Australian Open 2021: ‘No special treatment’ for tennis players in Melbourne

Novak Djokovic pictured in his hotel room in Adelaide
Novak Djokovic – the men’s world number one – is quarantining with other top players in Adelaide, where they are allowed out of their hotel to practise

Players living under strict quarantine rules after arriving for the Australian Open will get “no special treatment”, says Victorian premier Daniel Andrews.

Seventy-two players are confined to their hotel rooms in Melbourne for 14 days after positive coronavirus test results on flights bound for the event.

At least nine infected people – including one player – are in quarantine, officials say.

“The virus doesn’t treat you specially, so neither do we,” Andrews said.

Some players have complained the harder 14-day quarantine was unnecessary.

With the Grand Slam tournament set to start on 8 February, players are resorting to hitting balls against the walls and windows of their rooms to stay sharp.

“I know there’s been a bit of chatter from a number of players about the rules,” Andrews said.

“The rules apply to them as they apply to everybody else and they were all briefed on that before they came and that was the condition on which they came.

“So there’s no special treatment here.”

The affected players have been deemed close contacts of the four Covid-19 cases on the three planes which arrived from Los Angeles, Abu Dhabi and Doha.

French player Alize Cornet, who is not one of the 72 players affected, apologised after initially saying the decision to keep them inside their room was “insane”.

Kazakhstan’s world number 28 Yulia Putintseva said the players had not been told they would be confined to their rooms if one person on the whole flight tested positive.

Others said they had been made aware of the possible scenario by tournament bosses.

Gordon Reid, Britain’s two-time men’s wheelchair Grand Slam champion, is among the players confined to his room and says it is a “minority that are kicking up a fuss”.

“But the majority of the time that minority are the loudest,” the Scot added.

The girlfriend of Australian player Bernard Tomic put a video on social media detailing their experience of quarantine in a hotel so far, saying they have been playing video games for 11 hours a day, ordering their own food rather than eating what was being provided, and washing their plates in the bathroom sink.

The players who have not been forced into the tougher restrictions are allowed out of their rooms for up to five hours every day.

Practice has finally got underway at Melbourne Park after delays caused by Covid testing and transport problems.

Many players had their sessions cancelled while test results were confirmed- often waiting in their room for transport which never arrived.

Tennis Australia says it has been a “challenging few days” while they worked to ensure everyone’s safety as practice begins.

“We understand this has been frustrating for the players and apologise,” a spokesperson told the BBC.

There have been some calls for the tournament to be called off, with Victorian MP Tim Smith saying it is “unfair” that 1,200 players, staff and officials are being allowed into Victoria when the state remains closed to Australians from certain areas.

“The double standards stink to high heavens,” he told radio station 2GB. “Daniel Andrews should be standing up for Victorians, not global tennis players. Bring the Victorians home or cancel the Australian Open.”

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