Lockdown diaries: Enterprising players find space to train

Tennis players are making the best use of the time of hand, rather than brood, by coming up with innovating ways of training in limited space. There will be no tennis action at least until the second week of July.

Photo of tennis player Zeel Desai, training on terrace with her dad Mehul Desai, at home in Ahmedabad.   -  Special Arrangement

There is a saree drying over a cloth line. It serves as the net.

Former World No.83 Yuki Bhambri plays a volley and then jumps up for an imaginary overhead smash. The drill continues for a few minutes, even as Prateek Bhambri, also a former National junior champion, a multifaceted personality who coaches sister Prerna Bhambri, helps in the training of Yuki, his erstwhile doubles partner, by throwing a staccato of balls from a bucket.

If that is the video doing the rounds in the social media, cut to Ahmedabad and have a look at Zeel Desai. The former world No.18 junior had a fine run in Tunisia in the women’s circuit before she had to cut short her tour and return home recently.

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With her father Mehul Desai catching the ball and throwing at her at a nice length, Zeel keeps hitting her forehand and backhand alternately, in front of her home, over a garden bench that serves as the net. There are many more videos doing the rounds in which the tennis players are quite enterprising in finding the space during the lockdown “to stay healthy and busy”.

“We have created an ARA Whatsapp group. We provide players with fitness programs daily, along with mental challenges to complete. Many players are uploading videos. Even though everyone is at home, we are still creating a competitive atmosphere.” — Todd Clark, tennis coach

It is back to basics for the tennis players, as most of them are seen hitting on the wall to hone their volleys or just feel happy to drive a tennis ball. Coaches like Sachin Singh and Chandra Bhushan in the Capital, have also been sharing a lot of videos of their trainees doing physical training, yoga, wall practice, etc.

It is indeed a healthy trend to make the best use of the time on hand, rather than brood, even as the International Tennis Federation (ITF) has announced that the tennis circuit would not revive till July 8.

The Australian coach Todd Clark who has been guiding Zeel, along with a bunch of other players at the Ahmedabad Racquet Academy (ARA), puts things in perspective.


“Australians, as opposed to Indians, seem to have taken a very casual approach to coronavirus. Even though in India, having a lockdown is inconvenient, I must commend Prime Minister Narendra Modi for taking such quick and proactive action. I am sure his early decisions will have a limiting effect on the virus spreading through India”, said Todd, who is based in Ahmedabad.

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After closing the academy immediately after the lockdown was announced, the coaches and other staff of the academy have kept in touch with “most students via messenger”.

“We have created an ARA Whatsapp group. Daily we provide players with fitness programs, along with mental challenges to complete. Many players are uploading videos. Even though everyone is at home, we are still creating a competitive atmosphere,” said Todd.

The coach was with Zeel in Tunisia, before the ITF cancelled the tournament, forcing everyone to fly home in time, before borders were sealed.

“We had a transit via Dubai, where some passengers were not allowed to continue their onward journey to Ahmedabad, as they did not have the appropriate visa. They were general public. We returned along with two other Indian players, Paras Dahiya and Dharmil Shah, without any hassle. On arrival in Ahmedabad, we had additional medical paperwork and had a thermal test’’, recalled Todd, whose family is back home in Australia.

“All academy players know that they must use this time to improve other aspects of their development. Improving one’s flexibility, rehab exercises for injuries, improving visual imagery etc., are all things that players can improve,” opined the coach.

Todd was happy with the proactive role played by the parents, quite mature in dealing with the situation with admirable understanding and patience.

On his part, Zeel’s father Mehul, said that he was happy to keep his daughter occupied, as she was getting bored, sitting at home. “I thought it could just freshen her up a bit, having a racquet in her hands. She also does one hour fitness everyday at home. Staying at home can control the number of cases of coronavirus, and it is a good decision by the government,” remarked Mehul Desai.

For adapting to the situation, and getting the best out of themselves, to stay positive at home, physically and mentally, tennis fraternity deserves full marks.