This is usually my favourite time of year. I’ve been attending the Australian Open and watching it on TV during the second half of January for over thirty years. As well as watching tennis I spend time meeting up with tennis friends, tweeting about tennis, sharing photos on Instagram and being immersed in the wins and losses, the drama, the comments about outfits and the chit chat.
I love it.
It’s my happy place!
But this year coronavirus has changed that.
In early December I wrote this article about how I feel about Australian Open 2021.
It’s been confirmed that AO will go ahead from 8 February and over 1200 people have now arrived in Australia (Melbourne and some in Adelaide) ahead of the event, including players and their teams.
Due to positive cases being found on charter flights into Australia, 72 players and many others are now in 14 day quarantine. Everyone on the same flight is considered a close contact.
The initial understanding was that players would need to quarantine for 14 days but would be allowed outside for 5 hours per day for practice, gym and nutrition. Those on flights with a positive case are not allowed to do this. This is consistent with the 14 day quarantine that people arriving into Australia from overseas go through. In recent news some of the cases detected might be re-classified as viral shedding and therefore the close contacts will be allowed out of quarantine to practice.
From information and tweets that I’ve seen this possibility was made clear to all players but some ‘didn’t get the memo’.
I want to share a few thoughts.
If you haven’t read my previous article, or aren’t familiar with the Melbourne lockdown situation from 2020, our second lockdown lasted 111 days.
It was long.
And it was tough.
Tough because we couldn’t travel more than 5 kilometres from where we live. And we could only leave home for an hour per day to exercise, or for essential shopping, medical care, work, study or compassionate reasons. This meant that a lot of people couldn’t see their family and friends. Many people living by themselves rarely saw others. Weddings, birthdays and funerals were missed or shared online rather than in person. Despite government support a lot of businesses that were forced to close struggled and are still struggling.
Mental health suffered and I think we’re all at least a little bit damaged.
Melbourne has currently recorded no new locally acquired cases for 13 days. We had a scare over the Christmas/New Year period where cases were detected that spread via a restaurant. Masks were made mandatory when inside from 31 December until 17 January. This reminded us all of how fast the virus can spread and the need to be careful at all times with hand sanitising, social distancing and masks when needed.
After many many weeks COVID free, the recurrence made us (me!) worried about going out to places (shops, restaurants, cafes etc) because the place you went to might turn up on a list where if you were there on a certain date and time you need to get tested then isolate because a positive case went there. No one wants to have been somewhere where you need to get tested and isolate. And worry until the test result comes back.
In 2020 Melbourne went into the long, tough second lockdown due to breaches of hotel quarantine procedures. This is an important fact.
Hotel quarantine breaches bought the whole state of Victoria undone and sent us back to lockdown. This is why we are particularly sensitive and angry if we read that a player or team member breaches hotel quarantine.
We don’t want to go through lockdown again and we won’t tolerate anyone breaching the rules. The learnings from the previous breach and lockdown experience lead to the strict police presence and hotel quarantine system that is now in place for the tennis players and their teams.
If a case spreads from someone arriving due to AO, we know how fast it can spread to the community, and how fast we might be back in lockdown, particularly with the new UK strain.
Also noteworthy is that some Australian citizens can’t currently get back to Australia, and there have been a lot of difficulties for people from Victoria to get home from NSW and QLD over the past few weeks. This has caused some resentment about the tennis contingent being allowed in.
I love tennis and the Australian Open. The tournament is good for Melbourne. I don’t want us to lose it. And as a friend pointed out, it provides work for a lot of people who may not have been able to work much during the past year due to COVID.
But I’m scared.
Scared of coronavirus getting back into the Melbourne community and potentially spreading to other states before it’s detected.
I’m also proud.
Proud that my local friends, my tennis friends on Twitter and other social media, wherever they live, are united in their response to players complaining. The response is that if they don’t like it, feel free to leave.
If you’re reading this and currently in quarantine due to AO, please consider everyone in Melbourne and Australia before complaining.
A mouse in your hotel (fair enough, that’s pretty bad!), feeling like you’re in jail for 14 days and the other complaints. It really isn’t important compared to the possibility of single handedly spreading the virus and bringing Melbourne and other places in Australia back to lockdown.
A few cases might seem like nothing if you’re from a country with thousands or tens of thousands of cases, but a few cases in the community could send us back to lockdown fast.
If you’re not happy with the hotel food you can order your own. I read that you can even charge it to Tennis Australia. Stop complaining and take control of what you have control of. Also, in previous years you would arrive ahead of a tournament to acclimatise and you would pay all your own costs and then play for prize money. Tennis Australia has looked after you with charter flights, hotels and other needs.
Please be grateful and look after us.
As for Djokovic’s email of requests, I agree with the resounding ‘no’ from our premier, Daniel Andrews.
If you’re not aware, in June 2020 Djokovic’s Adria Tour lead to him, his wife and others including Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki and Troicki’s wife testing positive. The photos I saw of close crowd contact made me cringe. Read more
And frankly, even if it was a yes to his requests, how many houses with private tennis courts are currently available to rent at short notice in Melbourne? And who would pay the expense?
Big exceptions were made for the Australian Open to go ahead.
Please respect that and our quarantine rules.
And also respect what we went through as a city and state last year for players and teams to even be here now.
Surely no one wants to be the player or team member that sends Melbourne and maybe other cities in Australia back to lockdown.
I love tennis.
I love AO.
I love feeling safe even more.
Thank you to Victoria Azarenka for sharing this post:
Thanks for reading this far. Please enjoy some photos from happier times.