FOR days at a time, Maia Lumsden could barely summon the energy to get out of bed. 

Scotland’s top female tennis player did, she admits, fear her career was over; after all, she couldn’t climb the stairs without feeling exhausted and her heart-rate racing, so how could she ever compete with the world’s best tennis players again? 

Lumsden is living proof that despite the assumption that young, healthy people are affected only minimally by Covid, this is not true for everyone. 

She has been hit hard by the virus, and it has taken her months to see even glimpses of progress. 

The past year-or-so has not been an easy ride for the 23-year-old. 

After an impressive 2019, at the end of which Lumsden hit a career-high ranking inside the world’s top 250, her progress was disrupted by injury. 

And just as she was ready to get back into the cut and thrust of the tour, lockdown hit, making it impossible to regain any momentum. 

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Tennis, however, was one of the first sports to restart and the Bearsden native threw herself back into competitive action feeling, she says, fitter than ever, winning a raft of singles matches on the ITF World Tour, as well as reaching a doubles final in Turkey in October. 

On returning from Istanbul, Lumsden felt under the weather though, and a Covid test confirmed her fears; she had tested positive. 

However, she was not particularly worried – after all, she ticked every box that suggested she would shake the virus off and with few symptoms in the early weeks, the signs were good that her bout of Covid would be no more than a blip in her busy schedule. 

This could not have been further from the truth. 

A few weeks after her positive test, things started to worsen, and unbeknownst to Lumsden, it would take her months to begin to see her health improve. 

“At first, I didn’t have any major symptoms and I’d heard about elite athletes who’d had Covid and then were back competing a few weeks later so I thought it would all be ok,” she says. 

“But a few weeks later, I started to get chest pains and my heart rate was going really, really fast as soon as I tried to do any exercise. 

“I’d be walking up the stairs and my heart-rate would go up to 150, 160 which is what it’d be when I was doing hard exercise. 

“I had scans for the chest pains and fast heart rate because I was pretty worried and they came back all-clear but I was pretty much bed-bound, I couldn’t do very much at all.” 

HeraldScotland:  Maia Lumsden in action at Bridge of Allan Tennis Club Maia Lumsden in action at Bridge of Allan Tennis Club

Every couple of weeks, Lumsden would feel marginally better and so would try to increase her activity level ever so slightly but each time, she encountered a setback. 

“It would go up and down, I’d have a few days or even a week when I wasn’t as tired so I’d start to do a little more, go a very light jog or something but any time I did that, a few days later I’d have a relapse and it’d send me back to bed,” she says. 

“It was really tough because I hadn’t expected to be affected so badly - at the time, I hadn’t realised that young, healthy people could have such long-lasting effects.” 

Lumsden’s physical battle was obvious, but the mental challenge was just as testing. 

She admits the absence of any kind of prognosis made things all the harder, with it becoming impossible not to contemplate the worst in terms of her tennis career. 

“The first few months were really difficult because I was stuck in bed and couldn’t do anything,” she says. 

“It was pretty scary because no one could tell me when things were going to get better and it was basically just a waiting game. That was the hardest thing, not having any timeline for recovery. 

“I definitely had moments when I wondered if I’d ever get back playing. When I couldn’t see any improvement, I really wondered if I would ever get back.” 

An attempt to limit the stress of missing months of the tour has seen Lumsden follow the results of only her closest friends, while having to complete her dissertation for her Sports Studies degree at Stirling University was a welcome distraction from her illness. 

The past few months have given Lumsden a glimmer of hope though and she is, she says, feeling considerably more positive about the future than she was when she was laid-up in bed.  

In recent weeks, she has returned to light training but, she admits, she is keen to take things extremely slowly in an attempt to mitigate the possibility of any relapses. 

Her original plan had been to return to competitive action in time for the grass season, which begins next month, but that seems optimistic now and so a more realistic goal appears to be a comeback in time for the hard court run, which begins later in the summer.  

Lumsden is already eagerly anticipating her return; it will, she admits, have been a long time coming. 

“The grass season is obviously a key time of the year for Brits but that’s not looking likely now so I’m trying not to rush,” she says. 

“I’m just focusing on trying to get healthy and so hopefully, when the busy period comes up in the summer, I’ll be ready to get back into it.  

“I’m definitely edging closer to getting back but it’s taken a long time. 

“It’s not been easy so it’ll be great to get back playing.”