‘Covid doesn’t treat you differently. Neither do we’: Novak Djokovic’s demands for 72 quarantined Australian Open players is rejected – as Britain’s Heather Watson runs three miles in hotel room to keep active
- 72 Australian Open players are staying in hotels after flying with infected people
- Djokovic demanded they get a shorter quarantine and access to tennis courts
- But Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews said there would be no special rules
- Britain’s Heather Watson made light of the situation by running in her hotel room
Quarantined Australian Open tennis stars were told today that they would get no ‘special treatment’ after Novak Djokovic demanded that the 72 players isolating in hotels be allowed to move to private homes with tennis courts.
Djokovic’s reported list of demands included a shorter quarantine period, permission for players to visit their coaches, and access to courts where they could train for the tournament in Melbourne.
But state premier Daniel Andrews said authorities would not bend the rules, telling the players that ‘there’s no special treatment here… because the virus doesn’t treat you specially, so neither do we.’
Djokovic – who is staying separately in Adelaide – was one of several tennis stars to complain about players’ conditions in Australia, where locally transmitted infections are minimal and strict border closures have been in place for months.
But Britain’s Heather Watson made light of the situation by filming herself taking a three-mile run with hundreds of lengths of her own hotel room.
Novak Djokovic, pictured on his hotel balcony in Adelaide, has reportedly issued a list of demands for stranded players including a shorter quarantine and access to tennis courts
Britain’s Heather Watson, one of those in full isolation, made light of the situation by filming herself taking a three-mile run with hundreds of lengths of her own hotel room
Watson, pictured in action in London last month, is one of the 72 players who had to isolate after someone on their flight to Australia tested positive
Watson was one of 72 players quarantined after they were deemed close contacts of four virus cases that were detected on charter flights to Australia.
Cases were found on three of the 17 flights that carried players and staff, while at least two more cases linked to the Australian Open were discovered on Monday.
Watson was on a flight from Abu Dhabi which landed in Melbourne on Friday morning, with at least one passenger subsequently testing positive.
The tournament is due to make a delayed start on February 8, leaving players hitting balls off windows, walls and upturned beds in the hope of being ready.
Novak Djokovic list of demands for quarantined players
- Fitness and training material in all rooms
- Better food for elite athletes, following players taking aim at the meals on offer
- Reduce the days of isolation for players in hard isolation and carry out more tests to confirm they are negative
- Permission to visit your coach or physical trainer, as long as both have passed the tests
- Grant both the player and his coach 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
Players who are not among the 72 contacts are allowed out to train for five hours a day, unlike other arrivals in Australia who are confined to their hotel rooms for the full 14 days whether or not they are linked to a positive case.
But according to Spanish tennis website Punto de Break, Djokovic has sought a further loosening of the rules including as many players as possible being moved to private houses with tennis courts.
Djokovic – who has voiced anti-vaccine views during the pandemic – wants fitness and training materials in all rooms, better food, and for the 14-day quarantine period to be reduced by carrying out more tests, it is claimed.
Even without Djokovic’s demands, the arrangements have already sparked a backlash in Australia with some questioning why more than 1,000 players and staff were flown in when many Australians remain stranded overseas.
Australia closed its international border in March and has since limited the number of its own citizens who can return each week.
Melbourne suffered a major resurgence of the virus during the Australian winter, but has since beaten it back, and Australia now sees only a handful of local cases a day.
‘Our health safety is more important to us than your feelings of privilege and entitlement,’ one Twitter user wrote.
‘Most of us here in Melbourne do not want tennis players here potentially reintroducing the virus and causing us to go back to harsh restrictions,’ said another.
The infected passengers, including a flight attendant, the coach of Canadian tennis star Bianca Andreescu and a member of a broadcast crew, had all tested negative before their flights.
Instead of practising on court for five hours a day like their competitors, quarantined players such as Angelique Kerber and Kei Nishikori cannot leave their rooms.
Djokovic (pictured left arriving in Adelaide last week, and right in hotel quarantine) wants fitness and training materials in all rooms and better food for 72 tennis stars forced to isolate
Veteran Uruguayan player Pablo Cuevas filmed himself hitting a tennis ball against a mattress pressed against his hotel wall in a desperate bid to keep his touch.
Spaniard Carreno Busta has been left horrified by inedible food and forbidden to order takeaway, while Kazakhstan number one Yulia Putintseva found a mouse scampering around her room.
Some players including Russian world no. 28 Yulia Putintseva have claimed they were never informed about the potential quarantine.
Putintseva tweeted she had never been told she would have to isolate if one person on-board her flight tested positive to Covid-19.
‘What I don’t understand is that, why no one ever told us, if one person on board is positive the whole plane need to be isolated. I would think twice before coming here,’ she wrote.
Romanian world No.71 Sorana Cirstea said she ‘would have stayed home’ had she known about the rule surrounding close contacts on their charter flight.
Swiss world No. 12 Belinda Bencic said the restrictions offered some players an unfair advantage.
‘We are not complaining to be in quarantine. We are complaining because of unequal practice/playing conditions before quite important tournaments,’ she said.
‘We made our decision to come here from rules that were sent to us. Then we arrived and received an information/rule book with more/new rules that we did not know about.’
