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    Tennis: The Pandemic Sport of Choice

    By John Chen–

    It’s hard to believe that nearly a year has gone by since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak last March. Positivity cases and hospitalizations here in California have surged to an all-time high over the end of the 2020 holidays. Despite suffering from “COVID fatigue,” like most of you, I shall get through the pandemic mentally and physically stronger thanks to what I like to call “the pandemic sport of choice”: tennis!

    Although we would all like to forget 2020, the pandemic year was particularly good for tennis. The sport has seen a dramatic increase in popularity as evidenced by the 40% sales gain in tennis racquets as reported by the TIA (Tennis Industry Association) Quarterly USA Wholesale Equipment Census.

    In my travels, I saw lots of players of all shapes, sizes, ages, and levels having a good time filling the local pubic courts. Here at home, public tennis courts are in high demand as usage has skyrocketed. Case in point, reserving a tennis court through San Francisco Parks and Rec is a tall order since reservations fill up as soon as courts are available. In the East Bay, the usually empty courts are now full of families doing a social and athletic outing. And I have become a tennis ball hoarder ever since I discovered a shortage at my seven local Targets and Walmarts.

    From building a mini tennis court in my driveway at the onset of shelter in place orders, to playing on publics courts around the country on my 32-day road trip, to now hitting balls at various parks all over the San Francisco Bay Area, tennis has been my rock and a sport that keeps me sane. For those of you who are tennis aficionados, you know what I am talking about. For those of you unfamiliar with the sport, allow me to shed some insight on this amazing sport and why people all over are now joining me on the court during these trying times.

    First, tennis is a naturally socially distancing sport that can be played day and night. Players are generally and minimally 40–60 feet apart. This makes tennis a relatively safe activity.

    Second, tennis is considered a cardiovascular, total body workout sport that burns anywhere from 400–1,000 calories per hour according to WebMD.com, Tennis: An Ace of a Workout.

    Lastly, and just as important, tennis is an intellectually and mentally strengthening sport where players battle an opponent, the environment, the elements, and themselves. For example, the sun, the wind, the temperature, the background, the noise, the speed and bounce of the surface all play an important role in how you play against your opponent. It’s a little bit of you versus the world athletically and mentally.

    For those who want to take their games to a competitive level, tennis truly becomes an exercise in mental toughness and thoughtfulness. At what pace, spin, and angle should you hit to induce a desired result? If plan A is not working, do you have a plan B or C? Can you execute your shots and solve problems without the help of a teammate, a coach, or anyone, for that matter? Can you manage your emotions and stay the course when things are not going your way? There’s no timeout and there’s no time limit to a match. It’s you against your opponent plus the kitchen sink.

    So, what are you waiting for? Pick up a tennis racquet, grab some balls, and text a buddy. Then, head to your local public courts and get a great cardiovascular, all body workout! You don’t have to be good. You just have to be motivated to have fun and do something athletic. Maybe you’ll see me push a shopping cart full of tennis balls nearby or you’ll hear me grunting loudly and proudly on the court next to you.

    John Chen, a UCLA alumnus and an avid sports fan, has competed as well as coached tennis, volleyball, softball and football teams.

    Published on January 28, 2021