‘Take it seriously’: Locked in de Minaur warning
Top-ranked Aussie tennis star Alex de Minaur is going "insane" holed up in "house arrest" as the COVID-19 crisis paralyses Spain.
If the 21-year-old could wind back the clock, he would, only to warn everyone to practise social distancing and take the coronavirus pandemic more seriously.
After the Indian Wells tournament was postponed a fortnight ago, due to the global health crisis, the world No.26 made a snap decision to see family in Alicante, a port city on the south-eastern coast of Spain.
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But days into the impromptu visit, the Spanish government closed borders and declared a nationwide lockdown, save for hospitals and supermarkets, in a bid to halt the spread and slow a mounting death toll.
Spain is now second-only to Italy for deaths alone (4089) from 56,188 confirmed cases.
"We've got lockdown until April 11, which is probably going to be extended … at this time we don't know how long it's going to last for," de Minaur told News Corp Australia .
"It's got to the point where it's very serious … when we were told to be cautious, to take measures of social distancing, we didn't think it was that serious and now we're at over 50,000 cases.
"You don't want to get to this level, that's for sure. It's a very serious matter and it's taking a lot of lives away.
"I keep telling (Australian friends) to take this thing seriously because you don't want to have to end up going into house arrest.
"I'm stuck here in Spain until the whole country gets out of lockdown. I'm not allowed to leave and then we'll see, some places will have some sort of quarantine for people flying out of Spain since it's been affected so much. It's probably going to be a while before I'm able to travel again."
Spain's capital Madrid and cosmopolitan Barcelona are among the hardest hit, but even in picturesque Alicante, a trip to the supermarket feels more hazardous than essential.
Those with face masks and gloves wear them, religiously. Others, like de Minaur, who is living alone in a house he bought in Alicante two streets away from his family, must run the gauntlet.
"You just want to keep your distance," a stir-crazy de Minaur said, 11 days into his lockdown.
"Pretty much not interact with others, you go in, get the essentials you need and that's it. The plan is not to go shopping every day.
"I don't have gloves or a mask. I just take caution and try to keep distance from everyone."
Living in lockdown wears thin - quickly.
There is only so many books to read, streaming services to binge and walls to bounce balls off.
Spending time with family closeby has also been kept to a premium, with de Minaur not wanting to put them or others at risk.
"It's safe to say I lost it after day two," de Minaur said.
"You can't spend all the day on Netflix because you eventually get bored of that as well.
"I've been trying to mix up what I do, a bit of Netflix, a bit of watching the news, a bit of reading, I've tried puzzles … I've tried everything basically.
"I've got a couple of Swiss balls in my house which I've been doing gym with, and I'm basically bouncing a ball against a wall, every single wall, basically going insane."
An "edible" chilli con carne did the trick on Tuesday, the first time de Minaur has "properly cooked".
"I had to watch a couple tutorials on how to slice an onion and slice a pepper and garlic. It was actually pretty funny," he said.
"I might have to do a couple more of those things and maybe video my troubles in the kitchen. Safe to say I'm no Gordon Ramsay, but I ended up making an edible meal.
"It's got to the point where I'm probably going to have to cook again or buy some pre-made meals."
The immediate future of tennis is another great unknown, which pales in significance to the virus.
With stars scattered across the globe, in various degrees of lockdowns and border closures, grand slams like Wimbledon (June) and potentially the French Open (pushed back to October) seem folly.
"Everything is up in the air, especially because at the end of the day this is bigger than any tennis tournament," de Minaur said.
"Realistically, I don't think there's going to be anything until the US swing at the end of the year. I think the grass will be done.
"Hopefully tennis isn't done for the rest of the year."
Originally published as 'Take it seriously': Locked in Demon serves up virus warning