The Australian Open has been thrown into disarray following the mandatory hotel quarantine of a number of international players.
It’s been reported that 72 players are in a hard 14-day lockdown in Melbourne after three international charter flights were impacted by positive COVID-19 cases. All four of the new cases in Victorian hotel quarantine are linked to the Australian Open.
A small group of players have claimed they were not told they would need to go into hotel quarantine if there was a positive case on their flight, a statement that has been denied by the Australian Open and government authorities.
Multiple players, including France’s Alize Cornet, claimed that they were told passengers on the charter flights would be split into small cohorts, and players would only need to isolate if there was a positive case in their section.
Not this way. We’ve been told that the plane would be separated by section of 10 people and that if one person of your section was positive, then you had to isolate. Not that the whole plane had to— Alize Cornet (@alizecornet) January 16, 2021
New Zealand’s Artem Sitak, on the other hand, said it was always clear to players there was a chance Australian health authorities would decide a whole plane needed to quarantine. He also said the vast majority of players were happy to abide by the restrictions.
“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 in a video on Twitter.
“The organisers told us the risks they were going to be undertaking and they did mention if someone tested positive on a flight, it’s going to be up to the health authorities to decide whether to quarantine all the flight or segments of the plane.”
Alize Cornet has since deleted her original tweet and apologised, saying her reaction to the hotel quarantine scenario had been “tactless”.
After my last (deleted) tweet I feel like I need to apologize to you Australian people. Your reaction to this tactless comment made me realize what you’ve been through last year & how much you suffered. I guess I feel a bit anxious about all this & I better have shut my mouth— Alize Cornet (@alizecornet) January 17, 2021
Men’s world no. 1 Novak Djokovic, who is part of an exclusive group of top players including Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Rafael Nadal quarantining in Adelaide, penned a letter to Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley with a number of requests for players who are facing the hard 14-day hotel quarantine.
The requests included:
• 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 quarantine and carry out more tests to confirm they are negative
• Permission to visit your coach or physical trainer, as long as both test negative
• Grant both the player and their coach permission 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
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews swiftly rejected the requests, and was clear that players had been briefed about the potential for hotel quarantine restrictions.
“People are free to provide a list of demands. But the answer is no,” he said.
“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 also referenced other players in the hard lockdown, saying there would be no special treatment.
“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,” he said.
“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. That’s not my job. My job is to make it very clear. People were told what the rules were (before they got here).
“The arrangements for the tennis are based on public health advice. The advice was, ‘It’s not easy, it has to be done properly’. Despite commentary from players about what they’d like to do…it’s about what needs to be done.”
Meanwhile, Australian champion and world no. 1 Ash Barty has reportedly managed to avoid a lengthy quarantine period, having already made her way to Melbourne in preparation for the tournament. She went into three days of self-isolation following her arrival in Victoria and has also returned a negative test. She has since been allowed to move around unrestricted.
The tournament is scheduled to start February 8.