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Tennis player Ken Skupski says sport may not return this year coronavirus crisis 

For Ken Skupski the coronavirus has meant the most abrupt shift in lifestyle, from global traveller to what he cheerfully describes as ‘almost a house husband’.

The British Davis Cup player and current world No 51 in doubles is confined to his home in Liverpool, now on paternal duties while his wife, Hayley, continues her job with Merseyside Police.

‘We worked out that at the start of the year I’d spent more than seven weeks away, but life has suddenly become very different,’ says Skupski, who reached the quarter finals of the Australian Open in January.

A veteran of the circuit, Skupski – whose brother Neal is Jamie Murray’s doubles partner – has a different perspective to many players in that he has the domestic responsibility of looking after his three sons, aged between 18 months and seven.

While being apart for long spells is an occupational hazard, he expects to see plenty of them this summer.

‘My own view is that this is going to take at least six months, and we may even not be back for the rest of the year,’ he says. ‘I am certainly not expecting the grass court season to happen and I would think even the US Open (in late August) might be optimistic.

‘We have to be realistic about it and realise the importance of what is going on. It’s not going to be easy for anyone. At least for me I have the distraction of the kids. Tennis players have to be pretty selfish in their outlook and it wouldn’t surprise me if some of the younger ones struggle with it, because it is so difficult to how we usually live.’

The suspension of all tennis – at least until early June and almost certainly beyond – has caused upheavals for many, including his brother.

Neal has been in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he is based for much of the time with his fiancé. He has just taken a circuitous route home, having been forced to leave her behind to avoid potential visa issues in the future.

His homecoming will at least provide older brother Ken, 36, with a training partner once the lockdown has eased. His one outlet for any serious practice, the local David Lloyd Club, shut its doors earlier this week.

‘I’ve got a skipping rope, some dumbbells and I can go out for a run once a day, that’s about it at the moment,’ says Skupski. He is awaiting delivery of a watt bike of the kind that that the Lawn Tennis Association have been distributing to 23 of the country’s best full-time professionals and juniors.

‘You do sometimes question what you are training for, but we are relatively lucky as tennis players with how the sport is structured. I feel extremely sorry for those who’ve been preparing for the Olympics.’

Skupski operates at a sufficiently high level where he makes a reasonable living from tennis, while by no means being in the bracket of the top 50 singles players. With a young family to support he has to trim his sails accordingly.

‘We are sole traders and obviously for now there is nothing coming in, my wife is the breadwinner. It’s not easy but I am sort of looking at it like I’ve got a six-month injury, which can happen.

‘There’s been a bit of talk about whether there will be any support from the ATP but I’m not expecting anything and I won’t be factoring it in.’

Updates are discussed on the What’sApp group he is on with other British players in a similar situation. His doubles partner, Santiago Gonzalez, is grounded in his native Mexico.

‘I’m not sure when I will see Santi again. I think there’s bound to be a big long-term impact, the tournaments will inevitably be taking a hit.

‘You’ve just got to try and make the best of it. One nice thing about this is that we have got to know our neighbours better. We are the youngest family in our road and we’ve been in touch with some of the older ones to let them know we’re available to help them.’

As a passionate Liverpool supporter, he is even putting worries about the destiny of Premier League title to one side. ‘This thing we’re going through is even more important than winning the title, I wasn’t sure I’d ever say that.’

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