Tennis’s Global Nature Is A Big Barrier To Overcome

WASHINGTON, May 8, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

With professional tennis in the midst of an unprecedented lockdown due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, it has given players and others associated with the sport an opportunity to reflect on its current state. Of those who have recently spoken out, three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka feels that the global nature of tennis makes it difficult for it to return to any sense of normalcy this year.

In a recent TennisMajors.com “Major Talk” interview with Alize Lim, Wawrinka said, “We come from all around the world, that’s the issue with tennis. Then, we are all confined. So the first step, it’s to be able to get out. The second step is to reopen stores and restaurants. Then, there will be trips so it’s going to be take time (for tennis to be possible again). …

“I hope for the world that we will all be at the stage that we can compete again in September. That would mean that all went well. Currently, we’re so much in the middle of this crisis, that it is difficult to see the end.”

Also, ESPN broadcaster Patrick McEnroe, who recently recovered from the Covid-19 virus, told The Washington Post he doesn’t see tennis resuming in any fashion this year. As someone who views the sport from the perspective of having been a touring pro, as a former head of player development for the USTA and as past U.S. Davis Cup captain, the younger brother of Hall of Famer John McEnroe said this week, “I’ve been saying from the start, professional tennis will be one of the last things to come back, just because of the international nature of the sport.

“Whether it’s the US Open or the Marseille Open, you have players coming from all over the world. Until the world is back to some semblance of normal, I dont see how the game as we know it can restart.”

Ymer Brothers to play fund-raising exhibition Sunday 

Brothers Mikael and Elias Ymer of Sweden will play an exhibition match against each other at the Tennis Against Corona, a new initiative produced by the Stockholm Open, Sunday afternoon in an empty Royal Swedish Hall in Stockholm. The online event will help raise funds for the Red Cross’s Global Covid-19 Emergency Relief. A small TV crew will be on hand to broadcast online at SolidSport.com at 1 p.m. UTC for a fee of €3.99. The match between Sweden’s top two male players, will also be broadcast on Swedish national TV, SVT1 and SVT Play.

“We are both excited to contribute to the relief efforts that are being put forward to help those most affected from COVID-19,” the Ymer brothers said, as quoted by the ATP Tour website. “Our sole and main focus by playing a fun exhibition match with each other is to use the platform that we are so privileged to have as tennis players and contribute this way to the fight against this global pandemic.”

Passing shots: Will racquet tap replace post-match handshake?

The roar of tens of people – not thousands – may become the new normal when, and if, tennis resumes later this year. During a round table discussion Wednesday on Tennis Channel Live, commentator Mary Carillo and analyst Jon Wertheim shed some thoughts about the “new normal” and pondered whether the racquet tap will replace the post-match handshake.

“We have to be ready to make changes with the game,” said Carillo, speaking in a serious tone of voice.

“I don’t think any of these events are going to look like what we’re accustomed to from a tennis tournament,” added Wertheim. “The remaining majors (US Open and French Open) are trying to be creative. We’re all going to have to be nimble. These are not going to be conventional sporting events until we have a vaccine.”

Carillo responded pragmatically: “I think more than anything, what’s going to be happening (soon) is I think going forward everything’s going to be regional. We’ve already seen in Belarus at the end of a match there was no handshake, no fans in the stands. They’re trying to do this in Germany and in the U.S. in Florida this weekend. We do have to get more creative. I can see going forward if we’re going to show tennis on Tennis Channel without fans, we have to make it more interactive. We have to make it like FaceTime and develop algorithms for applause on the big shots. We can put speakers on the court so the players can hear it. I’m being serious. If we don’t come up with some atmosphere, you’re going to see some deadly dull stuff.”

Wertheim’s parting shot: “I think it’s going to be a big adjustment for these athletes playing in empty stadiums. … Who are we pumping our fists to when we hit a winner if there are no fans in the stands?”

The Way Back Machine – Nadal/Djokovic 2009 Madrid semifinal

The 2009 Madrid Open semifinal match between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic was at the time the longest men’s best-of-3 set tennis match in the Open Era. It lasted for four hours and three minutes, with Nadal winning 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (9).

