For tennis players, used to days filled with rigorous training schedules and accustomed to living out of a suitcase as they travel between tournaments, life under lockdown has required a number of adjustments - both physical and mental.
Though the nature of the restrictions necessitated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic may differ slightly from region to region, the essential requirement to stay at home - and the uncertainty over when life will return to anything approaching 'normal' - is shared by most players, some of whom have discussed how they are dealing with the change of pace to local and international media.
With a lockdown that involves the Romanian military patrolling the streets, Wimbledon champion Simona Halep has not been going out at all, she told CNN's Danielle Rossingh. "I am definitely a person who takes these things very seriously and is nervous about them," said the World No.2, who has been avoiding taking in too much news and instead channelling her energy towards what she can do to help. Specifically, Halep has donated medical equipment to hospitals in both Bucharest, where she is under lockdown, and her hometown of Constanta.
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Halep has not managed to hit any balls since the Romanian lockdown began on March 24, but has maintained regular contact with both her fitness trainer and coaches Darren Cahill and Artemon Apostu-Efremov. The 28-year-old also acknowledges that the timing of the lockdown had been somewhat fortuitous for her, as she had already been sidelined due to injury. "This extra time off has given me the opportunity to heal my foot properly and take time to work on my recovery, rather than worry about missing too many tournaments," she told Rossingh. In the meantime, Halep is making the most of spending time with her family, as well as cooking, watching films, and both staying up and waking up later.
The Czech Republic has been one of the first European countries to begin a phased process of coming out of lockdown - but the country's sixth-best player, Marie Bouzkova, now lives in Florida and can only watch from afar. "We have the best organized virus protection system in the world," the World No.47 said of the Czech response in an interview with Miroslav Harnoch of Aktualne.cz. "Unfortunately, I don't think it's taken so seriously and considerately in Florida."
If the timing of the pandemic was fortunate for Halep, it was the opposite for Bouzkova, whose momentum from reaching her maiden WTA final in Monterrey - the last tournament played before COVID-19 put the tennis tours on pause - was unceremoniously halted. The 22-year-old is not dwelling on this, though; instead, she has immersed herself in her studies, taking the opportunity to add extra courses to her degree course. "I'm studying accounting, social geography and statistics this semester," she said. "By having more time now, I have agreed with the university to have more subjects in the following semesters, which may shorten my bachelor's degree."
Bouzkova's ambition is to make inroads into the world of business and sports marketing - and if increasing her university workload wasn't enough, to this end she has also embarked on mastering a fifth language. "I also started learning Italian, and that is my goal now," the Toronto semifinalist - who already speaks Czech, English, French and some German - told Harnoch.
Also sequestered in Florida is former World No.35 Catherine 'CiCi' Bellis, whose long-awaited comeback to the sport after an 18-month hiatus during which she underwent multiple wrist and arm surgeries had barely begun. The American had raised her ranking to World No.304 after just four tournaments played - with her results including victory over Bouzkova in the sixth-longest match of the truncated season to date, a 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-3 first-round marathon in Hobart - but finds herself sidelined once again.
Based in Orlando and in lockdown with coach Tom Gutteridge, Bellis is one of the few still able to hit balls, she told Bruce Jenkins for the San Francisco Chronicle. "Luckily, there’s a country club here that has some of its courts open, so we've been able to hit there," she said. "And we built a home gym in my garage, which is pretty fun, too."
Like Halep, former Roland Garros finalist Sara Errani - currently in lockdown in Valencia, Spain - has been unable to hit a ball since the pandemic struck. Instead, the Italian has been utilizing her apartment block's underground car park to keep her skills up - though this is not without its own risks. "I run in the underground parking lot and occasionally dribble against the wall - but it makes a crazy noise," she told Tommaso Villa of Ubitennis. Consequently, Errani now fears the wrath of her neighbors.
It is over three years since the former World No.5 was last inside the Top 50, and her current frozen ranking is down at World No.169, but she was emphatic in her intention to continue her playing career: "The love for tennis continues to keep me going, the passion and desire are there regardless of the results," she told Villa. "I want to go back to feeling good on court." Nonetheless, Errani has mulled over potentially pivoting to two other avenues: padel tennis, which she plays often for fun, or coaching - something she had no interest in when she was younger but now increasingly piques her curiosity.
Meanwhile, in other media news, People magazine has chosen 16-year-old prodigy Coco Gauff as one of its 'Women of the Year'. In the latest edition of the publication, the American teenager mused: "I've traveled my whole life, so it's weird to be at this pause." Nonetheless, she's keeping herself going by looking forward to traveling, particularly to Hawaii and Dubai, once the pandemic is over: "I'm looking forward to seeing new things," the World No.52 said.