After bedding down at home for months during COVID-19 lockdowns, Ash Barty and NIck Kyrgios might find it hard to emerge into the bright light of the 2021 tennis season.
While the virus threat is never far away, tennis is resuming this week before a mandatory 14-day player isolation period in Melbourne prior to the February 8 delayed start of the Australian Open.
Neither women’s No. 1 Barty, nor the 45th-ranked Kyrgios have ventured out of Oz since the tennis season shut down for five months last spring into late summer.
Even when the Tours began to pick up pace with a limited schedule – including the US Open and a French Open played in October instead of June – the pair did not budge from their bases in Queensland and Canberra.
The nationwide Australian government lockdown did not help matters, with international air traffic all but completely stopped for months, a restriction still in effect.
With so much time at home, the Australian players may have been forced to delve into uncomfortable psychological issues – perhaps even questioning their travelling lifestyle and dedication to the sport.
Moody bad boy Kyrgios who has frequently expressed disinterest in his tennis and a desire to stop travelling, told Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph magazine recently the stress of Tour life:
“I got lost a lot, I felt alone in the middle of a sea of people, I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone about how I was feeling.
“I was fighting a lot of things and didn’t feel like I had a home, because I was traveling all the time.
“I remember waking up in Shanghai one year and it was 4pm and I was still in bed, curtains closed. I didn’t want to see the light of day,” Kyrgios said.
“I didn’t feel like I could trust anyone. It was a lonely, dark place.
“I don’t think people understand how lonely tennis can be. You’re out there on the court on your own.
“You can’t really talk to anyone. You have to figure things out for yourself. I did struggle with that.”
“I kind of got away from my family because I was traveling a lot – it was hard to keep in touch.
“Since my return, I almost feel like I have restarted everything with my family, It was awesome.”
It’s much the same for Barty, who will hold onto her top WTA ranking despite paying just a handful of 2020 matches – the last in February.
The No. 1 blew off her autumn Roland Garros title defence after skipping the US Open in New York. An Australian state border closure in Queensland did not help her preparation, with her coach stranded in Melbourne.
Due to their location inside the national borders, the home players look unlikely to be forced into hotel rooms for two weeks, the fate awaiting foreigners who are being given special dispensation to enter the country.
The extra training time may or may not pay off then competition finally begins in a rush from the first days of February.
Main photo:- Melbourne 2020 Nick Kyrgios shakes hands with Rafa Nadal after 4th round loss by Roger Parker ISF Ltd