BBC: Why a lack of fans could mean better behaviour on court

Almost 40 years ago, John McEnroe screamed four words of fury at Wimbledon: “You cannot be serious!”

That infamous outburst – in tandem with a supreme talent which led to six Grand Slam singles titles – created a ‘rebel without a cause’ persona which boosted the American’s profile beyond tennis.

Not that he always felt it was to his benefit.

“I became what I would say was like a cigarette smoker that couldn’t kick the habit,” McEnroe said in a 2018 interview. “It felt like I was doing it for the wrong reasons.”

One reason was entertainment.

With ATP and WTA events returning behind closed doors this month, a leading sports psychologist believes the lack of fans is likely to see fewer controversial outbursts.

“The expression of anger can be a strategic way of releasing frustration, but it can also be a communication function and a way of entertaining the fans,” says Andy Lane, who has worked with elite athletes across various sports for over 30 years.

“When there is no crowd, you’re not frustrated because you’re losing in front of a crowd, you’re not communicating to anyone other than your opponent, and you’re not trying to entertain a crowd.

“Without the expectation of fans, it is like walking out to a training match. They are walking in cold without any noise to gee them up, so they are relaxed when they get on to court and they will go through their pre-set routines.

“That means angry outbursts will be less likely. If you do see any, they are more likely to be pre-planned because fans usually fuel these acts.”

Why are people are entertained by anger?

Few things pump up a tennis crowd like seeing a raging player expending a whole load of negative energy.

Players get annoyed at many things – but mainly by their own failure to execute the shots they practise every day.

Another trigger is a perceived injustice by an official – like that which led to McEnroe’s rant during his Wimbledon first-round match against Tom Gullikson in 1981 or, more recently, Serena Williams’ outburst during the 2018 US Open final against Naomi Osaka.

Serena Williams
Serena Williams was docked a point and then a game by umpire Carlos Ramos for verbal abuse in the 2018 US Open final. She was later fined $17,000 (£13,100) by the USTA

This behaviour is not condoned by the tennis authorities, who can penalise the offenders competitively and financially.

Yet it can bring new eyes to the sport by providing an extra element of entertainment.

“Humans connect very well to emotions and anger – the red mist of losing control is something we all get,” says Lane, a professor of sports psychology at the University of Wolverhampton.

“So when you see someone so good doing it you connect closely – and many enjoy watching it.”

Some players become better known to a wider sporting audience for isolated outbursts rather than their on-court achievements.

For many, Argentine David Nalbandian is defined by kicking an advertising hoarding at Queen’s in 2012, injuring a line judge. Russian Mikhail Youzhny cut his head during a 2008 tournament after hitting himself with his racquet.

More recently, clips of Czech former world number one Karolina Pliskova whacking a hole in an umpire’s chair and then-ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev destroying a racquet at the Australian Open were widely spread on digital platforms.

Woman in the crowd smiles as she is given Alexander Zverev's broken racquet at the 2019 Australian Open
Look how happy they are! One fan gets Zverev’s broken racquet as a momento of her trip to Melbourne Park

Racquet smashes become part of the entertainment. Marcos Baghdatis was egged on by a cheering Melbourne crowd when he demolished four in the space of a minute during an Australian Open defeat by Stan Wawrinka in 2012.

“It is child-like. It is relatable,” says Lane. “For the players, it is a fine balance between squashing down the emotion and carrying the bad shots into the next game.

“Not many players lose their cool during a point, they lose it at the end of a game. It is a strategic way of refocusing.

“It tends to be a racquet smash because that’s the only thing they can ‘blame’; they don’t have any team-mates to be angry with.”

How audiences are still attracted to controversy

When McEnroe screamed ‘You cannot be serious’ at umpire Edward James after disputing a line call during that match against Gullikson, it became one of Wimbledon’s most famous moments.

It has spawned a million punchlines, countless impressions and became the title of one of McEnroe’s books.

The clip has received almost 1.5m YouTube views via the Wimbledon and ESPN channels in the past five years.

“McEnroe was a showbusiness player who used anger as a crowd puller,” says Lane, also a consultant for the Centre for Health and Human Performance in London.

