Professional tennis will return this week in Palermo. It will also take a leap into the unknown.
Little more than half an hour before qualifying was set to begin on Saturday, the WTA announced that an unnamed player had tested positive for the coronavirus. The matches went on, the event continued as scheduled, but the questions remained: Will that be the last positive test? How many more can the tournament survive? Palermo isn’t in a corona-free bubble, and as baseball fans in the U.S. have discovered over the last week, that leaves everyone involved in staging a competition vulnerable to the virus. Right now, we can only hope for the best.
On the plus side, we can also peruse the first real, live, meaningful draw in over four months. A couple of the biggest names who were supposed to be here—Simona Halep, Johanna Konta—have pulled out. Tournament officials can only offer roughly $200,000 of the usual $250,000 in prize money. The stands will be largely empty. But there will be ranking points on the line, and the competition will count. Even without any truly marquee names, that should be enough to grab our attention in a way that no summer exhibition has.