World Team Tennis announced it has committed to play the entirety of its 45th season, making it the first major professional tennis league to resume operations since the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19.
The decision to return to the court makes the San Diego Aviators the first pro sports team from San Diego, to officially commit to a season in since the COVID-19 outbreak.
Aviators Team President Troy Morrison used words like “awesome” and “excitement” when asked about the teams' return, adding “For the league and the Aviators, it’s just a huge win!”
Aviators Head Coach John Lloyd echoed Morrison’s excitement, “I was mightily pleased when I heard the news (about returning), I can’t wait.”
This won’t be like your regular WTT season though, the league has made major adjustments to deal with COVID-19 safety concerns. The biggest change, there will be no traveling and no home matches. All 9 WTT teams will play the entire season at The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.
World Team Tennis will follow the direction of local and state government officials in West Virginia while adhering to all health and safety protocols set forth by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and take every precaution to ensure the safety of its players, coaches and essential staff in executing the operation of its matches.
WTT will engage with its teams and league and venue personnel in conducting all necessary testing and screening for COVID-19, as well as outfitting all parties with the personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary to conduct its 2020 season matches while preserving the health and safety of everyone at The Greenbrier over the three-week season.
WTT Chief Executive Officer Carlos Silva says players, coaches, and event support staff will be “tested on the way in and have daily temperature checks.” Silva adds the WTT is working with West Virginia health officials to finalize a health plan, but with play still being over seven weeks away, this is a fluid situation.
“You have to have a plan, but also understand how things change to the left or right depending on what may or may not happen, and we’ll make those adjustments when appropriate. Including, if someone were to test positive on the way in, they would be pulled out immediately.”
The single-site, bubble concept will make for a condensed, super speed mega season. The WTT will play a 63-match regular season over 19 consecutive days from July 12 through 30.
Morrison likened it to hosting a “tennis Olympics” saying, “Every day will have 3 or 4 matches, you kind of get a breakfast, lunch, evening, dinner match. Tennis all day for 3 straight weeks, it’s going to be awesome!”
The WTT Playoffs will follow on August 1st and 2nd. The top four teams from WTT’s regular-season standings will advance to the WTT Playoffs.
Coach Lloyd says the condensed schedule, and the fact that players haven’t been training and competing like normal will make for a wild season.
“It’s going to be a fun ride because who knows! Some players that you’d think would be very professional, been around a long time, you think they’re going to play well may not, then some of the newcomers may come out from the first point and love it and play like they haven’t been away at all.”
What about fans? Will fans still be allowed to attend the matches? The answer is yes, but in a socially distant, COVID-19 accepted manner. The Greenbrier’s outdoor tennis stadium seats 2,5000 people, but nowhere near that many will be allowed in for this season's WTT matches. In accordance with state health guidelines, WTT will allow up to 500 fans (20% capacity) to attend its outdoor matches.
“So distancing will be easy to do, 500 people at 2,500 seat stadium, easy to spread out, obviously families can sit together, but no problem spreading out, so we’ll do 500 fans per day max,” says Morrison.
The San Diego Aviators franchise has won 3 WTT championships, including the latest in 2017. We’ll find out on August 2 if the Aviators can make it 4 WTT titles.