“I think Nick Kyrgios has got a bit of that in him, even though he might not admit it. And because of it, people have heard of him, whereas they won’t have heard about players around him in the rankings.”

That is supported by the digital data gathered by sports analytics platform Hookit.

Despite never being ranked inside the world’s top 10 nor past a Grand Slam quarter-final, the Australian has 2.4m followers on social media platforms.

Only five players in the men’s and women’s top 10s have more – Rafael Nadal (39.8m), Roger Federer (35.3m), Williams (28.7m), Novak Djokovic (23.1m) and Simona Halep (3.6m).

In 2020, Kyrgios has more social engagement (more than 5.7m likes, comments, and shares) than everyone in the top 10s other than Djokovic (24.5m), Nadal (22.5m), Williams (17.2m) and Federer (14.9m).

As well as social media, this online interest also translates to the BBC Sport website and app, where stories involving Kyrgios attract sizeable audiences.

The post-match interview at Wimbledon 2019 where Kyrgios said he “wanted to hit” Nadal with a shot was seen by almost one million people in the UK alone, making it the website’s fourth most-read tennis story of the fortnight.

Two months later, another controversial incident at the Cincinnati Masters – where Kyrgios smashed two racquets and called umpire Fergus Murphy a “potato” – attracted seven times the typical number of views for a tennis video on BBC Sport.

However, this year’s US Open will be without the Australian after he withdrew from the tournament because of the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the website and app’s biggest tennis stories in recent years was Williams wagging her finger at umpire Carlos Ramos while calling him a “liar” and a “thief” in the 2018 US Open final. The BBC Sport story was read by more than two million people in the UK.

The incident helped the match attract an average of 3.1m television viewers in the United States, more than a 50% hike on the following day’s men’s final, and resulted in headlines and analysis across the world from non-tennis media as well as tennis journalists.

How marketing fuels controversial moments

At Wimbledon in 1977, four years before McEnroe’s infamous outburst, Nike founder Phil Knight was looking for a new “horse to back” in the tennis world.

American tennis officials warned him to stay away from McEnroe. Why? “Because he is a hothead,” they said.

Knight described in his autobiography how he “fell madly in love” with the New Yorker and signed him up the following year.

“Nike has a long history of creating personas that are bigger than life, like LeBron James, Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan,” says Kurt Badenhausen, a senior editor at Forbes magazine, who specialises in the business of sport.

“McEnroe was a wildly successful and charismatic player in the biggest market in the world.

“But he was also one of the biggest players of his generation because of the way Nike marketed him as the bad boy of tennis.”

The current incumbent of the role is Kyrgios, whose major deals include Nike, Yonex and Beats By Dre.

According to Hookit’s analysis, he has generated £310,000 of value for brands in 2020 with only Federer (£340,000) generating more.

“There is an argument right now that a lot of the players on the men’s tour are indistinguishable to the casual fan, once you get past the big three and Andy Murray,” says Badenhausen.

“A guy like Kyrgios stands out, he’s edgy, he’s walking that fine line and for Nike they can find a way that makes sense to use him.

“People recognise how talented he is, but how maddening he is. For Nike, if a guy like that can put it together and win Grand Slam titles, he is very marketable.”

Link

NOT WORTH THE RISKS: WTA NO. 1 ASH BARTY PASSES ON PLAYING US OPEN

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — No. 1-ranked Ash Barty is skipping the first tennis major since January after deciding it’s too risky to travel for the U.S. Open during the coronavirus pandemic.

The 24-year-old Australian is the highest-profile player so far to opt out of the Aug. 31-Sept. 13 Grand Slam tournament in New York because of the global health crisis.

“My team and I have decided that we won’t be travelling to the … Western & Southern Open and the U.S. Open this year,” Barty said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press on Thursday. “I love both events so this was a difficult decision, but there are still significant risks involved due to COVID-19 and I don’t feel comfortable putting my team and I in that position.

“I wish the USTA all the best for the tournaments and I look forward to being back in the U.S. next year.”

Barty is yet to decide if she’ll defend the French Open title she won last year for her breakthrough singles major. The clay-court Grand Slam event was postponed earlier in the year and rescheduled to start Sept. 27, after the U.S. Open.

