Tennis players and golfers will be able to return to their beloved pursuits from next Wednesday, the Government has confirmed. The news is sure to be welcomed by recreational sports enthusiasts, but there are still a few frustrations hidden away in the small print. Outdoors, you will be able to enjoy pretty much any non-contact sport you like. Indoor sports will continue to be closely controlled, unless you are an elite professional, a disabled person or are under 18 years old. This is awkward for those who normally play indoor tennis or badminton. At indoor centres in tier-three areas, you will only be able to hit balls or shuttlecocks with members of your own household. In tier two, you can play singles tennis or badminton against one person from a different household, but doubles is a no-go. Squash, with its potential for physical contact, appears to be being treated more harshly, although more advice on this is still being awaited from the Departure of Culture, Media and Sport. Doubles tennis is comfortably the most popular form of the game at recreational level, as it is much easier on the joints than singles. Andy Murray has demonstrated this point vividly since the insertion of his metal hip. So if we expect most of England to remain in tier two or three when the national lockdown ends next week, the reality is that outdoor tennis will be the only option for most people. As a result, indoor centres across the country will continue to face economic hardship. The Lawn Tennis Association offered a cautious welcome to this compromise on Monday. “There are few sports that are as safe as tennis,” said a spokesman. “It can be played indoors without people mixing or breaking any kind of social distancing rules. “We pushed for more tennis to be permitted indoors across the tiers and it’s good news that, despite certain restrictions, the Government has listened to the arguments we put forward. “More people will be able enjoy the mental and physical health benefits of tennis this winter, but we will continue to engage with Government as we know this remains a very challenging time for indoor centres and the coaches and officials who depend on them over the winter.” Adrian Christy, Badminton England chief executive, said: “We welcome the announcement that badminton can return to play, safely, from December 2. We’re still working through the detail but understand that club and social play will be possible at tiers one and two, within different restrictions, meaning a return to badminton for more than 40 per cent of our clubs who were previously locked down. We have sought parity for badminton, to that enjoyed previously by activity such as group exercise, and I‘m delighted that Government has listened to us.”
No one thinks it’s time to write off Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal — or even Roger Federer — just yet. It gives everyone fodder for thought until action resumes in Australia in January, if the coronavirus pandemic allows.
Daniil Medvedev of Russia claimed the biggest title of his career on Sunday, beating Dominic Thiem in a three-set match in the ATP Finals. Thiem looked on course to become the first Austrian to win the title, after winning the first set, and following his recent U.S. Open championship win. But the 24-year-old Russian turned the tide, storming back in the last two sets and firing an unreturnable first serve on match point to end the tournament in London. Medvedev outplayed world number one Novak Djokovic in the group phase and outlasted second-ranked Rafael Nadal in Saturday’s semi-final to get to the championship match. The world number four lost all of his matches in the same event last year. This year, he becomes the fifth straight first-time winner of the ATP Finals title. Thiem finished as runner-up in the tournament for the second year in a row.