Of mouse and men: Aussie Open players moan about woes in isolation

Belinda Bencic (left) practised two-handed backhands against her window, while Yulia Putintseva found a mouse in her room. PHOTOS: SCREENGRAB FROM BELINDABENCIC/INSTAGRAM, YULIA PUTINTSEVA/TWITTER

MELBOURNE (AFP) - From bitter social media posts to workouts using mattresses as hitting partners, dozens of the world's best tennis players confined to Australian hotels for two weeks are dealing with their confinement in contrasting ways.

The Australian Open in Melbourne has been delayed three weeks until Feb 8 because of the coronavirus pandemic, and has run into new problems this week.

Positive Covid-19 cases on three of 17 charter flights into the country mean 72 players have been confined to their rooms for the entire 14-day quarantine period.

Others are allowed out, but only for five hours a day, to train in bio-secure 'bubbles'.

It means players are having to cope with some unusual problems and find some creative solutions as they try to stay occupied and in shape over two weeks of isolation.

World No. 12 Belinda Bencic revealed her new training method for quarantine, posting a video of her practising two-handed backhands against her hotel window.

Her hotel neighbours may have had something to say about the racket, but she seemed to have no problem with her new glass training partner, which returned every shot.

"Wrong surface, but that doesn't matter for us," she tweeted.

Uruguayan star Pablo Cuevas, ranked 68th in the world, used another clever hack for his backhand practice: a mattress turned vertically against the wall.

"Yes, I'm going crazy," he wrote on Instagram.

Instead of working on shot technique, one player was pictured in his hotel window lifting dumbbells over his head.

Several players took to social media to complain about the hotel food on offer.

Europeans Fabio Fognini, Pablo Correno Busta, Corentin Moutet and Marco Cecchinato all posted their disapproval of the Aussie fare served to their rooms.

"Really?" asked Busta, alongside photographic evidence of his culinary horror.

Fabio Fognini, Pablo Correno Busta and Corentin Moutet posted their disapproval of the Aussie fare served to their rooms. PHOTOS: WEARETENNIS/TWITTER

Others chose to avoid the quarantine menu altogether, throw their diet out of the window, and order fast food to their room.

World No. 28 Benoit Paire and world No. 118 Damis Dzumhur - who have racked up more than US$10 million (S$13.3 million) in career prize money between them - posted pictures of their chosen quarantine fuel: McDonald's.

Benoit Paire's chosen quarantine fuel: McDonald's. PHOTO: WEARETENNIS/TWITTER

Unlike other players, Kazakhstan's Yulia Putintseva discovered that she was not alone in quarantine.

The world No. 187 posted a video of a mouse running around her hotel room and tweeted that she tried to move to another room without success because of the strict quarantine rules.

She said the unwanted roommate was the fault of the authorities who selected her quarantine location.

"They put me not in the nicest hotel like other players!" she wrote.

While some of the quarantined players posted about their revamped diets and training regimes, others showed no love for their new surroundings.

Austrian Philipp Oswald called the two-week quarantine "crazy" and said the new rules were "never communicated to us" before the charters flights.

World No. 71 Sorana Cirstea of Romania said she would not have travelled to Australia if there was a chance of hard quarantine.

"I have no issues to stay 14 days in the room watching Netflix. What we can't do is COMPETE after we have stayed 14 days on a couch," she tweeted.

Many social media users have derided the players, accusing them of being entitled for moaning about their free stay while thousands of Australians remain stranded abroad.

Former tennis player and coach Roger Rasheed offered them some words of wisdom instead.

"You can create a programme in your hotel room, which will be quite physical and demanding," he wrote in a commentary Sunday for Melbourne's daily newspaper 'The Age'.

Rasheed said the players' conditioning should have been sorted beforehand, and called on those complaining online to be more positive about their confinement.

"The players are lucky to come to a country with strict health measures... and should be grateful they can play a grand slam during the pandemic," he concluded.

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