Tennis players have been doing a whole lot of complaining about not being to get back on court, the argument being that after golf it’s the best “social-distancing” sport around.
In terms of the space between players on a singles court, that’s an inarguable fact. But there is so much more to keeping yourself safe from the coronavirus than just the distance.
As tennis courts begin to open again around the world, we’re now rejoicing. But that re-opening comes with extensive laundry lists of safety precautions for both the players and the clubs.
On Wednesday, the province of Quebec announced that tennis can resume on May 20 – recreational singles only, no coaching/lessons.
And that’s the challenge. As anyone who’s been in a grocery store during the quarantine – or watches the news – knows, we can no longer be naive to the worst human nature has to offer.
And remember, you’re not wearing a mask.
For every player who assiduously follows every directive, there are several more who – feeling as though if the authorities say they can get back on court, they’re home free – who will quickly abandon some or all of those precautions.
Because they’re a hassle.
And because they involve significant changes in the on-court habits we’ve all taken for granted since we were old enough to hold a racquet.
When you get on a tennis court, you may be playing with everyone else who has been on that court for up to the last 72 hours.
If the chances of catching the virus are small, neither are they non-existent.
And what everyone else does on that court can affect you.
You can’t go back in time, in the worst-case scenario, and say, “Oh, maybe I shouldn’t have rushed to return to tennis so soon after all.”
It’s too late then. Is it really worth taking the chance?
The French have RULES
In France, people began returning to the courts Monday. And the French Tennis Federation put out an extensive list of directives for players and clubs.
For the players:
*Players must arrive in tennis gear and with the own racquets, balls, towel, water bottle, hand sanitizer and gloves. Players must keep their towels in their bags throughout the session.
*Players must wash their hands or use their hand sanitizer.
*To avoid players running into each other during court changes, they must enter the court individually, and arrive at the exact hour of their court booking and leave the court five minutes before the end.
*Players must clean their bench or chair with disinfectant product and paper towels made available by the club, before and after their match. For that, the wearing of gloves is recommended.
*Each player will bring 4-6 balls with a distinguishing mark. Each will serve only with their marked balls. In no case should a player touch a ball belong to their opponent with their hand.
*The usual social distancing rules (two metres) must be respected. That distance must also be respected between the players’ benches or chairs.
*During the change of ends, the players cross, clockwise, on opposite sides of the net, so as to not run into each other
*Post-match handshakes are not allowed. A hand sign or racquet wave can replace them.
For the teaching pros
*Only individual lessons, run by a pro with a state license and valid registration, are allowed (in other words, no dad on court with his kid).
*For individual lessons, the accompanying parent drops the player (child) in front of the club and comes to pick them up at the end (they must not stay to watch the lesson).
*If the pro supplies the balls, the students must never, at any time, pick them up with their hands. Only the coach must do it. The students send the balls towards a pick-up location with the racquet or their foot. Coaching on the serve is only possible if the students use their own marked balls. The coach will then not be allowed to touch the balls supplied by the student.
For the clubs:
*Players must fill in and sign the release form, and send it back, ideally by printing, signing, scanning and emailing it back to the club.
*The wearing of masks is recommended for every person present in the club except the players on court.
*A thorough cleaning of the accessible spaces in the club is recommended before re-opening and, where possible, a disinfection of the toilet facilities open to the players and the main points of contacts is done at least daily.
*The club must make a hand sanitizer dispenser, a disinfectant-cleaning product, paper towels and a trash can with a plastic bag available to the players at the club entrance and the entrance to every court to allow them to clean the benches, chairs and the net band.
*Wherever possible the clubs must leave the gates to the courts open, so that the handles are touched as little as possible.
*Clubs must make masks and goggles for the welcome staff, and masks, goggles and gloves for the maintenance staff available.
*Signage outlining the rules and restrictions should be posted everywhere in the club.
*Teaching pros must remind their students of the health regulations at the start, and throughout the session then necessary.
*The coach must not make contact with the student to correct their technique.
*Students cannot borrow racquets from the club.
*If the coach supplies the balls, a limited number should be used.
*The use of gloves is not recommended for the student or the coach. The use of a hand sanitizer, however, is mandatory.
*If it’s a shared basket, the coach must rotate the balls every four days, to let the balls in the basket rest for 72 hours – the required time to allow the virus to disappear from the surface of the balls.
*Court reservations must be made online or by phone.
*Clubhouses, gathering places, locker rooms, showers and restaurant areas are closed. One access to toilets is to be made available.
*Doubles play is not allowed
*A designed “COVID-19” manager will be the contact point for all members, preferably on site.
*Only outdoor courts can be open.
Whew, it’s a lot
The British Lawn Tennis Association has also published guidelines (although Wales and Scotland still aren’t open for play).
They’re not quite as elaborate, but they also add a few other details:
*Ensure nets are maintained at the appropriate height to avoid players having to adjust them, and remove net winders.
* If your courts require dragging (e.g. clay) or drying after rain, have a
nominated person to do this or make disposable gloves and spray available
for players to use.
*Remove any other unnecessary equipment and items from courts (e.g.
Stay safe, and follow the guidelines. We’re still in the middle of the first set of this thing.
But we’re all in this together and if we maximize that attitude, there will be less of a chance that they’ll have to shut down the courts again.