No doubles, handshakes or high-fives in AITA SOPs; Rohan Bopanna welcomes guidelines

"It's tough to train when you don't know what you're training for." - Rohan Bopanna AP Photo/Andres Kudacki

The All India Tennis Association (AITA) has advised against conducting doubles competitions and placed a hold on the resumption of training activities at academies subject to a go-ahead from respective state governments, in its 14-page Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) document.

Expressly suggesting that only singles competitions be conducted, the national federation stated that playing doubles 'which leads to incidental contact and unwanted proximity' should be avoided.

The AITA had earlier said that when tournaments do resume, it will look to start out with local-level events so that there's minimum travel traveled involved for players.

Top Indian doubles player Rohan Bopanna, who also runs an academy in Bengaluru, was welcoming of the AITA's plan of tackling the post-pandemic situation with fresh guidelines. The Karnataka state government has already cleared the re-opening of private tennis academies and golf courses.

"We've communicated to our academy trainees that if we do start next week, we need to follow some basic precautions like kids not touching the ball with their hands and instead hitting it to the net, from where coaches can collect them. In four courts, we'll have a maximum of 12 kids. We'll start with three days a week and we have requested parents to drop off kids and head back home or wait in their vehicles. So we already have our plans in place," Bopanna told ESPN.

In addition, AITA has listed an added precaution for both players on court to be playing with two different sets of numbered balls and using the racket/foot to put away balls that do not belong to them. The federation has asked all state units to identify and assign a Covid-19 taskforce which will guide and monitor trainees and staff, as well as supervise and implement protocols. It has also directed site-in-charge to regularly disinfect high-touch surfaces, on-court chairs be separated by 2.2 metres and separate spectators by 2 metres wherever possible. The SOP also advises against sharing personal equipment such as racket, towels and wrist bands.

Bopanna, who drove back to Bengaluru from Coorg on Friday, has been away from the court for the past two months and has a staggered training module in mind for a return. As of now, the ATP and WTA tours stand suspended until July 31. "I might get blistered to start with because I've not been hitting balls in the last two months," said Bopanna. "But I'm not going to forget to hit my forehand or backhand if I haven't trained. There's no hurry. Also, it's tough to train when you don't know what you're training for. Even if we start as scheduled in August, there's still eight weeks more to go. I'll even have enough time to go for a holiday before I begin training."