How Will The Coronavirus Lockdown Affect Tennis’s Aging Superstars?

WASHINGTON, April 17, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Pro tennis like all sports worldwide have been locked down for the past month. When it returns – for now the lockdown runs at least until July 13 – is anyone’s guess. It’s worth exploring the question: How will the coronavirus lockdown affect tennis’s aging superstars, i.e. Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Andy Murray, et al.?

When retired British great Tim Henman, 45, who reached six Grand Slam semifinals and won 11 ATP singles titles during his career, was asked that very question by Daily Telegraph of London tennis correspondent Simon Briggs, he said the extended shutdown would give the current superstars a chance to rest and recuperate – maybe even extend their playing careers. The trade off, of course, is that the coronavirus pandemic has robbed each of them of playing in this year’s Wimbledon Championships, which has already been cancelled by the All England Club.

“Andy has missed so much tennis that perhaps it will give him the opportunity – if his body and his hip allow – to play for longer in age terms,” said Henman, quoted by Briggs.

In a column published Wednesday in The Washington Post, sports columnist Jerry Brewer writes: “For them, this is no hiatus. The games may be on pause, but the clock keeps ticking. While they have broken records and won plenty, this absence is already threatening their final chapters, and a prolonged one could ruin some of their walk-off dreams.”

Federer, who turns 39 on August 8, is arguably the greatest male tennis player of all time. But with no chance to go after his ninth Wimbledon this year, does the Swiss maestro have the desire to come back and play at all this year? Or, will he simply stay on the sidelines the rest of 2020 and wait until next January in Melbourne to begin pursuit of his 21st Grand Slam title?

When you look at Williams, 38, you see she is stuck on 23 Grand Slams titles. “She doesn’t have to break Margaret Court’s record of 24; she cemented her legacy long ago,” writes Brewer. “But her journey, form teenage phenom to motherhood, tugs at the nation’s heart. There is considerable emotion tied to her pursuit of that record. As her legend grew, she became so open and such a symbol of strength and will. We watch sports to be amazed, and there’s a public yearning to see her break the record. But she turns 39 in five months.” 

Williams has won Wimbledon seven times, but now she will have to wait until next year to go after number eight.

Is there enough time for either Federer or Williams – or for that matter Murray – to keep chasing their dreams? Let’s hope so.

#TennisAtHome – It’s Andy and Novak Live

On Wednesday evening, Andy Murray wrote on Twitter: “So, @DjokerNole and I are getting together this Friday over on Instagram and will be going live at 6PM BST to answer some of your questions. We’ll pick a few questions ahead of the Live, so get your questions in below and see you on Friday!”

What they’re saying

• ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi, appearing Thursday on Tennis Channel Live, broadcast in the U.S.: “We’re gonna try to step in in the next couple weeks and provide support to those players who don’t have the means to actually go on financially.”

• Mark Ein, Citi Open (Washington, D.C.) owner, appearing this week on The NCR Tennis Podcast, said: “When tennis is done at a high level (like the U.S. Open and Indian Wells) people will respond and come.” Ein told NCR co-host Ben Rothenberg he envisions four likely scenarios for this year’s Citi Open: 1. It takes place as scheduled (main draw begins August 3) with spectators. 2. It takes place with no spectators. 3. It takes place with a limited number of spectators allowed. 4. It is cancelled until 2021. “At the end of the day, if there is not a safe and healthy way to put on the tournament, we will do it next year,” said Ein.

What they’re photographing

Czech-born photographer and visual artist Radka Leitmeritz, whose work has previously appeared in Racquet, a quarterly magazine that celebrates the art, ideas, style and culture that surrounds tennis, has recently completed a WTA photo shoot of stars far from the court, including Bianca Andreescu, Garbiñe Muguruza and Barbora Strycova.

What they’re tweeting

Kristie Ahn, United States, Queen of TikTok, ranked No. 96

JC Aragone, United States, ranked No. 276

Serena Williams, United States, ranked No. 9

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