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Leander Paes Beats Sumit Nagal, who Overcame Vijay Amritraj: Tennis Goes Virtual and Transcends Eras

As sport comes to a halt, athletes as well as organisers are turning to the gaming world to keep the players engaged and the audience entertained. From virtual tennis matches in India to hosting FIFA matches online featuring football stars, action is gathering momentum.
Indian tennis stars Leander Paes and Sumit Nagal

Despite the years, Leander Paes once again proves he is the most popular Indian tennis player among fans, beating even the current India No. 1 Sumit Nagal.

With lockdowns set to continue across the world, and tournaments and leagues in limbo, the world is tapping into the virtual space both for keeping athletes busy and the fans, thirsty for live action, entertained.

In India, tennis took the plunge. Former national champion Nitten Kirrtane, who has won the World Railways tennis championship both as a player and a coach, planned a virtual event to keep the tennis fraternity engaged, and the fans tuned in. Needless to say, the virtual competition which pitted Indian tennis stars across generations — from Ramanathan Krishnan to Ramkumar Ramanathan — was a novel and immersive experience for the fans.

In the virtual contest, the winners of match-ups were made taking votes into consideration along with popularity of the players. Krishnan was the top seed in the competition ahead of Vijay Amritraj. Leander Paes was seeded third in the mix. The last five seeds were Zeeshan Ali, Sashi Menon, Akhtar Ali, Anand Amritraj and Ramkumar. The players control nothing in this virtual game, with outcomes dependent on the fan base.

When the match-ups began, there were a few upsets. The current Indian singles No.1, Sumit Nagal, went heads on in the first round against Akhtar Ali, and won easily. Nagal then went on to create a few upsets, beating Vijay Amritraj and Ramesh Krishnan. He, however, lost to the ever-popular Paes.

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While this virtual game played out this week, the Easter weekend saw FIFA get into the thick of action. A few players from the England football team took part in a virtual tournament. As part of the #FootballsStayingHome initiative, 16 players from the men and women squads put their skills to the test online. Players such as Manchester United's Marcus Rashford, Liverpool's Trent Alexander Arnold and Olympique Lyonnais defender Lucy Bronze battled it out on the popular video game.

The aim of the competition was to help raise awareness for the National Emergencies Trust that is helping charities and foundations in assisting those who were impacted the most by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Major League Soccer also tried out a virtual format, launching a month-long tournament that is going to have both professional athletes and EA Sports’ FIFA 20 Global Series esports players.

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The tournament, called the eMLS Tournament Special, is going to have 16 MLS teams play against each other, with one member of the team paired with an esports player for two-on-two matches, according to the website Polygon. The tournament will operate in a single-elimination format: You lose, you’re out! MLS is going to air five matches in a month. The games will be aired by the league’s broadcast partners.

The NBA, Formula One, and NASCAR also hosted virtual tournaments in an attempt to keep the action on the boil and the fans on the edge of their seats even as uncertainty looms over when real action will make a comeback.

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