PALERMO, Aug 4: Tour-level tennis resumed after a five-month enforced break on Monday, and players at the Palermo Ladies Open had to handle their own towels and not shake hands of opponents.
The strict rules because of the coronavirus included no showers on site, and no autographs or photos with fans. Players in the singles main draw come from 16 European countries and Argentina.
A limited number of fans were allowed into the 1,500-seat stadium court and had to follow social distancing measures.
They watched sixth-seeded Donna Vekic of Croatia beat Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands 6-1, 6-2 in windy conditions in the first official match � for men or women � since early March.
�I�m definitely happy I didn�t forget how to play tennis, how to play matches, how to win,� Vekic said in a video conference.
�It�s a huge relief so I�m really happy right now.
�It was definitely a bit strange. I was really nervous yesterday, even more today, but after the first few games I just kind of relaxed and I was focused.�
Vekic sealed a place in the second round on her second match point, breaking for the sixth time in the match when Rus hit a forehand wide.
Vekic will next face Italian teenager Elisabetta Cocciaretto, who beat Polona Hercog of Slovenia 7-6 (1), 6-3 for her first victory over a player ranked in the top 50.
But beyond this week Vekic has little idea if her plans could change as the pandemic continues to affect events worldwide.
Vekic is hoping to compete in the US Open, where she reached the quarterfinals last year, and the French Open as well as Rome.
The US Open is scheduled to begin from August 31, and the French Open from September 27.
Laura Siegemund of Germany also eased through in straight sets, beating Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania 6-3, 6-4.� AP