Kenya: Tennis Relieved to Be Back, but Sponsorship the Worry

19 September 2020

Tennis Kenya president James Kenani says they are glad that tennis is one of the lucky sports given the greenlight to resume.

He says they now have enough time to pick up from where they left off.

However, their only major challenge is getting tournament sponsors back.

"We have been ready to go back to the courts since May when we received our own resumption guidelines from the International Tennis Federation (ITF) in partnership with the World Health Organisation (WHO) prepping us on how best to take precaution and still keep to our calendar of events," he said.

Kenani said resuming their schedule is exciting but precaution is still a critical part in ensuring that everyone who will be involved in the matches is safe.

He said that the tournaments, as had earlier been advised by the ITF, will begin with singles matches in which players have no contact. Players will also be required to wear their masks throughout while in the premises of a given club, unless when in action on the court.

Handshakes, and the occasional hugs between opponents that are part and parcel of the game, are forbidden for now. Players will have to get a little more creative when signing out after a match.

"We are engaging members of the federation and clubs in Zoom members to ensure that there is always enough sanitisers in training stations. A booking system will be devised for players who want to train or compete so as to avoid crowding," said Kenani.

"We are aware there is the danger of players coming into contact with the same balls, so we will not only be numbering the balls for every match to ensure hygiene is maintained, but also work with the coaches to train players on how to pick up the balls using their rackets and feet if possible. Taking showers at the clubs is prohibited to avoid any contamination," said Kenani.

For his part, badminton national team coach John Odhiambo said: "Social distancing will not be much of a problem for us when we get back to training because our players are, by default, based on our game set up, always up to seven meters away from each other while on the court."

"The biggest problem will be when players are asked to train with masks. Taking in huge gasps of air and exhaling is a big part of badminton, and using the masks while playing will be one of the biggest challenges for players if they are asked to adapt."

On the other hand, table tennis president Andrew Mudibo said apart the ministry looking at the safety and welfare of the players, they should also look into supporting federations and sports administrators who have been keeping programmes afloat to sustain the players and coaches.

"Before the pandemic hit home, we had given our yearly budgets to the ministry for financial support. As we resume our training, financial support will be key in helping us pick up and move forward," he said.

The last major lawn tennis tournament was the Euro/Africa Group 2 Davis Cup contest in March in which Kenya lost to Indonesia in the best of five play-offs in Jakarta, moving back to Africa Zone Group 3.

Badminton and table tennis each had their last local matches both in Mombasa and Nairobi, respectively, in February.

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