Ted Robinson: Tennis needs "competition as soon as safely possible"

Ted Robinson: Tennis needs "competition as soon as safely possible"

With livelihoods at stake—from players and coaches to umpires and tournament staff—the veteran broadcaster believes it's imperative for the sport to consider all scenarios, including playing behind closed doors.

The suspension of professional tennis by the coronavirus pandemic was extended once more this week with the All England Lawn Tennis Club's announcement that it will not hold Wimbledon this year. 

That has only led to more speculating about when and where tournaments might start again. Veteran broadcaster Ted Robinson thought Wimbledon would consider alternative dates before making their final decision.

“I am surprised that the All England Club didn’t hold out the possibility of the Olympic dates in early August. Insurance may have been a factor, but we know too well, the AELTC does whatever it deems best,” Robinson told Tennis.com. “I feel confident, and am sure you agree, that tennis will be appreciated and, in many cases, cherished upon resumption of play.”

It was one month ago today when Indian Wells opted not to move forward as scheduled. Since then, events have dropped like dominoes, with the tours now suspending play until July 13 at the earliest.

The North American hard-court season is next in line, with the USTA stating plans to stage the US Open will continue for the time being. The ATP and WTA will have to decide a schedule if play returns this season, and the players will have to pick whether to play more or compete gradually.

“Individual sport means individual decisions. When tennis returns, some will likely revert to prior patterns, if they like playing every week, they will jump back in,” Robinson said. “Others may pace themselves. Then, the other individual characteristics come into play. Age, injury, court surface. 

"Then, the structure of the tours—rankings, points, wild cards, protected ranking entry—will be a big factor for those, as a ballpark guess, from 51 -150 [in the rankings]. When or will points be defended? And the protected entry?”

Another issue is large crowds at tournaments, which are currently prohibited in a lot of countries. Players and tournaments have repeatedly expressed they do not want to play behind closed doors, but that could allow an easier restart. 

“At some point, it seems imperative for tennis to play, regardless of spectator access. Livelihoods are at stake,” Robinson said.  “Will many players will be forced to think about leaving tennis for another career during this long hiatus? Let alone coaches, physios, umpires. Individual tournaments may have revenue concerns to address. But my view is that we need competition as soon as safely possible.”

Tour-level action slated to begin July 13 includes the ATP grass tournament in Newport, R.I. and WTA clay events in Bucharest and Lausanne.