WASHINGTON, May 5, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)
Best buddies on the WTA Tour, Tennis United co-host Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Julia Goerges recently shared a laughter-filled WTA InstaLive chat in which they shared their thoughts on handling the ongoing COVID-19 sabbatical from competitive tennis and what each been doing to maintain their mental and physical wellbeing as well as to stay motivated.
Mattek-Sands, 35, was at home in Phoenix, Arizona (in the United States), while Goerges, 31, a native of Bad Oldesloe, Germany, checked in from her home country.
“It’s a bit different than the usual occupation; it’s a different life right now,” the 38th-ranked Goerges explained. “I’ve never experienced being that much at home and not hitting.”
Goerges, who has only played 11 singles matches this season (going 6-5) and none since Doha in February, said she went five and one-half weeks without hitting after beginning her quarantine in Germany. There, she has received special permission to travel to Munich from her home – some 300 kilometers round trip – to practice. “It’s quite a long trip, going once a week, hitting balls. Fortunately, my gym does its job at home, too.”
Meanwhile, Mattek-Sands, who is ranked No. 20 in doubles (with an 8-4 win-loss record) and like Goerges hasn’t competed since Doha, said the weather was good in Phoenix, where she lives and trains with her husband, Justin. “The weather is pretty good. I have some private courts I can practice on. I’m not not trying to practice five days a week, especially when you don’t know what you’re training for. I’m just trying to feel the ball and enjoy the weather outside.”
Goerges and Mattek-Sands were in agreement that the long layoff from tennis has made it seem awkward to go on a practice court. “You feel like, ‘when is the next match happening? What am I doing here?’” said Goerges. “I’ve hit enough tennis balls in my life. When you’re on the court, its like what the hell is that? It just feels different.
“Usually you go on a court to work on something or play for something,” she added. “Now you are just like, ‘Okay. A tennis racquet and a yellow ball and the rest.’” At this point, Goerges can’t hold back her laughter.
“We’re so used to having a schedule,” said Mattek-Sands. “Even in our off-season, you know how many days off you’re going to have, when were going back. How are you handling it?”
Goerges replies: “I still have my schedule. It’s just a different schedule now. For me, its different. But I still schedule time for my program, otherwise I’m not surviving.
“The first week it was strange, to be honest. Waking up in the morning and you don’t have this adrenaline going. You’re not in a tournament where you have matches and pressure. Now, its like you’re so loose, where’s the pressure gone?
After three or four weeks, I kind of adjusted better.”
Mattek-Sands said having a regular schedule helps her. “It is important to your sanity. Whether practice, having food at the right time. I like having a schedule. … I have my lists.”
By this time in the conversation Mattek-Sands admitted, “I like watching Netflix. I rearranged my backyard. I’m curious what other people are doing,” she said. So, she asked Goerges about what the German has been doing to spend her down time from tennis.
Unlike her buddy, Goerges doesn’t have Netflix. However she’s been cooking, cleaning her house, doing things she doesn’t have time when she’s on tour, which she has found to be satisfying. “I like to relax, too.” Goerges admitted her favorite thing to cook is a halloumi burger, which is best described as comprised of a buttery brioche bun with crisp lettuce, onions, tomatoes and creamy mayonnaise layered around crispy halloumi cheese from Cyprus.
Both agreed, they are enjoying taking things easier than usual. Mattek-Sands and Goerges know that one day they will go back to playing tournament tennis, again, but for now they are appreciating going through a personal reset in the comfort of their respective homes.
“I try to entertain myself with a book; I don’t watch much television,” said Goerges. “I enjoy going for a walk, observing nature.” Added Mattek-Sands: “It’s a good time to slow down, do a personal reset, figure out my priorities.”
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Behind The Racquet – Fabio Fognini
Fabio Fognini admits his first passion is football. “There were time I rather play football than tennis but it is tough to say that when tennis gave me this life,” he wrote in a recent first-person essay for the Instagram series Behind The Racquet. “It is difficult because tennis is a job now, not a sport. Football is my favorite sport and I watch as much as I can. It was when I was younger when I decided tennis was for me. Football was amazing but tennis gave the responsibility I wanted. If I lose it is on me just like it is if I win.”
