Lifting the mood: Tennis Majors’ top 30 lockdown stars (Part 1, From 30 to 26)
As the tennis world begins to come out of lockdown, we celebrate those who found a special way to keep the sport alive through their personality, energy and wit. We rank the top 30. Here, we bring you No 30 to No 26.
#30 Yannick Hanfmann, the first tournament winner during lockdown
What Yannick Hanfmann did
Yannick Hanfmann, ATP world No.143, won the first edition of the Tennis-Point Exo-tennis exhibition that took place May 1-4th in Höhr-Grenzhausen, Germany. It was the first “competition” including professional players after the confinement. He defeated fellow German Dustin Brown in the final on May 4th. He also participated in the second and third editions. Tennis nerds might know him as the winner of the 2019 Augsburg Challenger and remember that he was defeated 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 by Rafael Nadal in the 1st round of the 2019 French Open, and by Fabio Fognini in the final of the Gstaad ATP 250 in 2016.
Why it matters
Normally, no media would care for matches played without crowd between German players ranked outside the world’s top 100. But since this tournament was the first glimpse of tennis since the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced the ATP and the WTA tours to be suspended until at least July 31, Hanfmann’s victory is something of a milestone. Organisers proved that professional tennis could work again despite the ongoing pandemic. Nonetheless, players had to follow strict health rules and entered the court with masks.
Exhibitions are to multiply in the coming weeks: Exo-Tennis in Höhr-Grenzhausen, Exo-Tenis in Atlanta, UTR Pro Match Series in Palm Beach already took place. Notably, Patrick Mouratoglou’s competition Ultimate Tennis Showdown is due to start on June 13th.
#29 Michael Luevano, still believes he can hold the Shanghai Masters
What Michael Luevano did
In the middle of the crisis, Shanghai tournament director Michael Luevano stood. He told Carole Bouchard for Tennis Majors that he was still hoping to hold the Rolex Shanghai Masters, on 11-18th October:
“I’m optimistic. You have to be. You have to stay motivated. It’s even too early to talk about it now until we see what happens, for example, at the US. Open”.
Why it matters
At a time when the future of the 2020 season was in doubt, Luevano expressed a reassuring stance. As Shanghai is in the country where the coronavirus broke out, such a position is meaningful. He showed flexibility and said he was opened to changes in dates: “we’re actually flexible to move later in October if needed” he told Tennis Majors.
Luevano also urged for changes in tennis:
“So it may be the time for much more of a collective effort and a coordinated effort with the entities of tennis. This is a moment in time that will certainly define us as a sport”.
#28 Andrew Cotter, the BBC commentator had to find other sources of inspiration
Some sports are slower. More about the strategy. pic.twitter.com/JMBaGJ1tSd
— Andrew Cotter (@MrAndrewCotter) April 9, 2020
What Andrew Cotter did
With no live sport, it’s been a tough time for commentators, just as bad as it’s been for players and coaches and others in the tennis industry. But with plenty of time on his hands, BBC sports commentator Andrew Cotter, who usually focuses on athletics and golf, as well as tennis, has come up with a brilliant way to pass the time; commentating on his two dogs, Olive and Mabel.
Why it matters
Like so many things during lockdown, Cotter’s musings have given everyone a bit of light relief, not to mention a look at his two beautiful dogs. The clips have been seen in their millions and have covered walks, eating and even a Zoom chat.
Still having the company meetings online. pic.twitter.com/aR3LfuSdKl
— Andrew Cotter (@MrAndrewCotter) May 11, 2020
The Scot’s voice and droll sense of humour lends itself to many subjects. He’s already branched out to commentate on the penguins of Phillip Island in Australia.
#27 Alizé Lim, the French player carrying out interviews
What Alizé Lim did
The 29-year-old Alizé Lim, WTA#625, is one of the most popular French player on social media (she has more than 75k followers on Instagram). During the lockdown, she notably participated on Wednesdays in Gaël Monfils’ lives on Twitch. But more significantly, she launched a brand new video program on Tennis Majors: Major Talk. In this show, she interviews the best tennis players in the world, who express themselves in a more spontaneous and open manner than they would in front of journalists. In the first episodes, she chatted to Elina Svitolina, Stanislas Wawrinka and Belinda Bencic.
Why it matters
Alizé Lim’s interviews are no-filter chats, as are Instagram Lives between fellow players. They are not boring interviews in which players answer in a codified way using doublespeak. In her interviews, Lim has found a happy medium between a personal and a professional relationship with the players. Being a professional tennis player like them is a true asset to help them express the emotions they feel on the court, how they live their career, what is their lifestyle.
It’s just getting started. Long live to Major Talk on Tennis Majors.
#26 Harold Mayot, could well have been one of the first Covid-19 cases
What Harold Mayot did
The tennis world has only been affected by the Covid-19 virus since March but it seems some players may have suffered from it well before then. Harold Mayot, the world’s No 1 junior, believes he may have had the virus as long ago as October, when he was in Chengdu for the Youth Masters.
“I’ve never felt worse in my life. For four, five days, I could hardly breathe,” he told L’Equipe.
Why it matters
It seems the virus was only noticed in China in December so whether Mayot really was suffering from Covid-19 is up for debate. But it certainly caught the attention of the French media. Germany’s Alexander Zverev also suspects he may have suffered from the coronavirus but Thiago Seybold Wild is the only professional player to officially have suffered from it.
Hopefully, back to normal for Mayot, who is 100 percent healthy again now and, when tennis does return, he will harbour hopes of climbing the rankings, fast.
- Read also : How the major players live in confinement