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Beyond the bubble, Barty's build-up continues stress-free

China Daily | Updated: 2021-01-27 09:32
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MELBOURNE-While most of the world's top players quarantine in their hotel rooms ahead of the Australian Open, home hope Ash Barty is relishing the freedom of being outside the bio-secure bubble.

Having remained in Australia through most of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world No 1 has avoided the two-week quarantine that nearly 1,000 players and officials are undergoing after landing in the country.

With Melbourne Park part of a bio-secure bubble for the international players, Barty has been practicing at suburban courts in Australia's second-largest city with players from across the country.

"It's very unique. It almost feels like a bit of a camp if I'm being honest," the Queenslander told Tennis Australia's website.

"Obviously the Queenslanders, we typically train together, but now we're seeing the Victorian players for the first time in a long time.

"A few of the SA (South Australia) boys are here, the New South Welshmen are trickling in as well.

"I think it's been a really unique kind of week and also good to get some hitting variety. We all understand the situation that we're in and we're just trying to do all the right things."

The Australians' carefree training conditions are a world away from the tensions surrounding the international players' quarantine.

Nine people, including four players, in the Australian Open cohort have tested positive for COVID-19 since landing in the country.

Health officials on Monday said they had not found any new cases linked to the Grand Slam in a relief for tournament organizers.

But authorities are likely to be on tenterhooks throughout the lead-up to the Feb 8-21 tournament as daily test results come in.

While most players are able to train outside their quarantine hotels for five hours a day, more than 70 cannot leave their rooms after some passengers on their charter flights tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Tennis Australia on Sunday announced a new women's competition from Feb 3-7 to aid preparations for players in "hard lockdown".

Barty will make her first top-level appearance in nearly a year when she joins a star-studded exhibition in Adelaide this month, organizers said last Thursday.

Barty, who has remained top of the rankings despite not playing since last February, joins a field which also includes major winners Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep.

Men's Grand Slam champions Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem, along with Jannik Sinner, the highly rated world No 36 from Italy, will also play the event on Jan 29.

Meanwhile, Nadal has taken an apparent swipe at Djokovic over his requests for quarantined players, saying not everyone felt the need to "advertise" how they were trying to help.

Serbian world No 1 Djokovic last week issued a list of suggestions to Tennis Australia on behalf of 72 players unable to leave their Melbourne hotel rooms.

The suggestions reportedly included moving players into private homes with tennis courts and getting them better meals.

But his requests fell on deaf ears, while fellow star Nick Kyrgios called Djokovic a "tool".

"We all try to help each other," Spanish great Nadal told ESPN Tuesday from Adelaide.

"Some need to make public everything they do to help others," he added. "Others... do it in a more private way without having to publish or advertise everything we're doing."


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