Things have changed globally because of the coronavirus pandemic and stuff we took for granted earlier might never be the same again. At least in a long time. In the passages below, we discuss how tennis has been affected by the spread of this illness and how can tennis fans still enjoy the sport despite the obvious changes brought about in the world.
Coronavirus Effect on Tennis
The Indian Wells Masters was the first big-ticket tennis tournament which was cancelled in 2020 because it was deemed too dangerous to continue hosting the year’s first Masters competition due to the virus spread.
The Miami Open soon followed and one by one tennis competitions all around the world started getting suspended and if one still doubted the gravity of the situation, the announcement that Wimbledon wouldn’t be played in 2020 would have clarified a lot of things.
The French Open authorities, meanwhile, rescheduled the tournament for September but more news about is still awaited.
At the time of writing, ATP and WTA have cancelled all tennis tournaments till the first week of August and the possibility of the US Open getting postponed is a very real one.
Amidst all the purported gloom and doom, there was some good news for tennis fans and that was the announcement of the return of competitive tennis. Make no mistake, this wasn’t about ATP and WTA resuming their tournaments but smaller tennis bodies organizing exhibition tournaments consisting of players of different pedigree and to empty stadium.
Over the weeks, more and more such tournaments have sprung up and while things need to be tread cautiously at the moment, it also gives rise to speculation whether we could see some form of tennis at the highest level return quicker than we previously thought.
Tennis During the Pandemic
As we mentioned earlier, tennis bodies around the world have been trying their best to dish out some kind of tennis and exhibition tournaments have been organized in different parts of the world. Most notably, in Europe.
Which are these tennis tournaments which have been organized despite the pandemic?
Here’s a list of the tennis competitions which have been organized or will be organized even as ATP and WTA tennis remains suspended.
- Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro
- Tennis Point Exhibition Series at Rhineland-Palatinate
- Generali Pro Series
- Czech Tipsport Charity Cup
- Credit One Bank Invitational at Charleston
- Adria Tour in the Balkans
- New Zealand Premier League
Below we give out a detailed explanation for each of them and the players involved in these competitions.
Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro
This is the first of its kind competition which saw 16 men and women participate in the esports of tennis.
Organized by the same tennis body which oversees the Madrid Masters tennis tournament, this online competition had the players divided into four groups of four each and each of them played in three group matches. Two from each group made the quarterfinal which was followed by the semifinals and the final.
Andy Murray and Kiki Bertens won the title.
Here’s a more detailed explanation on what was the Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro.
Tennis Point Exhibition Series at Rhineland-Palatinate
This was one of the first outdoor tennis tournaments which was played during the pandemic with Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany opening its doors to a few tennis players.
It was played over a few weeks, from Thursday to Sunday in the month of May with the player list consisting of those ranked outside the top 100.
Dustin Brown, famous for his shocking wins over Rafael Nadal at one point in his career, led the draw with the likes of Jan Choinski, Yannick Hanfmann, Benjamin Hassan, Florian Broska and Jean-Marc Werner among some of the rest.
Generali Pro Series
Dominic Thiem will lead the challenge at the Generali Pro Series which will be hosted in Austria and see 16 men and eight women players participate in the competition. The players will be divided into groups of four each and feature in a round-robin tournament, with the top three from each men’s group making it to the second round.
This will be followed by another group stage which will help prune the list down to eight players who will then participate in an ATP Finals-style tournament. The eight women players will also join the tournament at this stage.
Some of the other players who would be in action include Dennis Novak, Jurij Rodionov and Tamira Paszek.
Czech Tipsport Charity Cup
This women’s competition will be hosted in Czech Republic and will see some of the top women’s players action in this team event. With Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova expected to take to court, this will be a tournament to watch as well.
Some of those in the player-list include Karolina Muchova, Barbora Strycova, Barbora Krejčíková and Katerina Siniakova.
Credit One Bank Invitational at Charleston
The Charleston Open is a WTA tennis tournament played every year but in the absence of any high-level competitive tennis, the same venue will host an exhibition competition by the name of Credit One Bank Invitational.
