Australia’s homesick tennis stars have welcomed the easing of quarantine restrictions after fearing preparations for their home grand slam would be severely compromised.
Ash Barty cut her season short, effectively forcing the world No.1 out of this week’s prestigious WTA Finals in Mexico, in order to complete her mandatory stint in quarantine last month.
Had Barty chosen to defend the season-ending crown she won in China in 2019, before last year’s WTA Finals were abandoned because of the pandemic, the Wimbledon champion’s summer pre-season would have been hugely disrupted.
The Australian Open women’s top seed would have had to endure a second fortnight in hard quarantine upon return from Central America, leaving her with little more a month to rest and prepare properly for the Melbourne major starting on January 17.
But with fully vaccinated international travellers now allowed to enter NSW and Victoria without quarantining at all, it’s happy days for Australia’s other players returning from overseas.
Barty’s fellow Queenslander John Millman has opted to return home via NSW to avoid quarantine, which remains mandatory in the Sunshine State until December 17 or when it reaches a fully vaccinated rate of 80 per cent.
Millman plans to fly into Sydney after the Davis Cup Finals in Spain, Italy and Austria from November 25 to December 5.
“Until the NSW premier came out of the blue and opened up the country, it looked like I probably wasn’t going to get home,” he told AAP from Europe.
“But it looks like after Davis Cup I’ll get a flight to NSW and spend 14 days there and then hopefully cross the border.
“At least it’s not in hotel quarantine and I can train because that’s a brutal experience and also not ideal doing your pre-season in a hotel room.
“Then I can cross the border a day or two before Christmas.
“I’m looking forward to seeing family, that’s for sure. You start to appreciate things when they get taken away from you.”
Millman hasn’t been home since making a dash from Brisbane to Melbourne on January 15 before the Queensland borders closed.
The former US Open quarter-finalist said being away for so long had been a struggle at times – and trying to book flights home especially frustrating.
“If you can just tell the politicians also to stop saying double vaccinated. Just say fully vaccinated because there’s more than one vaccination,” Millman said.
“I’ve got Johnson and Johnson, which is a one-shotter. I’ve also got one shot of Pfizer so I’m well and truly vaccinated.
“At times this year, there’s no doubt my head space has probably been a bit blurry at times.
“When you face the test that the Aussie players and New Zealand players actually have had this year, the mental side can really wear on you – and it’s not too insignificant.
“I know the perception back home in Australia is, ‘oh you’re Aussie tennis players, you should be used to just travelling’.
“I know it’s been really challenging back home too, but I tell you what, it’s been really challenging as an Aussie tennis player on the road.”
Sydney-raised, Spain-based Aussie men’s No.1 Alex de Minaur hopes to enjoy 10 days with his family in the NSW capital before ramping up his Open build-up.
“It’s been a pretty rough year for Australians on tour,” de Minaur told AAP.
“So to not have to quarantine is a bonus.”