All you need to know about sports during COVID-19

From professional football in Europe to the golf and tennis tours, here are the major sports that have restarted.

Men’s singles world No. 1 Novak Djokovic hosted Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem, among others, in an exhibition tennis event in Belgrade.   -  AFP

Fans are finally able to witness sporting action — though not always in person — again as tournaments and leagues resume after being either suspended, cancelled or postponed because of the global coronavirus outbreak that stormed the world earlier this year.

Here are the major sports that have restarted behind closed doors.

Football

Top-level action made a triumphant return with the resumption of the Bundesliga in Germany on May 16, and this was followed a few weeks later by Spain’s La Liga.

The English Premier League, the most popular league in the world, also returned on June 17, the same day on which Napoli beat Juventus in a penalty shootout to win its sixth Coppa Italia title.

READ| Luka Romero, 15, becomes youngest La Liga player

Through June and July, Europe countries will look to complete their championships just in time for the UEFA Champions League, scheduled to recommence on August 7, and the UEFA Europa League, which restarts on August 5.

Golf

The PGA Tour resumed in the US with the Charles Schwab Challenge at the Colonial Golf Course in Texas on June 11. Exactly a week later, the RBC Heritage tournament commenced at Harbour Town Golf Links in South Carolina.

In some good news, during the first two weeks of the tour’s return, there wasn’t a single positive COVID-19 case.

The Travelers Championship, Rocket Mortgage Classic, Workday Charity Open, Memorial Tournament, 3M Open and St Jude Invitational will precede August’s PGA Championship, one of the four majors on the circuit. However, the European Tour won’t begin until July 9, which is the start date for the Austrian Open in Vienna. Meanwhile, the Asian Tour will only restart on September 10, with the Shinhan Donghae Open in Incheon, South Korea.

Tennis

Professional tennis hasn’t made an official return yet, but several exhibition events involving top stars have been conducted around the world since May.

The first such competition included Tennys Sandgren and Hubert Hurkacz at the UTR Pro Match Series in Florida during the first week of May. Two weeks later, Alison Riske and Amanda Anisimova featured in a women’s tournament at the same venue.

READ| Novak Djokovic's parents defend him amid Adria Tour controversy

Men’s singles world No. 1 Novak Djokovic hosted Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem, among others, in an exhibition event at Belgrade, Serbia, in June. But Djokovic announced on Tuesday he and his wife have COVID-19 after the tournament. There was zero social distancing despite being aware of the contagious disease.

Petra Kvitova, Dustin Brown, the Murray brothers — Andy and Jamie — and several others have either played in or are set to feature in unofficial tournaments ahead of the resumption of the men’s and women’s tours.

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic's decision to host the Adria Tour events has received widespread flak.   -  Getty Images

 

The ATP and WTA have both announced new calendars that have competitions beginning in August. The US Open will now run from August 31 to September 13 and the French Open from September 27 to October 11.

Athletics

Jakob Ingebrigtsen broke the 2,000m European record at the Impossible Games — named so because of the circumstances under which it was conducted — at Bislett in Norwegian capital Oslo.   -  AFP

 

Athletics activities commenced on June 11 with a Diamond League exhibition event, the Impossible Games — named so because of the circumstances under which it was conducted — at Bislett in Norwegian capital Oslo.

Several top athletes such as two-time 400m hurdles world champion Karsten Warholm, long-distance specialist Jakob Ingebrigtsen and pole vault world record holder Mondo Duplantis took part in it. The competition was simultaneously held in Nairobi to facilitate the participation of Kenyan athletes.

Renaud Lavillenie, the 2012 Olympic gold medallist pole vaulter, was granted special dispensation to participate in the contest from his backyard in France, but he was beaten to the gold by Duplantis.

At the event, Warholm shattered the 300m hurdles world record, while Ingebrigtsen broke the European record in the 2,000m.

Cricket

Like tennis, professional cricket is yet to restart. But the Vincy Premier T10 League, featuring West Indies internationals Sunil Ambris, Kesrick Williams and Obed McCoy, was played from May 22 to 31 in St Vincent.

A one-off event called the Solidarity Cup was scheduled to be played between senior South African players on June 27, but it has been postponed indefinitely. The tournament was supposed to feature three teams — Kingfishers, Hawks and Eagles — captained by A. B. de Villiers, Quinton de Kock and Kagiso Rabada, respectively.

International cricket will return on July 8 with the West Indies’ tour of England for three Tests. After the Windies, Pakistan will visit England for three Test matches and a similar number of Twenty20 Internationals beginning July 30.

Mixed martial arts

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), after several delays, was finally able to conduct the high-profile UFC 249 event on May 10, though with restrictions. Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov skipped the event citing a travel ban in Russia.

In a makeshift main event, Justin Gaethje beat Tony Ferguson to win the interim championship. Meanwhile, bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo triumphed over Dominick Cruz on the night and immediately announced his retirement from the sport. Since then, the UFC has been conducting more events, almost weekly. The venues used by the company include the UFC Apex in Las Vegas and ‘Fight Island’ in Abu Dhabi.

Rugby

Super Rugby resumed in New Zealand at Alert Level 1 with spectators in the stadiums. The Pacific country had declared itself COVID-free in the second week of June. Though a few cases are emerging from travellers but the numbers have been below 20 so far. At least 25,000 people are packing the stands during the rugby matches.