World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, among those who spent his isolation term in a comparative ultraluxe space in Adelaide, was, however, vocal about the players’ cause. The Serb dashed off a letter to Tennis Australia seeking greater support for the 72 players in hard quarantine in Melbourne.
The 33-year-old labelled the experience ‘unique’ while recognizing that while he had it easier there were those for whom it was a struggle.
“We are all out (now),” said Djokovic, who leads his country’s challenge in the ATP Cup. “I’m hoping that everyone will be fit and be able to play the best they can.”
Polish teenager Iga Swiatek is the benchmark for new cool. The 19-year-old French Open champion used the 40 hours of travel time, coming into Melbourne from Warsaw, and the two weeks with limited court access, as downtime.
“I’m really glad that the Australian Open is the first in the season because you’re not so tired of travelling. I just rested on the airplane,” she said, adding, “During quarantine I could practice, I could go out for five hours a day. I was one of the lucky ones.”
Czech Petra Kvitova, the world No. 7, lapped up the freedom on Saturday, walking around Melbourne’s CBD, taking in its undulating topography.
The 30-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion said: “It feels weird to live the normal life after a year, to walk in the city, see all the people, have restaurants open.”
The world No. 9, along with her team, spent the whole day outdoors, practising, going for a run, feeling freedom.
Rafael Nadal, looking to add to his lone Australian Open crown clinched 12 years ago, had earlier sought to downplay the challenges his less fortunate colleagues were forced to endure.
“Personally, preparation has been positive. I have been able to practice around two hours per day in Adelaide. Some days a little bit more, two hours 15, two hours 20,” he said of the comparatively relaxed protocols the sport’s superstars enjoyed. “That’s over, it’s the moment to start talking tennis. That’s why we came here.”
Nadal’s teammate in this week’s ATP Cup, Roberto Bautista Agut, who owned the ‘jail term’ comment, had warned that the quarantine was taking a mental and physical toll on the players.
On Sunday, Agut, the world No. 13, said: “We are happy to be out of quarantine. It was a new situation for all of us, we try to be better doing a new thing. Now it’s time to start the season.”
It’s love-all then. At least until such time as the toll talks strains, sprains and twists. It would be impossible to come out of quarantine, a hard one at that, and blast off the blocks without the body rebelling especially in a Grand Slam.
Ankita crashes out in opener
Ankita Raina went down 3-6, 0-6 to Spain’s Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov in the first round of the Yarra Valley Classic in Melbourne. The Indian, who led by a break of serve in the opening set at 3-2, lost the next ten games to bow out of the singles draw of the WTA 500 Series event.
In the doubles, Raina and her Dutch partner Rosalie van der Hoek put out Alison van Uytvanck and Cornelia Lister 7-6 (7-5), 6-4. In the round of 16, they play Japanese third seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara.
Sumit Nagal, ranked 138, will play Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis, the No. 72, in the first round of the ATP 250 Series event in Melbourne on Monday. This is their first meeting.
In doubles action in the Murray River Open tournament, Rohan Bopanna and Frederik Nielsen will play wildcard entrants James Duckworth and Marc Polmans. Divij Sharan and Igor Zelenay play Albert Ramos-Vinolos and Guillermo Duran.