An unusual world trip: How India’s tennis pros made their way around this year – tennis

Professional tennis gamers, particularly these not within the world’s prime 100, have lengthy typified the time period journeymen. Criss-crossing cities, international locations and continents by flight, practice and automobile to make their personal way to tournaments week in and week out is acquainted territory.

But to do this amid a raging pandemic with totally different lockdown conditions in varied international locations? “A completely different ball game,” says Divij Sharan, 34, a doubles professional.

When he determined to play just a few Challenger occasions in Prague in August, for example, he needed to fly there 10 days previous to fulfill journey restriction protocols within the European Union. The following week he reached the doubles quarter-finals of the Prague Challenger and settled in to play just a few extra tournaments within the nation.

Change of plans. He then made the lower for the doubles draw of the US Open, and hustled to fly to New York. At the airport, he discovered his title was lacking on a vital flight listing. “The US Open helpline got in touch with the border authorities in Prague who in turn called the officials at the gate. It all happened very last-minute,” Sharan says.

At the US Open, Sharan misplaced his doubles first-spherical match with companion Nikola Cacic. “There was anxiety in me. You heard stories of players getting stuck in different places due to quarantine issues and cases of false positives. So there was a lot of uncertainty. It took a while to get used to,” he says.

Prajnesh Gunneswaran, 31, India’s highest-ranked singles tennis participant, was so cautious of all of the drama around flying that he selected to drive as a lot as he may. The outcomes of that call stay on his fingertips. “About 6,000 km in Europe and 3,000 miles in the US so far.” That’s how a lot he has pushed over the previous three months.

He did all of the driving, by the way.

“Trains weren’t as busy as in normal times, which helped somewhat,” says Ankita Raina, who took one from Nice to Paris to get to the French Open in September.
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Milind Saurkar / HT Photo
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Gunneswaran flew into Europe in August together with his spouse after which went event-hopping. They drove from Kitzbuhel (Austria) to Biella (Italy) to Paris (France) to Parma (Italy) to Cologne (Germany) to Ismaning (Germany) to Hamburg (Germany), earlier than flying to the US. There, they drove from Atlanta to Cary to Orlando earlier than returning to Atlanta final month, the place Gunneswaran is at the moment coaching.

In one occasion, he performed the Ismaning Challenger semi-ultimate on October 24, then drove the ten hours to Hamburg on October 25 for a primary-spherical match on the Hamburg Challenger on October 27. “Stuff like that was tiring. I’ve never driven this much back to back almost every week,” he says.

Of all of the cities that he visited, Gunneswaran says he felt most safe in Germany. “People there were really into following rules; 6 ft apart literally meant 6 ft apart. That’s exactly what you want in such times. Europe was more stringent that way,” he says.

Ankita Raina, 27, India’s prime-ranked lady participant, determined to hedge her bets and take some public transport. She took a practice from Nice to Paris to get to the French Open in September. Sharan too boarded just a few extra throughout this interval: In London, Parma to Forli in Italy, Dusseldorf to Cologne and Cologne to Frankfurt in Germany. “Trains weren’t as busy as normal, at least the ones that I took,” he says.

Not all tennis tournaments featured bio-safe environments. Numerous occasions on the ATP Challenger degree and the ITF degree (a rung under the ATP/WTA) had been sans bubble and that got here with further nervousness. “There were many tournaments in which players or their coaches would test positive, someone who you saw just a day ago. That would be freakish,” Raina says. “But I was grateful that I was at least getting an opportunity to play, which a lot of other people weren’t.”

Food turned a priority and a trial. After greater than a month of enjoying within the Czech Republic, France, Portugal and coaching in Germany, throughout a ten-day hole resulting from quarantine points in returning to India, Raina lastly obtained recent meals courtesy a neighborhood Indian household. In Macon, Georgia, in October, Raina checked right into a lodge owned by a Gujarati couple. Born in Ahmedabad herself, the 27-year-old says she lastly felt at residence.

“They sent me home-cooked, Indian food for dinner throughout the week. The tour itself was so uncertain. You never knew which city you would be in after a few weeks, and whether there would be a sudden lockdown there,” Raina says.

Sharan encountered one such unplanned restriction throughout a Challenger in Eckental within the first week of November, when Germany re-imposed strict lockdown norms. “There was no access to showers, locker rooms and gyms. There were only portable bathrooms. Every movement was restricted to an area of 10 to 15 square metres between two courts,” says Sharan, now again residence in Delhi for some time. “But the other option was what — to not have a tournament? Sure it was challenging. But when you get that sense of normalcy from playing tennis again, it makes it all worth it.”

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