There are 72 tennis players in hard quarantine in Victoria ahead of the tournament, scheduled to start on February 8, after six people on three of 17 charter flights tested positive to coronavirus.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Tuesday a further three people flown in for the Australian Open have tested positive to Covid-19 – taking the total of cases linked to the tournament to nine.
The players who touched down on a flight with a positive Covid-19 infection are not allowed to leave their hotel rooms for 14 days, but other quarantining arrivals from the remaining charter flights are allowed outside to train for five hours a day.
Over in Adelaide, high-profile players quarantining in the city are being afforded a wealth of privileges, including gym use separate to their five hours of court time.
A ‘revolt’ has broken out among tennis stars after Naomi Osaka was pictured training ahead of the Australian Open with four members of her training staff (pictured)
Italian journalist Luca Fiorino said the photo of Osaka (pictured posing in her hotel quarantine) training has ‘driven them [other tennis players] mad’
Romanian tennis player Simona Halep departs training at Memorial Drive in Adelaide on Sunday
This could soon change, with those in Melbourne allowed out of hard quarantine if the cases are re-classified as ‘shedding’ of the virus, rather than an active infection, Mr Andrews hinted on Tuesday.
‘If you’ve got say 30 people who are deemed a close contact because they’ve been on a plane with a case, and the case is no longer an active case, but a historic shedding, well then, that would release those people from that hard lockdown,’ Mr Andrews said.
In the meantime, competitors have taken to social media to complain about being unable to train, while world No.1 Novak Djokovic – who is in Adelaide – wrote to the tournament boss asking that hard quarantine be reviewed to allow training.
Frustrations among those locked in hotel rooms boiled over when Osaka, the 2019 Australian Open champion, shared footage with four members of her training staff on the court in Adelaide.
Italian journalist Luca Fiorino shared an image from the session on Twitter and said a ‘revolt broke out’.
‘The players are not very happy for the unequal treatment in relation to big players in Adelaide,’ he said.
‘This photo of Naomi Osaka has driven them mad.’
Former top-25 tennis player Jeremy Chardy has slammed Tennis Australia for giving preferential treatment to some of the game’s biggest names by hosting a pre-Australian Open tournament with relaxed Covid-19 bubble conditions in Adelaide.
Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will compete in the men’s tournament alongside US Open champion Dominic Thiem, while 23-time major winner Serena Williams will play in the women’s event along with Osaka and Wimbledon champion Simona Halep.
The pre-tournament has given the six big name players a chance to quarantine in relative comfort in Adelaide.
‘This announcement for the top threes is a bit out of the blue and it’s weird, to put it mildly,’ Chardy told L’Equipe.
Belinda Bencic is seen training in her hotel room in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open – with 72 players unable to even go outside for practice
Naomi Osaka arrives at Adelaide Airport on January 14 ahead of the Australian Open. She is in Adelaide unlike most other competitors in Melbourne
‘They will even be able to benefit from a gym at the hotel and will be able to do their [gym] exercises which will not count towards the five-hour quota. Everyone can go out. They will almost be able to live normally.
‘Already they have a lot of privileges.’
Sports Illustrated editor Jon Wertheim has said competitors in Adelaide had been advised to steer clear of social media to avoid upsetting those less fortunate.
‘The Adelaide dimension was unnecessary and has already led the charges of unfairness,’ he wrote on Twitter.
‘I’m told that, over the weekend, the fortunate players in Adelaide have been “encouraged” to stop with social media posts, which have inflamed tensions.’
No.1 Novak Djokovic (pictured on his hotel balcony in Adelaide) is also enjoying a smoother quarantine experience in South Australia with access to courts for practice
Tennis players are seen arriving at Melbourne Park on Monday. They are allowed to travel for five hours a day but competitors who were on charter flights with positive coronavirus cases must stay locked in their hotel rooms for 14 days
Marcelo Arévalo González (pictured) practised volleys using his mattress while in lockdown
Austrian tennis player Philipp Oswald, who is in two-week quarantine in Melbourne, told Tennisnet he didn’t think it was fair a few players are allowed to train in Adelaide, while others are ‘barracked’ in Melbourne.
‘Conditions are much better in Adelaide. First, players were allowed to take a lot more staff with them,’ he said.
‘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’s not apples and apples here, but apples and pears – and I caught the sour lemon.’
