"No place to swing a membership": The New Zealand participant shares the barrier life
By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – As one of 47 tennis players forced into tough isolation ahead of the Australian Open, New Zealander Artem Sitak could ricochet off the walls of his Melbourne hotel room at the end of his 14-day quarantine.
The Russian-born dual specialist was on flight QR7493 from Los Angeles, sharing the charter aircraft with three people who tested positive for COVID-19 after landing in Melbourne.
Now, as one of the two dozen players on the flight who are believed to be "close contacts" of the infected trio, Sitak is in solitary confinement at View Melbourne, a downtown hotel that has been converted into a quarantine facility.
Unlike other players who have arrived safely and have the luxury of leaving their hotels to train five hours a day, the 34-year-old cannot even get his door for the risk of a 20,000 A fine under Australia's strict quarantine regime $ ($ 15,400) open.
Some players have complained, saying they are at a disadvantage compared to better prepared opponents ahead of the Grand Slam February 8-21.
But Sitak is philosophical and intends to burn the hours moving, reading, and playing on his Nintendo counter (NYSE :).
"Everything I've done in the off-season … I've had six very good weeks of training, it's not completely ruined, but now it's not the same," he told Reuters in an interview.
"When I get out of quarantine, of course, we will all be a bit rusty.
"We need to relax a bit because being locked up for 14 days isn't easy. But what can you do with the circumstances?"
Sitak gave Reuters a virtual tour of his room, a boring but comfortable space with a window overlooking a cityscape.
With no housekeeping available, he laughed that his room was a bit chaotic on the third day of quarantine.
But there was "great coffee", an exercise bike and other fitness equipment that the tournament organizers Tennis Australia (TA) had sent to his room.
He said he would eat the food served by the hotel but other players were not happy with it and would instead use a food delivery app.
"We told Tennis Australia that it wasn't up to the standards of a professional tennis player, so they are working to improve that," he said.
"They gave us the Uber (NYSE 🙂 Eats. If we want to order Uber Eats, we end up getting extra cash with our prize money to make up for that."
He commended TA for trying to make the best of a difficult situation. But he also had sympathy for players who were concerned about the risks of a competition after two weeks in their rooms.
"Yes, definitely, especially for single players, when they have to come out and play a single game, it's very difficult, it's extremely difficult," he said.
"I hope for everyone that they are fine and that there are no injuries. It could happen.
"But as I said in my post (on social media) we knew the risk we were taking and Australia is very, very strict with its rules on the virus … that was always a possibility."
Sitak said he was impressed by the creativity of Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas, another tennis pro in hard isolation.
World number 68 Cuevas has posted a video on social media in which he hits a ball against an upturned mattress in his room and "surfs" on his bed.
"That was pretty cool," said Sitak. "He's got a pretty big room so he can actually swing his club in it. I don't think I can swing my club in this room."
($ 1 = 1.2984 Australian dollars)