Tennis and The Virus

Whether or not you believe there is an extreme health crisis going on, everyone’s life has changed in the last three weeks; and the senior tennis community (emphasis on “senior”) is no exception.  But what are YOU doing about it?

All Group Activities Are Canceled

Down here is sunny (and delightfully hot) Florida, most all the courts are open; but the leagues, events, and clinics have all been canceled.  A van-load of six of us were supposed to go over to Miami for the pro tournament; but that too has been canceled.

For me, I am still trying to maintain my regular, 6-times-a-week playing schedule.  I sanitize my hands both before and after getting to the courts; and most of us have been months ahead of the curve on no longer shaking hands.

Not being a medical expert, I believe getting outdoors, getting exercise, and sweating has to be better for you than sitting in the house.

Exercise Alternatives

But perhaps this crisis can provide a healthy hiatus for those players who have been playing with a lingering injury.  Taking the time off to heal, rehab, and do cross training may be beneficial in the long run.

Several of my friends have reported switching to walking long distances or riding exercise bikes to work off their cabin fever.

Or if you have a practice wall near you, that can help groove your strokes (with no human interaction).  Also, practice devices like The Tennis Eye Coach will let you practice at home.

Entertainment Alternatives

And with all pro sports suspended, there is NO live sports to watch on TV.  When I complained about that to DeDe, she said, “You never watched sports live anyway: you always recorded and watched later!”  But there is always the Tennis Channel showing their “classic matches.”

Also, there are these things called “books” that can provide hours of good personal entertainment.  For those who are tech savvy enough, most all libraries offer a huge selection of e-books that you can download without ever leaving your house. 

I am primarily a reader of fiction; and am currently working through a good book by Ace Atkins; but would recommend tennis biographies of Andre Agassi and Maria Sharapova as good reads, or even my “Senior Tennis” book!

And, I am a big fan of great shows on both Netflix and Amazon Prime.

P.S. Thanks to the two readers who suggested this topic.

How about YOU, how are you coping?

Know someone who should read this?  Send them a link and if you are not on my “new posting alert email list” and want to be (I promise, no other uses of your email address!), just drop me a note at

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15 thoughts on “Tennis and The Virus

  1. My regular indoor tennis facilities have been closed for the time being. I’m hoping to get in lots of outdoor competition once the weather permits. Have not heard any expert opinion on whether virus can be transmitted by handling the ball. Have you?

    John, i have not heard about tennis balls; but i try not to touch my eyes, nose, mouth during the match; and disinfect hands right after playing! thanks, george

  2. George the streets are empty in Pittsburgh and all of the indoor tennis facilities are closed. I’m scheduled to go to Pete Freeman’s Master Class in Cincinnati in August and Tennis Fantasies in October and my biggest fear is that they will both be cancelled as a result of the virus continuing to peak! I noticed in Italy that if someone leaves the house to Jog around the block they can be apprehended and sent back home . They also say that 4 out of 5 folks who contact the virus receive it from someone who doesn’t even know they have it. My 30 year old son has a history of asthma and a compromised immune system so we are petrified for his safety! Please be safe down there and keep washing those hands! We are at war!

    Jim, if the outlaw outdoor exercise, they will have a divorce and/or suicide epidemic on their hands! thanks, george

  3. Our tennis league in Punta Gorda was cancelled for rest of season ( not sure risk of 6 seniors on a tennis court) so a lot of biking and kayaking with one friend or 2 so spouse does not worry, home for a splash in pool and a book. Better than snow flurries in NH!

    Peter. at least we can get outside in the sunshine! thanks, george

  4. George,
    As you know Mary and I have reduced our human interaction for almost a week now. We bought a band that allows us to swim in place in our tiny backyard pool. I use my tennis ball machine on the local elementary school hard court, only if the courts are empty. We have had our groceries delivered and have another delivery scheduled. I would love to be on the courts, but if the ball is contaminated, and I wipe the sweat from my eyes in order to be able to see, I could become ill and with my heart disease, who knows. My best to all!

