Australian Open: Olympic Champion Belinda Bencic Into Melbourne Round Two Despite Covid

Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Belinda Bencic said she was still feeling the effects of Covid, a month after falling ill, as she moved into round two of the Australian Open on Monday despite not being at her best.

The Swiss, seeded 22, caught coronavirus in mid-December after competing at an Abu Dhabi exhibition, and even last week at the Sydney Classic she was feeling “very, very tired”.

“I mean, my pulse was getting very up in the practices and even after Sydney, after the (Paula) Badosa match, I was very, very tired, and the breathing and everything,” she said after overcoming Kristina Mladenovic 6-4, 6-3 at Melbourne Park.

“I think it’s getting better day by day.”

Bencic, who will next meet this month’s Melbourne Summer Set champion Amanda Anisimova, admitted the recovery had been slow and had impacted her build-up to the opening Grand Slam of the year.

“Definitely for my tennis, it’s more the thing that I didn’t practise for 14 days in the middle of the pre-season,” she said.

“But for my fitness, it’s actually worse because I don’t want to say I had it very bad. Obviously not compared to people getting hospitalised and having worse symptoms, but it wasn’t easy.

“My fitness definitely was very off and I had to take it very slow getting back because obviously you have to do all the tests on the heart, lungs, everything, and you cannot start too quickly to just avoid any risks.”

The 24-year-old added that Covid had also dented her confidence and she was below her best against Mladenovic.

“I’m not quite there yet, but I’m very happy with how I managed to kind of stay in the match in the important moments,” she said.

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