Tennis

Tennis players in hotel quarantine innovate indoor training for Australian Open

World number 12 Denis Shapovalov is among 72 players in hotel quarantine who have posted videos highlighting some of their indoor training routines.
World number 12 Denis Shapovalov is among 72 players in hotel quarantine who have posted videos highlighting some of their indoor training routines. Getty/AFP
4 min

Several players preparing for the Australian Open in Melbourne took to social media on Monday to highlight their hotel quarantine training regimes after passengers on their charter flights tested positive for the coronavirus.

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Considered as Covid-19 contact cases, 72 players have been forced under protocols agreed between state health officials and Australian Open organisers to isolate for 14 days in their specially commandeered hotels.

Denis Shapovalov, the world number 12, lined up a set of cones on the approach to the hotel room door in order to practice his footwork.

The 21-year-old, who will be competing in his fourth Australian Open, was still in elementary school when Pablo Cuevas began his career on the ATP circuit.

Cuevas, 35, has never gone further than the second round in his eight visits to the tournament.

Deprived of court time before the start of the event on 8 February, the Uruguayan stashed bedding up against a wall to act as a buffer from his backhands. It was improvisation that impressed the Italian sports journalist Luca Fiorino.

Tunisia's Ons Jabeur defined a place in the top 10 as her ambition for 2021. The 26-year-old was cited in the top 30 for the first time on Monday after her exploits at the Abu Dhabi Open last week.

She filmed herself slapping forehand volleys into the pillows on the bed.

In all, nine passengers on planes bringing players from from Doha, Abu Dhabi and Los Angeles to Melbourne returned positive Covid tests.

On Monday the world number one Novak Djokovic urged organisers of the Australian Open to ease restrictions on the players holed up in their rooms.

Djokovic, who is in Adelaide and not among the quarantined group, called on tournament director Craig Tiley to arrange practice time on courts outside the hotel for players.

Changes

The 33-year-old Serb also suggested players could be quarantined in private houses in Melbourne with tennis courts and gym facilities.

But Daniel Andrews, Victoria state premier, said the rules would not be relaxed. “People are free to provide a list of demands. But the answer is no."

"I know that there's been a bit of chatter from a number of players about the rules. Well, the rules apply to them as they apply to everybody else and they were all briefed on that before they came."

Emma Cassar, Victoria’s quarantine commissioner, told Melbourne's 3AW radio station there would be no changes to the quarantine rules.  “It's a firm no from me,” Cassar added.

Many Australians have questioned the decision to host the tournament with organisers flying in 1,200 tennis players and their entourages when thousands of citizens are stranded overseas due to the pandemic.

Andrews said the government still supported holding the first Grand Slam tournament of the season and backed health officials to deliver it safely.

"We think we've struck the appropriate balance," he added. "If there was a sense from the public health team that that balance could not be struck, that it was too high a risk, well then we wouldn't have had the event."

Conditions

However, several players have griped about conditions and services in their rooms. Fabio Fognini and Pablo Carreno Busta posted images of sparsely adorned meal boxes.

Yulia Putintseva from Kazakhstan showed footage of a mouse scurrying around her room.

Other players said they had not been told that they would not be allowed to train on courts if there were positive cases of coronavirus on their flights.

They claimed they were initially informed they would only go into quarantine if people near them on the plane tested positive.

However, once they arrived, they say that the rules were broadened to anyone on incoming flights. Organisers insist the protocol has been clear.

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