WASHINGTON, April 22, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)
Professional tennis faces many obstacles when it’s time to resume competition from the coronavirus stand down. Among them – and, perhaps, overlooked by many fans who yearn to see their favorites play again – is the need to ensure that its players are able to cross international borders freely. This is of essential importance for competition to commence again. Without players, there can be no competition.
Imagine for a moment if the governing bodies of world tennis – the ATP, ITF and WTA – required mandatory vaccinations in order for players to travel to the globe to compete. Although it would be easy to assume everyone would line up to vaccinate so they could compete, would they?
For one, men’s World No. 1 Novak Djokovic raised just a few eyebrows over the weekend when he suggested in a Facebook chat among Serbian athletes that it would be a difficult personal decision for him if receiving a coronavirus vaccine became a mandatory component in order to compete on the ATP Tour circuit. “Personally I am opposed to vaccination and I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel,” he said, as first reported by Reuters. “But if it becomes compulsory, what will happen? I will have to make a decision. I have my own thoughts about the matter, and whether those thoughts will change at some point, I don’t know.”
On Monday, New York Times tennis correspondent Christopher Clarey reached out to Djokovic in search of further comment in order to get clarification on the Serbian’s stance regarding vaccinations. He reported:
“In a statement released Monday through his management team, Djokovic declined to address whether he opposed vaccines in general. He focused his opposition on the issue of whether a Covid-19 vaccination, which has not been developed yet, would be necessary for travel. He also made it clear that he was intent on exploring options other than vaccination, but he did not rule out accepting one if necessary.
“‘I am no expert, but I do want to have an option to choose what’s best for my body,’ he said. ‘I am keeping an open mind, and I’ll continue to research on this topic because it is important and it will affect all of us.’
“He added: ‘To be honest, just like the rest of the world I am a bit confused. Despite having access to information and resources, I am left in doubt about what could be the best thing to do.’”
What they’re podcasting
Thirty-four years ago, in 1986, Martina Navratilova returned to Czechoslovakia to play the Fed Cup final representing the United States against her country of birth, 11 years after defecting. On this week’s The Tennis Podcast, Navratilova’s teammate and doubles partner, Pam Shriver, spoke to what it was like to be by her side and how difficult it was for Navratilova to control her emotions. Among the questions explored: Why was this such an important moment in Navratilova’s life? How was she received by the people in Prague, site of the Fed Cup final? And just how good was her tennis in the decisive match against Hana Mandlikova? Listen at: https://www.thetennispodcast.net
What they’re saying
Reigning US Open champion Bianca Andreescu, appearing on the Racquet Magazine Podcast, tells host Rennae Stubbs: “My parents gave me the freedom to choose my sport. … I did not start off with tennis. I started with ballet and skating, then got into swimming. I was all over the place. My parents basically wanted me to stay active, to find a sport I would like and to be an active person. … The most valuable thing I learned from my parents was determination and strength. You need to have them in order to accomplish what you want to accomplish (in life).”
What they’re writing
Reem Abulleil, The National.com (U.A.E.) tennis writer and columnist, on the WTA coaching carousel and why players change their teams so often: “At the start of this tennis season in Brisbane in January, Karolina Pliskova joked about how frequently she’s made changes to her coaching staff over the years.
“‘Of course I change coaches a lot so I think everybody’s kind of scared right now,’ laughed the Czech world No. 3, who parted ways with Conchita Martinez at the end of last year and hired Olga Savchuk and Dani Vallverdu for 2020.
“‘But it’s not that I dont like the people anymore; I just want to improve and do different stuff and I don’t want to stay in one place. That’s why I change.’”
What they’re tweeting
Novak Djokovic / Explains the new COVID-19 Player Relief Programme
Djokovic explains the new COVID-19 Player Relief Programme 👇 pic.twitter.com/uNn5ncvFW1
— ATP Tour (@atptour) April 21, 2020
Billie Jean King, Hall of Fame great / Practice makes perfect
A perfectionist on the court. A perfectionist at the piano.
— Fed Cup (@FedCup) April 21, 2020
Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray / Sharing a good laugh
— LTA (@the_LTA) April 21, 2020
Venus Williams / Home life during the coronavirus pandemic
— Venus Williams (@Venuseswilliams) April 21, 2020