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“The worst time of the year for me is between December and January when I am really close to flying again. I have a long pre season, see friends, some good dinners, and then I get back on the road. I always get sick days before I am about to leave. Sometimes a fever or a cough, and I just tell myself it is going to be okay. it has been like this for about 10 years. It happens because after having the chance to be at home, close to family and friends, it is almost like I am part of another life. I am still practicing but to have the chance to catch up with everyone doesn’t really happen during the season. I remember my first child being eight months old, and Flavia and I were in Miami again for pre season. That time was unique. I was about to fly out to Australia and I began to cry like a baby. I just couldn’t imagine leaving them. It was two years ago and I started off the season really poorly. I started the clay season with a couple first round losses and no confidence. During the three months before I kept telling myself that I needed time off to rest. That I should practice and just get ready for Monte Carlo. I was alone during the South American swing and also Miami. I felt lonely and the little time I got to see my family in between wasn’t enough. I kept asking myself what should be doing. I found some motivation and told myself I should stay and fight. I was down 6-4, 4-1, break point during the first round of Monte Carlo. I not only managed to come back in that match, but I won the tournament. I pushed harder than I have before to get myself through that first match and ended with the best result of my life. My first passion was football. There were times I rather play football than tennis but it is tough to say that when tennis gave me this life. It is difficult because tennis is a job now, not a sport. Football is my favorite sport and I watch as much as I can. It was when I was younger when I decided tennis was for me. Football was amazing but tennis gave me the responsibility I wanted. If I lose it is on me just like it is if I win.” @fabiofogna Go to behindtheracquet.com for extended stories, podcast and merch.
What they’re saying
Marco Trungelliti of Argentina, best known for being a whistleblower in a big match-fixing scandal, is blasting tennis authorities over its management of the coronavirus crisis. In an interview with the Spanish-language EFE News Agency based in Madrid, the 231st-ranked Tungelliti criticized tennis’s governing bodies for showing a lack of support to non-players who are working in the sport. “The only bad thing is that there are many people who make a living from this sport and not just players that we have stopped producing. All the work team behind it stops charging. The tennis bodies are painful and the only way they handle the situation is to say that it is poor. The whole system is quite loose and they don’t take into account the trainers, the physical trainers.”
Further, Tungelliti, 31, is critical of a lack of communication, saying those who are lower ranked or not a top name tend to get turned aside or – worse – ignored. “Each time you go down the ranking it is worse, it is evident, but the one who is 120 in the world has trouble reaching the end of the month. It is a reality,” he said. “At the moment, there is a lot of anger between players and coaches. More than anything, people are angry at the lack of support. In tennis there is no information and you do not belong to anything. Neither financial or mental aid. The lack of communication is terrifying.”
What they’re writing
Joel Drucker, Tennis.com writer and historian, from “Underrated Traits of the Greats: Roger Federer – Winning Ugly”: “Consider that the Swiss maestro, the man who has elicited more swooning than any tennis player in history, might best be understood via Brad Gilbert’s 1993 tactical classic, Winning Ugly. As Gilbert wrote:
“‘Study and build. Deploy and destroy. Does anyone in tennis history do this with as much technical and tactical acuity and diversity as Federer?’
“‘When you play tennis, you play to a rhythm,’ says Tennis Channel analyst Jimmy Arias. ‘It’s instinctual. You’re used to a similar pace. Roger doesn’t let you do that. He does so many things to take time and space away from his opponents.’”
What they’re sharing on social media
Simona Halep, Romania, currently ranked No. 2 / There’s no place like home
There’s no place like home ❤️ pic.twitter.com/9nAWmRIKHZ
— Simona Halep (@Simona_Halep) May 4, 2020
#TheRealHeroes / WTA to celebrate National Nurses Day on Wednesday
🎾WTA Fans 🎾
Join us and the world of sports this Wednesday, National Nurses Day, to thank all the frontline healthcare heroes.
— wta (@WTA) May 4, 2020