By Sudipto Ganguly
(Reuters) - Rohan Bopanna cannot wait to breathe fresh Melbourne air when his 14-day quarantine ends on Saturday but finding a partner for the Australian Open men's doubles will also be near the top of his list when he is finally granted his freedom.
The 40-year-old Indian, a former doubles world number three, is one of 72 players who have been confined to their hotel rooms in Melbourne after fellow passengers on the flights that brought them to Australia tested positive for COVID-19.
"I'd had a good two-and-half weeks of training back home in Bangalore at my academy," Bopanna, who won the 2017 French Open mixed doubles title and reached the final at Melbourne Park three years ago, told Reuters.
"I was really looking forward to coming and making use of a good programme.
"Suddenly when you are in lockdown for 14 days, there's only that much an athlete can do in this room. You lose strength in your muscles. Mentally it is challenging, you need to stay positive no matter what.
"You're surrounded by four walls. The view from my room is absolutely zero, I have a wall right in front of the window."
Bopanna is appreciative of the reasons behind the strict local COVID-19 regulations and grateful for the daily contact from Tennis Australia and the Victorian health authorities.
Unable to leave his room to train every day like most of the other players, Bopanna has been relying on exercise bands and mats to help try to stay fit.
"Yes, it can get frustrating," he said in an interview from his hotel room.
"At the end of the day, none of the players have experienced this. It's different. The closer it gets to the finish line it's always better. I want to go out and practise, play tennis, that's what I've come all the way, this many miles, to do."
Bopanna will also have to look for a new men's doubles partner, however, after Joao Sousa was unable to travel to Australia on time after testing COVID-19 positive.
The Portuguese, world No.92 in singles, returned a negative test subsequently and was without symptoms but the strict protocols forced him to withdraw from the tournament.
Bopanna will play mixed doubles with China's Duan Yingying and will be on the lookout for a new partner for the men's before the draws are made on Feb. 4.
"I'm sure I will find someone. That's not a problem but I need to see who's available at the moment," said the Indian, who will play with Denmark's Frederik Nielsen in men's doubles in next week's ATP event at Melbourne Park.
Bopanna has kept himself busy during isolation by making videos to post on Instagram and completing units of an online course on international entertainment and sports marketing.
The end to his quarantine cannot come soon enough, though.
"Just to walk outside and breathe the fresh air, I am breathing the same air in the room for 14 days, I don't think it is healthy," he said.
"Being able to walk outside freely, just go enjoy a good set of practice, able to work out a little bit. That's what I'm looking forward to."
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Nick Mulvenney/Peter Rutherford)