In the month of May, tennis returned with the UTR Pro Match Series played in Florida. Now as the month ends, a fully televised NZ Premier League, a team-based tennis tournament for local-based men’s players, has been planned from June 3 in Auckland in New Zealand, organisers said on Monday.
Tennis to return on a large scale
NZ Premier League, which will be southern hemisphere’s first pro competition since the COVID-19 pandemic brought global sport to a grinding halt, will see a total of 112 matches, with 24 players competing in eight teams without spectators.
There will be three weeks of round-robin matches followed by the finals, with a significant prize money. The broadcasting rights for the Premier League may be given to Sky Sports or the organizers may even decide to broadcast the matches on the Youtube.
“It’s great to create playing opportunities for all the New Zealand male players currently back in the country….We’ve been working on the concept for a while, thinking about how can we get our players back on court, back to their craft and find a way to generate a bit of revenue for them when they’re essentially not able to earn any income at the moment.”The tennis NZ CEO told ‘Stuff’
Success in containing pandemic
New Zealand, which recorded only about 1,500 COVID-19 cases and 21 deaths, has been relatively in a better condition than most countries in fight against the pandemic. After a two-month strict lockdown, the country has eased into lifting up the restriction from sporting activities.
New Zealand’s successful containment of COVID-19, has made it possible for some professional sports to restart competition.
Training without a goal is not possible
As New Zealand does not have players in the top 500 of the ATP singles rankings so the NZ Premier League will see participation of doubles specialists, college players and New Zealand-based foreign players.
Some players who have confirmed their appearance in the league include Davis Cup regulars Rubin Statham and Artem Sitak, New Zealand-based world No 77 Cameron Norrie of Great Britain and Japanese Davis Cup player Ben McLachlan.
In a statement the Director of Tennis New Zealand High Performance Christophe Lambert said,
“Training without a goal is not possible for professional and competitive athletes,….The NZ Premier League offers opportunities for our best players to have a home-based competitive environment, so they are ready to jump back in when the pro circuit starts again, but also for our younger players to get the experience needed to perform at the highest level.”
No women in the NZ Premier League
However, there was also a justification handed by Paterson on why the league did not have women competing too. The unavailability of female players who were based offshore for lockdown thus made it impossible for them to participate in the league.