The silent monotony of Monday night was broken by the wailing of police sirens. Indian tennis player Sasikumar Mukund was preparing dinner at his apartment in Vienna, Austria, when a battalion of police vehicles and ambulances sped down his street towards the City Centre – Schwedenplatz – barely two kilometres away from his house.
It struck the World No 294 and India’s fourth highest ranked singles player as peculiar, but he didn’t make any sense of it then. All was revealed when his phone rang a few minutes later though. “My coach (Martin Spoettl) called me and said ‘lock all the doors and windows and just stay at home. Don’t leave at all till I tell you,’” Mukund recalls. “Then he told me there was a terrorist attack happening nearby.”
The 23-year-old has been based in Vienna since July 2018 and lives close to the city centre, where heavily armed gunmen attacked six locations in city square. Four people were killed and 22 wounded, while one suspect was shot dead.
The square is the heart and soul of the city’s social life. And it’s a place Mukund frequents as well. “The Schwedenplatz is the most common place anybody can be in,” he explains. “That’s where all the big brands are, the big shops, the cafes, restaurants… Everything is there, so everybody is there.
“Normally I go there every weekend too. I was thinking about going there on Monday night as well, but I just felt a bit lazy to step out. And then this happened.”
The area was particularly crowded on the night as the Austrian government had scheduled another lockdown that was to start at midnight, to tackle the Coronavirus pandemic. This is the fifth reported terrorist attack in Europe after – Dresden (in Germany), and three cities in France, Paris, Conflans-Sainte-Honorine and Nice – over the last two months. Vienna is reeling under the shock, he said.
“Nothing like this has happened here before. Vienna is known as being a chilled-out hub, a very calm place in Europe,” Mukund adds. “So when something like this happens, people are obviously very shaken up. And then there has been news that one terrorist (suspect) still hasn’t been caught and is alive and at large somewhere in the city. So there is definitely an element of fear.”
The attack took place just a day after the ATP 500 Vienna Open concluded. And Mukund wasn’t the only individual from the tennis world to have been close to the conflict. The 2004 Athens Olympics gold-medallist and current US Open champion Dominic Thiem’s coach Nicolas Massu was in the square when the attacks took place. He tweeted updates during the firefight.
“Hello people. I am in the center of Vienna very close to the attack and they have us inside a restaurant waiting until we see when we can leave here … thank you for your messages,” read a translation of his first message.
The Chilean later penned: “Hello everyone … I am already in the hotel calm and well after a Very big scare. We were locked up in the restaurant for 8 hours as a precaution. Thank you again for your messages of concern.”
Hola gente estoy en el Centro de Viena muy cerca del ataque y nos tienen adentro de un Restaurant esperando hasta ver cuando podemos irnos de aqui …gracias por sus mensajes 🙏
— Nicolas Massu (@massunico) November 2, 2020
The Austrian government announced three days of mourning, and locals were asked to stay indoors on Tuesday. That was the same order Mukund got from his coach as well. Practice however, which takes place at the academy a 10 minute walk from Mukund’s place, resumed on Wednesday.
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