International tennis players are free to ramp up preparations for February’s Australian Open after completing hotel quarantine.
The first groups of players exited hotels on Thursday night, having completed 14 days in quarantine since arriving in Melbourne on charter flights.
Others will finish their quarantine period on Friday and the process will continue until Sunday.
However, some of the players were upset that their quarantine time didn’t end until midnight on the final day, including outspoken American Tennys Sandgren.
He had already been in the headlines after testing positive before boarding his flight from Los Angeles, but he was deemed to be “viral shedding” from an earlier infection.
The two-time Australian Open quarter-finalist posted a video message complaining about the delay ahead of playing in the lead-in tournament next week.
“I just found out we’re not going to be able to leave the room until midnight tomorrow,” Sandgren posted on Instagram.
“That will put us at close to 15 days in this room – it’s also another day we can’t practise.
“That’s play Saturday, Sunday, Monday and play a match Tuesday.
“After 16 days off we get three days hitting and then a tennis match.
“My name’s Tennis Australia and I’m so cool.”
Other players spoke spoken of their desire to go for a long walk, or have a coffee or a meal in a restaurant after the two-week hotel quarantine.
The players leaving quarantine are relocating to other hotels or private residences, while some of the hotels will convert to Australian Open accommodation once cleaned.
Spanish player Paula Badosa is the only player who tested positive since arrival. She will remain in the medical hotel until next week and will be racing the clock to be fit for the February 8 tournament start date.
Australia’s world No.1 Ash Barty said she didn’t feel she would have an advantage despite not have faced any quarantine rules.
“Obviously we have different state borders and state rules here in Australia so I don’t think anyone has really had more of an advantageous kind of preparation,” said Barty.
She who hasn’t played a competitive match in almost a year after deciding not to travel during the pandemic.
“Everyone’s been in a different position, so everyone is doing the best that they can and as players we have to respect that and understand that it’s been a really tricky time, particularly down here in Melbourne and we have to understand that we’re incredibly lucky that we have an opportunity to play,” she said.
“But I know that everyone is extremely professional and when the day comes that they have to walk on court and play, they’ll be ready without a doubt.”
Barty’s comeback will be an exhibition match against world No.2 Simona Halep on Friday night.
Champions Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem and Naomi Osaka will also feature in Adelaide’s A Day at the Drive, which is the official curtain raiser for the Australian Open.
Djokovic was spotted by fans in North Adelaide’s Wellington Square shortly after leaving his quarantine on Friday.
He said he was “thrilled to be out”.
“I felt a little bit strange, but at the end of the day we’re out, we’re here to play tennis and hopefully we’ll be able to see crowds today and in Melbourne and bring some good, positive emotions to people,” he told the ABC.
Osaka also thanked authorities, saying the time in quarantine had had a silver lining.
“The biggest thing it gave me was the chance to look inside myself, so it was more mental than anything tennis-related,” she said.
She will play Williams in Friday night’s A Day at the Drive.
The Open begins in Melbourne on February 8.