Coronavirus Finally Hits Tennis Players

WASHINGTON, March 16, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

On Sunday, Tennis Channel reported that Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan is the first known professional tennis player to be quarantined for coronavirus.

Shvedova, 32, a former French Open and Wimbledon quarterfinalist who has won one career singles title and 13 doubles titles on the WTA Tour, was returning home to Kazakhstan from California to reunite with her 1-year-old twins following the cancellation of Indian Wells. The player/captain of the Kazakh Fed Cup team was immediately placed in a mandatory 14-day quarantine after it was learned she flew from Moscow to Nur-Sultan on the same aircraft as a passenger from Milan, Italy, who had tested positive for the coronavirus.

On her Instagram page, Shvedova wrote: “Hello everyone from the quarantine! 😷 Many people in Kazakhstan probably heard about the flight from Moscow to Nur-Sultan on March 12th and that on that flight there was a passenger flying from Milan who had a coronavirus. So I was on that flight, flying home to my family from California after Indian Wells was cancelled. Not long after arrival I was placed in stationary quarantine like all passengers of that flight. #coronavirus”

Then, on Monday, Shvedova updated her status on her Instagram page, saying: “My test for corona virus is Negative!!!!!👍”

Also, the Herald Sun of Australia reported Monday that Bernard Tomic is in quarantine in Miami after showing symptoms of COVID-19. He said, “Since Tuesday, started feeling not right. I already had shortness of breath and my immune system was low and run down. I’m currently in Miami and isolated away from everyone, as advised. I’m yet to be tested for it but I have all the symptoms.”

Financial impact on pro tennis is fluid

While it’s premature to say what the ultimate impact of the coronavirus pandemic will be on professional tennis – the ATP Tour, ITF and WTA – it’s been suggested that a lot will depend on whether events that have been impacted thus far can be rescheduled. For instance, the BNP Paribas Open is hopeful it can find a window of opportunity in the pro tennis calendar this fall, likely after the US Open, while the Miami Open is already looking ahead to 2021. Of course, while the ATP targets a possible return the competition the week of April 27, who knows if that is a viable date or will it be pushed back further?

The owner of the BNP Paribas Open, American billionaire business magnate Larry Ellison, has deep pockets and owns the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, where the annual event is staged in the scenic palm desert town of Indian Wells. No doubt, he’s eager to still be able to stage the tournament dubbed by many as “the fifth Grand Slam” sometime later this year. However, the Miami Open shares Hard Rock Stadium with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and the University of Miami Hurricanes – and both will be hosting football games from August through December. So, that is likely the main reason it’s a no-go for this year.

One thing to keep in mind during the sports hiatus is this: the players are all independent contractors. The better they perform – the deeper players go in a tournament – the more money they make. Right now, players stand to collectively lose millions of dollars if they can’t compete for prize money. There was $17 million combined at stake this week in Indian Wells. Remember, not everyone has a portfolio of endorsements like Roger Federer (Uniqlo, Wilson, Credit Suisse, Rolex) or Naomi Osaka (Nike, Yonex, Nissan, Mastercard) to name just a few, which they can fall back on.

Beating back boredom through books …

Players are handling their newfound downtime in a variety of creative ways. One of them, Andrea Petkovic of Germany, recently started a book club for “tennis nerds” with literary quarterly Racquet Magazine, whom she is listed in the masthead as “cultural attaché.” She publicized the book club on her Instagram page over the weekend and announced the first book to be discussed will be String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis, a book of essays on tennis.

If you’re looking for other book recommendations with a tennis theme – and there are more than you might think – I highly recommend these two:

Levels of the Game by John McPhee, about a single, epic tennis match between Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner – originally published in 1969, and arguably the best book every written about tennis. Arthur Ashe: A Life by Raymond Arsenault is a 2018 revelatory biography that takes a close look at the life of the late Hall of Famer. It presents much evidence to suggest that Ashe was not only a great player, he was an extraordinary human being.

… and podcasts, too

If reading books about tennis isn’t your thing, perhaps tennis-themed podcasts might help pass time until your favorite players are back in action. There’s plenty of good podcasts being produced – some weekly – too many to mention all of them. However, here’s a few that I try to keep up with on a regular basis that are worth a good listen:

The Tennis Podcast, co-hosted by BBC 5 Live’s David Law and Amazon Prime’s Catherine Whitaker, along with regular contributions by tennis writer Matt Roberts, this London-based weekly podcast is timely and informative – it’s enjoyed more than 8 million downloads and listened to by fans in more than 100 countries. Recent guests have included Marion Bartoli, Janko Tipsarevic, New York Times tennis correspondent Christopher Clarey and the Telegraph’s Simon Briggs.

No Challenges Remaining, co-hosted by New York Times tennis writer Ben Rothenberg and WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen, is full of pop culture references, personal rants and long and unbridled thoughts and opinions about tennis. And, during the suspension of play, they’ve started a book club, too.

Racquet, hosted by former pro turned TV analyst Rennae Stubbs and Racquet magazine co-founder Caitlin Thompson, who talk to their friends and favorite tennis players “about life, love and sometimes even tennis.”

Tennis With An Accent is a weekly podcast about tennis, hosted by Saqib Ali and Matt Zemek, “where the accent is purely an opinion of a fan or fans” and includes interviews with players, coaches and tennis media.

What the players are tweeting

Dominic Thiem

“At the moment we have to accept the decision and do our best to keep everybody healthy and safe! I’m already looking forward to hit some balls again and will keep all of you updated as soon as I get some news!“

Madison Keys

Karen Khachanov

Ashleigh Barty

Stefanos Tsitsipas

“Do not take it lightly. Our coronavirus affects us all and we must all do what we can to reduce its spread. Protect us, but also protect the most vulnerable.”

Elina Svitolina and Gaël Monfils