    George, i hope this all passes soon and we can get back to our “normal” (great) lives! thanks, george

  5. Another good topic.
    Four per court and no congregating in groups should work safely. My other idea is to hit singles once per week.
    Rod Laver biography is another good read.

    Phil, i am now going out to hit singles with the Super Senior Gordon Hammes! thanks, george

  6. As it’s snowing here in Colorado, not much going outdoors and all the indoor courts are closed. And with all the hand washing and low humidity, my skin is cracking like crazy. Jealous of anyone down in Florida! Luckily, we have an indoor gym here at my condo building, but they are talking about shutting that down! Oh my!
    Maybe I will (finally) be putting more senior tennis videos up on my YouTube channel with the extra time on my hands. It’s not ATP quality, but maybe it’s still entertainment for some who are tired of Tennis Channel reruns.

    Mike, I hope your weather breaks fast (which it can do in CO) and you can get outside! thanks, george

  7. I am absolutely just as worried as Jim and George, above, and just about everyone else. Maggie and I are STAYING HOME, and I even gave up golf and tennis these past 3 days….but I am walking 9 holes later today and playing tennis this Sat and Mon (I think!). Have heard that virus could get, and live, on tennis balls….and the ball machine here at Wyndemere has been shut down since Mon. However, courts very full each day…and I think I’ll be back on them. Stay safe. Scoot

    Scoot, see you Monday! george

  8. George, I played Singles Tuesday night and the minute my partner and i walked off the court, they closed the facility. Also, Steve’s club, Harpers Point, also had to close. This is true of almost all facilities in Ohio. Actually, I had to curtail my running due to an knee issue. I am scheduled to get a partial left knee replacement in Ohio on April 24th. That might also be delayed because of the edict of no elective surgery. However, my surgeon, Dr. Adolph Lombardi, has his own surgical suite and therefore he still might do it. I will find out on March 27th. In the meantime, lots of walking, some biking and strength training. 3x week. If that is curtailed, then it is learning to play the guitar! Maybe I can get Tony Huber to give me long distance lessons. Stay safe!

    Larry, if you can believe it, they are actually closing some OUTDOOR courts here in Florida. How foolish is that?! I played singles today and didnt come close to another human. Be well. George

  9. Hi George, My uneducated epidemiological take is, if we sanitize hands and then open new balls on the court and vow to not touch faces with hands under penalty of 35 pushups, we should be ok. As with sex partners, know who you are playing with. And sanitize hands again before leaving the ct.
    My only fear- some infected slob has spat great globs of phlegm onto the court that my pristine ball rolls through.
    “I will survive; I will get by.”- Jerry Garcia
    And here’s a great Amazon Prime movie recommendation:
    “The WorrickerTrilogy”…. 5 hours of brilliant writing, directing, and acting.
    See you at the legends camp.

    Dan, i am with you on continuing to play unless/until they take down my nets (then i will go onto the wall)! And i have added the Trilogy to my Watch List. thanks, george

    Dan, Saturday comment: just watched the first of the Trilogies… very entertaining! thanks, george

  10. George,
    To play or not to play, that is the question! As one man’s opinion, I have given this some thought and decided to play, but only under the best circumstances to prevent viral transmission. The concept is to eliminate contact person to person or within intermediate objects such as the balls or facility objects or equipment. Cleaning up after contact is not acceptable. Only NO CONTACT is acceptable. For the last two days this is the format that has been followed for two otherwise healthy players. The players arrive separately, do not touch with their hands gates, chairs, tables, hooks, nets or go to any shelter that others may have touched and go to opposite sides of the court where they maintain ten foot separation for the duration of the event. They bring their own towels, beverages, fruit, energy bars etc. in their bag and place it at the side of the court, out of the way, where others have not been. A can of balls is opened by one of the players, careful not to touch the balls, and they are rolled out on the court. The balls are then used one at a time touching them only with the racquet or racquet and foot to pick them up on the strings and hit them. Serving is a new adventure with the ball launched from the strings, gets better with practice or the points can be started with a ground stroke. Singles or cross court doubles has been the game. If someone touches a ball with a hand or body contact, that ball is set aside and an untouched ball entered in play. So far the maximum number of balls used has been three. When done, the balls are rolled back into the can with the racquet, the players take away everything that they brought with them and they leave without touching anything.
    As a physician, I believe the benefits of playing at our age outweigh the risks when done this way.

