01/27 21:50 CST With quarantines almost over, tennis set to start Down Under
With quarantines almost over, tennis set to start Down Under
By DENNIS PASSA
AP Sports Writer
With a coronavirus-enforced quarantine coming to an end, the world's elite
tennis players will go from two of the quietest weeks of their lives in
Australia to three of the busiest.
The government-mandated quarantine ahead of the Feb. 8-21 Australian Open had a
Some players complained bitterly after being forced into hard lockdown because
passengers on their charter flights to Melbourne tested positive for COVID-19,
and a letter from top-ranked Novak Djokovic to tournament officials offering
his suggested rule changes sparked public backlash. The 14-day period of
isolation for most players was scheduled to end from late Thursday and early
Friday local time.
And with it came some plaudits from Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal.
"It's super, super strict . . . insane and super intense, but they are doing it
right," Williams said of the quarantine in an interview with The Late Show's
Stephen Colbert. "It's definitely hard with a three-year old (her daughter
Olympia), but it's worth it because you want everyone to be safe."
The No. 2-ranked Nadal told CNN that international tennis players needed to
maintain a "wider perspective on what's going on in the world," although he
sympathized with the 72 players who were deemed to be close contacts of
positive coronavirus cases from three charter flights and who had to stay in
their rooms for 24 hours a day and could not practice.
"When we came here we knew the measures were going to be strict," Nadal said.
"We knew the country is doing great with the pandemic. Australia is probably
one of the best examples in the world ... how they react through very
Indeed, Australia has done well. Due to strict incoming traveler quarantines,
limited movement between states and a previous hard lockdown of more than 4
million people in Melbourne when a second wave got out of control in Victoria
state, Australia has had only 909 deaths attributed to COVID-19. And 820 of
them were in Victoria --- most during that second deadly wave when overnight
curfews were put in place and use of masks made compulsory outside of home.
There was some considerable doubt during that second wave whether the
Australian Open would even be remotely possible in Melbourne.
It was the only Grand Slam tournament not affected by coronavirus shutdowns
last year, but only because it was held in January before the virus was
declared a global pandemic in March. Among the other Grand Slam events, the
French Open was delayed until late September, Wimbledon wasn't held at all and
the U.S. Open instituted a bio-secure bubble for all players.
This year's Australian Open was delayed by three weeks to allow arriving
players to spend those 14 days in quarantine. Players, coaches and officials
were flown in on 17 jets chartered by Tennis Australia and met by biosecurity
officials and placed immediately into hotel quarantine. Most players --- those
not on the three virus-affected charters --- were allowed outside for five
hours of practice daily.
And instead of having two or three weeks of warmup events, those tournaments
have all been compressed into one week beginning Sunday -- the ATP Cup men's
team event, two other ATP tournaments and three WTA events.
One of the WTA events is only open to players who were among those 72 forced
into hard lockdown and who couldn't take advantage of the daily practice
allocation. They include 2019 U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu, whose coach
was among those who tested positive, and two-time Australian Open champion
Before the official tournaments begin, eight of the world's top players will
take part in an Adelaide exhibition on Friday. Djokovic will play Jannik Sinner
and Williams will take on Naomi Osaka in the day session. Nadal will play U.S.
Open champion Dominic Thiem and No. 1-ranked Ash Barty plays Simona Halep in
the night session.
It will be Barty's first tournament in 11 months. She decided not to defend her
2019 French Open title at the delayed event in Paris, and travel restrictions
for Australian citizens attempting to leave the country made it difficult to
"Obviously I haven't played competition tennis for a year now so it's going to
be a challenge," the 24-year-old Barty said. "So there's no stresses, no
concerns for me. I know it's going to be a little bit rusty and that's OK."
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