What’s Happened to Our World – A Summary of COVID-19 and Tennis

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Bill Simons

Here’s our summary of what’s happened so far with COVID-19 and tennis.

  • In January, intertwined with coverage of the Australian Open, local newscasts provided coverage of Wuhan being shut down. Scientists offered dire warnings of the coronavirus’ lethal power. Still, who would have known that it would prove to be a far greater story than Australia’s deadly bushfires or the passing of Kobe Bryant?
  • On February 20 the WTA cancels one of it’s April tourneys in China.
  • On February 28 Inside Tennis tweets “each year there is a special feel in the air as Indian Wells approaches.” Soon the tournament announces extreme hygiene measures are to be implemented at pre-tournament events.
  • On March 6 the Italy vs. Korea Davis Cup tie is played in a virtually empty stadium in Italy.
  • The public announcer at Indian Wells always used to love to tell former BNP Paribas champions, “Once a champion, always a champion.” Now it might be said of the tournament, “Once a leader, always a leader.” After all, Indian Wells has led in so many ways over the years – new stadiums, Hawkeye everywhere, easy access to practice courts, courtside restaurants etc. No one would have anticipated that on March 8th, Indian Wells would be the first major sporting event to cancel.
  • Serena self-isolated for six weeks and later spoke of her anxiety and concerns for her daughter’s health.
  • On its own on March 17, the French Open switched its dates from late May to September 20 without consulting other stakeholders. The dates overlap the popular Laver Cup and other tourneys around the world. The US Open and others were critical of the French lack of collaboration. ATP Council member Vasek Pospisil said the French move showed why a players’ union is needed.
  • The ITF, the ATP, the WTA, the USTA, assorted regional associations and colleges and schools announced the cancellation of tournaments and the suspension of play. At best there now will be no USTA play until May 3 and no WTA, ATP or ITF tourneys before June 7.
  • The self-deprecating, light-hearted TikTok offerings of Kristie Ahn, who reached the fourth round at the US Open, drew laughs. Her delightful posts gave many a much-needed respite.
  • In a joint statement on March 20, the ATP and WTA froze their rankings, a move that will help injured players like Federer, Bianca Andreescu and Simona Halep.
  • Billie Jean King tweeted, “While so many 1st responders, healthcare professionals, grocery store associates, & other essential workers are dealing with tremendous stress and worry, I am fortunate to be able to stay home & work out. Sending them my love and support.”
  • After pressure from the American Swimming Federation, the Canadian Olympic Committee and many others, the Olympics were postponed to 2021. There are reports that next year it will be in the same July time slot. Naomi Osaka, who some said was the face of the Tokyo games, issues a statement supporting the postponement.
  • Martina Navratilova offered an extraordinary array of tweets. And Chris Evert got into it too with many offerings, including an outspoken blast: “Ok!!! HEAR ME OUT…WE NEED TO SHUT DOWN FLORIDA FOR A MONTH…AND ALSO THE COUNTRY.”
  • On Twitter, Andy Roddick asked Tennis Channel for a job – and got one. He then listed, in alphabetical order, his top ten players: Chris Evert, Stefanie Graf, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rod Laver, Rafa Nadal and Pete Sampras.
  • Brazil’s Thiago Seyboth Wild, ranked No. 114, became the first tennis player to test positive for Covid-19.
  • In a group video call, Maria Sharapova spent over two hours chatting with fans.
  • Roger Federer and his wife donated $1.02 million for the most vulnerable families in Switzerland, which is reeling from the virus.
  • As clubs and academies throughout America have closed, so too have European academies, including the high-profile Mouratoglou and Nadal academies. The Spanish icon joined with his friend and former NBA star Pau Gasol to encourage Spanish athletes to raise millions for the Red Cross. In hard-hit Spain, Rafa said, “The Spanish have never failed us athletes. Now we cannot fail you.”
  • Novak Djokovic’s foundation is donating €1 million for Serbian supplies. He said, “It is important to remain united in this fight, to help each other.”
  • Sofia Shapatava, ranked No. 371, began an online petition asking the ITF, the ATP and the WTA to provide financial support for players who don’t have savings. The Georgian said, “Even if I have some money, I know many others who don’t know how to support themselves for more than a week or two. Also, many people will quit…after spending all the last cents on surviving.”
  • The nets of New York’s public courts were removed.
  • The Andre Agassi Foundation established a matching fund for COVID-19 relief.
  • The Australian Open, which backs the Laver Cup, said it was confident that something could be worked out with the French Open and the current conflict of dates.
  • Stan Wawrinka celebrated his 35th birthday with a whimsical virtual birthday party for himself.
  • Wimbledon, which is slated to start on June 29, still teeters. Its board will meet this week. Who knows the fate of the US Open, that’s scheduled for the end of August, in hard-hit New York? USTA officials are pondering options. Playing Wimbledon, the US Open and the French Open almost back-to-back remains a longshot possibility.
  • On Monday, March 30, the USTA will release a survey of the impact of the pandemic on the tennis industry.
  • Some have predicted that tennis’ off-season will be filled with play. Others sense the 2020 season will likely never reemerge. And, because of that, the fanciful early-season quip by Novak Djokovic that he may go undefeated this year, may in fact come true.
  • The WTA’s Shelby Rogers tweeted, “I need to start social distancing from my fridge.”
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1 COMMENT

  1. Many tennis goers in California, including private tennis clubs like ours have been very confused with Governor Newsom’s words. Although, he asked people to stay home, he did not mandate it, nor did he make. it to an ORDER… At the same time, he encouraged people to go outside to get exercise. Obviously, gym and contact sports would not be safe, but games like tennis, pickleball, or golf, you’re 10-300 feet away from your opponent or other people. If you can potentially get the virus touching a common ball, why not mandate people playing these sports to wear gloves on the opposite hand, and teaching pros on both, and in addition fo them to wear a mask. Park and Recreation centers players may be more at risk, because anyone can play, but in a private club, you can always be in a controlled environment where rules and guidelines are enforced. If this is something that is only going to take 1-2 months before it’s gone, it would make sense to have everyone stay home, but I think most people would agree that this is here to stay for a very long time. For the record, I also recommend ALL people to stay home as much as they can, but if they are to exercise or play tennis, Play It Safe! 

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