By Jack Tarrant
TOKYO (Reuters) - American tennis player Taylor Fritz and his doubles partner, Tik Tok personality Addison Rae, won the virtual Stay At Home Slam on Sunday as real-life tennis remains on hold because of the coronavirus crisis.
The likes of the Williams sisters, Japanese stars Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori and the recently retired Maria Sharapova competed as their favourite characters from the world of Nintendo to raise money for charity.
The professional tennis tours are closed down until mid-July at the earliest because of the coronavirus pandemic, meaning fans and players alike were eager to turn their attention to the tournament played within the Mario Tennis Aces game.
The final, which pitched Fritz and Rae against Nishikori and his partner, DJ Steve Aoki, was watched live by over 35,000 people on Facebook Gaming but did run into technical difficulties as the match froze midway through the set.
After a delay, which was filled by awkward banter between co-commentators seven-time Grand Slam winner John McEnroe and YouTube personality iJustine, the match restarted.
Mirroring his real-life playing style, Fritz's dominant serve was the deciding factor as he and Rae ran out 6-4 winners to claim the championship and a $1 million donation to the No Kids Hungry charity.
All the players received a $25,000 donation to their charity of choice.
"I was more nervous there than any of my real tennis matches," Fritz said.
The Williams sisters couldn't translate their real-life prowess into the virtual world as both lost their opening round matches.
Sharapova and partner, model Karlie Kloss, also went out in the first round whilst Osaka's match against Nishikori and Aoki had to be forfeited after her partner Hailey Bieber struggled to maintain a strong internet connection.
Despite the technical issues - brushed off by McEnroe as being "like a rain delay" - tennis fans will have be content with virtual tournaments for now.
"It has been a crazy time but we all need to have some fun and it is for a great cause," said McEnroe.
The coronavirus pandemic, which has infected over 3.4 million globally, killing at least 240,000 people, has also played havoc with the world's sporting calendar.
The Wimbledon championships were cancelled for the first time since World War Two whilst the French Open, originally scheduled to begin in May, has been pushed back until September.
All ATP and WTA tour tournaments have been cancelled until at least mid-July.
(Reporting by Jack Tarrant; editing by Richard Pullin)