We’re coming up on 11 months since the last time fans could pack a stadium in America to watch sports. Sometimes, it feels like the pandemic restrictions will last forever. But on Friday in Adelaide, Australia, there was a glimpse into the future, and the present that America could have had with competent leadership.
GOAT Serena Williams headlined A Day at the Drive, a tennis exhibition that helped get players ready to embark on their tuneups for the Australian Open after coming out of a 14-day quarantine upon arriving Down Under.
Williams squared off against Naomi Osaka, each taking a set, 6-2, before the 23-time major champion prevailed, 10-7, in a match-deciding tie-break. The other marquee women’s match, between No. 1 Ash Barty and No. 2 Simona Halep, also required a tie-breaker, with the Romanian eking out a 10-8 triumph.
The results didn’t matter much, though, as the event was a celebration for fans and players alike of being able to return to normal. A few masks were visible in the crowd, but not mandated, as the entire country of Australia hasn’t had a day with more than 35 new cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the year.
“Trusting us with your laws was great,” Williams said. “And we were so happy just to be here, and now it’s worth it.”
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In an interview with Stephen Colbert earlier this week, Williams described the quarantine experience as “super intense but … super good because after that you can have a new normal like we were used to last year this time in the United States.”
Williams has been quarantining with her 3-year-old daughter Olympia, and anyone with kids in the pandemic can tell you how silly that makes it sound when players like Roberto Bautista Agut compare it to “jail … but with wifi.” Novak Djokovic, who was Deadspin’s No. 20 Idiot of the Year for 2020 for his superspreader event and his default from the U.S. Open, also drew criticism for requesting that quarantine restrictions be eased for players, although he tried to clarify that he was trying to “use my position of privilege to be of service as much as I can where and when needed.”
Sure, just like Djokovic was just trying to make a point when he hit a ball at a linesperson’s throat at Flushing Meadows.
Djokovic withdrew from A Day at the Drive, citing blisters on his hand, but then showed up anyway to play a set against Jannik Sinner.
At least Djokovic being a complete weirdo is a form of normal that never stops.