But Victoria state premier Andrews said all the players had known about Australia’s strict quarantine rules ahead of their flights.
‘The notion that there’s been any change, the notion that people weren’t briefed, I think that argument really has no integrity whatsoever,’ he said.
Kazakh world No. 28 Yulia Putintseva is among the players to hit out at the decision to make them go into hard hotel quarantine for 14 days
French player Alize Cornet described the situation as ‘insane’ in a since deleted post
Mexican tennis star Santiago Gonzalez filmed a video of himself getting a Covid test inside his hotel
Former world number one and three-time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber is one of 47 players currently undergoing hard lockdown
A tennis player exercises in her hotel room in Melbourne on Sunday where players are quarantining for two weeks ahead of the Australian Open
French player Alize Cornet issued an apology to Australians after earlier deleting a tweet that called the quarantine ‘insane’.
‘Your reaction to this tactless comment made me realize what you’ve been through last year and how much you suffered,’ she wrote. ‘I guess I feel a bit anxious about all this & I better have shut my mouth.’
Cornet had written in the since-deleted tweet that ‘soon, half of the players from the AO [Australian Open] will actually have to isolate’.
‘Weeks and weeks of practice and hard work going to waste for one person positive to Covid in a 3/4 empty plane. Sorry but this is insane.’
Tennis Australia has also begun delivering exercise equipment to the isolated players who are concerned about the risk of injury when they finally hit the courts.
New Zealand player Artem Sitak said he could hear tennis balls hitting the walls ‘everywhere’ in his hotel as players embraced ‘creative’ forms of exercise.
Another player who was supposed to be isolating was caught opening his door to boast about buying food from Uber Eats for his entire floor.
Yet another was caught having a conversation with his training mate in his hallway, Victoria Covid quarantine commissioner Emma Cassar said as she described the ‘challenging’ behaviour from some players.
Cassar warned they could be fined up to $20,000 or repeat offenders transferred to a ‘complex care hotel’ where they have a police officer stationed outside their door.
Several top tier athletes including Carreno Busta and Fabio Fognini have critiqued the food they’ve received since arriving last week. Frenchman Corentin Moutet shares his meal above
Carreno Busta, the world No.15 who arrived from Spain, shared a picture of a salad, an apple and juice cup alongside the caption ‘really?’. Italian star and world No.17 Fabio Fognini was offered the same meal, and explained that he hoped he received something more substantial next time
Some players have also complained about the food. Carreno Busta, the world No. 15 who arrived from Spain, shared a picture of a salad, an apple and juice cup alongside the caption ‘really?’
Italian star and world No. 17 Fabio Fognini was offered the same meal, and said he hoped he received something more substantial next time.
World No. 28 Benoit Paire from France opted against the quarantine meals entirely, and ordered McDonald’s delivered to his room.
However, doubles player Sitak said players complaining about their plight should ‘put some things into perspective’ and realise how fortunate they are when 38,000 Australians still can’t get home.
‘A lot of Australians at the moment cannot get home, because of the restrictions and all that, and we as foreigners, over 1,000 people, we’re here in Australia, we’re going to be competing in a Grand Slam, earning a lot of money,’ he said.
‘We’re still lucky to be here, unfortunate circumstances with the quarantine, but that’s how it is.’
Sitak said it was made clear to players they could be made to quarantine if anyone on their flight came into Australia carrying the virus.
Djokovic himself flew in with a team of 10 people to Adelaide and is not subject to the same hard quarantine as many players.
The Serbian himself was struck down with Covid, along with his wife Jelena and a string of other high-profile players including Grigor Dimitrov and Borna Coric, at a tournament last year.
Uruguayan tennis star stuck in hard quarantine after Covid case on his flight shows off clever hack to train
Tennis players thrust into hotel quarantine have been forced to get creative to practice for the Australian Open from their rooms.
Pablo Cuevas is one of 47 competitors ordered into mandatory 14 day isolation after positive coronavirus cases were identified on two separate charter flights into Australia last week.
Four infections have now been linked to flights from the US and Abu Dhabi, forcing players into hard quarantine, forbidden from joining others who can train outside for up to five hours a day.
But the Uruguayan world No. 68 is doing his best not let the circumstances impede his preparation for the annual Grand Slam tournament.
The 35-year-old filed himself whacking a ball against a mattress leaning against his hotel room’s wall to practice his single-hand backhands.
Cuevas posted the video of his training session to Instagram on Sunday with the caption ‘yes, I’m going crazy.’
The clip shows the sportsman jumping onto his bed and rocking his feet to edge the mattress towards the wall.
Pablo Cuevas (pictured with his wife and children) is one of 47 tennis players that have been placed into hard quarantine after positive coronavirus cases were identified on two separate charter flights into Melbourne
‘They told me that the best waves are here in Australia,’ he said in Spanish.
He then pulls out his racket and smacks a ball against the backboard substitute eight times before yelling ‘finita’, Spanish for ‘finished’.
Cuevas arrived on a flight from Los Angeles on Friday morning carrying 24 tennis players, including two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, three-time grand slam winner Angelique Kerber and 2019 US Open title holder Bianca Andreescu.
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