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Explained: Why is Djokovic peeved about hard quarantine for Australian Open players?

Novak Djokovic has put forth a list of six demands to Tennis Australia on behalf of the 72 players forced into hard quarantine so far. What are the demands, and what has been the reaction?

Written by Shahid Judge , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: January 19, 2021 11:14:29 am
Novak Djokovic, Djokovic on 3 sets, 3 sets at Grand Slams, Grand Slam tennis rules, Djokovic on Grand Slam rules, Indian ExpressWorld No. 1 Novak Djokovic. (AP Photo: Frank Augstein, File)

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has put forward a list of six demands to Tennis Australia, on behalf of the 72 players forced into hard quarantine so far.

These players, who arrived in Melbourne for the Australian Open, were on board the three COVID-19 affected flights. They will not be allowed to leave their hotel rooms – with no exception – till January 29. Some of the players in hard quarantine have complained that they were not informed about the protocols beforehand, and will struggle to be ready for the Grand Slam starting on February 8.

This has led to defending champion Djokovic taking up their cause and asking the organisers for better training conditions and food quality in quarantine.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews though, has rejected all the demands.

What are the complaints from the players in quarantine?

Tennis Australia had arranged for a five-hour exemption per day for each player to leave their rooms for practice and training. That privilege will not be extended to the players who travelled to Melbourne on board the three chartered planes that had individuals testing positive for the virus on arrival.

The main complaint by that set of players is that they ‘were not informed’ that they would be forced to undergo hard quarantine.

Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva had tweeted: “What I don’t understand is that, why no one ever told us, if one person on board is positive the whole plane needs to be isolated. I would think twice before coming here.”

Similarly, Romanian Sorana Cirstea mentioned on social media that she would have “stayed at home” if she knew such sanctions may be levied.

Doubles specialist Artem Sitak of New Zealand, however, said in an Instagram post that during a virtual meeting with Tennis Australia a month back, which players were invited to but most did not attend, “organisers told us the risks that we were going to be undertaking and they did mention that if somebody tests positive on the flight it will be up to the health authorities to decide whether they want to quarantine the whole flight or isolate compartments of the plane.”

Apart from this, most players (even those allowed the five-hour exemption) have complained about the quality of food being provided by the hotel.

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What are Djokovic’s demands?

In his letter to Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley, Djokovic – who is not among those undergoing hard quarantine – mentioned six demands, as reported by Spanish website Punto de Break:

-Fitness and training material in all rooms

-Decent food, according to the level of the tournament and for an elite athlete

-Reduce the days of isolation for the 47 (now 72) isolated players, carrying out more tests that confirm that all are negative

-Permission to visit your coach or physical trainer, as long as both have passed the PCR

-If the previous proposal has the green light, that both the player and his coach are on the same floor of the hotel

-Move as many players as possible to private houses with a court to train.

What has the reaction been to the demands?

Victoria Premier Andrews has flat out refused to accept the demands.

“People are free to provide a list of demands. But the answer is no. 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 said during a press briefing.

“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… The arrangements for the tennis are based on public health advice. Despite commentary from players about what they’d like to do … it’s about what needs to be done.”

How many people have tested positive?

By Sunday, it was reported that at least five people had tested positive after arriving on the chartered flights. There were three cases from a flight from Los Angeles, and one each from Abu Dhabi and Doha. This has led to all 72 players on board these flights to be put in strict quarantine.

On Monday, the BBC reported that “at least nine infected people (have been) quarantined,” including an unnamed player.

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