On April 3, as the coronavirus pandemic was just beginning to disrupt the social habits of Americans from coast to coast, the United States Tennis Association said in a statement that "it is in the best interest of society to take a collective pause from playing the sport we love."
Nineteen days later, the USTA has issued a new statement, this one about potentially resuming tennis, given the realities that some areas of the country are beginning to re-open.
"The USTA recognizes that the coronavirus has been affecting different parts of the country in different ways and with different timing," read the statement. "We therefore believe it will be possible for people to return to playing tennis safely in some cities and states sooner than others."
The facility and program safety suggestions are broken up into seven categories: assessing the situation; encouraging social distancing; providing a clean environment; tennis balls; equipment, coaching; and organizing activities. Recommendations include:
—Online bookings are recommended, and have participants make payments online. Avoid handling cash.
—All score tenders will be taken off the courts to prevent touching.
—Use every second court where practical.
—Live ball drills and game-based play is recommended over using baskets.
—Try to restrict balls to a particular group, court or day of the week. One idea is to label them with a permanent marker.
—Using a ball machine is a great option for giving lessons, as it avoids having people touch the balls. Using ball tubes and basket pickups to pick up loose balls after a ball machine rotation also limits contact.
For players, some recommendations include:
—Bring a full water bottle to avoid touching a tap or water fountain handle.
—Arrive as close as possible to when you need to be there.
—Stay on your side of court. Avoid changing ends of the court.
—If a ball from another court comes to you, send it back with a kick or with
—After playing, leave the court as soon as reasonably possible.
"In communities where stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders have been lifted or modified, and where the locality meets the standards in the Federal Guidelines, then tennis, if played properly, can be a great opportunity to relieve stress, socialize with others and provide much-needed exercise," said the USTA.
The organization also noted that it is the responsibility of tennis providers and instructors to closely assess their local environments and restrictions during this time.
"Of primary importance is taking every precaution to help keep all participants safe," said the USTA in its list of recommendations. The facility and program safety measures will remain in place until a universal vaccine or effective treatment for the coronavirus becomes available.
The USTA also stated that these local decisions during the phased opening will not apply to USTA-sanctioned events. All USTA programs will still remain suspended until at least May 31.