Tennis following lead of NASCAR and baseball into gaming events

Rafael Nadal waves to the crowd after winning the 2019 U.S. Open.
Photo of Ricky Dimon

Ricky Dimon

MLB

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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports -- just about any and all you can think of! -- and coaching tennis in Atlanta, GA. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

Some way or another, there will be sports. And while that way may not be what we all prefer (you know, like actual leagues and actual sports), there will be something. Coronavirus has brought the world of sports to halt, and now even the much-needed NFL Draft has come and gone.

So what are we left with? Video games, of course!

For now, it is the virtual world that is providing entertainment—and, it must be noted, giving bettors something on which to throw their money.

NASCAR has already held multiple iRacing events, the latest of which saw drivers take their talents to Talladega on Sunday. It may not have rivaled Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby in terms of viewership, but whoever tuned in saw Alex Bowman cross the line first after a two-lap overtime. It marked a third consecutive victory for Hendrick Motorsports, following back-to-back wins by William Byron the previous two weekends. Because of those efforts, Byron had been a massive +150 favorite heading into Talladega.

On the baseball diamond, meanwhile, gamers are coming down the home stretch of the regular season of the MLB The Show 20 Players League. With one individual representing each of the 32 MLB clubs, Blake Snell of the Tampa Bay Rays topped the standings as of Saturday. Cole Tucker of the Pittsburgh Pirates (3-16) and Eduardo Rodriguez of the Boston Red Sox (2-19) brought up there rear.

The top eight:

Blake Snell (Rays): 19-3
Joey Gallo (Rangers): 19-4
Bo Bichette (Blue Jays): 15-5
Gavin Lux (Dodgers): 16-6
Jeff McNeil (Mets): 15-6
Fernando Tatis Jr. (Padres): 15-7
Tommy Kahnle (Yankees): 13-7
Lucas Giolito (White Sox): 14-8

Tennis is now joining the party with a virtual staging of the Mutua Madrid Open. Starting on Monday, 16 players on both the men’s and women’s sides will compete in four round-robin foursomes. Among those competing are Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Dominic Thiem, Bianca Andreescu, Madison Keys, and Genie Bouchard.

Amazingly enough, even in the virtual world players are being forced to withdraw from tournaments. Yes, it’s like virtual reality. Instead of being hit by an actual injury this time around, the oft-injured Gael Monfils withdrew due to…wait for it…streaming rights. He apparently has a contract with Twitch; this event is being streamed on Facebook.

“Sadly I will not be able to participate in the Virtual Mutua Madrid Open due to conflicting rights between streaming platforms,” the Frenchman wrote on Twitter. “I wish all the best to all players and I hope to be able to play next time.”

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Denis Shapovalov, and Karen Khachanov are +900 co-favorites to win the men’s tournament. Nadal is +1000, while Murray is +1200.

All 16 women are bunched up between +1000 and +1200 odds.

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