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London | Federer breaks radio silence

Roger Federer, who is at his home in the mountains of Switzerland and setting a good example to others, has broken his radio silence after undergoing knee surgery in February and following the suspension of pro tennis due to the coronavirus outbreak.


It’s really important to take these rules seriously. Very very seriously. Eventually, we could all be in quarantine and not be able to leave the house anymore so I really hope all of us take it very seriously. Roger Federer

“I’m also staying home and I haven’t been shaking anybody’s hands for quite some time now,” he said on Instagram.

“Obviously, I wash my hands very frequently as we’re supposed to. I believe helping each other is more important now than ever. Especially because we want to help the older generation.

“They’re the ones at highest risk and we need to help them by keeping a distance of two metres and not shake hands.

“It’s really important to take these rules seriously. Very very seriously.

“Eventually, we could all be in quarantine and not be able to leave the house anymore so I really hope all of us take it very seriously.”

The death toll on Friday rose to 43 in Switzerland where there is a reported shortage of tests being done.

Over 4,800 people have so far tested positive for the virus and Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset has said hospitals were ‘reaching the limits of their capacity’.

In nearby Austria, field beds are being set up on indoor tennis courts to get ready to care for patients affected by CORVID-19 when the hospitals become full, according to tennis journalist Jose Morgado.

Field beds set up at an indoor tennis court in Klagenfurt, Austria to house patients of coronavirus COVID-19 when hospitals are full

© Peter Lindner/APA /AFP via Getty Images

Federer, 38, planned to make his return in June for the grass-court season, which is when it is hoped the tours can resume after the cancellation of the clay court season, but this now is looking more unlikely.

The fact that the French Open has elected to move from May to September in direct competition to the Laver Cup has yet to illicit a response from the great Swiss, but others are suggesting that the dates of the team event could well be moved to accommodate the clay court Grand Slam.

It is clear that the tennis world support the French Open over the Laver Cup should it come down a choice, according to Switzerland’s Fed Cup captain Heinz Guenthardt.

The French Open caused controversy by unilaterally switching dates to September, just a week after the US Open, after its traditional May scheduling was compromised by the coronavirus outbreak, prompting outrage from Laver Cup organisers.

“No certainly not,” Guenthardt told Tages Anzeiger when asked if he believed Federer would be reluctant to postpone the Laver Cup.

“Nor can I imagine Federer insisting on the date of the Laver Cup.

“If you had the choice as a tennis fan: Laver Cup or Roland Garros, which would you choose?

“In Paris, 128 men and 128 women play in the main field alone, plus qualifications and doubles.

“There are about a dozen players at the Laver Cup. The ATP is a player association, it must act accordingly.

“Especially because the players in the lower ranks are now dependent on the money of the French Open.”

Federer himself is yet to comment on the decision by the FFT but it looks certain that Rafael Nadal would be forced to skip the exhibition to ensure he plays in Paris, where he is aiming for a record-extending 13th title.

The sudden switch of surface from the hard court of the US Open to the clay of Roland Garros won’t be a problem, according to Feliciano Lopez.

“It is an emergency situation. If it finally turns out that way, I imagine that tennis players will want to play and few people will skip [it].

“This change of surface has usually happened to us with Davis Cup, who went from one surface to another in less than five days.

“Even at Wimbledon, because now there are three weeks away from Roland Garros, but before it was two and you went from clay to grass.”

Lopez also offered some insight as to how players are training during the enforced coronavirus social distancing.

“I’m doing a lot of cycling. I also have medicine balls, run where I can around here, video conferences with my coach.

“A little of everything and waiting to see how events unfold.”

With many countries expected to face an overburden on their health systems and hospitals expected to be full, many venues are being converted into makeshift hospitals or isolation wards.

The tennis world often comes to the forefront in providing relief to those impacted by such disasters.

World No 2 Simona Halep is donating money to buy medical equipment in her country, while teenager Coco Gauff started a fundraiser to raise money for the pandemic that would go to UNICEF, and several other players, including Bianca Andreescu, Caty McNally, Michael Chang and Todd Martin have donated items to raise money for the cause as well.

Rafael Nadal on the podium after the 2019 French Open at Roland Garros

© Julian Finney/Getty Images

Meanwhile, players are coping with the unprecedented break from the tours by resting with family or significant others but separation from their passion and livelihood is causing restlessness.

Naomi Osaka the 2-time Grand Slam winner might have been at the end of her rope confined to the house all day and went on Twitter to link with fans as the media reports.

Someone asked for her to explain her nationality and she tartly replied: “..I am black and Asian. It’s not that confusing.”

On Twitter, Eugenie Bouchard was being her coy yet honest self saying: “..I feel like quarantine would be a lot more fun with a boyfriend.”

Canada’s Vasek Pospisil is trying to keep active but his main pet peeve is cooking: “I’m a horrible cook…I’m always eating at restaurants.”

He claims he has only cooked once for himself but promises to make an effort: “I’m going to have to Google some recipes. I have no idea.”

The 6 week hiatus is becoming the players’ nightmare and they need something to do.

Robert Haase has offered his ‘babysitting skills’ to help out working parents while CoCo Vandeweghe admits on Twitter that she is ‘currently looking for something to do for the next few months’.

Many are trying to stay fit and to get stronger.

Elise Tamaela, the coach of Kiki Bertens says the Dutch player “ training outdoors…running up and downstairs…we can go into the forest, onto the beach…”; while Rebecca Peterson feels this is an excellent time ‘to train and build myself up’.

The longer the tours are extended, the harder isolation will be for everyone.



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