The World’s Biggest Tennis Stars Are Super Unhappy About Being Forced Into COVID Quarantine

Oh no! Imagine having to quarantine for 14 days instead of 111!

Tennis players Australian open quarantine

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A number of tennis players are stuck in hotel quarantine down in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open — and they’re furious over the conditions.

After a third charter plane carried a COVID-positive person and more Australian Open players into Australia, a total of 72 tennis professionals have now been forced into “hard” lockdown for a mandatory two weeks.

The three flights — from Doha, Los Angeles, and Abu Dhabi — all reported positive cases, which immediately sent the players into quarantine, regardless of what the tennis pros had originally been told.

But despite the pretty clear logic behind everyone on a plane sharing the same circulated air, some players like Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva couldn’t understand how “one person on board” would cause the “whole plane… to be isolated”.

Similarly, Romania’s Sorana Cîrstea explained that players were told that planes would only “fly at 20 percent capacity and in sections” where close contacts would happen “only if my team or cohort test positive”. France’s Alizé Cornet supported this claim by sharing that she was also told that players on the plane were “separated by sections of 10” and that you would only have to isolate if “one person of your section was positive.

However, yesterday New Zealand tennis player Artem Sitak refuted these claims and shared that Tennis Australia had actually informed the players 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”, yet “not a lot of players were on that call.”

Players have since gone on to clarify their frustrations are more-so with the conflicting information they were told and “new rules”, over the actual need to quarantine.

Prior to arriving in Australia, players had agreed to precautionary mandatory quarantine but were allegedly given an exemption to “practice, do a gym session and rehab” for five hours a day. But as a result of the positive tests on the flights, now 72 Australian Open players are confined to their rooms for 24 hours a day, without the adequate facilities needed to train for the upcoming tournament.

Yet, despite so many players being stuck in quarantine and unable to train for the Grand Slam, the Australian Open is still slated to start on February 8.

Australian Open director Craig Tiley explained the tournament would be going ahead because players knew there was a risk of isolation, and that “the determination of who was and who wasn’t a close contact was going to be entirely up to the health department”.

However, this stance contradicts what Tiley told AAP back in October when he was pushing for relaxed border restrictions and bio-secure training bubbles, similar to those used by the NBA and during the US Open.

“If a player has to… be stuck in a hotel for two weeks just before their season, that won’t happen,” Tiley told AAP. “You can’t ask players to quarantine for two weeks and then step out and be ready to play a Grand Slam.”

But beyond the issues of no training time, tennis pros are also extremely unhappy with the conditions they’ve been forced to quarantine in.

Upon her arrival, Yulia Putintseva was presented with the surprise of a mouse running around her hotel room. Meanwhile, tennis pros like Pablo Carreno Busta, Fabio Forgnini, and Corentin Moutet all took to Instagram to share their disappointment in the food they’ve been provided with during their stay — with Benoît Paire and Damir Džumhur deciding to just opt for a cheeky Macca’s delivery instead.

A number of players have also shared videos of their makeshift training activities while they’re stuck their hotel rooms for 24 hours a day. Using mattresses, walls and windows as ball practice, and running laps around their hotel rooms, these quarantining tennis players have been trying to make the most out of their less-than-ideal situations.

Despite being part of the exclusive group of top players quarantining in Adelaide alongside Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Rafael Nadal, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic even penned a letter to Tennis Australia to demand better, and more importantly, equal, conditions for all quarantined players.

According to Spanish tennis website Punto de Break, Djokovic’s letter allegedly called for pretty standard things like fitness and training equipment in all rooms and decent food. But there were also some more outlandish requests like players getting relocated to private homes with tennis courts for the duration of lockdown, less days in isolation, and visits to coaches and trainers given negative COVID results.

Naturally, COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria Commissioner, Emma Cassar, said no. “It’s a firm NO from me,” to be exact, which echoes Cassar’s comments yesterday that Victoria would “not be modifying the program or watering it down under any circumstances” to “keep people safe”.

And while not being able to train before a Grand Slam is unfortunate for these professional athletes, many Aussies have little sympathy for the tennis players in quarantine as residents are stuck both overseas and interstate, and are unable to return home because of border restrictions and hotel quarantine limits.

Moreover, some are finding it hard to give these tennis players sympathy when Melbourne residents literally suffered through a 111-day lockdown, which is far longer than the mandatory 14 days the athletes are facing.

Regardless, for both the tennis players, who are unable to perform at their full capability, and the public, who are unable to return home or enjoy a fair tournament, this entire debacle sucks.

Perhaps Tennis Australia should’ve just cut their losses scrapped the whole event for everyone’s sake, instead of, I don’t know, putting Melbourne at risk of COVID-19 spreading and angering the world’s top tennis players, hey?