'You have to feel like the whole world working normally again and travelling normally before tennis would go back to especially the major competitions'
Tennis will be one of the last sports to return to action after the world has recovered from the coronavirus pandemic, former world number one Andy Murray said on Wednesday.
The tennis season has been suspended since March and the hiatus will continue at least until mid-July, playing havoc with the schedule and depriving lower-level players, who depend solely on tournament winnings, of the chance to earn a living.
"I would imagine tennis would be one of the last sports to get back to normality because you’ve obviously got players and coaches and teams coming from all over the world into one area," Murray told CNN.
The 32-year-old Briton, who recovered from hip surgery last year to win the Antwerp title in October, was targeting a return to the tour at the Miami Open in March after completing his rehabilitation from another hip injury.
The three-times Grand Slam winner has slipped to 129 in the world rankings.
"I would be surprised if they were back playing sport by September-time," he said.
Europe and the United States have been hard hit by the virus with tens of thousands of people dying across both continents.
The French Open was moved to September 20-October 4 from its traditional May start while the Wimbledon championships, set to begin in late June, were cancelled.
US Open organisers said last week that playing the hardcourt Grand Slam without fans is a possibility but highly unlikely.
"You have to feel like the whole world working normally again and travelling normally before tennis would go back to especially the major competitions," Murray said.
Murray also believes that Grand Slam prize money could be distributed better to help lower-ranked players struggling financially.
The tennis season was suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the shutdown will continue at least until mid-July, depriving lower-level players, who depend solely on tournament winnings, of the chance to earn a living.
"Players ranked 250-300 in the world, it's going to be really challenging," Murray, who has won over $60 million in prize money.
"In the last few years, there's been some improvements... but probably not enough."
"Sometimes you see the prize money cheque for the winner of the Grand Slams. And it's like, I don't know what it is exactly, but something like $4 million.
"Could that money be used better and spent elsewhere in the earlier rounds or the qualifying draws or maybe used to grow some of the smaller events?"
The ATP and WTA, along with the International Tennis Federation and organisers of the four Grand Slams, said this week that they are creating a coronavirus relief fund to help players affected by the sport's current shutdown.