Serena Williams and her daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. arrive before heading straight to quarantine for two weeks isolation ahead of her Australian Open warm up matches in Adelaide
Rafael Nadal arrives at Adelaide Airport ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament on January 14
Stars including Victoria Azarenka, Sloane Stephens, Kei Nishikori and Angelique Kerber are among those plunged into hard lockdown who now have a big disadvantage compared with competitors who can train.
Swiss world No. 12 Belinda Bencic has said the rule is unfair and French player Alize Cornet called the situation ‘insane’.
Bencic – who has shared video online of her practicing in a tiny hotel room – said imposing quarantine on some players while others were free to train and prepare properly was unfair.
‘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.’
Cornet described the situation as ‘insane’ in a since deleted post.
‘Soon, half of the players from the AO will actually have to isolate,’ Cornet wrote in a since-deleted tweet.
‘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.’
Osaka is seen in a face mask and holding a video camera as she waves on Monday on her way back to the hotel following a practice session – a privilege others aren’t afforded
Romanian tennis player Simona Halep wears a face mask as she leaves training in Adelaide, during her 14-day quarantine
Novak Djokovic list of demands for quarantined players
- 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 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
Tennis bad boy Nick Kyrgios has labelled Djokovic a ‘tool’ after the world No. 1 faced widespread criticism for issuing his list of demands to tournament organisers.
‘Djokovic is a tool,’ Kyrgios wrote on Twitter late on Monday evening in response to news of player complaints about conditions in quarantine.
Kyrgios, 25, then turned his sights on Bernard Tomic’s reality TV star girlfriend Vanessa Sierra, who among other gripes moaned about not having access to a professional hairdresser while cooped up in isolation.
‘I don’t mind Bernie but his Mrs obviously has no perspective, ridiculous scenes,’ he added in his tweet in reference to Tomic and Sierra.
Kyrgios has become a strong critic of Djokovic during the pandemic and in June described him as ‘boneheaded’ after the Serbian tested positive for Covid-19 following his self-organised ‘Adria Tour’ tournament.
By contrast, the Australian has repeatedly boycotted the professional tennis circuit during the pandemic – staying in Australia and refusing to compete over the past 11 months.
Djokovic suggested players could be quarantined in private houses in Melbourne with tennis courts and gym facilities.
The Victorian premier responded on Monday by ruling out any easing of the hard quarantine arrangements.
‘People are free to provide a list of demands. But the answer is no,’ Mr Andrews said.
Nick Kyrgios pictured with his ex-girlfriend Anna Kalinskaya. The Australian tennis bad boy has labelled world No. 1 Novak Djokovic a ‘tool’ and insulted fellow Aussie star Bernard Tomic’s girlfriend in an astonishing rant
Kyrgios, 25, also turned his sights on Tomic’s reality TV star partner Vanessa Sierra over her quarantine complaints
‘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.’
Mr Andrews said the rules in place for the tennis players were based on public health advice.
The number of Covid-19 cases linked to the Australian Open rose to nine on Tuesday as organisers rejected calls to shorten the length of matches at the grand slam.
Mr Andrews said three of four new Covid-19 cases in hotel quarantine announced on Tuesday are connected to the Open.
Serbian tennis player Aleksandra Krunic (front) and Russian tennis player Evgeny Donskoy (behind) leave a tennis hotel for a training session in Melbourne on Monday
Mr Andrews says some of the nine tennis cases may be reclassified as non-infectious shedding, which could allow players to leave their lockdown hotel rooms to train.
‘If you’ve got say 30 people who are deemed a close contact because they’ve been on a plane with a case, and the case is no longer an active case but a historic shedding, well that would release those people from that hard lockdown,’ he said on Tuesday.
But Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton warned the virus could still be incubating in some of the 1,200 people who have arrived in Melbourne for the Open.
Cases have been linked to three charter flights from Abu Dhabi, Doha and Los Angeles.
The fresh cases come as Open boss Craig Tiley said organisers always expected some positive COVID-19 tests among arrivals.
Police are seen patrolling at the M Suites accomodation in North Adelaide on Tuesday – where players are quarantining inside
‘There was going to be an expectation to have several positive cases,’ Mr Tiley told the Nine Network on Tuesday.
Mr Tiley said the lockdown for some players meant preparations for the grand slam starting on February 8 was ‘not an even playing field’.
‘We’re going to play our part to try to even it up as much as possible,’ he said.
But he rejected calls from some men’s players to reduce Open matches to best of three sets instead of best of five.
‘We’re a grand slam at the end of the day,’ he said.
‘Right now, three out of five sets for the men and two out of three sets for the women is the position we plan on sticking to.’