The No. 1 male tennis player in the world Novak Djokovic has been shut down after reportedly issuing a letter to Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley as the shambolic arrival of overseas participants continues.
On Sunday night, a third plane with a positive COVID-19 test arrived in Melbourne as tennis stars continued to complain about the conditions they face in quarantine.
There are now reportedly 72 players who face a hard 14-day lockdown, unable to leave their hotel rooms.
Spanish tennis website Punto de Break reports Djokovic called for Tiley to support the players who are being forced into quarantine, after originally believing they would be able to leave their rooms for five hours a day to practise and receive treatment.
Journalist Fernando Murciego reports Djokovic’s proposals include:
- Fitness and training material in all rooms
- Decent food for elite athletes, following players taking aim at the meals on offer
- Reduce the days of isolation for players in quarantine and carry out more tests to confirm they are negative
- Permission to visit your coach or physical trainer, as long as both test negative
- Grant both the player and their coach permission to be on the same floor of the hotel
- Move as many players as possible to private houses with a tennis court to facilitate training
ANDREWS REJECTS DJOKER, SETS PLAYERS STRAIGHT
Victorian Premier Dan Andrews set Djokovic straight at a press conference on Monday.
“People are free to provide a list of demands. But the answer is no,” he said. “That was very clearly laid out beforehand. So the notion that there’s been any change, the notion that people weren’t briefed — I think that that argument really has no integrity whatsoever.”
Andrews elaborated on other stars complaining about quarantine, saying: “I know that there’s been a bit of chatter from a number of players about the rules. Well, the rules apply to them as they apply to everybody else, and they were all briefed on that before they came.
“That was the condition on which they came. There’s no special treatment here.
“I’m here not so much to be opining about how in touch with the real world these people are. That’s not my job. My job is to make it very clear. People were told what the rules were (before they got here).
“The arrangements for the tennis are based on public health advice. The advice was, ‘It’s not easy, it has to be done properly’. Despite commentary from players about what they’d like to do ... it’s about what needs to be done.”
Commissioner of COVID Quarantine Victoria, Emma Cassar, bluntly shut down Djokovic’s requests on Monday.
“It’s a firm no from me,” she told Neil Mitchell on 3AW radio, adding there will be no changes to the quarantine restrictions imposed upon players.
Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton also weighed in, saying he believes one tennis player is among Victoria’s four new COVID-19 cases.
“Victorians have gone through a long lockdown. Victorians have copped this as much as anyone in the world, and it’s for them really to reflect on some of the privileged positions that others might have with respect to how their quarantine plays out,” he said.
DJOKOVIC’S PROPOSALS MOCKED
Djokovic was the former president of the ATP Player Council but resigned to help set up the PTPA (Professional Tennis Players Association).
As his proposals began to circulate, social media was quick to remind the world that Djokovic had tested positive for COVID-19 in June after organising the Adria Tour, a tennis exhibition series in Serbia and Croatia held without any social distancing measures in place.
It comes a day after Austrian World No. 42 doubles player Philipp Oswald, who is one of the players in hard quarantine, called out Djokovic and other players who landed in Adelaide instead of Melbourne for an exhibition tournament.
Tennisnet.com reported a Q&A where Oswald called out the tournament double standards as it was revealed on January 9 that a curtain-raiser to the summer of tennis called A Day at the Drive was to be held in Adelaide on Friday January 29.
It will feature players including Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, Simona Halep, Naomi Osaka and Djokovic.
“Conditions are much better in Adelaide,” Oswald said. “First, players were allowed to take a lot more staff with them. Medvedev and Zverev, for example, were only allowed to take two people with them, while Thiem, Nadal and Djokovic each came with 10 people.
“They also have a gym in their hotel. So they don’t have to do their fitness exercises during the five-hour period. You only have the five hours to play tennis. There was a huge discussion and the other players were also upset.
“It was then that Djokovic could understand that and wanted to be in Melbourne like the other players. One day later it was said that everything was already organised for him in Adelaide. It’s not apples and apples here, but apples and pears — and I caught the sour lemon.”
Italian tennis journalist Luca Fiorino reported world No. 3 women’s player Naomi Osaka deleted a photo that caused a stink, with rivals “not very happy for the unequal treatment in relation to big players staying in Adelaide”.
While there have now been three flights with players forced into quarantine in Melbourne, the Australian Open Twitter page wrote on Saturday night that “SA Health has confirmed that there is no one who has an active COVID-19 infection in the entire tennis cohort based in Adelaide. Testing will continue on a daily basis.”
text by Andrew McMurtry, news.com.au