How Will Covid-19 Affect Tennis?

Federer Nadal
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With the recent outbreak of COVID-19, the professional tennis season has been suspended until the 7th June 2020. This includes the Grand Slam Roland Garros which was originally scheduled for the 24th May to the 7th June. At this moment in time, tournaments post the French Open are still intending to be played, though with the current state of coronavirus internationally, it seems likely the suspension will extend beyond the 8th June.

So what will happen?

As with most questions concerning this global pandemic, no one really knows the answer. There are, however, a few outcomes which are likely to take place

  • The calendar returns to normal onwards from the 8th June and Roland Garros goes ahead 20th September.
  • The ATP tour becomes even more brutal – assuming the current global pandemic is resolved later in the year, there would be a lot of tournaments for players to catch up on in a short amount of time.
  • The ATP tour becomes shortened – the ATP decide which tournaments go ahead.
  • All tournaments are cancelled for the year.

Although the latter may seem very unlikely at a glance, tennis fans should reluctantly remember just how much travel the ATP tour features with tournaments taking place on each continent annually. The four Grand Slams alone take place on three different continents. Players from all over the world travelling all around the world to compete seems very, very far off where we currently are today.

Roger, Rafa and Novak

Since 2017, three men have shared winning the four Grand Slam events. With Rafael Nadal just one Grand Slam behind Roger Federer’s record, there is no doubt Nadal would have been looking forward to Roland Garros; a tournament he has won 12 times in the last 15 years.

Novak Djokovic has had an incredibly strong start to the 2020 season, winning 18 out of 18 of his matches (ATP Cup, Australian Open and Dubai Open). This suspended period for the in-form Serb could prove a momentum breaker, or offer him more time to study Nadal’s clay game down to a tee, as he did in the 2015 Roland Garros quarter finals.

Roger Federer announced he would be missing this year’s clay court season, and so, much of his schedule will likely remain the same- train and prepare for grass.

With Novak hot on Roger and Rafa’s heels, each Grand Slam is proving more vital than the last. If Wimbledon were to go ahead, it is possible we could witness Roger’s record being matched, or even broken, all within a four-month period. In the minds of the ‘Big 3’, when tennis does return, it will likely play a considerable part in defining who finishes as the greatest of all time.

Battle of the schedules

This year’s French Open has been rescheduled to the 20th September to the 4th October. It does come at an odd time, just one week after the US Open and during the same week as the hugely popular event, the Laver Cup. Then again, we are living in a very odd time…

This is an aspect Roger will undoubtedly be disappointed about as his management company, TEAM8, are part creators of the Laver Cup event. The Laver Cup has been a fantastic event, which has provided a refreshing, light-hearted yet competitive event after the US Open. Despite its appeal however, the event stands little chance of squaring up to the French Open. Many players earn a large salary (Roland Garros paid out 46,000 euros for a first round exit in 2019) for just turning up and they have a chance to pick up world ranking points.

While the Laver Cup organisers appear to be unphased by the rescheduling, Heinz Guenthardt, a former Swiss professional tennis player, former coach of Steffi Graf, and good friend of Federer’s says the Laver Cup won’t hesitate to change the dates.

What about the majority of professionals?

Recent reports show Lucas Pouille has rented an apartment with a tennis court for the foreseeable future, where alongside his team he is able to train. However, this is a luxury only few professionals can afford to do, which begs the question- what will the vast majority of professionals be doing in this prolonged break?

I caught up with professionally ranked tennis player Sean Hodkin (digitally of course, adhering to the latest social distancing regulations) who said:

“Obviously it’s going to be tough to train over the next few months but we’ve found ways around it. I’m training both on and off court at the moment, which involves making use of public courts, hill sprints and interval training on a field by my house. I also have weights at home to work on explosive routines, as well as keeping up a lot of yoga which has recently been my main aim in training.

But can we still play tennis?

While the tennis circuit may have come to an unfortunate and abrupt stop, the good news is the LTA has recently put out a guide on how to approach playing tennis under the current COVID-19 circumstances, which you can find here. Of course, do be sure to check the news each day to ensure that the government’s policies haven’t changed since the publishing of this page.

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James Ashoo

I have an MSc Distinction in Sports Business and Management from the University of Liverpool. I also have a high of 5th in respective LTA tennis county rankings and I'm a big tennis fan!

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