    Noble, i am with you with getting out to play and admire your extreme care not to touch anything — including the balls! thanks, george

  11. George,
    I agree that the physical and psychological benefits of tennis outweigh the risks—if it’s done carefully. But the decision may be out of our hands if facilities keep closing down for safety and liability reasons.
    Clearly, life as we know it will be fundamentally changed for the next few months. We’re entering a deep recession that will extend into Q3 or longer. And even if we survive the virus, many of our seniors will not have enough years left to rebuild their lost wealth. But this too will pass. It’s less dangerous than the Black Plague of Medieval times or the Spanish Flu of 2018—which some of us may recall. 😉

    A good read for these stressful times is “Fewer, Richer, Greener” by Laurence Siegel, which provides good cause for optimism for humanity and our planet.

    Jerry, let’s hope we all live long enough to recover financially and look back at these “tough times” to remind our grandkids what we went thru! thanks, george

  12. And, I world suggest everyone pick up a copy of Brad Gilbert’s book “Winning Ugly”. A fabulous book filled with useful and realistic advice……just like George’s!

    Greg, i agree, “Winning Ugly” is a must! (and thanks for grouping me with it!). george

  13. I am a retired pediatrician with a background in public health/ epidemiology and I fear that my worst nightmare as we ran pandemic scenarios in grad school is now real. Covid-19 is the real deal. I would hope that all realize—or will soon—that what we are facing is not a drill…What we are seeing in parts of the country and globally will only get much, much worse. We do not know enough yet about how this virus works, especially with regard to spread but what we do know is very worrisome: it is more contagious than most viruses, including 1918 Spanish flu; it has very high affinity sticking easily to cell surfaces in the upper and lower respiratory tracts; it can be spread by people with no symptoms; some studies suggest one- half of people with virus have no symptoms; it can spread by contact on various surfaces with a life of some days or longer; it can be spread by droplets ( e.g. one cough yields 30 K droplets), and spread also by aerosols. Spread can be exponential. Older individuals contracting Covid 19 appear to be at risk for more severe complications, and have greater mortality. Tennis balls are certainly potential fomites as are all surfaces including the court surface. What Noble recommends is very thoughtful and would reduce risk of infection to be sure, but even doing all those things will not completely eliminate risk— and, I believe, we do not know how much this strategy will minimize risk. Shelter in place goes beyond social distancing and is now being recommended for tens of millions of people, including here in Northern California, for a reason. As much as I love tennis, I would not play for the foreseeable future but will certainly continue to exercise in other ways. As all of us do, I also care about about spread to my family and loved ones.
    2 quotes come to mind. My dad sold insurance and this was his company’s motto: “It is better to have insurance and not need it, than to need it and not have it’.” So apropos.
    My yoga teacher once made a telling comment we might also reflect on: “We are seduced by the momentum of our past successes.”
    So, whatever your take on Covid 19– please be careful.

    May we all be well and remain super- vigilant!

    Charles Hearey MD MPH

    Chuck, thanks for your realistic, professional advice! george

  14. George,
    Know the urge to want to keep playing, but when my life-long friend–Dr. Chuck Hearey–speaks about pandemics and other medical issues, I listen carefully.
    Recommend others do the same.
    All the best.

  15. One of the things I suggested to my group is do not re use balls throw them away and wash your hands before and after play
    Like you George I believe outdoors is the safest bet

    Gail. New balls are always best to play with. An investment of $2-3 is well worth it. thanks, george

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