Dancing at 2am and TikTok triathlons: Heather Watson on life in Australian Open quarantine

Dancing at 2am and TikTok triathlons: Heather Watson on life in Australian Open quarantine

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As part of our series with the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association), the world’s top female tennis players write for Metro.co.uk on a rotational basis. Writing ahead of the Australian Open, Britain’s Heather Watson discusses life as one of the 72 players in full two-week quarantine.

Having trained super hard in the days before our chartered flight to Australia, I’d been keen to just relax in the first couple of days in my hotel room but on the third day the news dropped that we’d had a positive test on our flight. So there’s a bit more down time than I originally thought!

I know what sacrifices the citizens of Melbourne have made to get to this point, where they can lead a normal life. Safety has to be the number one priority.

Tennis Australia have been a huge support to the players, delivering food and water to our rooms and they’ve provided us exercise equipment so they’re really doing the best they possibly can in this scenario. 

Initially, I was holding out hope there would be another solution and that we might be able to get out to practise a bit, but after a couple of days I started to put things into perspective. In fact, I’ve been making the best of my time in quarantine!

I’ve normally been getting up at about 11am – I may as well have a bit of a lie in because I want the days to pass quicker! – and the first thing I’ll do is see if anyone is awake back home in the UK. Because of the time difference, I can only really speak to my family and friends in the morning or at night so I’ve been FaceTiming people in bed every morning.

I’m only having two meals a day rather than a full breakfast, lunch and dinner because I’m not exercising as much, so for breakfast – which, a bit naughtily, was actually at 3pm today – I had avocado on toast and a flat white. It was delicious. I have to say, Uber Eats in Melbourne has been top notch!

It’s a bit tougher to get up and motivate yourself to exercise in a hotel room but I’ve been doing pretty well so far. Considering I was so demotivated during the first lockdown in the UK, I’ve actually surprised myself a lot here.

Having a major tournament to prepare for is probably a factor behind that. I’ve positioned the exercise bike we’ve been given so that I can just about see Melbourne Park.

I’m glad they’ve provided us with a bike and some other equipment. In the first couple of days, I’d run 5k up and down the corridor in my room but my toes and ankles were so sore the next day from all the turns. I couldn’t really do that the whole time.

On top of the bike, I’ve got a skipping rope, some 10kg and 20kg dumbbells, some bands for my shoulders and glutes and a reaction ball.

Away from training, I chat to my coach a couple of times every day, watch Netflix for a few hours – I’m currently working my way through an FBI drama called The Blacklist – and, of course, I’ve made some TikToks.

My most recent one, a hotel room triathlon, was inspired by a chat with my team. I told them I’d been doing some cycling and running and they joked that I should do a triathlon. It took ages to make!

The biggest problem I’ve been having has been getting to sleep. Because we’re not getting fresh air or seeing daylight, it’s hard to get into a good sleeping pattern. But I’ve been trying not to force it or stress out about it and normally try to chill out until I get to sleep some time between 2am and 4am (this is far from normal, I promise!).

One night at 2am I couldn’t sleep so I decided to put on a heart rate belt, which measures my calories and work output, whacked on some music and danced for about 45 minutes. It was actually a great workout.

All in all, I’ve been staying positive and I generally feel pretty good in myself. I obviously put in a lot of work in the off-season and was the strongest I’ve ever been – I can now leg press more than 200kg! – so it’s a shame that my preparation has been disrupted but I can only do my best.

So while I’d love to be able to train in a safe and secure environment, I’m just taking things day-by-day and trying to remain focused and positive and keep my expectations at a reasonable level.

I’d started my season in Abu Dhabi, where we were all in a bubble and regularly tested, and hadn’t foreseen our group having any problems getting to Melbourne.  

We had been really careful on the plane. It was pretty empty, everyone had a row to themselves and we wore out masks the entire flight. Me and my coach, Alex Ward, had been sanitising pretty much throughout because we didn’t want to risk anything. But it’s an unfortunate situation and isn’t anyone’s fault. 

Adapting to the Australian heat can take time and at this top level, the timing and precision of your strokes is so important to compete so completely stopping any court work is not what you want.  

The only times I’ve taken a full two weeks off before were forced. Once when I had glandular fever and then during the first lockdown in March. Even then, though, I would do a little bit of hitting against a wall. It’s very unlike me. I even play on Christmas day because I love playing tennis so much!

Watching other players on social media hitting the practice court in the past couple of days has been a bit deflating. I’ll probably try and steer clear of that because that’s all I want to do right now.

I’ll be extra thoughtful with my schedule this year because I’d rather avoid this situation again but I’m still delighted to have the opportunity to play a Grand Slam and will make the best with what I’ve got.

I’m feeling great in my game, fitter than ever and generally in a better headspace than I’ve been before. I’m already halfway through this quarantine so I’ll keep taking it day by day and do everything I can to be ready.

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