Barty reached the semifinals of the Australian Open in January, the only major tennis tournament completed this year.

Australia’s closed international borders would make it difficult for Barty to travel overseas during the pandemic. Technically, Barty would have to receive permission from the government to travel abroad, and flight options are limited. Upon returning to Australia, travelers face a mandatory two weeks in quarantine.

Central Coast Tennis Seniors Tournament August 14-16

We had so much fun in July hosting the first seniors tournament post Covid19, that we are going to do it again.

We understand that not every club and committee are able to host their tournament due to the restrictions imposed, and while we are happy to help or give some advice to help these groups with their Covid Safe Plans, we also know our TNSW members want to play tennis and catch up with friends on the court.

Central Coast Seniors, with Wyong Tennis are hosting for this year only an August event that we hope you all enjoy.

Please contact Craig Edwards 0412 185 130 with any questions.

Kind Regards
Central Coast Tennis Seniors
Katrina O’Callaghan
0414 973 751

Wimbledon’s £10m prize money paid to players despite 2020 cancellation

WIMBLEDON

Wimbledon logo

Many players have suffered financial losses this year due to the cancellation of Wimbledon, but the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) has come to the party in a big way as they will pay out £10m in prize money to the 620 players who would have taken part in the 2020 Championships.

Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since World War II as tennis was forced to go on a hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, AELTC has provided some relief as they will distribute £10m to more than 600 players based on their world rankings with the move coming on the back of insurance policies paying out in the event of a pandemic.

Based on the ATP and WTA Rankings:
• 224 players who would have competed in qualifying will each receive £12,500
• 256 players who would have competed in main draw singles will each receive £25,000
• 120 players who would have competed in main draw doubles will each receive £6,250
• 16 players who would have competed in the wheelchair events will each receive £6,000
• 4 players who would have competed in the quad wheelchair events will each receive £5,000

“Immediately following the cancellation of The Championships, we turned our attention to how we could assist those who help make Wimbledon happen,” AELTC Chief Executive Richard Lewis said.

“We know these months of uncertainty have been very worrying for these groups, including the players, many of whom have faced financial difficulty during this period and who would have quite rightly anticipated the opportunity to earn prize money at Wimbledon based on their world ranking.”

U.S. Open will go on, but no fans are allowed

The U.S. Open tennis tournament will take place as scheduled, but it will not include fans, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday.

The event, which has been a big revenue driver for the state, will take place Aug. 31 to Sept. 13 at the Billy Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens.

The United States Tennis Association issued a statement saying it’s excited New York approved its plan to hold the tournament on time.

“We recognize the tremendous responsibility of hosting one of the first global sporting events in these challenging times, and we will do so in the safest manner possible, mitigating all potential risks. We now can give fans around the world the chance to watch tennis’ top athletes compete for a US Open title, and we can showcase tennis as the ideal social distancing sport,” Mike Dowse, USTA CEO, said in a statement.  

Cuomo outlined some of the safety measures that will be necessary to hold an event of this caliber. 

“The USTA will take extraordinary precautions to protect players and staff, including robust testing, additional cleaning, extra locker room space and dedicated housing and transportation,” Cuomo said in his daily news conference. 

However, not everyone is happy with the decision to hold the iconic tournament. Top players including Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have publicly expressed their concerns. 

With New York being the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S., temporary hospitals were set up at the Flushing facility. 

“Most of the players I have talked with were quite negative on whether they would go there,” Djokovic said in an interview with Serbia’s state broadcaster RTS on Tuesday. 

Djokovic said the restrictions in place would be “extreme” and “not sustainable.”

Nick Kyrgios called it “selfish” to hold the U.S. Open.

“I’ll get my hazmat suit ready for when I travel from Australia and then have to quarantine for 2 weeks on my return,” he tweeted Monday. 

The U.S. Open tennis tournament brings in $400 million in revenue annually, which accounts for 80% of the USTA’s yearly total. More than 700,000 fans attended the tournament last year from all over the world. The event generates business to the area’s hotels, restaurants and the greater local economy.

Source: CNBC

AIS Framework for Rebooting Sport – Summary

High level descriptors of three levels (Levels A, B, C) of activities and associated hygiene measures are recommended. Detailed descriptions of recommended sport specific activities at each level are outlined in Appendices A and B.

