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No handshakes, no fans as German tennis academy hosts televised exhibition

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Berlin (AFP)

There will be no handshakes, line judges, ball boys or spectators allowed, but tennis fans can get their fix from Friday when a series of exhibition matches will be streamed live from a rural German venue.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the ATP and WTA Tours are suspended until July 13 at the earliest.

However, tennis fans can enjoy live coverage of an eight-man tournament at the Base Tennis Academy in the tiny town of Hoehr-Grenzhausen, near Koblenz.

Germany's Dustin Brown, who famously beat Rafael Nadal in the second round of Wimbledon in 2015, is the best known name in the field, none of whom are ranked in world's top 100.

Compatriot Yannick Hanfmann, 28, will be the highest ranked player at 143.

"I'm really excited about it," Hanfmann told AFP subsidiary SID.

The academy's courts are already equipped with cameras and the matches will be streamed worldwide.

Due to coronavirus, only the two players and chair umpire will be allowed on the clay courts at any one time.

Digital broadcaster Tennis Channel, which has 62 million subscribers in the USA alone, will broadcast the three-legs of the tournament, on Friday and then May 7 and May 14.

"It's pretty cool, I'm curious to see how many people will be watching," admitted Hanfmann.

When the coronavirus pandemic first hit Germany in mid-March, Hanfmann spent time at home in Karlsruhe, seeing his family and girlfriend, "whom I usually don't see so often and for so long at a stretch".

However, now "I miss the tingling, the competition", even if only a few hundred euros of prize money will be at stake.

Hanfmann will have free board and lodgings at the academy.

He is just about managing to make ends meet, having earned 543,000 dollars in prize money during his career.

"I have built up a few savings and I am not one to throw money away," he added.

"But things are getting tight now."

However, he does not think much of the idea by superstars Novak Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer that the top 100-ranked players pay into a fund to provide financial support for low ranking players.

"Why should the players below the top ten be responsible for making others feel better?" he asked.

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