COVID-19: Indian tennis players work on future ventures during forced break

The ITF, WTA and ATP have shut their respective tours and the French Open too has been pushed back to September-October from the usual late May schedule.

Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, who recently made his Davis Cup debut is expected to lead India’s doubles challenge in coming years.   -  Kamesh Srinivasan

Swinging the racquet will not earn them money all their life, so a few Indian tennis players, forced out of Pro Tour due to the health crisis triggered by COVID-19, are utilising their time to work on career beyond tennis.

Almost all of them are restricted to doing fitness drills at home with courts and gyms out of bounds due to the restrictions imposed in the wake of Coronavirus pandemic which has wrecked the sporting calendar worldwide.

The ITF, WTA and ATP have shut their respective tours and the French Open too has been pushed back to September-October from the usual late May schedule.

The Tamil Nadu-based Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, who recently made his Davis Cup debut and is expected to lead India’s doubles challenge in coming years, is spending time hitting at private courts and handling the marketing of their family resort in Pondicherry.

“It obviously is an unusual situation. We can hit at a few places where people have private space and obviously the gathering is small. A few players doing that. I am in Pondicherry to help with my resort (K resort),” Jeevan said.

“Hopefully, once it gets little better, I will continue to practice. We do fitness at home, running upstairs, running down, body weights, shadow swings. Important is not to lose mind. Everybody is on the same boat,” he added.

The left-hander said he is working on developing a tennis facility at their family resort to host tournaments in future at a scenic location.

“My sister and I will keep running this property after my tennis. It became operational only last year. Now I am spending time (off tour) to look after marketing.

“We have a tennis court, badminton court, 100 seating banquet and 52 villas. My goal is to build 3-4 more courts and host tennis tournaments in future. I am working out a plan these days,” he added.

Mumbai-based Purav Raja has also busied himself in shaping up his business.

“I am starting ‘Restrung India’, a racquet customising business. It’s about building your own racquet. I am spending some time on this now which was difficult being on road. This is fun, giving Indian players a chance to use the best equipment,” he said.

Further explaining, he said, “All over the world, it’s common to buy racquet and get it customised. The grip size, the strings and most importantly to make sure that all your racquet size are of the same weight,” said Raja, adding that he has an expert from Germany helping him out.

“My wife is also helping me in this. But I still have to train and do my daily stuff. I am working on fitness and getting stronger.”

Meanwhile, Prajnesh Gunneswraran, one of India’s best singles players, said, “We are all having to sit around and wait. it’s not ideal. I hope this passes quickly. Everybody in the world is struggling. We as tennis players should not say that our livelihood is at stake, it’s worse for many others,” said Prajnesh.

“Nothing more to say, just hoping to get back to the circuit which looks far away now at the moment.”

India’s best woman singles player Ankita Raina is struggling to keep herself busy.

“I am in Pune, almost on a lockout so just trying to keep myself busy with reading, cooking, watching matches, doing yoga and core training. I think these are tough times for all and one has to do things which are in control and not think about things which are out of our control.

“I was relieved to hear about French Open, at least we have the Grand Slam, so that’s good news,” she said.

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