"It almost brings all of us back to where we started playing this sport" - Britain's Tara Moore on returning to the WTA Tour
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Britain’s Tara Moore, the lone British representative in the women’s doubles draw of the Top Seed Open in Lexington, Kentucky spoke to the LTA ahead of her doubles match against Grand Slam champions Sloane Stephens and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, about what she’s been up to during lockdown, sharing her personal experiences of the first WTA event in the United States since March, what’s different about it, seeing Jo and Heather again, and her hopes for the future:
Well here we go, I’m writing this at my first event after lockdown. I have to say, it’s nice to be out of the house doing something and travelling again but at the same time it’s also a little scary because there are so many unknowns. That’s why it was a good option to play Lexington, as we (with my partner Emina Bektas) could drive there from where we were training in Michigan and I felt a bit safer doing that. Six hours in America is a nice short road trip actually.
So far here in Lexington the players have been really good about staying in the bubble as everyone knows what’s at stake here. The fact that players get to play tournaments is such a big privilege right now because we haven’t had that opportunity to compete or earn a living really since early March. So I think the fear of being excluded is far greater than the need to go out to restaurants right now.
I think for WTA events it’s a little bit easier than ITFs coming back, and being on the ITF World Tennis Tour Panel now, knowing the safety protocols, they are trying their best too but at the same time they won’t have the same resources as the WTA and the players will have to mitigate those risks.
The atmosphere in Lexington is completely different for the players that are here and I think in a good way. It almost brings all of us back to where we started playing this sport, like an ITF or junior event in smaller venues with no crowds. The WTA have done a great job pulling this event together at such short notice, it’s very well run and I’ve been impressed with the cleanliness and the protocols they have in place. As players we appreciate the tournaments are putting our safety first getting tennis up and running again.
My lockdown began right after I had shoulder surgery in March. I was really lucky that I slipped in the day before everything shut down. So for me the time off was a blessing as it allowed me to take care of my body, do something that I needed while not missing out for not playing. I spent the first few weeks concentrating on my rehab staying with Emina’s family in Indianapolis. It was really nice being a “normal” person for a couple of months. What I really struggled with was finding the right balance of how much to train, as no one knew how long it was going to last for or when tennis was going to resume again. The challenge was not burning out over-training before it was time to start playing tournaments again.
Once I could, I did a lot of coaching, working with younger players and started to see my own tennis from a different perspective. I was really spoilt though, as Emina’s parents were just cooking for me every day, I felt really pampered and lived the life of a teenage girl which I had never really done before.
I was really sad that I couldn’t be a part of the recent Behind Closed Doors events (at the LTA’s National Tennis Centre), which looked great. I’m currently applying for my Green Card which means I can’t leave the States! I got a lot of comments from people on social media asking why I wasn’t there. I spoke to a couple of the players about them and they said how well run they were and what a great atmosphere it was.
I have seen Jo and Heather from a distance here, it was nice to see them again and said hi in a social distancing way which still takes some getting used to. It’s still really strange for all of us because you can’t hug people like you might have done before or spend too long talking to them when you first see people until everyone confirms they test negative (which is done every few days after that). I watched some of Jo’s match on Monday and I’ve known Heather a really long time. Just to give her an elbow bump is really strange. At the same time that’s just the way that it is at the moment and I think that players understand this is how it will be for a while and if we want to keep tennis going and be safe, this is the only option we have.
The other thing is with all of us wearing masks virtually 24/7, you don’t know if someone is smiling at you or not, so that will take some getting used to. I have found myself smiling at people and wondering why they don’t respond back, then I realise oh it’s the mask and they can’t see my mouth.
Will we see handshakes again at the end of tennis matches? I think that depends on where we are with a vaccine and how comfortable people will be that to be honest. I hope the handshake does return at some stage as it helps the comradery within our sport.
Tennis hasn’t changed that much on the court as it is a perfectly socially distanced and safe sport to play from that perspective. I think now off the court in a funny sort of way this new situation is bringing us closer together as a Tour, but still in a safe way. We are for the most part all in one hotel, spending more time within our common bubble in a way you wouldn’t have seen before when it was much more separated. You see some players having dinner in the lobby or playing cards It’s probably like how tennis used to be in years gone by and back when we were juniors which has been really nice, which I’ve never really seen before on Tour.
I feel like it’s a very exciting time for tennis that we have finally come back but it’s also very scary and uncertain for a lot of lower players like myself and juniors starting out, whose rankings aren’t high enough to gain them entry into the bigger events that are taking place. This whole situation is still very new for all of us and I really hope tennis can survive, continue to grow and thrive so that we don’t lose too many tournaments or players to this awful virus and the after-effects from it.
Stay safe everyone
This is part of a series of blogs where the LTA will be catching up with British players around the world to share their experiences with fans returning from lockdown.