- 08 Mar 2020
Interaction between players, spectators and ball kids in professional tennis is about to change drastically as the sport contends with the coronavirus outbreak.
New guidelines from the ATP and WTA, which operate the men’s and women’s tours, contain a series of “precautionary health measures” that will be rolled out in the coming week.
They will see major reductions in player contact with mascots, ball boys and ball girls, and fans, and will apply to all WTA and ATP events in the coming months.
Players will not be able to hand towels to ball kids in matches, as has been commonplace, and the same ball kids will wear gloves.
Stars of the game who are used to taking balls and pens from fans to sign post-match autographs have been advised to refrain from doing so, and they have also been urged not to throw used towels and sweatbands into the crowd.
Changes will come into play at the Indian Wells Masters in California, a high-profile ATP and WTA tournament where main-draw matches begin on Wednesday.
The likes of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are due to play the event.
A joint statement from the two tours said: “The health and safety of our players, fans, staff and tournament personnel is paramount and, as the outbreak of COVID-19 continues, these are common-sense precautions for us to take.
“We continue to monitor this closely on a daily basis, working with our players and tournaments, as well as public health authorities as the situation evolves globally.”
— BNP Paribas Open (@BNPPARIBASOPEN) March 7, 2020
The measures in full, as published by the two tours, are:
– Players and mascots will not hold hands when walking out on court.
– Ball kids will be provided with gloves to wear on court.
– Ball kids will not handle player towels during matches.
– Ball kids will not handle player drinks during matches.
– Players will be instructed to not distribute used towels, headbands, shirts, sweatbands, etc to fans following matches or practice.
– Players will not accept pens, tennis balls or other items to hold for autograph signing.