Australian Open's hard quarantine 'took a toll' on players

Full Screen
1 / 5

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

United States' Tennys Sandgren reacts during his match against Australia's Alex De Minaur during their first round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021.(AP Photo/Hamish Blair)

Being stuck for two weeks in a Melbourne hotel room with windows that wouldn’t open “really took a toll” on Victoria Azarenka in the leadup to the Australian Open, the Grand Slam tournament’s two-time champion explained after she had trouble breathing during a first-round loss.

When Tennys Sandgren resumed practicing after his can’t-go-anywhere hard quarantine ended, the American said Tuesday, his hands developed blisters from holding a racket. The rest of his body was so sore, Sangren said, he “took two days off because I couldn’t walk.”

Vasek Pospisil’s time in lockdown left him “a little bit resentful” about being “unprepared” and concerned about the lack of a level playing field, the Canadian said in a video interview with The Associated Press. The 2014 Wimbledon doubles champion was critical of Tennis Australia, saying: “They’re not familiar with player needs and how it is to be a professional athlete.”

Like Azarenka, both Sandgren and Pospisil were among the more than 70 players forced to stay in their hotel rooms for every minute of at least 14 days after arriving, at the behest of a government in a country that undertook serious measures to stem coronavirus cases (Australia has reported fewer than 1,000 deaths).

And, like Azarenka, both Sandgren and Pospisil lost their opening matches.

“I’ve never walked on to a court in a Grand Slam knowing that I’m probably not going to be able to win. I’m physically not in shape enough to play with my opponent,” said Sandgren, who was beaten 7-5, 6-1, 6-1 by No. 21 seed Alex De Minaur on Day 2 a year after holding match points against Roger Federer in the quarterfinals. “I wouldn’t say the whole tournament is a joke, but for some players, it’s not feasible. It’s just not feasible.”

For some, it's worked out OK so far: 20-year-old American Ann Li, for example, has won five matches in a row since emerging from her hard quarantine, including a 6-2, 6-0 victory over No. 31 seed Zhang Shuai on Tuesday. Heather Watson also reached the second round, despite acknowledging she “didn’t feel as fit as usual, which is no surprise.”

Paula Badosa, a 23-year-old Spaniard, said she dealt with physical issues and anxiety during her isolation, which lasted 21 days because she tested positive for COVID-19 after getting to Australia.