The coronavirus isn’t going away anytime soon, so tennis fans should get used to not being able to watch their favorite players and tournaments for the time being.
It really doesn’t look like the world will return to anything resembling the former normal for months, definitely putting both the French Open and Wimbledon in jeopardy. There are reports that Wimbledon doesn’t want to stage the 134th edition of its championships if no spectators are present, while the French Tennis Federation appears more open to potentially having a Roland-Garros without crowds.
Closer to home, with the 2020 Rogers Cup events in Montreal and Toronto running from August 9 to 16 and especially because they are in mid-summer with warmer temperatures that might slow or stop the spread of COVID-19, there’s a better chance that they will proceed as scheduled.
In the meantime, there are few options for a tennis fix – short of dredging up old matches on YouTube or elsewhere. Here’s an off-the-wall suggestion – players could set up their own matches and have them live-streamed. It would only take one or two cameras, and it would be good for the players because they would have more motivation to play and stay in shape if they knew fans were witnessing them in competitive situations against worthy opposition.
They could announce a time and fans could watch live or even using some kind of replay option. Then there could maybe be some way for viewers to make donations to some charity or cause suggested by the players.
Who knows exactly where the players are at this moment of the COVID-19 crisis? But just by listed residence on the ATPTour.com site, here are the male players residing in Monte Carlo: Félix Auger-Aliassime, Matteo Berrettini, Marin Cilic, Grigor Dimitrov, Novak Djokovic, David Goffin, Daniil Medvedev, Milos Raonic, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Stan Wawrinka and Alexander Zverev.
Many of those players may be in their home countries but at some point some would likely be in Monte Carlo and it might even be possible to set up a mini-tournament to be live-streamed.
There are also a few other places where groups of players might be found. Frenchmen such as Richard Gasquet, Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Gael Monfils, Benoit Paire and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga have residences in Switzerland and the following players – Ivan Dodig, Kyle Edmund, Alex de Minaur and Denis Shapovalov – reside at some point in the year in the Bahamas.
Many of the top American players, and some others, live in either California or Florida and a few Aussies might be back home Down Under.
The women are generally more dispersed than the men, but similar situations could be created with the female players – most likely in Florida.
As the days and weeks go by without tennis, it would nice for fans to re-connect with their favourites via the streaming of some actual competitive situations.
There has been no definitive word about what the WTA and the ATP Tour are going to do about their rankings. Normally, the 2019 ranking points from the now-cancelled BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells would be removed in next Monday’s edition of the rankings (March 23rd). There are no weekly rankings on the middle Monday (yesterday) of Indian Wells.
It appears probable that the current points (as of Monday March 9th) will stay frozen in the rankings until further notice. That means the points players earned last year at Indian Wells will remain and not drop off. In one sense, that’s unfair because players hoping to improve on last year’s results were denied an opportunity this year. On the other hand, players who did okay or very well in 2019 have not been permitted the opportunity to defend their points.
Here’s a quick look at how freezing the rankings would affect Canada’s top players.
BIANCA ANDREESCU: Obviously she, and Indian Wells men’s defending champion Dominic Thiem, would be the most obvious beneficiaries. Both earned 1,000 points with their victories a year ago and would be able to keep those points, at least until some new policy is introduced when tennis is closer to resuming a normal schedule.
The no. 6 ranked Andreescu also has 120 points from the Miami Open, but then her shoulder injury resulted in her accumulating only 70 points (first round Roland-Garros) from April until Rogers Cup in August.
LEYLAH ANNIE FERNANDEZ: The 17-year-old from Montreal will probably suffer the biggest loss for the moment among the Canadians. Given a Wild Card into the main draw of her first Premier Mandatory event at Indian Wells this year, she at least had the opportunity to improve an already sky-rocketing ranking that now stands at no. 118. Still, she has to be pleased with a terrific 2020 so far, which has seen her move up from no. 209 to no. 118.
