MIRROR: Mr. Struff, you would normally now play tennis for important world ranking points. How frustrated are you?
Struff: It’s a violent change. We tennis professionals are on the road so much. This is a huge change. But I also see it positively. I am with my family. There is hardly anything else. Now I enjoy being in one place for a long time.
Jan-Lennard Struff (29) is the current German number two in the world rankings (place 34). “Struffi”, as his family, friends and fans call him, started playing tennis when he was six years old. He has been a professional since 2009. His biggest Grand Slam success so far was reaching the round of 16 at the French Open 2019.
MIRROR: How does Lockdown work at Struff?
Struff: Probably just like the rest of the people in this country. We stay at Home. It is very quiet, so when our one year old son is sleeping. Otherwise there is a lot going on here, lockdown with us is the opposite of vacation.
MIRROR: And how do you train?
Struff: I have fitness plans. I implement them at home. My fitness coach Uwe Liedtke regularly joins in via video call and corrects me if I do exercises incorrectly. I got an indoor cycling bike and ripped off kilometers. It is now important to get a basic level. We don’t know when to go on. But at some point the time will come. And then nothing must be gone.
MIRROR: When was the last time you were on the pitch?
Struff: Nothing went for a long time. It felt strange. But since the end of last week I have a special permit from the state sports association in North Rhine-Westphalia. I can train again from now on. I can understand if such exemptions for athletes are viewed critically by the rest of the population in the current situation. But it’s also my job. And we have strict requirements.
MIRROR: Then it goes back to the court every day with your trainer Carsten Arriens?
Struff: Carsten and I also agree that it is not a question of getting through completely. We’ll go to the square two or three times a week. That’s enough. It is the small steps that feel right in these times. Set impulses, unlearn nothing, maintain the fitness level. I don’t want to do more now. I look relaxed at the rest. As good as it gets.
MIRROR: Are you currently in particularly close contact with your sponsors?
Struff: The contact is lively, as usual. But if there were losses due to the crisis and if the companies were worse off, I would also help.
MIRROR: Would you give up money?
Struff: We are partners. I would do without.
MIRROR: That would be like the waiver of wages that other professionals accept in times of crisis.
Struff: You can’t really compare that. Professional footballers are hired, have lower costs and do not have to pay for training or travel. I think it’s good if footballers are now foregoing salary. This is much more difficult for most tennis professionals. We are sole proprietors. When it starts again, I have to watch how I cover the costs.
MIRROR: A complete cancellation of the season is always discussed. How hard does that hit the players?
Struff: From world ranking position 100 or maybe 150 it will probably be problematic. These players will initially have to do without traveling with their coaches and physiotherapists. Not only for financial reasons, but possibly also due to the corona restrictions. That is a blow. Then there are contractual problems. What if the trainers can no longer be paid? A cycle is started. And many will be left behind.
MIRROR: Would it be conceivable that the higher earners among the professionals hand something over to the colleagues who have been significantly more affected by the crisis?
Struff: I think the thought is correct, but it is difficult to implement. I can see it in myself: I have a few more years in which I can play. I have to make provisions for the time afterwards. I have a high school diploma and will probably be able to stay in the tennis area. But I haven’t studied and haven’t been in a job for years and tens of years.
MIRROR: What about the top players?
Struff: Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have already donated huge sums. This is fantastic. The money flows in all possible directions. But I would also like it if donations were targeted to tennis. You could support your previous clubs. Or the old trainers, who are now partly unemployed. Now everyone can do something.