Tennis Level A: Running/aerobic/agility training (solo), resistance training (solo), skills training (solo) — e.g. serving only, hitting with ball machine.

Tennis Level B: Full training on court, singles or doubles.

Tennis Level C: Full training and competition

Tennis takes a swing at making players’ earnings fairer

The new chair of the association that runs men’s tennis wants to share out wealth more evenly Of the top 500 players in the world, the annual median income for men is $124,000 and $80,000 for women.

Andrea Gaudenzi knows the glories and struggles of professional tennis. The Italian player scored victories against Roger Federer and Pete Sampras, two of the game’s greatest champions, before retiring in 2003. The financial gains were not as good as those career-defining wins, though. “It is a bit of an elite sport,” he said. “I was mad when I was playing because you look at soccer players in the second league in Italy. They were making more and I was in the top 20 in the world.” Mr Gaudenzi is now in a position to alter that balance. Last year, he was appointed new chair of ATP, the body in charge of men’s tennis. Alongside other tennis organisations, it is preparing a multimillion-dollar relief fund to prop up hundreds of players suffering a steep loss of income as tournaments have been shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. Even before the Covid-19 outbreak halted matches, many tennis players were struggling financially.

Big sponsorship deals for stars such as Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams place them among the world’s highest-earning athletes. However, the vast majority of professional players below them rely on prize money won from a gruelling and expensive tour of tournaments worldwide. 

Of the top 500 male and female players, the elite group of tennis players in the world, the annual median income for men is $124,000 and $80,000 for women. But the sport’s wealth flows towards those at the top.  About a quarter of professional female players make less than $25,000, below the median salaries of workers in Latvia, Greece and Chile, according to the OECD. 

Meanwhile, a quarter of professional male players make less than $40,000 a year from prize money, roughly equivalent to the wages of a secretary or a truck driver in the US, according to the US Bureau of Labor statistics. 

These earnings do not factor in costs, such as paying for coaching, equipment and year-round travel expenses. An injury that takes a player out of the game for months can be a devastating financial hit. Reaching one of the sport’s four annual Grand Slams — the most prestigious and lucrative tournaments — is crucial to a player’s prospects in continuing on the tour. In 2019, the 128 men and women who lost in the first round of Wimbledon each earned £45,000. Last year’s men’s singles winner, Novak Djokovic and ladies’ champion Simona Halep, took away £2.35m each. The ATP and Grand Slam organisers have responded, steadily increasing the amount of prize money available to players over recent years. There have been larger percentage increases for those knocked out in the early stages of tournaments.

Mr Gaudenzi insists that tennis should be a meritocracy; the better a player is, the more they earn. But he says the coronavirus-induced crisis is resulting in a larger rethink of the sport’s financial inequalities.  “The winner of the tournament needs to earn more than the first round loser,” he said, but added: “You can redistribute the pie more evenly.” 

Source: FT

USTA Player and Facility Guidelines

The USTA recognizes that the coronavirus has been affecting different parts of the country in different ways and with different timing. We therefore believe it will be possible for people to return to playing tennis safely in some cities and states sooner than others.

Below are two “Playing Tennis Safely” documents, one geared to players and one geared to tennis facilities, that have been developed by the USTA in conjunction with its Medical Advisory Group and its Industry partners.

These documents provide extensive guidelines for the safe return to the courts. By following these guidelines as well as those of local governments and health agencies, facilities and players will be able to make informed decisions as to when play can recommence.

Please note that the local decisions on phased opening will not apply to USTA-sanctioned programs. These programs will remain suspended until at least May 31 as previously announced.

Patrick J. Galbraith Chairman of the Board and President
United States Tennis Association

COVID-19 Playing Tennis Safely – Player Tips and Recommendations
COVID-19 Playing Tennis Safely – Facility and Programming Recommendations

March 2020 Tennis Seniors Vetscore

Click download link for copy.

USTA Statement on Safety of Playing Tennis during the COVID-19 Virus Pandemic

April 03, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating challenges for everyone across the globe. American tennis players are asking for guidance regarding the safety of playing tennis, especially when social distancing and space sharing issues are now paramount.  

