Since this article was originally posted on March 17, 2020, it has been updated as are working to get you the most current news possible. This update is as of the morning of Thursday, March 19, 2020.
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has had an effect on everyone’s life in the past month. It seems that everything is being put on hold and life as we know it is being halted. Most sports leagues around the US have been suspended for the time being and the NCAA has cancelled the seasons for all winter and spring sports. So how exactly has the pandemic affected pro tennis players around the world?
Most recent update:
On March 18, 2020, the ATP/WTA and ITF both sent out an email informing the players that the tour suspension would be extended an additional 6 weeks. This means that the next possible professional tournament will be played the week of June 7th at the earliest.
How Will the 12 Week Suspension Affect Players?
A full 3 month suspension of the tour leaves players wondering what to do for that time period. It is clear that players cannot take the majority of that time off, but at the same time it is unrealistic for any player to train hard during that time. The biggest effect, though, will likely be mental. As professional athletes, these players’ lives revolve around tennis day in and day out. Everyone, pro athlete or not, is coping with how to manage this extra free time. Professional tennis players, however, will also try to figure out what will warrant their best level of tennis when the suspension is lifted.
Article/News as of Tuesday, March 17, 2020.
On March 12, 2020, the ATP and WTA tours announced that they would be suspending the professional tour for 6 weeks, effective immediately, due to health concerns over COVID-19. Shortly following that news, the ITF announced the same 6 week suspension of the futures level professional tour. The ITF was inevitable, as both tours play for the same ranking points. This meant that there would be no professional tournaments held in the world until at least the week of April 20th. On March 16, the WTA announced that they were furthering the suspension an extra 2 weeks through the week of May 2nd.
The First Domino
The first domino to fall in the sports world happened to be in tennis. On the evening of Sunday, March 8th, the BNP Paribas Open announced that they would not be holding the event. The first match of the tournament was set to play less than 24 hours later.
This message came as a shock to everyone including fans, players and coaches. Players had already been in Indian Wells for up to over a week preparing for the event. MyTennisHQ’s own Karue Sell was also on the grounds when the news broke.
ATP/WTA Announces Suspension
On March 12, the ATP sent an email to all players announcing that the tour would be suspended for 6 weeks, effective immediately. As the news broke while some futures tournaments were going on, those were cancelled mid tournament.
This announcement left players wondering what their next move would be, whether that be start a training block, go home and rest, or somewhere in between.
Why Was the Tour Suspended?
The tour was suspended for a few reasons. Obviously, large social gatherings are to be avoided until the virus is more contained to prevent quick spread. So why can’t the tournaments be played without fans?
As tennis is one of the most international sports in the world, the extensive international travel is required to get to the tournaments. If the tour was to go on without fans, the travel still puts players at severe risk of catching the Coronavirus.
How Does This Affect Players?
This affects pro players at every level in multiple ways. The biggest component with the tour suspension is uncertainty. The tour is officially suspended for 6 weeks, but many are anticipating that it could be extended to 12 weeks.
Unlike other sports, professional tennis income is mostly prize money. No tournaments means no prize money. Sure, household names such as Nadal, Djokovic, and Federer are not going to struggle over these weeks as they have contracts that pay them regardless of if they are playing the events. However, what about players outside of the top 50 in the world? Top 100? Top 500? Most professional players do not have these contracts at their disposal. So how are tennis players making money during this off time?
There is widespread panic amongst struggling tennis professionals about money during this time. Most jobs across the country that are required to take time off still get paid, but tennis players are feeling unemployed. A lot of them have good resumes to make money coaching, but building clientele in this field is something that takes time. Some pros have taken to social media to announce that they are available for lessons in the coming 6 weeks.
Pro tennis players around the world are doing their best to make ends meet while also taking the time to train and be sure they will be ready to go when the season resumes. This is no easy task, but they will do their best. It is pretty clear that all tennis players are eager for the season to start up again.
This makes it difficult for players to decide how to train. Doing 6 weeks of hard training is unrealistic because by the time the athlete is back to competing, their body will be completely shot. However, taking a lot of time off has its own obvious disadvantages.
So how are players handling it? The majority of players are treating this hiatus as a second off season. Many will take the first two weeks lightly, even if that means not playing much tennis at all. Weeks 3-5 of the suspension will be used to train at high intensity to get into top form. Week 6 will be used to taper off the training to make sure the body is healthy, fresh, and ready to go for the rest of the season.
Some players, on the other hand, are looking at this situation as a way to make improvements right out of the gates. Petros Chrysochos, who will be ranked 409 on the next rankings list, has committed to training immediately with no off time.
As tennis players create their own schedule, they can usually structure their training schedule down to the week. This next couple of months, however, is going to be different as players are going to have to adapt if the suspension is lengthened.
What Happens to Players’ Ranking Points?
As players are forced to take this time off, many are wondering what will happen to the points that they were going to have to defend. In the ATP ranking system, points are earned weekly based on results. For a more detailed explanation of the ranking system, see our article on “How Players Earn Ranking Points.”
Up to this point, there have been no announcements on what will happen to ranking points falling off in the 6 week suspension. This is raising some concern for players, especially those who had good results during this time last year. The hope is that the ATP will respond with a rule that will be fair for everyone and players will be able to use those ranking points when play is resumed, but it is a complicated issue. We are told that this is being discussed at length and players will be told as soon as possible.
How are Players Responding?
It is apparent that most players hold the same opinion about the current situation. They are frustrated with the circumstance, but understand that this is what needs to happen for the safety of humanity.
Most players realize that this circumstance is bigger than tennis. The ATP and WTA, among other sports organizations, are doing what they have to in order to keep the world safe. The best way to describe the mood of tennis players around the world is an “understanding disappointment.”
There is no doubt that the Coronavirus has changed life as we know it for the time being. No matter who you are, COVID-19 has had an impact on your life in some way, shape, or form, even if it means not being able to conveniently go to the grocery store and pick up a box of pasta for dinner.
In the chaos, I think that this pandemic will bring some larger issues to light. There are certain things that the ATP and WTA do not guarantee that other professional sports organizations do. Because our sport has no contracts, something like this comes along and it raises some serious questions. In an attempt to be optimistic, I believe this crisis will pass and people will be able to move on with their normal lives in the near future. My hope is that it will cause organizations like the ATP and WTA to see some flaws in the way things are currently run.
MyTennisHQ is happy to help with any questions that you have throughout the coming weeks. Everything we know to this point is in this article, but if you have follow up questions please feel free to reach out. Stay Safe everyone!