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Australian Open: 'It won't be a level playing field'

Tobias Oelmaier
January 21, 2021

Dozens of tennis players have found themselves forced to spend two weeks in quarantine in their hotel rooms prior to the Australian Open. It's a less than ideal way to prepare for the first Grand Slam of the season.

Angelique Kerber celebrates a win in Melbourne Park
One year ago, Angelique Kerber was celebrating a win over Italy's Elisabetta CocciarettoImage: Reuters/H. McKay

"It will be anything but a level playing field," 1993 Davis Cup winner Marc-Kevin Göllner said in an interview with DW on Thursday. During his career as a professional player on the ATP Tour, the owner of a tennis academy near the western German city of Cologne never experienced a situation comparable to what the participants in the Australian Open in Melbourne have been going through this year. 

Many players have had to spend two weeks isolated in their hotel rooms since arriving in Australia. Instead of being out on the practice court to prepare for the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, they're stuck in quarantine in compliance with Australia's COVID-19 rules.

The adjustment from a chilly European winter to the hot conditions of Australia's summer is difficult enough under normal circumstances, said Göllner, who competed Down Under six times in the 1990s, 

"But now, with air-conditioned hotel rooms and then 40 degrees (Celcius, 104 Fahrenheit) outside, it's much worse," he added.

Marc-Kevin Göllner
Marc-Kevin Göllner was part of the German team that won the Davis Cup in 1993Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Especially since the isolation rules affect only about 70 participants, namely those on whose flights cases of COVID-19 were reported. Meanwhile, others can acclimatize as usual and prepare on the training courts.

"I've been training harder than I have in a long time over the last two months. It was the best prepared I've been in years, I pushed myself hard with a lot of sweat and heart," Germany's former world No. 1, Angela Kerber told the SID news agency. "But now I have to be realistic and admit that after two weeks of quarantine in a hotel room, I can't expect much from the start of the season."

From Göllner's point of view, you have to assume that now "the preparation work was for nothing, you're almost starting from scratch." 

Novak Djokovic on the balcony of his Adelaide hotel
Novak Djokovic won his eighth Australian Open in 2020Image: Morgan Sette/AAP Image via AP/picture alliance

If he were in Kerber's shoes, Göllner said he would take advantage of any opportunities a hotel like may offer. This means toning core exercises, playing tennis against the wall, running, jumping, working up a sweat. Germany's top-ranked women's tennis player is already doing all of that. 

Göllner said that players confronted with this sort of situation must guard against falling into the trap of self-pity. 

"Meditate, do breathing exercises, speak to a sports psychologist as often as possible and set new goals," was Göllner's advice. "Then you just can't think about reaching the semifinals, instead, you have to take things one round at a time."

"The best thing would be to simply postpone the start of the tournament by 10 days, but that's not feasible for organizational reasons," said Göllner. "So it won't be a level playing field."  

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