Bopanna stuck in Australian Open quarantine, Gabba Test a solace
Setbacks have come thick and fast for Rohan Bopanna over the last couple of days to halt final preparations for next month’s Australian Open, which has been hit with players forced into hard quarantine due to Covid-19 positive cases from their chartered flights landing in Melbourne.
First, India’s top-ranked doubles player learnt that his coach Scott Davidoff had to be quarantined as he was in the Los Angeles flight from which two positive cases came to light on Saturday. On Sunday night, Bopanna was informed about a positive case from his flight from Doha with the organisers in an email asking him and co-passengers to be confined to their hotel rooms for two weeks. As if that wasn’t enough, his doubles partner for the Australian Open, Portugal’s Joao Sousa, has not landed after reportedly returning a positive test in Barcelona.
The delayed first Grand Slam of the season, due to start on February 8, has been thrown into disarray with 72 players (until Monday) made to quarantine in their room for 14 days after four positive cases from three chartered flights. Bopanna’s flight had one, and though the 40-year-old has tested negative in each of the daily tests conducted in the bio-bubble, he will have to stay put in his room till the month end. That’s one day prior to an ATP 250 tournament in Melbourne in which the doubles world No. 38 is scheduled to play in the lead-up to the Australian Open.
“January 30 is when my quarantine ends, and 31st is when the first tournament starts. So I go straight into the tournament; I won’t even have 24 hours (to train) before the tournament,” Bopanna said over phone.
Earlier protocols allowed players to step outside their rooms for up to five hours a day for training. That permission has now been taken away from Bopanna. “There’s nothing to do in the room. You don’t get to practice and it’s not that big a room where you can do sprints. Whatever good you’ve done in the off-season training to come here strong and fit, it all goes out of the window. It’s not an ideal scenario,” he said.
A few players spoke out about it on social media saying they were initially informed that only those in sections of the flight that had positive case/s would be quarantined. Bopanna felt the communication from tournament organisers before players boarded the flight “could have definitely been better”.
“If they had mentioned that everyone had to quarantine even if there was one case in your flight, then you could make a choice as a player about want you wanted to do. Like in my flight, the two seats next to me and the three seats in front and behind were empty. So it was ensured that distancing was maintained. There were specific zones and no player could change seats.”
The 2017 French Open mixed doubles champion said the situation from player to player was different, which was far from ideal. “A few players get to practice, while a lot of players don’t. Everybody is not in the same hotel and doesn’t have similar rooms. Some players have their room interconnected with their coaching staff, so they can work with their coach and physios. All of that makes a difference. My coach is right opposite my room but I cannot see him,” he said.
“My partner is still in Barcelona. Someone told me he has tested positive and they are trying to figure out what it is. So if he doesn’t come here, I don’t even know who I’m playing with.”
Even if Bopanna finds a new partner within the bubble, the pairing will be first slotted in the alternate list for the Australian Open. “There aren’t any players to find. If somebody else’s partner tests positive and he can’t play, then I can sign up with him. But then too we don’t directly go in the main draw. Even there it’s a grey area because initially they (organisers) said after January 16 no player can enter Melbourne. Now they are maybe looking to have a few players come in. That is also such a tough situation, again not communicated properly,” Bopanna said.
For now, Bopanna is turning to exercises, yoga, online videos and courses to kill time. The gripping India-Australia Brisbane Test relieved his tedium on Monday, and he hopes that is the case on the final day too. “I’ll have to figure something out just to keep myself productive. Luckily the last two days of the Test have been interesting, so I’ve been watching that.”