This will again be a team competition with players like Bianca Andreescu and Sofia Kenin leading the way. Madison Keys and Bethanie Mattek-Sands will be the respective captains, and the likes of Victoria Azarenka, Sloane Stephens, Amanda Anisimova and Jennifer Brady will all be in action.
Adria Tour in the Balkans
Novak Djokovic is one of the organizers of this tournament and Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev and Grigor Dimitrov will take part as well. If you are wondering if Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were invited, the answer is no but Djokovic did say it was because he had a fair idea they wouldn’t be playing anyway.
This tournament will be played across four countries; Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro, with each of the venue hosting a two-day competition that will see group-cum-knockout matches.
New Zealand Premier League Tennis
This is the first tennis tournament to be organized in the southern hemisphere during this pandemic. The New Zealand Premier League tennis competition will be hosted in Auckland and the locals like Rubin Statham, Artem Sitak, Cameron Norrie and Ben McLachlan will also participate in this tournament.
There have been a few others which were also played and some which will be played and we will update this list with as many as we can when we get more information on them.
For instance, the LTA has expressed its interest to host the nationals for the first time in many years, while there are also talks with Jamie Murray to organize another UK-based tennis competition during the pandemic.
The Changing Face of Tennis During the Pandemic
At the time of writing we are still a while away from the resumption of full-fledged tennis and when that happens we will update this section again.
But tennis has seen a lot of changes in the last few months – as have other sports – and we will be looking to update as many of those as possible below. The list below includes guidance not just for tournaments but also coaching and training at different levels.
- Exhibition Tournaments Only. The ATP, WTA and the ITF circuit is some time away from returning.
- Play to Empty Stands. No spectators are allowed at the moment to competitions. There have been talks some countries might allow a few if the lockdown is lifted in their countries. However, Grand Slams like the US Open and French Open are already looking at this as a last-ditch option to hold their competitions in 2020.
- Fast4 Tennis. Many of these tennis tournaments played during the lockdown will be to the Fast4 format. More information on the Fast4 format can be found here.
- Initial Your Tennis Balls. Whether playing these exhibition tournaments or at clubs, tennis players need to use their own tennis balls and initial them so as to pick their own balls. Return your opponent’s balls using racket or feet.
- No Change of Ends. Players expected to play from one end and even if there’s a change in ends, it’s from different sides of the nets.
- No Line Judges. Lesser the better. Chair umpire to adjudicate the line calls.
- No Ball-Kids. Same as above. Balls to be picked up by players themselves
- Handshakes a Strict No-No. Fairly obvious and not just restricted to tennis!
- Coaches Not Allowed. The debate about whether or not on-court coaching should be allowed has been a long-raging one but for now, it’s not going to work.
- Showers Banned. Players cannot use public restrooms for showers. Go home and get changed.
- Own Towels to be Bought & Used. No dirty laundry to be washed by the organizers.
- Some tournaments like the Australian Open have also started considering the hosting of the next edition after quarantining the players for 14 days before the tournament starts and to closed stadium.
- As far as coaching at all levels is concerned, this can be done in a relatively safer manner with the coach being at the other end and using fresh tennis balls for every new session. Bring your own balls if serving needs coaching.
It remains to be seen how many of these changes will be adopted going forward even when competitive tennis returns to the circuit but it does look like it would be some time before we see tennis return to its fully original avatar.
How to Practice Tennis Indoors During the Pandemic?
There are a few countries around the world where the doors to private coaching or practice have been reopened and as things get better, this will continue to change.
However, if you are a beginner, an amateur or even looking to join the big leagues but currently without an option to hire a court and practice your tennis, here’s our exhaustive guide on what you can do to sharpen your tennis skills indoors.
What you could also do – if you haven’t done already – is to follow some of the tennis players on their Instagram accounts. Some like Stan Wawrinka post quite useful content on things you could do to improve your game even during this lockdown period or at least keep yourself fit in the buildup to the return of tennis.