MELBOURNE: Novak Djokovic had a stroll in the park and Serena Williams took her daughter to the zoo as the world’s top tennis players made the most of their freedom after 14 days of quarantine ahead of the Australian Open on Friday.
Djokovic, Williams and Rafa Nadal were among a select group of players who underwent lockdown in Adelaide rather than Melbourne and they will all play exhibition matches in the city later on Friday.
“We just can say thank you very much to South Australia and for all the unbelievable great work that Tennis Australia has been doing to allow us to play this tournament,” Nadal told reporters, summing up sentiments expressed by all the players.
Djokovic, who last week drew heavy criticism after he sent a letter to organisers asking for changes to the quarantine rules, said conditions were “great for us, considering the circumstances”.
The players have been allowed out to practise for five hours a day during their quarantine but Djokovic said he had headed to a local park on his first morning in Australia without restrictions.
“Just putting your feet on the ground, you know, just doing something that I didn’t have a chance to do,” the world number one said.
“Just having the space, I think, that’s what we all kind of missed.”
Williams’s quarantine had an extra wrinkle in the shape of her 3-year-old daughter and they celebrated their release with a trip to Adelaide Zoo.
“We had a calendar in our room and every day we marked an ‘X’ on the day that went by and a big circle on the quarantine ending day and we promised her that we would take her to the zoo to see koalas and kangaroos,” she said.
“I’m so glad the quarantine is over, because to be in a room with a 3-year-old and being her best friend is definitely difficult … But honestly I wouldn’t trade anything for spending hours with her, it was really fun.”
Williams will be bidding for her 24th Grand Slam title at Melbourne Park, which would tie her with Australian Margaret Court as the most successful player of all time.
“It’s good to always have goals that you try to reach and kind of see what happens,” Williams said.
(Writing by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, editing by Peter Rutherford)