Crowds cautiously return to Madrid Mutua Open

Madrid, Apr 29 (EFE).- Crowds in Madrid will be able to enjoy professional tennis for the first time since the pandemic arrived in Europe when the Mutua Madrid Open begins Thursday at the Caja Magica in the Spanish capital.

The last edition of the competition had to be cancelled because of Covid-19, and while the pandemic situation has greatly improved since then, health precautions will abound at the tournament, for players and fans alike.

With some of the sports leading stars coming into town, there will be plenty of hustle and bustle around the venue, although significantly less than in pre-corona times.

Fans will have their temperatures checked at the entrance, while wearing masks and observing social distancing will be mandatory at all times. Organizers are also going to great lengths to comply with hygiene standards.

The players, who have had to become accustomed to eerie silences accompanying their matches over the past year, will surely welcome the return of enthusiastic crowds, although they will be isolated from the public in an athlete’s bubble.

Little by little, the events are taking a step towards something approaching normality, although crowd sizes of nearly 5,000 people are barely half the normal capacity for the Caja Magica.

Pandemic regulations also affect the times matches can be played, as a curfew in place between 11pm and 5am prohibits any late night drama on court.

Several top players have pulled out of this year’s Madrid Open, including Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Bianca Andreescu, Stanislas Wawrinka and Gael Monfils, with Novak Djokovic also confirming this week that he would not be attending.

In his absence, Spanish star and world number two behind Djokovic, Rafa Nadal, is heavily favored to win the title as he prepares for yet another tilt at grand slam glory at Roland Garros next month.

The women’s draw is filled with stellar names, including current world number 1 Australia’s Ashley Barty, Spanish Garbiñe Muguruza, Romanian Simona Halep and Czech Petra Kvitova, the reigning champion. EFE

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