Tennis Players in Social Distance…
In New York, in the time of COVID-19, it is rough — no deco-turf coating, here — for people who live for being on the courts. On something like March 13 (the days all blur) Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered people indoors and social distancing when we ventured outside of our 600-square-foot apartments for the basics. The guys behind the Play Your Court site had this advice, among other suggestions to play social distance tennis:
- Players are advised not to change ends during play.
- … No hand shakes or high fives.
- …Each player could have their own tennis balls identified by number, brand, or writing their initials and ensure that they are the only person to touch that tennis ball with their hands. For other tennis balls, other methods such as lifting with a foot and racket or scooping up from the ground with the racket could be used.
But it wasn’t enough. Not satisfied with our distances, on March 22, New York Mayor Bill De Blasio pulled the hoops off the basketball backboards and took down the nets on tennis courts all over the city, despite being full of the regulars at East River all week, no reported cases of COVID-19.
Fair enough. But sometimes in crisis, we usually look to the celebrity professionals for help. What are they doing. Well, let’s see: Roger Federer donated a bunch of money to Swiss families and instigated a Tennis Challenge; our favorite OCD player, Rafa Nadal is “Espero que todos estéis bien y en casa cuidándose” or staying at home; Serena Williams is sharing her latest commercial projects and competing with Roger… again.
But beyond Courts 1, 2 and 3, to the outer reaches of Instagram and YouTube, some interesting things turn up. In packs, pro tennis players can seem rather analogous — practicing, sweating, eating, talking about their friends and “tough opponents” to the media. In isolation, however, they are quite entertaining.
Ons Jabeur, the up-and-comer who had been primed for potential greatness this year, has taken to Instagram to post the toilet-paper challenge: gifs and such showing off how long various individuals can bounce a roll of toilet paper on their racquet, even showing off hilarious competition between a kid and a cat. Stay tuned for the Arab hip-hop. The newly retired and seemingly happier Maria Sharapova goes on African safaris and recently had a #SharaFamilyHangout “the best two hours I could have spent! was full of laughs, tears, wine ( tea for me but I won’t make that mistake next time🤣)…they were on 🔥🔥🔥!!” And Naomi Osaka, a fan favorite, has been introducing us all to her favorite personalities, including a tooth brushing and air-freshener spraying hip-hop artist.
For those tennis players with an artistic bent, Andrea Petrovic has started a book club with Racquet Magazine — in addition to doing some other muscle workouts. Gael Monfils has gone hanging with some street artists (as girlfriend Elina Svitolina does the vibe challenge at home) and Stan Wawrinka (bed-head included) has been showing off his old-skool video game mastery.
Meanwhile, teaching pros in New York have been exercising (officially) painting and jamming (somewhat officially). Briggit Marcovich, a one-time Fed Cup player for Venezuela recently launched a painting show of Pollack-, Warhol- and Jasper-Johns-inspired, mixed-media tennis paintings. Finally, who could forget junior mentor John McEnroe, his former band and his union with rocker Patti Smyth.
What are those old tropes — that we need “now, more than ever”? Variety is the spice of life? When the going gets tough, the tough get dancing, painting, rocking, reading and pranking each other? If you find yourself staring at an empty court with the net cut, think of these players and their small triumphs under #coronacrazytimes.
TennisConfidential is now in your inbox every week.
Portions of TennisConfidential also reside on https://tennisconfidential.substack.com/