Yannick Maden And His Exciting Journey To Kazakhstan

STARNBERG, March 17, 2020

Yannick Maden was one of an unprecedented nine non-medical withdrawals throughout last week’s Nur-Sultan Challenger in Kazakhstan. The World No. 149 from Germany, his compatriot Mats Moraing and Frenchman Enzo Couacaud are three tennis players, who faced the global impact of the coronavirus outbreak. The trio had to leave the Central Asian country before they were put into mandatory quarantine.

On Monday, we spoke to Maden for our latest episode of the Challenger Corner podcast.

Tennis TourTalk/Mein Sportpodcast.de: First of all, how are you? And where are you at the moment?

Yannick Maden: I am fine, thank you. I have made it back to Europe on time. I am currently staying at my girl friend’s place in Brussels but I plan to go back to Stuttgart tomorrow.

You experienced some pretty exciting days in Kazakhstan. When did you learn that you have to leave the country?

The situation was already delicate on Friday, the day before my scheduled flight to Kazakhstan. Hans-Jürgen Ochs, a German supervisor, had already recused himself from the tournament. He appreciated the situation correctly. He thought that we will be upgraded to category 1B over the next couple of days and he didn’t want to take the risk being in Kazakhstan during this time. As a consequence of that, I rebooked my flight from Saturday to Monday to await further news on this topic. As nothing happened, I started my journey on Monday at noon and arrived at Nur-Sultan around midnight. Everything was calm. I practiced the next day and later in the evening we learnt that German and French citizens were not allowed to enter the country anymore. From that moment on, we started to inform ourselves in greater detail. The next morning, Enzo Couacaud got the message from the Kazakh embassy in France that we are allowed to leave the country and we will not be put in quarantine at the airport. Enzo, Mats Moraing and I were scheduled to compete this day but at lunch time we booked one of only three international flights to Europe. We went to the airport two hours later. We chose the option to fly via Moscow and while we were boarding the plane at about 4:30 pm, it was confirmed that we would have been put in quarantine from midnight.

How would you describe the atmosphere? Were you concerned or still relaxed?

We were not extremely stressed in the way that we were fearful, but we did not want to be put in quarantine. That was the main goal. That things developed this way was not foreseeable for us. The other players still competed in the tournament, played their matches and didn’t know anything. It was difficult to get any information.

The tournament was suspended on Thursday. Do you agree that this was the right decision?

Maybe it was the wrong decision to even fly there, as Enzo and I didn’t play one match. At least Mats was able to win his opening match. It was not ideal for none of us, but things developed extremely fast. Within only two days borders were closed and tournaments were cancelled. In the end, we were happy that it worked out without having more trouble.

Talking about ATP Challenger events in Kazakhstan in general. Many players told me that conditions and organization in the country would be fine.

I can only speak for the tournaments in Astana or Nur-Sultan. There are nonstop flights from Frankfurt, the venue is not far from the airport and the Center Court is in a very good condition. This year, they even had new courts. Organization was okay. They cared about the players. Hotel and food is also good. I had no complaints. Unfortunately, there are not many spectators attending the matches. But there are other countries on the ATP Challenger Tour with the same problem.

In the meantime, the ATP has announced a six-week suspension of the men’s professional tennis tour due to escalating health and safety issues arising from the global outbreak of COVID-19. How did your schedule look like? What would have been your next tournaments?

I wanted to play in Lille and St. Brieuc in France followed by one practice week on clay. Then I wanted to go to Spain. Munich would be the next regular tournament but let’s see how things will go on.

What about the financial aspect having six weeks without any income from tennis?

Of course professional tennis players depend on competing in tournaments. Some of the players might have an insurance, but not me. Right now, I am pretty relaxed, as I made relatively good money over the past two years and will not get into trouble within the next six weeks. Nonetheless, it is not ideal for a self-employed tennis player to have no income but I will try to spend more time with my friends and family.

Thank you for your time and all the best.