3 important takeaways from the UTR Tennis Tournament, Day 1

Day 1 of the new UTR Tennis Tournament has been complete. Here are three major takeaways from the tournament and how they benefit the sport moving forward.

The four-player tournament launched May 8th in Palm Beach, Florida with Americans Tommy Paul and Reilly Opelka. as well as Poland’s Herbert Hurkacz and Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic, all competing on day one. Matteo Berettini and Tennys Sangren both pulled out of the tournament for various reasons, being replaced by Hurkacz and Kecmanovic, ranked 29th and 47th in the world respectively.

The Fast4 set format was used, meaning the players would play a best-of-three sets with each set going to four points. If the score became 3-3 in a set, a tiebreak would occur.

Florida native Tommy Paul lost to Hubert Hurkacz in the first match of the day in straight sets, 4-2, 4-0. Reilly Opelka, also a Florida native, defeated Kecmanovic in the second match, 4-3(4), 4-0. Paul and Opelka met in the third match of the day, with Opelka prevailing, 3-4(4), 4-1, 4-0, and Kecmanovic held off Hurkacz in the day’s final match, 4-3(2), 4-0.

Here are the three big takeaways from Day 1.

  • A good bridge to official play

It’s a good start in bringing back normal tournament play. Although the tournament is made of a majority of Florida-based Americans, having live play is a good start nonetheless. Using the UTR system could allow for other tournaments spring up in other countries if restrictions allow it. This inaugural tournament went without a hitch and is a positive sign moving forward if other tournaments like these were to take place. All things considered.

  • The 2020 season isn’t anywhere close to ready for a return

As much of a success that the tournament was, it doesn’t show any signs that the 2020 season will return in time to continue regularly-scheduled tournaments (as it was proposed last month).

Taking a look at the smaller details of the tournament so far, players were not allowed to shake hands (opting for a racket tap) and were to bring all of their own gear, water, and other necessary items. Only one umpire was present for all of the matches, and a service linesman stood outside of the private Palm Beach court fence and made calls from there.

Without spectators and on a private court, the four-player tournament felt more like a small gathering of players rather than a sanctioned tournament. With the August start to the North American tennis circuit, there’s almost no chance that the progression from this 4-player tournament to a two-week, 128-player field with thousands of spectators filling the stands.

  • A good distraction during the (likely) very long wait

Like the virtual Madrid Open that concluded last week, this tournament is being broadcasted on Tennis Channel and It’s a great way for fans to interact and follow tennis during times without normal play. It’s a great substitute, but still show the overarching signs of a long wait.

Without spectators, public courts, handshakes, and multiple staff, there isn’t a chance that tennis comes back anytime soon. It’s likely that tennis fans will see these private tournaments continue until the end of the year.

Opelka will face Hurkacz and then Paul against Kecmanovic in Day 2, with the finals and consolation final to follow. Those two matches will feature two full six-game sets, with a 10-point tiebreaker if a deciding third set is needed.