Tennis ball (Photo by IvÃ¡n TerrÃ³n/Europa Press via Getty Images)
The stadium announcer at Palermo on Monday wished a warm and welcome return to tennis lovers as the WTA tournament in Italy started five months after the last one with bottles of hand sanitiser attached to the nets.
When Croatia’s Donna Vekic and the Netherlands’ Arantxa Rus took to the clay-court late in the day some 150 days after the sport’s hiatus started they were not wearing face masks.
But the line judges and umpire were masked and the players had to stand behind a social distancing line to approach them.
As for the stands in Sicily, they are cleared and disinfected after each match.
Players in the second meeting were told politely to wear their masks during the rest periods and told to sanitise their hands from the dispensing bottles attached to the net poles.
There were indeed hand gel bottles placed everywhere in the passages between the seats and in the entrances.
Hand shaking or hugging after the matches either is forbidden, with players tapping rackets over the net from a safe distance.
There were some 350 fans allowed into the premises that normally holds 1500.
After Vekic won there was a video press-conference where she told media she was happy to have remembered how to play tennis.
“It’s weird, sometimes funny with all the protocols, masks on your face, visors and screens in the transport,” she said.
“Of course it’s necessary but so different from before it seems unreal,” she said.
Top seed Petra Martic, who faces Alison van Uytvanck on Tuesday, said it was an honour to be back.
“It’s been so long since I was at a tournament, so long since I played, so long since I got this adrenaline rush from playing. It’s a privilege being back on court,” she said.