GENIE BOUCHARD: Now sitting at an unflattering no. 328, Bouchard had a Wild Card into this week’s 125K WTA event in Guadalajara, Mexico, which was cancelled. That cost her a chance to start a climb back up the rankings. A year ago at this time, she was on a 13-match losing streak that stretched from February until November. So when the sport resumes, she has only a few points (62) to defend until November when, a year ago, she ended the losing streak and gained 15 points by reaching the third round of the 125K WTA event in Houston. Bouchard’s main issue now will be getting into tournaments other than lower-level ITF circuit events. She’s around 100 spots away from being eligible for the qualifying draw at Grand Slam events.
GABRIELA DABROWSKI: Currently no. 7 in the WTA doubles rankings with 5,650 points, Dabrowski will keep 390 points (semi-final – Indian Wells) and 215 points (quarters – Miami) if ranking points are frozen. Looking further ahead, she has 430 points to defend at Roland-Garros (quarters) and then a big chunk at Wimbledon – 1,300 for reaching the final last year with former partner Xu Yifan. Of course, all that depends on whether those events are played.
DENIS SHAPOVALOV: As long as this month’s Miami Open ranking points are frozen, no. 16 Shapovalov and compatriot Félix Auger-Aliassime are in good shape because both reached the semi-finals there in 2019, earning 360 points each. That’s the second most points Shapovalov has on his record – behind the 600 for making the Paris Masters 1000 final (Novak Djokovic) in November. After Miami last spring, Shapovalov went 2-9 through Wimbledon, so he would benefit by tennis resuming sometime soon, allowing him a chance to improve on that dismal record.
FÉLIX AUGER-ALIASSIME: Unlike Shapovalov, the no. 21 ranked Auger-Aliassime did well during both the clay and grass-court seasons following his success on the hard courts in Miami as a qualifier. He had a record of 14-8 through five European tournaments on clay followed by three on grass – Stuttgart then Queen’s Club and Wimbledon. Auger-Aliassime reached the finals in Lyon (Benoit Paire) and Stuttgart (Matteo Berrettini), but was forced to miss Roland-Garros with a left adductor injury that hampered him during the Lyon final. It probably wouldn’t hurt him if ranking points remained frozen – although he would surely like a chance to play the main draw at Roland-Garros for the first time since being the runner-up there at the 2016 junior event.
MILOS RAONIC: The no. 30 ranked Raonic will benefit if the rankings are frozen because he will get to keep his 360 points from reaching the 2019 Indian Wells semi-finals (Dominic Thiem). Those 360 points plus his 360 for the quarter-finals at this year’s Australian Open account for more than half of his current 1,350 ranking points. A year ago, Raonic missed the whole clay-court season but earned a total of 360 points on grass – Stuttgart semi-final 90, Queen’s Club quarter-final 90 and round-of-16 Wimbledon 180.
Since 2014, Wimbledon (24-6) has been his best Grand Slam event and he will be hopeful for tennis to resume by early June with the usual events in the run-up to the Big W.
VASEK POPISIL: The pause in the season puts a halt to an impressive comeback for the 29-year-old Pospisil. He has been able to move his ranking up from no. 149 to no. 93 so far in 2020. If points are frozen, he gets no points from 2019 Indian Wells and Miami, which he missed a year ago following back surgery for a herniated disc. He would have had to play the qualifying events at those two tournaments this year.
Never at his best on clay, Pospisil, like Raonic, will be hoping tennis resumes by the grass-court season where he has a mere 10 points to defend after a first-round loss at Wimbledon a year ago to Auger-Aliassime.
ROGER RULES THE RULES
If the ATP Tour freezes the rankings – giving players credit for last year’s results at Indian Wells and Miami – Roger Federer will look like a clairvoyant for taking this time off to recover from his right-knee surgery. The 38-year-old Swiss player was the runner-up in Indian Wells (600 points) and the winner in Miami (1000 points) one year ago.
So, while sitting at home rehabbing, he will lose no ground and maintain his current no. 4 ranking for the foreseeable future. As one tennis writer joked, “if Roger can’t play, nobody can play.”
As has been the case so many times over the past few years, the talented Mauricio Paiz, a former college tennis player at Florida Atlantic University, took the feature picture for today’s blog. His fine work has been a crucial part of improving the quality of Tebbutt Tuesday and other blogs – and we are forever grateful.
NOTE: Like most of the world these days, Tebbutt Tuesday is now on hiatus until further notice. Let’s all try to make the best of this trying time. Transeundum omnia – all things must pass.