Coronavirus: COVID-19 pandemic leaves Indian tennis stars in limbo

India’s top tennis players, Prajnesh Gunneswaran and Ramkumar Ramanathan are at their home in Chennai biding their time for things to clear.

While Prajnesh personally felt that the novel virus hasn’t come at the right time, Ramkumar was quietly philosophical about it.   -  M. Karunakaran

It’s been tough for professional players with the rise of Covid-19 cases across the globe. Stuck at home with little else to do, their routine has gone for a complete toss.

India’s top tennis players, Prajnesh Gunneswaran and Ramkumar Ramanathan are at their home in Chennai biding their time for things to clear.

While Prajnesh personally felt that the novel virus hasn’t come at the right time, Ramkumar was quietly philosophical about it. They shared their views on the lockdown, among other things.

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Nice feeling

“It’s nice to stay at home for this long,” said Ramkumar to Sportstar after returning from Nur-Sultan ATP Challenger which got cancelled on March 9/10 due to the pandemic.

He said he is spending time on his fitness while focusing on the core. “I am also doing dumbbells and watching videos of some of my matches,” said Ramkumar, ranked 186 in the world.

Ramkumar, who became the first Indian (in 2018) to reach an ATP World Tour final since Somdev Devvarman at Johannesburg in 2011,

said, “There are no tournaments till June but the interesting thing is that I have not been at home for the last 10 days in the last two years as I was travelling,” he said.

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Financial implications

On the financial implications for a professional like him, Ramkumar said he can bear with it. “It is a complete lockdown. You have to bear with it. This (coronavirus) is like a big threat. Yes, we can adjust,” he said.

Prajnesh, who played in all four Slams last year and this year’s Australian Open, had a tough 2019, with shoulder and wrist injuries. The left-hander became India’s top singles player and was ranked as high as 75 before he slipped down to 132.

Just when he was hoping to get things on track, came the current shutdown. “It is not ideal and this has come at a bad time, but for now, the focus is just on staying safe and healthy.”

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Far from ideal

The 30-year-old returned from the United States where he was set to play in the Indian Wells qualifying which was cancelled at the last minute. He said things could have been handled better. “It was far from ideal to go all the way there but I guess they tried to go ahead with it as much as possible before things got worse.”

When asked about any monetary help from the ATP for a majority of the players who rely on tennis as their main income, Prajnesh said, “I think there are some discussions but I am not sure what is going to happen. It is hard, especially if you have hired a coach or trainer for a whole year.

“For me, since I am based out of the Waske Academy (Germany), and I am one of their oldest players, money is not an issue. So, for me, it is about trying to get back and find the momentum and move up the rankings,” said Prajnesh.

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