Iowa international men’s tennis players struggle to get back to Iowa City amid COVID-19 travel restrictions

Travel restrictions prevent Iowa men’s tennis players from the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland from traveling back to the U.S. for summer workouts.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa's Will Davies hits a forehand during a men's tennis match between Iowa and Nebraska-Omaha at the HTRC on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. The Hawkeyes defeated the Mavericks, 6-1.

Will Fineman, Sports Reporter

The Hawkeye men’s tennis team’s plans to return to Iowa City for summer workouts have been met with difficulty due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Six of the Hawkeye players currently in England and Ireland face U.S. travel bans that restrict their re-entry into the country.

“It has been extremely frustrating and a very difficult period for the team and myself,” said Will Davies, a senior from Norwich, England. “We all dispersed and went our separate ways, and I know I am definitely missing the team culture.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, any foreign national who has been in the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland within the last 14 days may not enter the United States. None of the specific exceptions to this restriction currently apply to any of Iowa’s international tennis players.

“We are just playing it by ear right now and obviously waiting for the government guidelines,” Davies said.

Though players like Davies cannot travel directly from the UK to the U.S., the players and coaches for the men’s tennis team are currently working to find alternative ways for them to get back to Iowa City.

“We found out that they can fly back to the U.S. from an approved country, and they have to quarantine in that approved country for two weeks,” head coach Ross Wilson said. “Right now, England and Ireland are not one of those countries.”

Wilson said they hope to be able to fly their international players to a country such as Canada or Turkey before quarantining for 14 days and traveling to the U.S.

“The U.S. has to approve the country that there can be flights in and out of,” Wilson said. “Canada’s borders are shut down, so they can’t go to Canada right now, but that is the country that I would expect them to fly to from London, quarantine in, and then fly here from.”

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During a typical summer, both the U.S. and international players would all travel back to Iowa City during the month of June and early July to start preparing for the upcoming fall season.

“Every player comes back and trains in the summer,” Wilson said. “Some of them will take summer school for six weeks, we host our pro event in the middle of July, and they will practice every day and play pro events until school starts.”

In order to stay in shape during the absence of summer team workouts, Wilson said his players have been doing whatever workouts they can with the equipment they have available. As the UK tennis courts have begun to open up, many of the Hawkeyes live close enough to start practicing together.

“It was difficult at the start because we were in lockdown and none of the tennis courts were open,” Davies said. “Now things are gradually getting back to normal, so some tennis courts are open, and I have been hitting with local tennis players here.”

Since the UK and Irish players do not have access to the facilities and equipment they otherwise would during the summer, Wilson said his team’s goal is to try and stay in as good of physical shape as possible.

“I think it is hard when you do not have access to weights and machines, and you do not have a regular schedule with our trainer,” Wilson said. “Now with the fact that they can get on the court and hit tennis balls and run around, they can start to get stronger and get more endurance, but it is still never the same as when you are back on campus.”

Even with the pandemic affecting team training, the Hawkeyes are looking to build on the hot start they had last year which saw them sitting in the highest national ranking in school history (No. 20) before the season was cancelled.

“Every guy is hungry and wants to achieve what we originally set out to achieve,” Davies said. “I do not think it will impact our performance because we are all professional with our approach to tennis, so I don’t think it will take us long to get back to where we were.”

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