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Maia Lumsden feared tennis career was over due to long Covid

Maia Lumsden is working her way back following long Covid (Jeff Holmes/PA)
Maia Lumsden is working her way back following long Covid (Jeff Holmes/PA)

A British player sidelined for 18 months by long Covid is concerned players are risking their health by not taking the disease seriously.

Maia Lumsden is slowly rebuilding her career after being bed-bound for months having initially contracted Covid-19 in October 2020.

Matteo Berrettini, Marin Cilic and Roberto Bautista Agut all pulled out of Wimbledon following positive tests but there is nothing to stop a player continuing to compete, and France’s Alize Cornet claimed earlier this week that an outbreak at the French Open went undeclared.

Lumsden told the PA news agency: “In a way it’s understandable but a lot of people just don’t realise the effects long Covid can have. I think that is quite scary if people have it and are just playing on.

“For most people they may be fine but there could be some where their career can get turned upside down from that. That would be a horrible thing.”

Lumsden only had a mild case of coronavirus but became very unwell several weeks later and feared her career was over after a number of unsuccessful attempts to return to physical activity.

The Scot finally took her tentative first steps in April, winning two singles matches at the recent second-tier event in Ilkley, and made the second round of the doubles at Wimbledon with fellow British player Naiktha Bains.

Lumsden said: “It’s been so good to be here, and playing in the singles qualifying as well. Even a couple of months ago I would have never have thought I’d be getting to play here this year.

“I’m still not 100 per cent, I’m still building. Singles wise sometimes it’s still quite difficult, the highest intensity points. Over the next couple of months I hope that I can build that match fitness up again.

“After such a long time that’s the thing that’s difficult. But it’s been absolutely amazing to play again. I’ve had some good results in doubles. Obviously it’s a bit physically easier as well.”

One of Britain’s best juniors, Lumsden reached a career-high singles ranking of 250 in October 2019 and was looking to push on towards the top of the game.

Now ranked down at 661, she is regaining hope that her tennis dreams could still be realised.

“As time goes on I get more positive and confident,” she said. “But I think it’s also a confidence thing. My body took such a big hit that now it’s learning to trust it again.

“I’m still trying to be patient and not put any goals on it because I know right now I’m not 100 per cent so it’s tough to expect myself to have results that are what I would obviously want. With time I hope that will be possible.

“I’ve spoken to quite a few people that are still really struggling with long Covid. I feel really grateful that I’m managing to play at a place like this.”

One of the people Lumsden talks to a lot is fellow British player Tanysha Dissanayake. The 20-year-old is approaching a year since testing positive for coronavirus and is still largely bed-bound.

Lumsden has encountered different attitudes in the locker room, and admits she sometimes holds back talking about her experiences.

“A few of the players have asked and are shocked because they didn’t realise that can happen,” said the 24-year-old.

“I was the same before it happened to me so I understand that. It’s tough to relate to when you see most people are fine the next week.

“I don’t say too much. I know people have quite strong beliefs. Even someone in Ilkley said, ‘Is long Covid real? I thought it was just something people use to get off work.’ I know some people think that so sometimes I don’t talk about it too much because it’s a lot to try to explain.”