The year’s first Grand Slam is off to a predictably rocky start.
The Australian Open was postponed until February 8, its qualifying rounds had to be held outside the country for the first time ever, and 72 of the tournament’s players are currently stuck in hotel rooms, as their rivals take advantage of five hours of court time each day.
To be clear, quarantine was always part of the plan. Australia’s international borders are more or less closed, so the fact that tennis is happening at all is a big deal. But players and staff who arrived in Melbourne on specific charter flights tied to three COVID-19 cases are now completely sequestered, while others (a group including Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Rafael Nadal flew into Adelaide) are in a lighter lockdown, which allows them to leave the hotel for proper, albeit closely monitored training.
The upsetting circumstances have already birthed a mess; players are demanding “better conditions,” their significant others are posting clueless videos complaining about the food, and the Premier of Victoria has been forced to weigh in on the issue. His message? Figure it out. We’re in the middle of a pandemic.
Fortunately, many players are. If there’s one positive going on at the moment, it’s a steady stream of professional athletes showing the world how to get a great workout in a cramped hotel room. On Instagram, Twitter and TikTok, dozens of the 72 players who can not leave their Grand Hyatt double rooms are finding creative ways to get a sweat in and hone their skills.
Heather Watson, a former British number one, has been the most active in sharing her workouts. The other day, she ran a full 5K, trotting from her hotel room’s bathroom to the window overlooking Melbourne, back and forth for a total of 3.1 miles. Just earlier today, she employed the room’s leather desk chair for squat presses.
It appears that some players have access to exercise bikes, and one was even photographed with dumbbells, but these players don’t just need to stay in shape — they need to stay sharp. Consider: Stefanos Tsitsipas recently shared a video where he’s bouncing a six-sided reaction ball, and diving to make the catch before it falls back to the floor.
Then, of course, they’re all trying their best to actually play tennis. They’re hitting balls against doors, against curtains, against windows. A few dents is evidently the price the hotel will have to pay for logging its first “no vacancy” in 10 months. And while these players would obviously rather not have to do any of this, their efforts should matter to anyone’s who’s been stuck exercising just five feet from their bed over the last year. Take note of the commitment to variety; body workouts are great, but furniture (and any other household item you’re willing to deploy) is there to help.
Any unusual workout routine needs positive energy, too. It’s unlikely that the skill or oxygen capacity of any of these players is going to fall apart over the next couple weeks. But their mental fortitude could. Exercise is a way to mark the passage of time in progress. At the very least, it can preserve sanity. At its best, like Tsitsipas chasing a bouncing ball, it can even bring out a smile.