Ashleigh Barty among the players back in action ahead of Australian Open
Tennis’ biggest names were back in action in Adelaide on Friday, with world No 1 Ashleigh Barty making her first public appearance on court for nearly a year.
The former French Open champion, who decided to stay at home in Australia when the tour resumed last summer, last played a tournament in February 2020.
She must wait until next week for her first official match back but blew off some cobwebs with a narrow loss against Simona Halep in the A Day at the Drive exhibition event.
View this post on Instagram
A crowd of 4,000 people were at Memorial Drive, and Barty said: “I genuinely missed it so much and I cannot thank you guys enough for welcoming not only myself, but Sim, and all the other players here.
“I’ve been getting a little bit impatient the last two or three months getting ready to play, and I’m so excited to get started next week. It was the perfect preparation coming here.”
The event marked the end of two weeks of quarantine for the players who travelled to Australia from abroad.
Six top players including Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka controversially completed their quarantine in Adelaide in what were seen as more favourable conditions than those experienced by their fellow professionals in Melbourne.
Incredible tennis to watch and savour 🍿
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 29, 2021
Nadal, who would move to the top of the all-time list of men’s grand slam singles titles ahead of Roger Federer should he lift the Australian Open trophy later this month, looked sharp in beating US Open champion Dominic Thiem.
He said: “The last two weeks have been great. We can’t thank enough South Australia and Tennis Australia for all the positive things they make.
“I hope to have the right preparation for the Australian Open. I won in 2009, but I think almost everybody forgot about that. I keep trying hard and this year is a special one and I’m going to keep trying my best.”
Williams has been quarantining with her husband Alexis Ohanian and three-year-old daughter Olympia, and the family headed straight to the zoo after completing the 14 days.
The 23-time slam singles champion, who won a competitive encounter against Osaka, said: “We promised her we would take her to the zoo to see koalas and kangaroos.
“I’m so glad the quarantine is over because to be in a room with a three-year-old and being her best friend is definitely difficult, especially after training and working out. But it was fun. Honestly, I wouldn’t trade anything for spending hours with her.”
Djokovic caused a scare when he pulled out of his match against Italian teenager Jannik Sinner with blisters on his hand only to emerge on court and play the second set anyway.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 29, 2021
The eight-time Australian Open champion said: “The emotion was strong in me to come out on the court today, seeing almost full stands. I just had to play.”
In Melbourne, players began emerging from their quarantine periods, including some of the 72 players who had not been allowed out of their rooms for the full period following positive coronavirus tests for people on three of the charter flights.
Among those was Britain’s Heather Watson, who was so keen to get on court that she headed to Melbourne Park after midnight for a hit on Rod Laver Arena.
Watson tweeted: “12:54am – FINALLY FREE from 15 days in strict quarantine and of course my first stop is Rod Laver Arena for a midnight practice!
“I don’t feel like spending another night in a hotel room so I think I might just sleep here tonight.”
The warm-up events ahead of the Australian Open, which begins on February 8, get under way on Sunday with two women’s tournaments.
I don’t feel like spending another night in a hotel room so I think I might just sleep here tonight 😁 pic.twitter.com/QkNfQsdo4y
— Heather Watson (@HeatherWatson92) January 29, 2021
In the Gippsland Trophy, which features Halep and Osaka, British number one Johanna Konta has a first-round bye while Katie Boulter faces Anna Kalinskaya.
Qualifier Francesca Jones takes on 14th seed Nadia Podoroska in the Yarra Valley Classic, which is headlined by Barty, Williams and Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin.
Watson will have a few days to practise before competing in the Grampians Trophy, beginning on Wednesday.
Major injury concerns for Rafael Nadal ahead of the French Open
Defending Rome champion Nadal was hampered by a foot injury.
Italian Open: Stefanos Tsitsipas set for quarter-final date with Jannik Sinner
Stefanos Tsitsipas will have to battle Jannik Sinner and a partisan home crowd on Friday.
Novak Djokovic rains on Stan Wawrinka’s parade in Rome
Novak Djokovic was close to his best as he demolished Stan Wawrinka.
Iga Swiatek makes it 25 WTA wins in a row with triumph over Victoria Azarenka
Iga Swiatek fought back from 0-3 down in the first set to reach a fifth straight quarterfinal on the WTA Tour.
Italian Open: Bianca Andreescu continues resurgent run as she gains last eight
Bianca Andreescu has booked her first WTA Tour quarter-final in 14 months.
Alexander Zverev ups the aggression to see off Alex de Minaur, but admits ‘I need to work on serving out’
Positives and negatives for Alexander Zverev during latest Rome win.
French Open news: Players warned they will face sanctions if they make any pro-Vladimir Putin statements
Players warned ahead of 2022 French Open.
Rafael Nadal ‘super happy’ with Carlos Alcaraz’s rise, but pleads ‘stop comparing him to me’
Rafael Nadal a bit tired of Carlos Alcaraz comparisons and questions.
Elina Svitolina to skip French Open as she admits invasion of the Ukraine has left her ‘mentally drained’
“Mentally it’s very tough,” says Elina Svitolina.
Cameron Norrie suffers injury scare during Italian Open defeat to Marin Cilic
British No 1 required treatment on his right ankle.