No housekeeping, constant surveillance: Sumit Nagal in Australian Open quarantine

Sumit Nagal, who will debut in the main draw of the Australian Open this year, goes on to describe how they are required to sanitise their hands after every 50 metres at the practice venue.

There’s a groan on the other side. It’s an involuntary reaction by Sumit Nagal, followed by an explanation about what his hotel room in Melbourne looks like in the absence of housekeeping services.

“It looks nothing close to what it was when I first walked in. I’ll really feel bad for (hotel staff) when I leave,” he offers. “And every time I come back and look at the room, I’m like, ‘my God…’”

The important thing here for Nagal, however, is that he can indeed leave his room, for five hours a day.

As the top players on the tennis circuit descended upon Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open, one of the arrangements made in this COVID-19-stricken era was that they were allowed to leave their rooms to train and practise for five hours in a day, during the mandatory 14-day quarantine. Three of the 15 chartered flights that carried the players to Australia, however, had people testing positive on arrival, meaning all the 72 players on those planes were forced into hard quarantine.

Nagal wasn’t one of them. But the five-hour spell he gets outside has been nothing like he’s ever experienced before. The months spent in planning by Tennis Australia, in consultation with the Victoria government, has led to a strict series of protocols when it comes to players leaving their rooms for training. And it all has to be followed to the dot.

For starters, players are informed about their schedule the night earlier.

“Two hours are for tennis practice, 90 minutes for the gym, an hour for food, and 30 minutes is to get from the room to the courts and back,” Nagal says.

At a pre-determined time, an official of the Justice and Community Safety Department – who handle transport and security of players – will knock on the player’s door. Only then can the door be opened and the player leave the room.

“Before my coach and I can get into the lift, they will inform people in the lobby that two people from so-and-so floor are coming down. Once we get the ‘go ahead’, we can get into the lift,” explains the 23-year-old. “Once we’re downstairs, we wait till my training partner Aslan Karatsev and his coach have arrived. And then the group of four gets into the minivan to go to the venue.”

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