BY RAJDEEP SINGH PURI
India’s number two singles tennis player Prajnesh Gunneswaran, like all other tennis players in the world, is on an indefinite break from the sport.
The COVID-19 pandemic has blind-sided the sporting world, with almost all sporting events cancelled or indefinitely postponed.
With a complete lockdown being enforced in India, tennis players like Gunneswaran have been forced to stay indoors.
“I’m just doing the best that I can, whatever fitness is possible. Other than that, we’re just playing the waiting game and making sure that everyone is safe," he said.
"It's more about health rather than other things. It’s just a different situation.
"It’s not something that would happen very often, so I guess it’s just a matter of doing whatever we can and stay fit."
The Indian was dealing with an injury while playing at the Australian Open earlier this year, where he crashed out in the first round after qualifying as a lucky loser. This unexpected break gives him the time to completely recuperate his wrist and hopefully return to the court stronger.
“It’s good for me, in one way. But at the same time, without any gyms open, it is hard. I’ll be doing whatever best can be done,” he said.
He joins a long list of players who have been sidelined from the international tennis circuit.
“We can’t really play tennis because courts are closed. So there’s not much I can do other than just some fitness and waiting around,” Gunneswaran said.
The tennis season is suspended until June 7. Major tournaments including the French Open, which was scheduled to take place in the last week of May, have been postponed.
The Wimbledon Championships would be the first major tournament once the season re-starts. However, with global uncertainty about the spread of the COVID-19 virus, players have “no idea“ when they will return to the court.
“I have absolutely no idea right now. We don't know when the season is going to restart and what tournaments are going to come and what ranking I will have," Gunneswaran said.
"I’m not thinking about those things at the moment as it’s too far to plan ahead."
The uncertainty is having a severe financial impact on players.
Tennis is an expensive sport and most Indian players have been left to fend for themselves, self-funding amid a lack of support from the government and All India Tennis Association.
It is an issue that has dogged Indian players for years.
However, Gunneswaran maintains a positive outlook, citing a “lack of travel” as money saved.
“I think it's financially difficult for everybody since (playing) tennis is the main source of income for most tennis players," he said.
"In a way, it is less expensive because we are not travelling, so those expenses are cut down.
"I don't think anyone is really going to practise so costs are reduced for everyone apart from fixed costs like rent and bills. Obviously, not making money is the problem but hopefully this is all just temporary."