Tennis: Doubles return 'virtually impossible'

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JERSEY tennis star Scott Clayton does not expect to be back on the court competing for titles for the rest of the year, after the ATP (and WTA) extended the suspension of the tour until the end of July.

Scott Clayton admits he is unlikely to return to court in 2020, following the ATP's latest Covid-19 restriction extension Picture: PETER MOURANT

No professional tennis tournaments have been played since 1 March, meaning high profile events such as Wimbledon and Roland Garros were forced to be suspended. At the moment, the US Open is still pencilled in for August but Clayton thinks this will go the same way as the European Grand Slams.

‘It’s the right decision,’ said Clayton in response to the ATP’s decision. ‘As frustrating as it is, it was inevitable. The suspension period has been extended to 1 August 2020 but I would be surprised if it doesn’t get extended again.

‘With tennis being such an international sport with players from all around the world playing in events all around the globe I think it’s going to be difficult to get back playing again this year. With the travel industry struggling as well I’m just not sure when things can get back to normal. From a more personal point of view, playing doubles, to social distance ourselves is virtually impossible.’

The 26-year-old’s last tournament was at the end of February, when he lost in the semi-finals of the Calgary National Bank Challenger with his doubles partner Liam Broady. With no tournament play for over two months, and none likely for another two and half months at least, it means Clayton has lost out on his prime income stream of tournament prize money. Thankfully, however, he has been able to count on the support of the LTA, the governing body of tennis in Britain, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, and his sponsor, Rathbones.

‘The LTA have been good. They’ve given us a little bit of support financially. They didn’t need to that and the players have been really grateful. It’s a big help,’ said Clayton. ‘I’ve got a great sponsor with Rathbones on the Island who I have a great relationship with. They’ve always been brilliant at supporting me through good times and bad, when I’ve had injuries, so obviously that’s been a big help as well and then we’ve also had support from the LTA with fitness support, access to doctors and training facilities opening again, including the national centre, although it is right for me to stay on the Island right now.

‘The tennis clubs over here are open so I can get on here but it’s difficult from a training perspective because you don’t really know what you’re training for. You’re training to stay fit and, don’t get me wrong, it’s great to be back out of court but mentally it’s been difficult. It’s almost like we’ve been injured. If we’re not going back to playing until January it’s a long time to be just training 24/7.’

Despite being unable to get back to full doubles training due to issues of social distancing, Clayton, who competes on the ATP Challenger Tour and is currently ranked 226, will be trying to make the most of the situation in his endeavours to keep in top condition, with a little help from some friends.

‘With the lockdown being eased, we can actually train now. But in many ways it makes it a bit trickier because you don’t know when and where you are training for,’ said Clayton. ‘I’m fortunate to have a couple of good guys here: James Faudemer at the Tennis Hub at St Clements I also hit with Andrew Evans at the Caesarean tennis club. They are also willing to hit, always willing to help, which is great. There are still a lot of exercises and drills I can do with just two guys that can crelate to doubles. Last week was great to get back into it. I probably hit half an hour a day on top of the fitness regimes. I will look to ramp it up a bit over the next couple of weeks.’

Clayton is also closely monitoring the possibilities of competing in domestic tournaments, with the National Championships returning to the British tennis calendar for the first time since 2002. Plans are at a very early stage, but the tournament is looking to be staged at an indoor venue this autumn.

‘I think the LTA are looking to do some stuff domestically in the UK but its all dependent on how everything transpires with number of cases and deaths, whether the UK will have a second peak,’ said Clayton. ‘There are a lot of questions right now. No one has been through this, so no one’s got the answers. I think they’ve got plans in place to run a couple of things domestically but I don’t know much more than that right now.’

Paul Lees

By Paul Lees
Sports reporter

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