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By Sudipto Ganguly
TOKYO (Reuters) - Adjusting to COVID-19 protocols in Tokyo may be easy for globe-trotting tennis players, but adjusting to the social environment at the Olympics will be a real challenge, the sports psychologist of major winner Iga Swiatek told Reuters.
The professional tour returned to empty stadiums and bio-secure bubbles amid the global COVID-19 pandemic after a five-month shutdown in 2020. Protocols will be identical when the sport kicks off from Saturday at the Ariake Tennis Park.
Daria Abramowicz, who travels with Poland's Swiatek around the globe on the professional tour, is also part of the 2020 French Open champion's team in Tokyo.
"Tennis was one of the first sports that came back during the pandemic last year and we are kind of familiar with all the protocols," Abramowicz said in an interview.
"It's something that is, let's just say the 'new normal' for us tennis people."
Swiatek and her team spent a few days practising at Takasaki, about 100 kilometres north-west of Tokyo, before moving into the Olympic Games Village this week.
Abramowicz said they felt "safe" inside the village with athletes from other countries and different disciplines adhering to the health protocols.
Tennis players will, however, need to find ways to forget the routines that they are used to when on their own tour circuit.
"The Olympic Games are totally different than travelling on tour. That's often the thing that disturbs tennis players," she said on phone.
"They are very used to travelling on tour, visit the same places every single year and follow kind of routines that they built for many, many years. Even Iga, being just 20 years old, she has her own routines.
"And to live in an Olympic village, to experience eating in the diner when you know there are thousands of people, travelling across the bubbles, visiting the venues, that's a lot of different things."
Swiatek, whose father Tomasz competed for Poland in rowing at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, grew up hearing stories about the Games, and the world number eight will be a strong medal contender in women's singles in Tokyo.
The emotional value of the Olympics for the Pole was very high due to her family background, and Abramowicz said she was trying to keep things simple for Swiatek, treating the Games as a fifth Grand Slam.
"We try to focus solely on the process and on tasks that actually lead to achieving the results," she added.
"I'm repeating this constantly, that the Olympic Games is a competition as usual and like an event and nothing else."
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; Editing by Hugh Lawson)