The Australian Open 2021 will be held in truly unique conditions, not only due to the postponement of the first seasonal Grand Slam in February.
All the players were in fact forced to spend two weeks in quarantine upon their arrival in Australia, a factor that could greatly affect the physical and technical performance of the athletes.
The Top 3 of the ATP and WTA rankings were able to stay in Adelaide instead of Melbourne, where they were able to enjoy some additional benefits compared to most of their peers. In an exclusive interview with Tennis365, former world number 7 Barbara Schett took stock of the situation on the eve of the Happy Slam.
The current Eurosport presenter mentioned the example of some players, such as Ashleigh Barty, who does not play an official tournament from the WTA in Doha in February last year. The 2019 Roland Garros champion could struggle to find the right rhythm, the same goes for compatriot Nick Kyrgios (who will be engaged in matches at the best of five sets).
Schett on the 2021 Australian Open
“Ash Barty has been in Australia for the whole year. She is rested, didn’t have to go through the quarantine, has been practising on that surface for such a long time and she is ready to go,” said Barbara Schett, who will be hosting Eurosport’s coverage of the Australian Open.
“She is happy in the heat, comfortable with the conditions and for me, she is the player to watch as she has everything needed to do well in this tournament and some advantages over her opponents. Of course, she has not played too many matches and that is an issue that we wait to see how she responds to that, but I think she has some big advantages compared to all the other top players.
At this moment, I wouldn’t put money on anyone as we just don’t know what kind of form the players are going to be in, but Ash Barty has a very good chance to do well in this competition”. The quarantine issue has dominated the news agenda ahead of the Australian Open, with Australian resident Schett confirming it is a huge challenge to get through having experienced a similar experience last year.
“You can keep up your fitness in the hotel room, but then you go outside and it’s 35 degrees… everything is very different,” she continued. “These players who have been locked up have not hit a ball in two weeks and that is unusual for tennis players as we tend to play all the time, so it will be tough to win the event if you have been through the hard quarantine and have not been able to go out of your room.
They will all lose a bit of fitness and having done it myself, you lose a bit of your soul as well. Look at someone like Victoria Azarenka, who has been forced to go through the entire two-week period of quarantine in a hotel without having the chance to hit balls.
It will be tough for her to come out and challenge for the title in Melbourne as her preparations have not been ideal”. With 17 Grand Slam titles under his belt, Novak Djokovic is in the race with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most number of Major trophies in the men’s game.
Source: Simone Brugnoli