Ash Barty will remain world no. 1 though.
Ash Barty will remain world no. 1 though.

Tennis legend fears stars’ harsh reality

If fans want videos of their favourite stars doing anything online, they don't need to look too hard.

Workout videos, skills videos, live chat sessions - athletes are trying to stave off boredom during lockdown just as much as everyone else.

And the tennis world is no different, although the game appears set for a long shutdown.

With events scattered around the world, the path to tennis' return to normal could be longer than other sports.

It's not a game where every player is playing at the same tournament or following the same path with the best in the world only regularly coming together for Grand Slams and Masters tournaments.

And with around six weeks off at the end of each season the only uniform scheduled breaks on the calendar, Aussie doubles champion Todd Woodbridge has warned Australian tennis players the worst of the shut down is yet to come.

While it's largely an individual sport, players will need to continue to train by themselves, which may become tougher during the Australian winter.

Temperatures and conditions may not get as brutal as other places in the world but Australian players aren't used to local winters and potentially not being able to train as they normally would.

Aussie World No. 1 Ash Barty showed a new way to keep her eye in, channelling the great Sir Donald Bradman, hitting a golf ball up against a wall with a cricket bat.

But with tennis season on hold at least until July 12, Woodbridge fears players may be left cold during the winter months.

"All of our players normally go to Europe and they go to the sunshine and they're playing tournaments," he told AAP.

"So this will be a time that none of us Australian players will have ever been through - and that's going to be the challenge once we get to that period of the year.

"What do we do for practice? Facilities by June you hope are back open but it's winter and we don't have a lot of indoor courts in Australia. All of those elements about preparation and trying to then be ready to try and be back for the tour are going to be a real challenge.

"But, in all of this, you've got to try to remain positive and look to get something out of it."

Ash Barty has already started a unique training method.
Ash Barty has already started a unique training method.


The 22-time grand slam doubles champion and one-time top-20 singles star believes staying motivated during the lay-off is critical and called for players to stay organised and schedule their training blocks.

Given tennis usually has little more than a six-week off-season, Woodbridge hopes some players thrive with the unexpected time off but suspects others may suffer.

"This is a unique period for all of our athletes. For some of them this will be a really important break if you're in the middle or the back half of your career," he said.

"It's actually not a bad thing to re-energise yourself and become more motivated and really give you that drive to finish your career off well. For the younger ones, though, it is really difficult to know how they'll handle it."

One of the players in the middle of the transition is James Duckworth.

Having first broken the ATP top 100 for much of 2015 Duckworth reached a career-high ranking of 71 before going into the shut down on the back of a title at the Bengaluru Tennis Open in India and a ranking of 83.

The 28-year-old is using the break to work on his injured shoulder.

James Duckworth understand why the sport is down but knows it’s going to be tough.
James Duckworth understand why the sport is down but knows it’s going to be tough.

But while he has had injuries throughout his career, Duckworth said it's a difficult time despite the essential need to flatten the curve.

"I'm used to the extended breaks, but the tough thing for most of us is the unknown," he said. "We just don't know when the tour will resume. It is tough to prepare for that and train accordingly. I'm trying to stay as occupied as I can, not easy at times, but you've got to do it."

In the broader tennis world, there is clearly still a big issue with the shut down.

While the top end of players earn the big bucks, CNN spoke with 31-year-old Georgian player Sofia Shapatava who is ranked 375th in the world on the WTA Tour.

Having earned $2900 in the first three months of the year before being forced home with her parents.

Shapatava has started an online petition to ask for financial help for players struggling to survive

"I've talked to so many players and I've a couple of friends who don't know how to pay the rent this month. A petition is a way to be heard. I don't demand, I'm just basically trying to get attention so the ITF - and who if not them - can support us.

"We pay fines for everything, if we do something on court or withdraw from a tournament late, so I think, in a way, we belong to them."

Serena Williams with coach Patrick Mouratoglou.
Serena Williams with coach Patrick Mouratoglou.

According to a letter from Serena Williams' coach Patrick Mouratoglou said "players outside the top 100 are barely breaking even and most of them are forced to fund their careers to keep playing professionally. Their lives are a financial struggle."

He also quoted former top 10 player Tim Mayotte who said "you would have to make about $200,000 a year from prize money and/or endorsements to make a living wage."

- with AAP


Originally published as Tennis legend fears stars' harsh reality