Finally playing tennis again, even though the players have to “go to jail” for it

Security guards who strictly control whether a mouth guard is worn, signs with unequivocal warning texts and the strict instruction to spend as much free time as possible alone in the hotel room. Welcome to the new world of global tennis turned upside down by corona.

This weekend marks the start of the first major international tennis tournament for men and women in New York. The Western & Southern Open, which normally takes place in Cincinnati, due to the corona pandemic is now being played at the same tennis park as the US Open, the grand slam tournament that starts on 31 August. The precautions in the created tennis bubble are as extensive as rigid.

Over two hundred tennis players will have to move under strict rules in the coming week. And when the US Open starts, that will be twice as many tennis players. Let’s see that in the right direction.

On Long Island, two hotels have been fully rented for the players and their coaches, so that they can do their job completely isolated from the outside world.

‘Infection probability minimal’

“The chance that you will be infected here is minimal, although sometimes it feels like a prison. You can’t go outside. A trip to Manhattan is forbidden,” says double specialist Wesley Koolhof.

All participants and their staff were tested for the coronavirus on arrival at the hotel and received another call 48 hours later. After that, everyone in the bubble has to get tested again every four days.

“It’s all tight and well organized, except for the trip from Long Island to the tennis park. That sometimes takes an hour by bus, so we have to travel together”, says Koolhof.

Schuurs, who, like Koolhof, takes part in the doubles, has no regrets about having travelled to New York. A trip that Kiki Bertens and Rafael Nadal, for example, did not undertake. They stayed at home.

“I think it’s very clever how they got everything done here. They made the most of the possibilities”, says Schuurs. “It’s just very strict, but it has to be in these times.”

Whole team quarantined

In his opinion, caution increased after the exclusion of the Argentinean Guido Pella and the Bolivian Hugo Dellien.

The two South American tennis players were immediately quarantined after their fitness coach tested positive for the coronavirus. This means that both will have to stay in their hotel rooms for fourteen days and may be able to train one day before the start of the US Open.

Koolhof: “That’s strange, because so far they turned out negative in tests, but they have to be quarantined. It has been said beforehand that you only have to go into quarantine if you share a hotel room with someone who has tested positive, but that was not the case with them. Pella also thinks he’s being wronged.”

“Now that means that everyone who belongs to the team has to be quarantined. I hadn’t been told that in advance. It makes us all even more careful.”

Koolhof has also never considered renting a separate house in New York for about 10,000 dollars a week, something Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams and their entourage, for example, have chosen.

“Everyone was offered this option, but then you have to pay all the costs yourself, including the security that makes sure you don’t leave the house. Accommodation at the hotel will be reimbursed. So for most players it was an easy choice,” Koolhof explains.

The organizations of the Western & Southern Open and the US Open have, according to doublespecialist Schuurs, really done everything to provide tennis players with entertainment in the coming period.

“There’s no audience now, so they’ve put down all kinds of things for the players”, says Schuurs. “You can play soccer, mini-golf or other games. They’ve thought about that.”

Koolhof can appreciate the entertainment, but also took some precautions. “I brought a PlayStation for my hotel room. Soon I’m going to have to quarantine as well, you never know.”