Definitely a little bit strange, says Vekic on Palermo win

As tennis marked its return with the WTA Palermo Open, Donnia Vekic scripted the first main-draw victory on Monday

Donna Vekic

Croatia’s Donna Vekic became the first player to score a main draw victory in the Covid-19 era, as she beat Arantxa Rus 6-1, 6-2 in the first round of the Palermo Ladies Open on Monday.

The clay-court event in the Sicilian capital marks tennis’ resumption after the tours were suspended for nearly five months due to the pandemic.

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“It was definitely a little bit strange. I was really nervous yesterday and even more today. But after the first two games, I just kind of relaxed and I was focused,” Vekic said during a virtual press conference.

“It was very tricky conditions, it was very windy so the ball was a little bit all over the court… I’m just happy that I didn’t forget how to play tennis, how to play matches, how to win. It’s a huge relief.”

Vekic scripted the win in just 75 minutes in front of just a handful of spectators. The event has put in place social distancing measures and everyone involved has to undergo temperature checks.

But for the sixth seeded Croatian not having her entourage travel with her was the only glitch.

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“It’s a little bit frustrating to not being able to have my full team with me on-site,” said Vekic, ranked 24 in the world.

“Other than that, I cannot and don’t want to complain about the hotels and the site as I know it is not easy financially for the tournament. Honestly, I’m really happy to be here. It’s just the restrictions on-site that are more frustrating to me.”

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The 24-year-old is also on the WTA Player Council and said that they had, unfortunately, been unable to come to an accord to help lower-ranked players during the shutdown.

“It’s very difficult to make it fair for everyone. It’s not very difficult, it’s literally impossible. That’s what we’ve been struggling a lot with,” she said.

“It does not matter if you are representing the top-10, top-20 or top-50, we’ve all, as a council, been working to protect lower-ranked players, and this is something we have not been able to do.”