Sandgren and Kerber rue hard quarantine after painful early exits from Oz Open - GulfToday

Sandgren and Kerber rue hard quarantine after painful early exits from Oz Open

Angelique Kerber

Angelique Kerber leaves the court after losing her first round match against Bernarda Pera in Melbourne on Monday. File / Reuters

Outspoken two-time quarter-finalist Tennys Sandgren said hard quarantine had badly hurt his preparations after he slumped to an early Australian Open exit.

The American lost in three sets to Alex de Minaur in the first-round and said it was unfair on players forced to stay in their hotel rooms for 14 days after Covid-19 cases on their charter flights to Australia. Others were allowed out to train for five-hour blocks.

“I don’t know if the whole tournament is a joke. The tournament from my perspective might be,” he said.

“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.

“I mean, my five-set record is pretty good when I get to a fifth set, I’m in great shape. And today I’m tired after an hour and 10 minutes.

“And it’s a bit out of my control, and there’s 75 other players in the men’s and women’s field that are in the same boat. It’s a hefty number of people, and very good players.

“I don’t know, I wouldn’t say the whole tournament is a joke, but for some players it’s not feasible. It’s just not feasible.”

His comments follow a fiery Benoit Paire also taking a swipe at being forced into the lockdown, telling French media this week: “I think it’s shit, and what happened is shameful.

“I’m very happy with my level... but this tournament, I think it’s really crap.”

Others in hard lockdown knocked out early were Grand Slam champions Bianca Andreescu, Angelique Kerber and Victoria Azarenka.

Kerber said the lockdown had ‘definitely’ affected her on court.

“Of course I was really trying to stay positive and doing the best out of the two-week situation,” she said.

“But you feel it, especially if you play a real match where it counts and you play the first matches in a Grand Slam, also against an opponent who doesn’t stay in the hard lockdown.”

While they struggled, 14 days stuck in her room doesn’t seem to have impacted young American Ann Li, who reached the third round on Wednesday with a straight-sets defeat of Frenchwoman Alize Cornet.

Oz Open makes best of tough times: The usual Australian Open experience, with tens of thousands of excited fans streaming into Melbourne Park, is just a memory this year as the coronavirus puts a dampener on the Tennis season’s opening Grand Slam.

Normally the complex on the banks of the Yarra River is abuzz for the ‘Happy Slam’, which is known for its relaxed atmosphere, perfect weather and ever-growing numbers of spectators.

But after months of effort and negotiations to get the Australian Open up and running in Melbourne, which is fiercely protective of its virtually virus-free status, the atmosphere so far has been low-key.

While 64,387 fans crammed into the grounds on day one last year, only 17,922 turned up this time despite major drawcards such as Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic. Some blamed the lacklustre turnout, which was well below the 30,000 maximum allowed under Covid restrictions, to unusually cool and cloudy weather.

But even when the sun came out on day two, the numbers were much the same -- although still considerably more than at any other Grand Slam since the pandemic took hold.

Last year, Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since World War II, the US Open was held behind closed doors and only tiny numbers of fans were allowed at the delayed French Open.

“I’m just glad it’s on,” said Jane Alexander, who was enjoying the Tennis but disappointed at the atmosphere, with throngs of empty blue seats on the outside courts.

“I just wish there were more people here.”

Masks and sanitiser : Even diminished crowds are an accomplishment. Helped by aggressive travel restrictions and lockdowns, Australia has virtually eradicated the virus, making it one of the few countries where spectators can attend live sport.

But the travel rules have also kept international fans away, and after the tournament was pushed back three weeks to allow for quarantine, it no longer falls in school holidays.


Related articles