Australian Open boss Craig Tiley says the majority of international players and their entourages in hotel quarantine are “over the shock” of confinement after a few “serial whingers” complained.
It came as Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews offered a glimmer of hope, suggesting that up to 30 confined players might soon be able to leave hard lockdown.
Victorian health authorities have deemed some of the recent Australian Open-linked positive COVID diagnoses to be viral shedding – meaning the cases are not contagious.
Victoria had four new virus infections on Tuesday, three more linked to the tennis and one in a returned traveller.
“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 … that would release those people from that hard lockdown,” Mr Andrews said on Thursday.
Victoria’s state’s chief health officer Brett Sutton will reveal further details about any “reclassifications” later on Tuesday.
At least 72 players and staffers remain in a 14-day hard quarantine in Melbourne after six positive coronavirus cases among the arrivals. They are not allowed to train or leave their hotel rooms at all.
Mr Tiley said some cases were also expected among players arriving in Melbourne.
“There was going to be an expectation to have several positive cases,” Mr Tiley told the Nine Network on Tuesday.
“But now we’re in a position where they’re in lockdown, designed to protect the community.”
“They’re now in a position that their understanding is better but the comments of a few do not represent the comments and views of everyone,” he said.
“I really think it’s time we move on. They’ve got over the shock of the first four days of quarantine and we [can] all get ready for what’s going to be a magnificent start to the summer.”
Former player Nicole Bradtke said it was just a few “serial whingers” who were colouring perceptions of the players in lockdown.
“They’re kind of the same people that keep popping up throughout the year that might complain … and some of them have no reason to be whingeing,” she said.
Lock me up in a hotel room for two weeks knowing that when I get out I’m going to get a $100,000 – and that’s just the least that they get.”
About 1200 coronavirus tests have been carried out in the past five days among players and staffers arriving on 17 charter flights into the Victorian capital.
Mr Tiley described the six positive tests as a low number given that amount of tests: “This is the first time that these players have experienced anything like this and this is the price that our guests and anyone coming into Australia needs to pay.”
‘Not an even playing field’
Mr Tiley said the lockdown for some players meant preparations for the grand slam starting on February 8 were “not an even playing field”.
Players in lockdown cannot train, while another group of competitors, including world No.1 Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, is in Adelaide where restrictions are more relaxed.
“We’re going to play our part to try to even it up as much as possible,” Mr Tiley 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.”
Players using social media to air hardships
Some players have used social media to detail their perceived hardships of being in lockdown.
“These are high performing athletes and it is hard to keep a high performing athlete in a room,” Mr Tiley said.
“This is the contribution that they have to make in order to get the privilege of when they do come out to compete for $80 million in prize money.
“We will turn the corner on those few that don’t have the right approach to this.”
Meanwhile, Mr Tiley defended Djokovic for appealing to Open organisers to ease restrictions in a wishlist reported on Monday, including a request to shift as many players as possible in Melbourne to private residences with tennis courts.
Djokovic’s requests were speedily refused by Mr Andrews.
“In the case of Novak, he wrote a note. These weren’t demands, they were suggestions,” Mr Tiley said.
“But he too is understanding what two weeks of lockdown means … every player coming down knew that if they were going to be close contacts or test positive that these were going to be the conditions.”