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Serena takes daughter to the zoo after quarantine

Last updated on: January 29, 2021 09:59 IST
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Serena Williams with a quokka, a native Australian animal, at the Adelaide zoo on Friday.

IMAGE: Serena Williams with a quokka, a native Australian animal, at the Adelaide zoo on Friday. Photograph: Kind courtesy, Adelaide Zoo.

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 Rafael 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.

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.

Serena plays Naomi Osaka at an Adelaide exhibition tournament on Friday.

In Melbourne, the first of the players to leave quarantine were greeted with the city's often fickle weather — rain showers.

"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.

Tennis players Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Naomi Osaka, Simona Halep, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem and Jannik Sinner at a press conference prior to A Day at the Drive exhibition at Memorial Drive Tennis Club, Adelaide, on Friday  

IMAGE: Tennis players Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Naomi Osaka, Simona Halep, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem and Jannik Sinner at a press conference prior to A Day at the Drive exhibition at Memorial Drive Tennis Club, Adelaide, on Friday. Photograph: Morgan Sette/Reuters

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."

The 72 players, who were on board the same three charter flights as the nine passengers who tested positive to COVID-19, have been unable to leave their rooms.

Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley said players who had been in hard lockdown would be given priority.

"We're going to have a great deal of empathy for supporting those who have been in hard lockdown and I've already made that commitment to them," Tiley said.

 

More than 1,200 players, coaches and officials heading to Australia for the Grand Slam were put into quarantine hotels in Adelaide and Melbourne after arriving on charter flights from around the world.

The first groups were released from isolation late on Thursday in Melbourne and all but a handful of the cohort are expected to be cleared by midday on Sunday.

Some, like American Tennys Sandgren, complained they were being made to isolate for longer than the mandated 14 days, with the day of their arrival being counted as "day zero", rather than "day one" as they had hoped.

Victoria state police minister Lisa Neville had little sympathy, however, and said players were told exactly what their release date and time would be.

"I accept they'd love to get out but we're not taking any chances," Neville told radio station 3AW on Friday.

"I'm not going to relax until Sunday midday when the last of them are out."

Authorities have recorded eight positive COVID-19 tests among the Australian Open cohort and said on Friday there were five active cases remaining.

One of the five is Spanish player Paula Badosa, who has complained bitterly about having to spend extra days isolating before being released next week.

Once released, the players are free to move around at their discretion in a country which has not had a case of community transmission in nearly two weeks.

Crowds of 35% capacity have been approved at Melbourne Park for the Australian Open, though organisers hope the cap might be lifted to 50%.

Victoria transport minister Jacinta Allan said on Friday authorities would decide on crowds in the next few days.

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