“In adversity, remember to keep an even mind.” — Horace.
“Friendship makes prosperity more shining and lessens adversity by dividing and sharing it.” — Cicero.
“Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course.” — William Shakespeare.
Our ability to adapt will be tested during the rapidly changing coronavirus pandemic. We don’t know how long this still mysterious virus will last or how severe its effects will be. But tennis players have surmounted daunting challenges before, such as two World Wars, natural disasters, economic depressions and political upheaval.
With information, ingenuity and planning, you can make the best of this Brave New World of infectious disease while complying with your country’s guidelines to protect yourself and others against COVID-19.
Here are some suggestions to help make life bearable and even enjoyable.
Watch great tennis matches. If you’re going through a painful withdrawal caused by the suspension of pro tournaments, you can watch all or parts of championship matches on the Internet with a few clicks. If you’ve taped them over the years, dig into your video library and select your favourite players competing in their most glorious matches. And if your nation is fortunate to have a tennis channel or sports channel that features tennis, check its TV schedule for replays of the greatest matches in the recent and distant past.
Read a tennis book. If you enjoy humour and nostalgia, you’ll love A Handful of Summers , a classic by Gordon Forbes. If memoirs are your favourite genre, you can’t beat OPEN, a candid page turner by Andre Agassi. Hardcore tennis fans will relish Short Circuit , a controversial expose by muckraker Michael Mewshaw. Players itching to improve their games will find Absolute Tennis , an instruction book by Marty Smith, brimming with valuable insights and top-notch advice. The Pros: The Forgotten Era of Tennis by Peter Underwood will engross history buffs interested in the unsung, outcast pro champions before Open tennis arrived in 1968. Reading old tennis magazines, especially World Tennis and Tennis Week , can also bring back fond memories of happier times.
Phone your tennis friends. That will reduce their and your social isolation. Ask them how they’re dealing with the suspension of tournaments. And just talk tennis with them. Any topic. The conversation might focus on recent practice matches, how your or their various injuries are healing, other area players, or reminisces of tournaments past. You might even speculate about the effects of the coronavirus crisis on the tennis world. For example, how will the rescheduled French Open, starting September 20, affect clay court king Rafael Nadal’s chances of winning a mind-blowing 13th title?
Play trivia games and do tennis quizzes with your family. You can get the games going with these challenging and fun questions. Do you know which 1970s and 2000s tennis champions were once engaged but did not marry? Or which 1930s female star became a heroic American spy during World War II? Or which all-time great won far fewer Grand Slam titles than his wife? If you have a smarty pants in your family, ask him to tell you the four different scoring system rules for deciding set tiebreakers at Grand Slam tournaments and the name of the tennis gold medallist at the first Olympic Games.
If you suddenly have more free time, do volunteer work. If you’re knowledgeable about technique and tactics, ask a local teaching pro if she needs an assistant. Volunteer for a committee or two at a nearby tennis club or tennis centre. You may be able to help with its outreach programme, court maintenance, social media or website — as long as the work does not require face-to-face interactions.
Play tennis, especially outdoors. Uncrowded outdoor space is generally low-risk, and the fresh air, sunlight and exercise will boost your immune system. Have fun, but also take the necessary precautions to avoid being exposed and exposing others to the coronavirus. First, observe the “social distancing” rule of staying 6ft away from everyone else, including your doubles partner. Second, if you cough or sneeze, be sure to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Third, wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitiser before you play and, if possible, after each set. Fourth, do not touch your face, and do not shake hands, high-five or hug. Fifth, and very importantly, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends, “If you are sick with COVID-19 or think you might have it, stay in touch with your doctor. Call before you get medical care. Be sure to get care if you feel worse or you think it is an emergency.”
If you can’t play on a given day, increase your off-court training. Hitting against a wall keeps your ground strokes grooved and your timing sharp. For hand-eye coordination, stand 20ft away from your partner and simultaneously throw a tennis ball at each other. To toughen the drill, gradually move closer to each other and throw faster and to different spots. You can also learn how to juggle tennis balls. To maintain your speed and agility, sprint 10, 20 and 30ft, while alternating the direction laterally, diagonally, backward and forward. And don’t forget to do stretching exercises to improve your flexibility.
Talk about your dreams with your family and friends. If you want to make your high school, college or club team, discuss how you plan to do it. The same goes for winning a coveted title, achieving a top-10 ranking, or improving a weak stroke in your otherwise solid game.
The dream could involve serving in a tennis organisation, whether it be paid or volunteer work. For inspiration, remember what the great writer John Updike said: “Dreams come true. Without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them.”
Lighten up! A sense of humour is more important now than ever. If you have young children, visit https://www.scarymommy.com/tennis-jokes/ for tennis jokes. They can also have fun impersonating the mannerisms of their favourite stars, such as Rafa fist-pumping and Serena yelling “Come on!” after they win big points. Watch a funny tennis movie, such as Battle of the Sexes , Pat and Mike or Break Point . Laughter is the best medicine. It’s no joke. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter relieves stress, improves your immune system, stimulates many organs and brightens your mood.
Stay informed. That’s your best defence against this highly contagious disease. In an era of unprecedented misinformation, you can find valuable information and authoritative advice at these highly respected health and medical organisations: the World Health Organisation , the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention , the National Institutes of Health , Johns Hopkins Medicine , the Mayo Clinic , the Cleveland Clinic .
We are all in this pandemic together. So, as Ben Franklin said after signing the American Declaration of Independence in 1776, “We must all hang together or most assuredly we will all hang separately.”