Return to tennis

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ITF releases its first ‘return to tennis’ guidelines

The ITF has published a first set of ‘Return to Tennis’ guidelines to assist national associations in restarting competition.

Return to tennis

Image via Adobe Stock

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has taken tentative steps towards a return to play issuing a set of protocols to be followed once on-court action is allowed to resume.

ITF provides a framework for a return to tennis

The ITF is hopeful that grassroots tennis can start up before the professional game gets back on its feet. 

“The guidelines – at this stage for local- and national-level competitions only – seek to provide a framework in which tennis can be played again in a manner that protects against the risk from transmission or infection by the COVID-19 virus, and provide many practical suggestions as to how this might be achieved,” a statement on the ITF website reads. 

“They have been developed in accordance with the WHO guidelines on the organisation of sports events and with input from the chair of the ITF Sport Science and Medicine Commission.”

The guidelines emphasise that decisions made by national governments take precedence and that tennis (either competitive or recreational) should not be played until authorities have sufficiently relaxed any restrictions that are currently in place. 

Specific guidelines for the return of international competition will be provided at the appropriate time in accordance with the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ITF add.

Six suggested protocols

  • Players remain at least 2m from one another and have no physical contact (such as a post-match handshake).
  • Players go around opposite sides of the net at changeovers. 
  • Players use separate sets of balls (and mark them clearly prior to play).
  • Players should not share equipment (rackets, towels, water bottles, etc).
  • Only singles matches should be played.
  • Matches should be played without spectators.

While following measures such as these will ensure that the risk from COVID-19 is minimised, the ITF has made it clear that the risk cannot be eliminated altogether.  

The ITF recommends those with co-morbidities that put them at higher risk should not return to tennis just yet.

“Due to the elevated risk posed by COVID-19 to older people and those with underlying health conditions, the ITF does not recommend the organisation of competitions for age groups 60 and above.

“We advise that any player with a medical condition that may elevate the risk of serious COVID-19 symptoms should be encouraged to avoid participation.”

The guidelines contain specific advice for five different sets of tennis stakeholders: national associations, players and officials, event organisers, tournament staff, and spectators. 

To read the full return to tennis protocols document, click here.