The future of tennis tournaments without the presence of fans
The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the tennis calendar. With prestigious tournaments such as the Wimbledon, Monte Carlo Masters, Barcelona Open, and the WTA finals cancelled, players have a lot to lose.
Despite limitations, the organizers did manage to conduct the US Open and the French Open in a bio-bubble. However, not everything went smoothly. Kristina Mladenovic described the conditions of the US Open unpleasant and claimed that she was fighting for her freedom.
The authorities made a blunder in the Hamburg Open as Benoit Paire was allowed to play despite testing positive twice for Covid-19. American tennis player, Noah Rubin also slammed the authorities for confusion regarding the rules around quarantine.
While players will neither receive boos nor appreciation from the fans due to a closed-door environment, many would miss the push to pay better and the confidence to play in front of a big audience.
While the Rome Masters and the French Open allowed 1000 fans daily to watch the proceedings, most of the stands still lack the vibrance. Next year, the Wimbledon is planning to stick to its original schedule even if fans cannot attend the tournament amidst the pandemic.
In the absence of roars and jeers, outside buzz and external distraction will no longer play a part in elevating a duel. Players who feed off the crowd's energy will feel very lonely. In many matches, crowds have made it more difficult to upset a big player on a grand stage.
The effect of all that eerie silence is nearly impossible to discern because it cannot be isolated from other important factors. A tournament without the presence of fans has made it a more gritty experience like watching gladiators battling in a vacant colosseum.
Players have voiced out concerns over allowing fans as the health crisis is still raging. Those professionals who are not used to being around people will be able to adapt better to these new conditions. It will be tough for some to step up their level and intensity during the crucial moments.
The fact that tennis is an individual sport makes fans an integral part of the viewing experience maximizing their impact. Many players also view the presence of empty stands as an advantage against local players who would be strongly backed by their home crowd.
The financial aspects of the sport have also been hit hard in the absence of fans. With no gate receipts, ticket and merchandise sales can make up to 75% of an event's revenue. However, tennis authorities have made substantial efforts to conduct tournaments and support the players to return to competitive action.
Whatever said and done, players have to be physically and mentally prepared for a changing environment. It is anyways better than not playing anything by postponing or cancelling tournaments. For the time being, players would have to be content with the tough decision of being their own cheerleader.
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