News & Politics

People Are Still Playing Tennis—One Sport That Seems to Work for Social Distancing

But is it safe to handle the tennis balls?

Coronavirus 2020

About Coronavirus 2020

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Gyms are closed. You can’t watch sports on TV. Some local trails and parks are swarming with people, making social-distancing hard.

Which is perhaps why some people have picked up their tennis racquets. DC courts had plenty of players this past weekend. But is it safe to play? While you’ll be at least six feet away from the person on the other side of the net, the virus could be on the balls both of you are picking up after each point.

An informal survey of two dozen area tennis players found that many had played in the past week. Some were hitting just with family members with whom they are quarantined. Others were taking safety measures—opting for singles but not doubles, wearing gloves to handle the balls, dosing in hand sanitizer, and certainly not high-fiving or shaking hands.

Guidelines published by LTA, Britain’s governing body for tennis, offered even more advice: Don’t change ends after every other game, as is standard; wipe down racquets and water bottles after use; and use new balls, marking each player’s initials on the ones only that person will pick up.

Some area tennis facilities, such as Fairfax Racquet Club and Burke Racquet & Swim Club, are taking no chances, and have closed for now. Arlington County also closed all its parks, including its tennis courts, effective today.

Perhaps the safest option? Find a hitting wall and play by yourself.

Editor in chief

Sherri Dalphonse joined Washingtonian in 1986 as an editorial intern, and worked her way to the top of the masthead when she was named editor-in-chief in 2022. She oversees the magazine’s editorial staff, and guides the magazine’s stories and direction. She lives in DC.