Hello and welcome to the first issue of Tennis inbox. This week, we’ll explore the details of when and how we can expect to see some normalcy in the world of tennis (hint: not for quite some time), and we’ll take a look at how tennis could return—and what those changes could look like. Tennis’ governing bodies have also put together the ‘Player Relief Programme’ to assist players in the professional ranks. Read on to find out more.
A $6 million player relief fund
The ATP, WTA, ITF and the four Grand Slams have come together to create a $6 million fund for players who have been affected by the COVID–19 pandemic, called the ‘Player Relief Programme’. With the distribution of prize money in tennis being skewed so heavily towards the top, we’re sure that the funds will be useful for athletes who were making their way up the ranks before the pandemic struck.
In terms of how the funds will be distributed, Tom Daniels at Insider Sport reports:
The ATP and WTA will be responsible for the distribution of the Player Relief Programme which will see funds be split equally between men and women. In total the initiative is expected to target around 800 singles and doubles players. Eligibility will take into account a players ranking as well as previous prize money earnings to ensure that only those in need will be given funding.
If you want to read the original letter that Novak Djokovic sent back in early April to his fellow ATP players requesting them to donate to the fund, Sports Illustrated has published a lightly edited version. It begins:
Wanted to write to you regarding financial support to lower ranked players No. 250-700 singles. ATP has allocate over $1 million to this relief fund. They have planned to contribute to players ranked between No. 150-400 singles.
Rafa, Roger and I spoke yesterday and this is what we propose…”
Indian Wells could host the US Open 2020
Though many of us can’t be on court, we look forward to when we can at least watch a Grand Slam next. With New York City being a hotspot for the coronavirus in the United States, and Arthur Ashe Stadium currently being used as a make-shift hospital, it seems unlikely that we’ll see the Open in Flushing Meadows in September. But plans might be afoot to change the location to Indian Wells in California. Michael Dowse, the newly appointed Executive Director of the USTA, is quoted in USA Today as saying that “nothing is off the table.” Yet Dowse notes that whatever happens will have to be done with the blessings of the ATP and the WTA. The USTA will decide in late June whether it will go ahead with hosting the US Open 2020.
Craig Tiley on what the Australian Open 2021 could look like and an Australian Tour
If the French Open and US Open don’t go ahead, we at least reserve some hopes for the Australian Open in 2021. The country is doing well compared to the rest of the world and has so far managed to keep the coronavirus under control. But Craig Tiley, the Chief Executive of Tennis Australia and the Australian Open’s Tournament Director is being soberingly realistic. In an interview with the Australian Associated Press, Tiley notes that the worst case scenario is that there will be no Australian Open in 2021, and the “best-case scenario at this point is having an AO with players that we can get in here with quarantining techniques and Australian-only fans.” In other words, international players will be asked to follow quarantine procedure before being allowed to compete.
There are also plans for a domestic professional series that will take place in Australia, but that will be dependent upon how the country is handling the coronavirus pandemic at the time and whether inter-state travel is permitted.
Tiley also appeared on the Channel 9’s Wide World of Sports to answer a few more questions on the Australian Open 2021:
The future of live tennis (at least for a bit)
UTR Pro Match Series
Curious what tennis will look like in the coming year? We already have an idea thanks to the UTR Pro Match series. No fans. No ballboys or ballgirls. And a private court with a mounted camera. The men’s event took place between May 8th to the 10th and featured Hubert Hurkacz (ATP #29), Reilly Opelka (ATP #39), Miomir Kecmanovic (ATP#47), and Tommy Paul (ATP #56). Opelka won the event, but highlights are still available through The Tennis Channel’s Facebook page. With the mini-tournament’s tagline being “Play Locally. Count Globally.,” the series could be a good indicator of what’s to come for live tennis.
Austria and Germany to host round-robin events
With travel restricted, regional events seem to be what’s next. Restrictions have been lifted in Austria and Germany and the countries are set to host round-robin events. The Austrian series is called the Generali Pro Series and features 16 men and eight women. Kamakshi Tandon of Tennis.com reports that:
The men’s field includes world No. 3 Dominic Thiem along with Dennis Novak, Sebastian Ofner and Jurgen Melzer, while the women’s field includes Barbara Haas and Tamira Paszek. There will be no spectators, ballkids, or linespeople. It offers more than 150,000 Euros.
The German series is scheduled to start on June 8th and runs for seven weeks, with Jan-Lennard Struff and Laura Siegemund headlining.
Maximizing your time off the court
Depending on where you are in the world, you might not be able to hit fuzzy yellow balls as often as you’d like. That doesn’t mean that this pandemic-induced time has to go to waste. You can build your strength or perhaps focus on an often overlooked facet of being a tennis player: your flexibility. Coach and YouTuber Ramon Osa has a nice little video for you to follow along with:
From the archives
The first meeting between two titans of the women’s game, Wimbledon’s Youtube channel recently released the 1999 Wimbledon quarterfinal between Steffi Graf and Venus Williams. The match is particularly interesting as it contrasts Venus’ powerful groundstrokes against Graf’s slice backhand & aggressive forehand combination. Graf won 6–2, 3–6, 6–4.
Coming next week…
We’ll publish an explanatory article on what the Universal Tennis Rating is, the inspiration behind it, how it was started, and how it works.