By Luke Jensen, French Open Doubles Champion
Are there words to describe what has happened to planet Earth at the start of the 2020 calendar year? We’re in a world connected and concerned for a future that is so uncertain. In early March, we watched two of the most popular professional tennis tournaments — Indian Wells and Miami Open — cancel because the global situation due to the COVID-19 virus. The very best players in the world, who typically travel the world living out of a suitcase, now must live with their lives and livelihoods up in the air.
Professional tennis is a match-to-match way to make a living. One injury or one bad losing streak can put amazing pressure on how the typical player will pay his or her bills. When I injured my knee in the spring of 1998, I was without any income for an entire year until I started back playing on the ATP Tour. As a player, you know the risk and the pressure to produce to earn a living. Following current players on Twitter and Instagram has been interesting. Their level of success on the court seems to determine how they have maintained training and options to make sure they will be ready when the tour returns for everyone.
The players that I found most interesting to follow have been the players under 100 in the world. These players are the “blue-collar” pros, living paycheck to paycheck and trying to make it to the “big money” tournaments. At the historic West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, New York, I was taking calls from well-known players looking to make some money doing an exhibition or even teaching. How they find ways to keep focused on improving their games while finding an alternative way to make money is both encouraging and dismaying.
Today’s players make more money than I did, but they also have teams of people around them for whom they are responsible. What happens to the coaches, trainers, and agents? These are extremely interesting times for all of us on this fragile planet. As schools and programs closed, we have to focus on helping the world around us get through. We must live through the moment, and soon enough, we’ll be able to start moving forward again. Hang tough.