Sport Tennis Australian Open Novak Djokovic says Australian Open-style quarantine would put rest of season in doubt
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Novak Djokovic says Australian Open-style quarantine would put rest of season in doubt

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Novak Djokovic claims most tennis players would rather see the 2021 season cancelled than complete more quarantine as they did ahead of the Australian Open.

The world No.1 has called for an urgent review of pre-tournament conditions following a spike in injuries at Melbourne Park.

Djokovic believes the situation players faced before the first grand slam of the year is “not normal” and will only lead to more sore bodies.

The 17-time major champion is himself dealing with an abdominal strain as he chases his ninth Australian Open title.

After defeating Alexander Zverev in a gruelling quarter-final, Djokovic gave a detailed five-minute answer to a question about injuries on tour.

“Talking to a lot of players, the majority of the players just don’t want to go ahead with the season if we are going to have to quarantine most of the tournaments,” Djokovic said.

“This is something that should be discussed, like as of now.

“I spoke to some of the (player) council members and they are saying they have had extensive discussions about that with ATP management.

“I’m waiting for some answers. I want to understand how our continuation of the season post-Australia is going to look like, because this definitely is not good for players in terms of their wellbeing.”

For tournaments with lower prize money, Djokovic believes it is unlikely some players will enter if there are strict quarantine conditions too.

“I think that’s one of the biggest reasons why a lot of players just came (to the Open) and said, ‘OK, we’ll accept 14 days quarantine,” he said.

“But that’s not going to be the case on the ATP events, especially 250, 500 (tournaments).

“For the lower-ranked players, I have heard a lot of complaints. Challenger players, a lot of complaints.

“I’m not pointing fingers at anybody. I’m just speaking the truth, the reality and we have to talk about it.

“We have to find a way, whether it’s something like an NBA (basketball) bubble.”

Djokovic has managed to battle through his injury and remain in the tournament.

But top-25 players Matteo Berrettini and Casper Ruud were forced to withdraw from their fourth-round matches.

Third-seed Dominic Thiem and Bulgarian ace Grigor Dimitrov struggled during their respective exits.

“For some guys, it was even tougher than it was for me,” Djokovic said.

“I can’t complain comparing to some of the players that couldn’t exit their room for 14 days.

“I don’t want to sit here and complain about what we have been through, but we have to be honest and realistic that it has an effect on the physical wellbeing of players.”

Djokovic appeared flat at times during the quarter-final encounter. Photo: AP

Djokovic was heavily criticised in January for telling Australian Open authorities he wished for quarantine restrictions to be eased.

He would later say his intentions were “misconstrued”.

-AAP