It’s curious to note as the world deals with the COVID-19 pandemic that some of the
countries that have controlled outbreaks the best are nations with women in charge.
New Zealand (Jacinda Ardern), Finland (Sanna Marin) and Germany (Angela Merkel)
have heads of state who’ve all passed this test with flying colors.
Interestingly, in the world of tennis, the women are also showing the men the correct
way to deal with a return from the coronavirus-induced shutdown of their sport. And they
don’t mind letting the men know about it.
While several male players contracted COVID-19 following their ill-fated return to play
via the Adria Tour, a competition organized by Novak Djokovic, the No. 1-ranked player
in the ATP, it’s been so far, so good for the women after a return to WTA action via the
Credit One Bank Invitational in Charleston, S.C.
Not a single female star who participated in the 16-player team competition has shown any signs of affliction with COVID-19.
“Had such an enjoyable week in Charleston,” 2014 Wimbledon women’s singles finalist
Eugenie Bouchard posted on Twitter. “Our team won, but the fact we could play tennis
in a healthy and safe environment is a win in itself.
“Thank you to everyone who put on such a great women’s event!”
Other women’s players were less subtle in pointing out that the women had shown other
athletes – including their male tennis counterparts – the proper way to safely compete in
a COVID-19 world.
“So far, from what I can gather, female tennis players have conducted themselves in an
admirable manner in these trying times of crisis, amirite?” World No. 87 Andrea
Petkovic of Germany posted in replying to Bouchard on Twitter.
A Lesson In Bad Decisions
If a group of people wanted to film an instructional video on how not to behave during a
public event in this time of COVID-19, they could save time and money by simply
replaying footage of the Adria Tour.
Arranged by Djokovic to be contested in four European cities between June 13 and July
5, the Adria Tour recruited some of the world’s best players. Among those participating
were three-time grand slam finalist Dominic Thiem of Austria, world No. 7 Alexander
Zverev of Germany, three-time major semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria and Borna
Coric of Croatia, a 2018 Davis Cup winner.
On paper, it looked to be a wonderful idea, with the proceeds to benefit humanitarian causes. But those good intentions were scuttled by the bad decisions of the organizers and the bad behavior of the participants.
There were some 4,000 spectators packed into the stadium in Belgrade when Djokovic
played his first match. Few wore masks. After matches, players hugged and high-fived
with each other. They mugged with the crowd, posing for selfies and signing
autographs. Ball’s were delivered by hand to the players.
When not on court, the players were photographed playing basketball together and out
on the town at nightclubs.
“How was this managed and why no concern for public social distancing and face
masks?” tennis pro Greg Rusedski asked on Twitter.
Soon, the carnage was evident. Djokovic, his wife Jelena, his coach Goran Ivanisevic
and his fitness coach all tested positive for COVID-19. Dimitrov, Zverev and Coric also
A Different Approach
At the Credit One Bank Invitational, players adhered to back to work tournament health
guidelines established by the WTA. These protocols included on-site testing, daily
temperature tests and health questionnaires.
Workers sanitized equipment at high touch areas. Face masks were mandatory for all
personnel. Housing for players was located within walking distance of the stadium.
On the court, the tournament used only one official. Players called their own lines. Ball
crews were limited to two members were. They all wore gloves and used equipment to
avoid touching the tennis balls. Players were responsible for handling their own towels
No spectators or media were permitted to attend and players were required to social
distance at all times.
“I believe none of them got (COVID-19),” retired Australian tennis player and ESPN
commentator Rennae Stubbs pointed out on Twitter. “Might have to do with not playing
sweaty basketball or soccer together.”
What Will The Future Bring?
If these were normal times, the action would just be heating up at Wimbledon. However,
competition at the All-England Lawn Tennis Club was canceled for 2020, along with
other major tennis tour events of the summer such as the Rogers Cup, Canada’s top tennis tournament.
Both tennis tours are betting that they can return to play in time for the U.S. Open, the
next Grand Slam event on the calendar. But Djokovic has already suggested that he
might give the tournament a pass.
The three-time U.S. Open champion is unhappy with COVID-19 restrictions that will be
in place, including limitations on how many members of his staff will be permitted at
Perhaps Djokovic’s experience with the Adria Tour will give him cause for pause and
time to reconsider whether or not he’ll be showing up to play in America.