Based on the recommendations of the USTA COVID-19 Advisory Group, the USTA believes that it is in the best interest of society to take a collective pause from playing the sport we love.

Although there are no specific studies on tennis and COVID-19, medical advisors believe there is the possibility that the virus responsible for COVID-19 could be transmitted through common sharing and handling of tennis balls, gate handles, benches, net posts and even court surfaces.

As a result of this, the USTA asks that as tennis players we need to be patient in our return to the courts and consider how our decisions will not only affect ourselves, but how our decisions can impact our broader communities. In the meantime, we encourage everyone to stay active and healthy with at-home exercise and creative “tennis-at-home” variations. 

We look forward to our return to tennis in a safe manner and will provide updates as new information becomes available. By practicing all the recommended guidelines presently put forth by our medical experts, that return will happen in the soonest possible timeframe.

USTA Link

Virus forces Wimbledon cancellation for 1st time since WWII

For the first time in its nearly century-and-a-half history, Wimbledon was canceled for a reason other than war, scrapped in 2020 on Wednesday because of the coronavirus pandemic.

With Britain under a nationwide lockdown, the All England Club announced its decision to call off its storied two-week grass-court tennis tournament, something that hadn’t happened to the sport’s oldest Grand Slam event in 75 years.

“It has weighed heavily on our minds that the staging of The Championships has only been interrupted previously by World Wars,” club chairman Ian Hewitt said, “but, following thorough and extensive consideration of all scenarios, we believe that it is a measure of this global crisis that it is ultimately the right decision to cancel this year’s Championships, and instead concentrate on how we can use the breadth of Wimbledon’s resources to help those in our local communities and beyond.”

Australian Government: Coronavirus (COVID-19) health alert

The World Health Organization has announced that COVID-19 is a pandemic. Find out how we are monitoring and responding to the outbreak, how you can help slow the spread of COVID-19 in Australia, and what to do if you have symptoms. We also report the latest official medical advice and case numbers.

Current status

The situation is changing rapidly. Stay up to date with the latest information about the spread of COVID-19 and the steps being taken to slow the spread.

Stay informed

Read the latest announcements about COVID-19 and up-to-date advice for your situation.

Current status in Australia

For daily reports of reported COVID-19 cases, go to current situation and case numbers.

For what we’re doing to slow the spread, go to Government response to COVID-19.

How to protect yourself and others

Everyone must practise good hygiene to protect against infection and prevent the virus spreading.

Practise good hygiene by sneezing into your elbow or a tissue, dispose of the tissue, wash your hands and use sanitiser

If you have a confirmed case, you need to isolate yourself to prevent it spreading to other people.

What you can do

We can all help to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Australia.

Read protect yourself and others for advice on:

To help protect people most at risk, follow our advice on public gatherings and visits to vulnerable groups.

Symptoms and when to get tested

Symptoms

Symptoms include fever, coughing, sore throat, fatigue, and shortness of breath.

If you have serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing, call 000 for urgent medical help.

When to get tested

If you develop symptoms within 14 days of last contact with a confirmed case or of returning to Australia, you should seek medical attention. Your doctor will tell you if you need to get tested.

If you’re concerned

Call the National Coronavirus Helpline for advice. If you require translating or interpreting services, call 131 450.

National Coronavirus Helpline

Call this line if you are seeking information on coronavirus (COVID-19). The line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.1800 020 080

View contact

GP respiratory clinics

The Australian Government is establishing 100 GP Respiratory Clinics to assess people with fever, cough, a sore throat, or shortness of breath.

We are setting these clinics up over the next few weeks. Clinics in Ryde, NSW, and Morayfield, Qld, started operating on 21 March 2020.

If you’re not currently near Ryde, NSW, or Morayfield, Qld, there is no GP Respiratory Clinic in your area yet.

Visit your state or territory health department website for more information on state and territory fever clinics and other services.

If you are having a medical emergency, please call 000.

Additional advice

Travellers

Our advice for travellers provides information on airport and in-flight biosecurity measures, travel restrictions and other arrangements that apply.

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Our advice for the health and aged care sector includes Public Health Unit guidelines, epidemiology reports and other resources.