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Wayne Arthurs Australian Tennis Legend Shares his Pandemic Experience Starting the First Week of Covid19 – First article in a series during quarantine


As I boarded my flight from Brisbane to Los Angeles little did I know this was going to be a whirlwind 48 hours like no other in my travelling career.

Touchdown at 7am in Los Angeles after 14 hours in economy is never easy at the best of times but I still had to drive another 2.5 hours to the desert for the 2020 BNP Paribas 1000 of Indian Wells.

My player, James Duckworth and a couple of other Aussie boys had arrived at the same time from a Davis Cup tie in Adelaide. They had transport organised with no room for myself, so I rented a car and drove solo, jetlagged down the I10 Freeway.

Arrived at the hotel in Indian Wells around 10am feeling disoriented but happy to be lying down after 18 hours of travel and an 18-hour time change. Practise had been organised for 3pm so a few hours’ sleep was much needed before heading out on the courts.

Accreditation acquired, we headed out for a very light hit to get the blood flowing, feel out the conditions, balls and court speed. This is one of, if the most difficult challenges in the sport of tennis. You travel halfway round the world, fight jetlag, fatigue, dehydration amongst other things and then you are expected to compete with the best players in the world 24 hours later. Glamourous life right!

Murmurs! Something is not right!

6:30pm we head out to dinner. 8 Aussies are ordering food at The Cheesecake Factory.

Bling! Bling! Bling! Mobile phones are going off simultaneously in our group. Messages flying through from the ATP supervisors that the tournament is cancelled due a single case of the coronavirus in the local community. “How can a tournament be cancelled because someone has the flu”? We couldn’t phantom what was going on or understand the pending enormity of the situation.

Bewildered, we disperse back into our hotel rooms. I flick on the TV to try and get a gauge of what is happening from news reports. Cases in Florida are increasing and some concerts, outdoor events in the Florida area are being cancelled. Worrying signs that the Miami 1000, the week following Indian Wells, may also being cancelled.

My brain now in overdrive. I think back to a conversation I had back in Brisbane with a friend who is CEO of a risk management company. He was saying if this “thing” gets any bigger there is a risk of Australia shutting its international borders to the world. I dismissed the comment with a grain of salt. But now, I am living the situation having to decide whether to stay to see if Miami 1000 will go ahead or leave straight back to Australia!

I woke from a jetlag broken sleep less than 24 hours after arriving. Conversations with family back home had convinced me heading back to Australia was the only decision we had. I just couldn’t see Miami 1000 going ahead with cases soaring in Florida and Indian Wells cancelled with just one case.

After a very subdued practise session, players not knowing what to do or how to react, I gave my opinion to James on the situation. The deciding factor, although it seemed very extreme at the time, was the thought of being locked out of Australia. Having convinced him but more so having convinced himself it was the right decision; we were now in tunnel vision mode to get on the earliest flight home as possible.

The ability to be very adaptable and be ready to change plans at a drop of a hat is a prerequisite for any tennis player. So within 2 hours of making our decision and 30 hours after arriving, with flights changed, we are back on the I10 freeway driving to Los Angeles International airport. The car engine still warm from the journey down to Indian Wells, we drive the 3 hours to link up with our 10pm Qantas flight back to Brisbane.

On arrival in Brisbane after a total of 29 hours flying time, 6 hours driving, 40 hours ground time in the USA, we hear that Miami 1000 has been cancelled. 8 days later Australia closes its international borders. The world and tennis world are about to change forever!

Editor’s Note:

Wayne Arthurs (Australian)
Turned Pro: 1990
Height: 6’3”
Highest ATP Singles Ranking: 44 (July 9, 2001)


1999 – Qualified at Queen’s Club in London and advanced to 3rd round, losing to eventual winner Sampras … Qualified for his first Wimbledon and advanced to 4th round without dropping his serve in 111 games, a span of six matches, including three in qualifying … Posted victories over Santopadre, Lapentti and Haas before losing in four sets to eventual finalist Agassi, who ended service streak with a break in the third set…

At age 28, made his Davis Cup debut in SF tie in Brisbane against Russia and beat No. 2 Kafelnikov in 2nd match and Safin to lead 4-1 victory…

Qualified at Wimbledon and advanced to 4th round, holding serve 111 straight games (including three in qualifying) before falling in four sets to Agassi …

2001 – Helped his country to third successive Davis Cup final…

2003 – Captured doubles title in Rotterdam ( defeating Federer – Mirnyi)