Australian Andrew Harris joined The First Serve reporter Jedd Zetzer for a chat on Friday, providing some insight into his quarantine experience, whilst offering his perspective on the situation unfolding in the Australian Open bubble.
The world no. 232 was one of 20 Australians who travelled to compete in Australian Open qualifying. Unfortunately for Harris, he went down to second seed Hugo Dellien in the second round of qualifying 4-6, 6-7(6).
“Honestly I don’t feel like I played that well in either of the two matches I played, but especially the second one. I guess a positive is that one - my body was feeling better, feeling healthy, that’s obviously a positive, but two - the fact that I was very close and probably should’ve still probably won that match and I still didn’t play very well.
I think it’s also a positive sign that if I play marginally a little bit better, that match probably turns in my favour, so that’s obviously a positive. But I hadn’t played that many matches and it was always going to be tough, but I guess everyone’s in the same boat of course. He’s been top 100 and I was very very close to beating him and I didn’t feel like I played that well, so I guess I can take some positives out of that,” Harris explained.
The Aussie will not compete in the singles main draw in Melbourne, but is still hoping to receive a wildcard into the doubles main draw: “I’m just waiting to hear official confirmation of wildcards, but hopefully,” Harris said.
Harris was one of roughly 70 people who boarded a chartered flight to Melbourne from Doha, following Australian Open qualifying. He provided some insight into what it was like travelling back home.
“We got private transport back to the airport from Doha, jumped on a chartered flight which I think was roughly 70 odd people on the plane. It was all spaced out, there was no one where I was sitting, there was no one behind me for a few rows, no one in front of me for a few rows and no one to the left of me, so I wasn’t close to anyone on the plane.
When we landed it was the same protocol, they usher you off and then you’ve got to see all the health authorities and document. Then (we) jumped on a sky bus and they escorted us to the hotel where you met the health authorities and the police and everything at the hotel. They chuck you in your room and tested us right when we got to the hotel, and then we’ve had a test every single day since we’ve been here,” Harris stated.
Harris, who resides in Melbourne believes officials have done a good job with the strictness of the quarantine within the Australian Open bubble.
“We knew it was going to be strict. It had to be strict of course and I personally think they’ve done a good job with the strictness of it, I really don’t think it will get out to the community,” Harris said.
The Aussie also believes it was the right call to put all players who were on infected flights into a strict hard quarantine.
“It’s a really difficult one. I mean obviously players were spaced out on the plane but then everyone jumped on a bus and you weren’t spaced out on the bus.
Then we saw one of the Spanish players - (Paula) Badosa, she tested positive yesterday after seven days, so that in itself is proof. Luckily she was one of the ones who had been isolating already in the hard lockdown because of her flight, but had she been able to practice and everything, she could’ve easily already given it to multiple people. In that sense, it’s shown that these strict protocols are what was needed.
It’s obviously unfortunate and it’s very tough for players, obviously not ideal preparation but at the end of the day we can’t afford to let it spread or especially let it get to the community,” Harris said.
Harris was lucky to be on board a flight which did not record any positive COVID tests and has therefore been able to leave his room to train for five hours each day, and the Aussie is not complaining.
“At the end of the five hours, you’re like ‘oh I’m actually ready to go back to the room surprisingly’. You’re tired after training, you’ve been out, got some fresh air, so that’s good. But I’ve also got a bike in my room, I’ve got everything I need here, there’s no complaints from me.”
All players arriving in Melbourne were allowed to request a training partner for their quarantine period. For Harris, his partner was unfortunately on an infected flight and was put into a hard lockdown, unable to leave their room. Enter Bernard Tomic. The Aussie pair had not hit together before they arrived in Doha for qualifying and are now training partners for their first week in quarantine.
“I think the first time I hit with him (Tomic) was in Doha before quallies (qualifying). Bernie’s an interesting one, we got partnered together, I didn’t allocate him but because some of the planes got COVID, they had cases and had to lock down, which put some of the cohorts in disarray with planned practice partners, because you got to nominate who you wanted for week one.
So I got partnered with Bernie. I wouldn’t say he’s the hardest worker, he sort of only wants to practice a little bit, but luckily I’ve been assigned Mark Draper, he’s a Tennis Australia coach. He coaches Dane Sweeny and Tristan Schoolkate, but because they’re in hard lockdown, he’s been able to come out and he’s been helping me and Bernie a bit on court, which has been lucky. So when Bernie doesn’t want to hit as much, I’ve been able to still hit with Mark, so lucky for Mark because otherwise I wouldn’t be hitting too many balls right now,” Harris said.
The Aussie will be competing in one of the ATP events in the week leading up to the Australian Open. Listen to the full interview with Andrew Harris below on your preferred podcast platform.