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Age-group tennis events to return with cautious steps in India – tennis

The Indian tennis circuit resumes after a hiatus of eight months as a few states kick off the All India Tennis Association (AITA) domestic tournaments across age groups from Monday. Tennis will be the second sport to make a competitive return in the country after the I-League second division qualifiers were held last month.

Eight cities—Delhi, Gurugram, Sonipat, Indore, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chandigarh and Raipur—will hold tournaments locally. Other states and cities will follow suit depending on the availability of courts and the situation surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic. “In all, about 40 tournaments are lined up from November 16 to December 31,” AITA secretary-general Anil Dhupar said on Sunday.

While men’s and women’s matches will span seven days, the talent and championship series for U-12, U-14 and U-16 players will be for just three days. There will be no doubles competitions and it will be a draw of 32 in singles. Inter-state travel for tournaments will be not allowed. Inter-district travel is subject to state-specific rules. “We don’t want players and children to travel a lot because we’re still in the pandemic,” Dhupar said.

While the I-League qualifiers—as will be the case with the Indian Super League starting this week—were held in a controlled environment, tennis will not have a bio-bubble, which has become the norm for restarting sporting activities around the world. AITA though has formed elaborate protocols and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for all state units.

Participants, coaches, staff and officials will undergo thermal tests before entering the venue or club, and anyone showing even mild symptoms of Covid-19 will be prevented. Players can only touch their racquets and towels, and balls allotted to a particular court for that match or practice session. Change of ends is permitted but players will have to use opposite sides of the net to do so. Showers and locker rooms will be out of bounds, and players will have to leave the venue immediately after play.

To avoid crowding, parents accompanying the kids to the venue for matches will not be permitted to sit inside the court. “We have informed everyone concerned to not permit parents to sit around the courts; they can wait outside the area. They will have to wear masks, maintain social distancing and follow the sanitisation process set in that venue. Apart from our SOPs, a lot of things are being done for safety depending on the area or club in which specific tournaments will be held,” Dhupar said.

Dhupar, who took over as AITA secretary-general only two months ago, said it will assess how tournaments pan out in the first week before tweaking some regulations if required.

“We’re only trying to provide players who have been without tennis since March an opportunity to go to the courts now. We feel it’s not the time to start full-fledged tournaments; that will follow in due course. This is just to get started with some competitive tennis.”

Key SOP and protocols

* No doubles; only singles matches with draw size of 32.

* Inter-state travel for players is not permitted.

* Compulsory thermal screening: anyone showing symptoms to be denied entry.

* Players to handle own racquets, towels and balls allocated to the court.

* Use of showers and locker rooms is prohibited.

* Arrive as close to play as possible; leave immediately after play.

* Avoid handshakes, high-fives or any form of physical contact on court.

* Wear mask whenever off court.

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