Tennis players quarantining in Adelaide have reportedly been “encouraged” by officials to avoid sharing images and videos of their more flexible quarantine lifestyle as Melbourne-based players vented their frustration.
The Australian Open is due to make a delayed start in Melbourne on February 8, but its troubled build-up hit further problems after positive coronavirus cases were detected on three of the 17 charter flights that carried players and staff.
The 72 players on the three planes have been deemed close contacts of the four COVID-19 cases and barred from leaving their hotel rooms for 14 days, as largely virus-free Australia tries to prevent community transmission.
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Heath authorities said they discovered two more cases linked to the tournament on Monday, bringing the total for the Australian Open cluster to six.
Dozens of tennis stars stuck in hotel quarantine ahead of the Australian Open were told Monday they would get no “special treatment” to leave their rooms to train, with players resorted to hitting balls off windows, walls and upturned beds in the hope of being ready for the year’s first Grand Slam.
3rd flight of players sent to quarantine
A further divide among the playing cohort has developed, with several of the game’s biggest names quarantining in Adelaide having more freedom than their Melbourne counterparts
Players such as Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, Simona Halep, Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams, who arrived on virus-free flights, are in South Australia ahead of a one-off exhibition tournament on January 29 called ‘A Day at the Drive’.
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Frenchman Jeremy Chardy earlier this month accused Tennis Australia of an uneven playing field, claiming the Adelaide-based players would “have a lot of privilege” – claims denied by TA boss Craig Tiley.
But after footage of Osaka, the 2019 AO champion, taking part in her first training session in Adelaide with multiple support staff emerged, Melbourne-based players were left fuming, according to Italian journalist Luca Fiorino.
A revolt broke out.
The players are not very happy for the unequal treatment in relation to big players in Adelaide.
This photo of Naomi Osaka has driven their mad. pic.twitter.com/UX8yADxz4G
— Luca Fiorino (@FiorinoLuca) January 16, 2021
“A revolt broke out,” Fiorino wrote on Twitter.
“The players are not very happy for the unequal treatment in relation to big players in Adelaide.
“This photo of Naomi Osaka has driven their (sic) mad.”
American reporter Jon Wertheim reported on Twitter that “fortunate players” in Adelaide had been “encouraged” to stop uploading social media posts as it had “inflamed tensions”. Tennis writer Ben Rothenberg added players had been instructed to avoid posting practice images to social media, “lest the jealousy of the locked-down seed even more unrest”.
Austrian doubles specialist Philipp Oswald, who’s in a two-week quarantine in Melbourne, on the weekend told Tennisnet that Adelaide-based players were receiving several advantages.
“First, players were allowed to take a lot more staff with them,” Oswald told Tennisnet.
“They also have a gym in their hotel. So they don’t have to do their fitness exercises during the five-hour period (when they are allowed outside their rooms).
“You only have the five hours to play tennis. There was a huge discussion and the other players were also upset. It’s not apples and apples here, but apples and pears – and I caught the sour lemon.”
Japan’s Taro Daniel told the Herald Sun on Monday: “People in Adelaide are being able to hit with four people on court, so there’s some resentment towards that as well.
“Tennis always has these very unfair treatments towards top players and lower players, especially during grand slams.
“The court time they get to hit usually is completely different … which I think, to a certain extent, they deserve, but especially during a crisis like this it gets even bigger.”
— with AFP