Behind The Racquet – Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

About three years ago, Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova went through a really tough period where she wasn’t enjoying herself on the tennis court. She described how she felt in a recently-written and published, first-person essay for the Instagram series Behind The Racquet. “I was dealing with some private things in my personal life that I couldn’t overcome. I wasn’t enjoying tennis, I wasn’t enjoying anything. I didn’t like where my life was at ranking wise and overall. I felt like a burnout. I had that for a couple of years and I just couldn’t figure it out. 

“Slowly, I had some help and began working on myself. I am happy and that doesn’t affect me the same way. I still have a lot of will and potential in me and (I am) more ambitious than ever before. This tough experience is behind me, but I am happy I went through it. It made me who I am.”

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“It was sad at times when my dad was more of a coach than a father. I started playing when I was about five or six years old, and he was always there for me. He was there on the court for me, helped me with fitness and was the person who struggled along side of me. Even though my dad put in the most effort my whole family was involved. When I was 14 my brother, who used to play tennis, started traveling with me. I am proud of what I have achieved on and off the court with help from them but I always have more goals. ⁣ ⁣ I think I deal with this fear of making a mistake and letting people down. Through the help my family gave me it was tough to be my own person. Slowly through travel and being away I began to learn how to deal with experiences on my own. I work so hard so my family feels like it was worth it. I remember back in 2006, playing my first Junior Australian Open. In my head I thought it would be good if I won a match or two but just didn’t want to let everyone down. It’s not easy to play your best under that kind of pressure. I guess since I was young I kept it simple and just tried to hit the ball. I played a few matches and found myself winning the tournament, which got me to number one in the world. This was possible from all the belief my father had in me, which I only began to realize now. ⁣ ⁣ About three years ago I had a really tough period where I wasn’t enjoying myself on court. I was dealing with some private things in my personal life that I couldn’t overcome. I wasn’t enjoying tennis, I wasn’t enjoying anything. I didn’t like where my life was at ranking wise and overall. I felt like a burnout. I had that for a couple years and I just couldn’t figure it out. Slowly, I had some help and began working on myself. I am happy and that doesn’t affect me the same way. I still have a lot of will and potential in me and more ambitious than ever before. This tough experience is behind me, but I am happy I went through it. It made me who I am. I know a lot of people who go through that period, whether athletes or not. How you respond to that shows your true character.” @nastia_pav⁣ ⁣ Go to behindtheracquet.com for extended stories, podcast and merch.

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What they’re saying

Vasek Pospisil of Canada is a longtime member of the ATP Player Council, who recently guested on TSN’s “Tennis in Depth” broadcast in his home country. He spoke at length about a number of issues including the economic shakeup needed to help lower-ranked players, praising ATP Player Council president Novak Djokovic for his work on behalf of them. “I’ve been really impressed with Novak, now much he cares for all the players,” he said. “Even the lower-ranked guys. I don’t know if it is because of where he came from or how he grew up. I know that his family. Went through tough times when he was a kid. He really cares for all the players and the lower-ranked guys and so I give him so much respect and credit for trying to actually affect positive change.” 

What they’re writing

Liz Clarke, Washington Post sports features writer, from “See you in Melbourne? Tennis world, including U.S. Open, confronts grim outlook”: “New York remains the epicenter of the novel coronavirus pandemic, but U.S. Open officials haven’t abandoned hope of staging the Grand Slam event – even if it means moving it to the West Coast. 

“The possibility of holding the tournament in November at Southern California’s Indian Wells Tennis Garden was raised by U.S. Tennis Association Executive Director Mike Dowse in an interview this week with Inside Tennis.

“It’s among myriad scenarios for resuming professional tennis in 2020 – proposals that have been lobbed and batted down at a dizzying pace by bullish event promoters and skeptical players in recent weeks. 

“A combination of factors particular to tennis complicates its resumption before the development of a vaccine or, at minimum, significant strides in managing the pandemic.”

What they’re sharing on social media

Darren Cahill / Connecting sport through technology

Borna Coric / Enjoying morning walks with Nala

WTA / I spy Top 100 player word search

Victoria Azarenka / Heartfelt thank you #TheRealHeroes