Preparing for the French Open, which begins on Sunday, British no.1 Johanna Konta fears tennis might not return to normal considering how hard the pandemic has hit it. A lot of things have changed. The venues at which tournaments were supposed to be played, the strict coronavirus restrictions to encourage player safety, players were opting out, and all of that.
It was in the hopes of people that the current situation will ease down by 2021, but it instead seems to be worsening by the day. The cases of the virus are still going up daily, a vaccine has not been developed, and fans are still not allowed into stadiums for fear of the spread of the virus. The impact this has had on sports is very significant. Officials are envisioning great losses.
The British athlete believes tennis is going to be different for a very long time, possibly for the rest of her career
“There’s a very big hopefulness that, come January 1, 2021, everything’s going to be normal, and unfortunately, it’s not the case,” Konta said. “It’s going to be very difficult and very different for a long time. Possibly for the rest of my playing career. But hopefully, in time, not just tennis and not just sports but everyone will find a way to come through this, or live alongside it depending on what route this period takes.”
The World Tennis Association (WTA) was devastated when China had refused to host any international sporting event. When most of the WTA tours autumn calendar was supposed to be taking place in Asia, even the WTA finals were scheduled to be played in Shenzhen. The finals were scheduled for October 26. Konta will be playing in the Ostrava Open next month, which is the only tour-level left for the rest of the year. She believes the opportunity for women is limited due to the nature of the season.
“I know they are trying to relocate tournaments for one year only and bring opportunities, but it’s always going to be an uphill battle because it’s just the nature of what our season looks like. I think the men have many opportunities in Europe, but that’s what their season already looks like. We got the short end of the stick, but that’s just the reality of what we have going on in the world.”
Even though the doubts and fear, she is working to keep herself and her loved ones safe
The 29-year-old recounts how she had to join in discussing how to get sports going again when the pandemic first hit the world. She described it as “incredibly busy and very stressful,” considering how they had two or three calls a week for weeks on end. She believes that the management, including chief executive officer Steve Simon, has not had a break since January.
Just like the strict restriction and mandatory quarantine athletes had to face at the US Open, it won’t be any different at Roland Garros, Paris. As challenging as it was, athletes could not complain because it was being enforced with their health in mind. Konta was never against it, even though it required a bit of energy, she said she could manage it.
The French Tennis Federation has warned that any player who tests positive or has been in close contact with someone infected will be barred from competing. Konta said she has felt anxious about it but is also doing everything she can to keep herself safe, and everyone in the tournament is doing the same.
“Everyone is doing their best for it not to happen, but by going to a tournament, you essentially take responsibility. If it is going to worry you that much, then its serious conversation of whether you want to go or not.” She said.
Konta looks forward to playing in the French Open
Konta is continuously reminded that it will be a different and challenging French Open, which will require a change or adjustment in mindset, but she is certain she will do her best since she is looking forward to going back on site. According to her, being in a place where she has played and made good memories is essential to fair play.