scheduled to run from August 21 to 28, is where the elite men make their re-entrance, with no ATP events scheduled until then. 

And the following week sees the US Open get under way at the same venue - all being well. 

Players will be expected to keep to their tournament bubbles throughout, tests will be carried out and players closely monitored. Any slip-ups could spell peril. 

Who's coming back? Who's not?

Halep is skipping Palermo and as of Sunday, August 2, she was not listed for the Western and Southern Open; however, she may play an event in Prague, starting on August 10. 

Given Halep's clear travel concerns, it would be little surprise were she to skip the US Open, which is a decision world number one Ash Barty has already taken. Barty's fellow Australian, Nick Kyrgios, has also chosen not to travel to the United States. 

Great Britain's Andy Murray, who appears keen to head to the States, has suggested a number of leading male players will swerve the US tournaments, yet the likes of Rafael Nadal, Djokovic and Dominic Thiem have entered the Western and Southern Open. 

Any of those players could still pull out, Nadal having notably expressed misgivings about international travel during lockdown. 

But will the temptation to go after another grand slam title at the US Open prove too alluring? Nadal is just one behind Roger Federer's record haul of 20 men's singles slams, with Djokovic having 17 majors to his name. 

Federer is sitting out all this drama, having undergone season-ending knee surgery. 

It comes as no surprise to see Serena Williams, one short of Margaret Court's women's record of 24 singles slams, committing fully to the weeks ahead. 

With no Barty and perhaps no Halep, Williams, who turns 39 next month, may perhaps never have a better opportunity to draw level with Court.

Tennis suffered a fresh blow to its restart plans when the Palermo Open announced a women's tour player had tested positive for COVID-19.

Ahead of the first WTA tournament since March, event organisers in Sicily said the player was asymptomatic and had been kept apart from others.

Hopes of a smooth return to action had already been hit by a spate of withdrawals from the Palermo Open, with world number two Simona Halep among those pulling out.

Now the event, which begins on Monday, has been hit by a fresh setback. The affected player's identity was not released, but she has withdrawn from the tournament.

The WTA said the tournament would "continued as planned", adding: "All those who may have been in close contact with the individual are undergoing testing per WTA protocols."

A tournament spokesperson said: "We inform you that, following the checks as per the protocol, a player enrolled in the 31st Palermo Ladies Open was positive for COVID-19.

"The asymptomatic player, who had carried out the required tests upon her arrival in the city at the mobile clinic adjacent to the hotel hosting the tennis players, was transferred to a building of the National Health Service used for asymptomatic patients."

The tournament's coronavirus consultant, Professor Antonio Cascio, said: "The effectiveness of the protocols and related controls allowed us to intercept a positive case among the players who arrived in Palermo. The same player, waiting for the results of the tests, had always remained in her hotel room."

Qualifiers were getting under way on Saturday ahead of the tournament proper, which intends to allow entry to a limited number of spectators.

There have been a number of notable cases of tennis players being infected with COVID-19 during recent months, with men's world number one Novak Djokovic among them.

Borna Coric, Grigor Dimitrov and Djokovic's coach Goran Ivanisevic also tested positive after participating in the controversial Adria Tour.

World number one Ashleigh Barty has decided to skip the US Open due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The French Open champion will not make her return in the United States, where the WTA Tour season's resumption is due to continue next month.

Barty, 24, said concerns over COVID-19 meant she was skipping the US Open, with the USA having seen more than 150,000 deaths due to coronavirus.

"My team and I have decided that we won't be travelling to the US for the Western and Southern Open and the US Open this year," the Australian told the Herald Sun on Thursday.

"I love both events so it was a difficult decision but there are still significant risks involved due to COVID-19 and I don't feel comfortable putting my team and I in that position.

"I wish the USTA all the best for the tournaments and look forward to being back in the US next year."

The French Open is also still scheduled to go ahead, beginning at Roland Garros on September 27.

Barty, who reached the Australian Open semi-finals earlier this year, offered no guarantees she would defend her title in Paris.

"I will make my decision on the French Open and the surrounding WTA European tournaments in the coming weeks," she said.

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