Victorian authorities have slammed world No.1 Novak Djokovic after he issued a list of demands to Australian Open organisers for the growing number of players affected by hard quarantine.
Djokovic sent his proposals to Open chief Craig Tiley after five positive COVID tests among international players and support crew arriving in Melbourne forced them into full quarantine.
Among his requests were a reduced isolation period and players to be allowed to quarantine in private Melbourne houses with tennis courts.
“It’s a firm no from me,” COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria commissioner Emma Cassar told Melbourne radio 3AW on Monday morning.
She said there would be no modifications to coronavirus rules for the Australian Open, and players and staff would have to stay in their rooms.
There are now 72 players isolating in hotel rooms after three Australian Open charter flights brought in passengers who later tested positive to the virus.
The players will be confined to their hotel rooms for 14 days.
Some of those affected have argued about Victoria’s health requirements, saying they weren’t fully informed of the implications of sharing a flight with a passenger who was later confirmed with COVID.
Victoria confirmed four new COVID infections in hotel quarantine on Monday. Premier Daniel Andrews said all were “associated with
the tennis, and they’re all tucked away safely in hotel quarantine”.
There were no locally-acquired cases.
“I know that there’s been a bit of chatter from a number of players about the rules,” he 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. There’s no special treatment here. Because the virus doesn’t treat you specially. So neither do we.”
Mr Andrews said people were free to provide lists of demands.
“But the answer is no. And that was very clearly put. That was very clearly laid out beforehand,” he said.
“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, and don’t just take my word for it. You’ve got other players, who I think on social media and in other forums have made it clear that they were clear on the rules.”
New Zealand doubles player Artem Sitak, who is in hard quarantine after flying to Melbourne on an affected flight from Los Angeles, has said Tennis Australia tried to inform players of local virus rules.
“We had a call with Tennis Australia about a month ago and not a lot of players were on that call, which was surprising to me,” he said.
“But hey, that’s how it was.
“They told us the risks that we were going to be undertaking, and they did mention that if somebody tests positive on the flight, it’s going to be up to the health authorities to decide whether to quarantine all the flight or just isolate compartments of the plane.
“Now in our case, where the flight attendant tested positive, of course the whole plane has to be quarantined.”
Victoria’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, confirmed that one of Monday’s new infections was an Open player. Other positive tests so far are in event support crew, including trainers and broadcasters.
Professor Sutton also confirmed that quarantine rules would not change.
“Everyone finds quarantine tough, but Victorians have copped this as much as anyone in the world, and it’s for them really to reflect on some of the privileged positions that others might have with respect to how their quarantine plays out,” he said.
“Victorians have done it tough, and they don’t expect special rules for anyone else.”
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Djokovic’s demands have also been criticised on social media given his involvement in organising the shambolic Adria Tour.
The tennis exhibition series was held in Serbia and Croatia in mid-2020 without any social distancing measures and resulted in positive COVID-19 cases in numerous players – including the Serbian himself.
Djokovic and some the game’s biggest stars, including Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal, are preparing for the Open in Adelaide, where they will play an exhibition on January 29.
There have been claims those players have better training conditions and were allowed to bring more staff than the one person allocated to players in Melbourne.
Despite the chaos, Mr Tiley has ruled out further delaying the grand slam. It has already been put back three weeks, and will not start until February 8.
More than 1200 players, coaches, staff members and officials are due in Melbourne for the 2021 Australian Open.