TOKYO (Reuters) – Adapting to COVID-19 protocols in Tokyo may be easy for globe-trotting tennis players, but adjusting to the social environment at the Olympics will be a real challenge, the psychologist told Reuters of the sport of the big winner Iga Swiatek.
The professional tour has returned to empty stadiums and bio-secure bubbles amid the global COVID-19 pandemic after a five-month hiatus in 2020. Protocols will be the same when the sport kicks off at Ariake Tennis Park on Saturday.
Daria Abramowicz, who travels with Pole Swiatek across the world on the professional tour, is also part of the 2020 Roland-Garros champion team in Tokyo.
âTennis was one of the first sports to come back during the pandemic last year and we kind of know all the protocols,â Abramowicz said in an interview.
“It’s something that is, let’s just say the ‘new normal’ for us tennis players.”
Swiatek and his team spent a few days training in Takasaki, about 100 kilometers northwest of Tokyo, before moving to the Olympic Village this week.
Abramowicz said they felt “safe” inside the village with athletes from other countries and different disciplines adhering to health protocols.
Tennis players will, however, need to find ways to forget about the routines they are used to when they are on their own touring circuit.
âThe Olympics are totally different from touring travel. That’s often what bothers tennis players,â she said over the phone.
âThey’re very used to traveling on tour, visiting the same places every year and following routines that they’ve built up over many, many years. Even Iga, who is only 20, has her own routines.
“And living in an Olympic village, having the experience of eating out when you know there are thousands of people, traveling through the bubbles, visiting the venues, it’s a lot of different things.”
Swiatek, whose father Tomasz represented Poland in rowing at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, grew up hearing stories about the Games, and the world eighth will be a strong contender for the women’s singles medals in Tokyo.
The emotional value of the Olympics for the Pole was very high due to her family background, and Abramowicz said she tries to keep things simple for Swiatek, seeing the Games as a fifth Grand Slam.
“We try to focus only on the process and on the tasks that actually lead to achieving the results,” she added.
“I say it over and over again, the Olympic Games are a competition as usual and like an event and nothing else.”
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; Editing by Hugh Lawson)