We are asking our sporting personalities how they are dealing with action coming to a halt because of the coronavirus pandemic and how it has affected their daily lives. Today, we speak to Karola Bejenaru (22), Northern Ireland's only female professional tennis player. Since arriving here from Romania as a teenager, the Windsor player has won multiple Ulster and Irish titles.
Q: How are you keeping?
A: I am keeping well, thanks. I am doing the most I can to make the best of such a strange time. I am very lucky to have my family beside me all healthy. I live with my dad, Leonard, who is also one of my tennis coaches, and my mum, Anca. I have relatives in Romania like cousins, grandparents and my sister Arthemis. I miss them a lot, of course, but we have been able to keep in contact using Zoom, phone calls etc. The Covid-19 pandemic has also affected Romania but, fortunately, all my relatives are healthy and well.
Q: How have you been affected?
A: I was at a competition in Greece when the tournament director said all tennis had been cancelled and advised us to get the next flight home. It was a very strange situation cancelling all tournaments around the world but, of course, health comes first. It is very hard not playing but I am keeping myself healthy and active and keeping myself occupied. When the effects of the virus kicked in, I took the opportunity to change my life a little bit and it has helped me see that there is a world outside of tennis. I have been working as a store assistant in a retail shop and it's very different from what I have been used to as all I have known since I left school at the age of 18 has been tennis. I took this as an opportunity to save some money for tournaments when I go back on tour as right now I am not making any money from tennis. It is a life learning lesson now knowing what a regular job is like.
Q: How are you keeping fit?
A: I am eating healthily and I keep active every day. I do meditation and fitness mostly. I have made a mini tennis court in the back garden that I use and I have a wall that I hit balls against. Previously, I would have been on the pro tour, playing regularly, so it is important that I keep my fitness up for when I return to playing competitively. With the easing of lockdown here, I have recently been able to get back on court which is a big relief and morale boost for me.
Q: How are you maintaining morale?
A: I am around my family who are extremely supportive and optimistic about the situation and what the future holds. Before Covid struck, I was going back and forward to Dublin to train when back in Ireland and I still keep in contact with the coaches down there which keeps me in a positive frame of mind. Obviously, I miss playing on the tour but I am confident that it won't be too long before that happens again.
Q: Where are you drawing your personal strength from now?
A: I am very motivated and keeping myself ready and in shape for what's to come. I push myself every day and set myself goals that I want to achieve.
Q: Can you recommend a book, film or box set you think stay at home sports fans might enjoy?
A: I really enjoyed a movie called 'The Secret'. It is also a book and it's about mindset. I have also enjoyed watching 'A Good Year' and 'The Shawshank Redemption'. I read books on Andre Agassi, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer which are very inspirational as all three of those players are legends of the sport and have been role models to me.
Q: What life lessons are you learning from this?
A: I have learned several and the main ones are: life is short, jobs are temporary, health is wealth but do try and save money as you never know when it might dry up, never take anything for granted because you don't know what can happen and, above all, always stay positive and appreciate what you have.
Q: What is the first thing you will do when all this is over?
A: I am really looking forward to going back on tour. I miss tennis so much and cannot wait to go back on court and play matches again. I also miss my friends inside and outside of sport and can't wait to see them again. I have been able to see my cousins and few of my friends with the recent lifting of restrictions here which makes me very happy.
Q: And your message to sports fans?
A: Be positive, remember everyone has a story to tell and understand that you are not alone in this. We all go through good and bad times but in these moments we have to unite and support each other. Value your families dearly and make the most out of the time you have with them and other loved ones. Stay safe and be strong.