The first ever Russian Cyber Tennis tournament was held on September 16 at the SIBUR ARENA stadium. The event was organized by the company “Formula Tennis & Hockey” during the 23rd international tennis tournament St. Petersburg Open 2018.
E-sports in Russia keeps gaining in popularity by the day. Yet, to date cyber athletes competed only in such games as Counter-Strike, League of Legends, Dota 2. Competitions involving representatives of sport simulators such as GT and FIFA were few and far between. So now we witnessed the very first Russian tournament St. Petersburg Cyber Tennis 2018 with total prize money worth R 50 000. The event organizers set up a cyber area in the SIBUR ARENA spectator’s zone so that any visitor of the SPB Open 2018 could try to play some virtual tennis using the technology of Virtual Reality. They also put together playing grounds with PlayStation consoles and a pre-installed sports simulator called “Tennis World Tour” destined specifically for the cyber tennis tournament. According to the cyber tournament regulations, it was held under the knock-out system with each cyber tennis match played over two sets with 4 games in each set.
Adults and children took part in the tournament. There was no division into men’s and women’s events in the Cybertennis 2018, that’s why the opening match, according to the draw, featured Maria Mitienko (the only girl participating in the tournament) and Alexander Lavrinovich. Alexander took the first set playing in the role of Russia’s top player (ranked 25th in the ATP) Karen Khachanov, however, in the second set his virtual opponent Federer (aka Maria Mitienko) staged a comeback of sorts. Yet, after the second game Lavrynovych leveled the score and took the lead. By the end of the first match, the crowd noticed that at some point Alexander was purposefully tanking so that the match wouldn’t finish too quickly. “Look, Khachanov is throwing the match to Federer!” – some witty onlooker from the crowd joked. Both the players and the crowd laughed together applauding the first victory in the tournament. That’s how Lavrynovych advanced to R2.
The second and third rounds of Petersburg Cybertennis 2018 were lackluster. The matches lasted not more than 20-23 minutes and in each of them the winner was determined after the first set. However such top players as Artem Kasyak, Grigoriy Mikhaelyan, Dmitriy Grigoriya and Dmitriy Petrov stole the show at the cyber tennis tournament. Starting from the 1/8 finals stage the crowd was watching the matches with baited breath. In one such match Lavrynovich faced 10-year-old player Igor Monakhov on the virtual court. Lavrynovich was playing for Gael Monfils, it was a rather close match until Alexander made an error: Monakhov who was starring as Roger Federer began to read the game of his opponent and ended up firing a winner into the empty corner of the virtual court. The youngest of the two opponents took the set.
Igor Monakhov’s enthused mother watched the match on the big screen cheering emotionally for her son. The second set was played pretty much under the same scenario as the first: Alexander Lavrynovich was trying to outgun his young opponent with powerful shots with Monakhov reacting very quickly, but this time around it happened to be a match-point ball – 4/3, 4/3 (5:7). Thus Igor Monakhov reached the quarterfinals but ended up losing to Artyom Kasyak much to the chagrin of the fans of the young cybergaming player.
At the end of the day Grigoriy Mikhaelyan and Artyom Kasyak met in the finals with Grigoriy playing in the shoes of Gael Monfils and Artyom acting as Roger Federer. It was a see-saw match but at the end of the first set it became clear that Mikhaelyan was the better player, so he ended up winning the title match 4/3, 4/3 (7:3). Mikhaelyan received R25 000 in prize money, runner-up Artyom Kasyak pocketed R15 000 and bronze medalist Dmitriy Petrov took a R7000 worth check.
In the meantime Roger Federer became the most popular tennis player of the virtual reality as he was often chosen by the participants and ended up “playing” more than 10 matches throughout the event.