Tennis stars call Australian Open quarantine ‘insane’ and like prison

Entitled, pampered, whingers.

Elite sports professionals victims of the greatest overreaction to COVID-19 in the world.

Those are the poles of opinion on the subject of tennis players in quarantine in Melbourne for the Australian Open that is due to begin on 8 February.

Talkback radio and social media have been flooded with indignant Australians blasting players complaining about being forced into a 14-day quarantine – some in hard quarantine – as per the state’s COVID rules.

Bernard Tomic’s partner Vanessa Sierra says she received “so many death threats” after she posted an update about hotel quarantine conditions.

“Haven’t really been doing much. There’s not really any space to train,” she said in a video.

The social media influencer then went on to detail what she described as the “worst part of quarantine” – the fact she had to wash her own hair.

“It’s just not something that I do. I usually have hairdressers that do it twice a week for me,” she said. Yesterday, she said her comments were clearly a joke.

Spanish tennis star Roberto Bautista Agut, in an interview with an Israeli news channel, compared the Victorian government’s lockdown of players exposed to cases to “prison with wifi”.

“These people have no idea about tennis, about practice courts, no idea about anything,” said the world No. 13. He later apologised.

“It’s a complete disaster because of that, because of the control of everything.”

Russian world No. 28 Yulia Putintseva said she would have thought twice about coming if she’d known.

She said on social media: “In jail, at least you can breathe fresh air two times a day.”

Earlier, Australian player Nick Kyrgios criticised players who criticised quarantine conditions, calling world No. 1 Novak Djokovic “a tool” for his list of requests for changes to quarantine.

Former Australian player Nicole Bradtke told ABC radio only a few “serial whingers” were souring attitudes towards players in lockdown.

“They’re kind of the same people that keep popping up throughout the year that might complain … and some of them have no reason to be whingeing,” she said.

“Lock me up in a hotel room for two weeks knowing that when I get out, I’m going to get a hundred thousand dollars, and that’s just the least that they get.”

Several COVID cases among Australian Open participants will be reclassified as “viral shedding” by Victorian health authorities, which could ease strict hotel quarantine conditions for some players.

There are 72 players confined to hotel rooms for two weeks and unable to practise outside after people on their charter flights tested positive to the virus after landing in Melbourne.

Other players and their support staff can train at designated practice courts for up to five hours each day.

Such was the outrage at complaints from the sports stars, many of whom come from countries with far more lax COVID rules than Victoria, that tournament director Craig Tiley held a press conference on Tuesday morning.

“The majority of the players have been absolutely fantastic, and this is a playing group that’s a little bit upset with what some of the playing group have said. It holds them in a bad light in the community,” Mr Tiley said.

“This is the first time that these players have experienced anything like this, and this is the price that our guests and anyone coming into Australia needs to pay.”

He said communication with players had been ongoing for several months.

“All players were made aware in many conversations – on the women’s side it was nearly once a week since October – and similarly on the men’s side (but) not as frequent,” Mr Tiley said.

Mr Djokovic’s extensive list of requests for players in quarantine were denied by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.

In June, his ill-fated charity Adria Tour 2020 tennis tournament, led to the world No. 1 and several other players testing positive for coronavirus.

During the tournament, players hugged, played basketball, huddled for photos and danced at parties with their shirts off in crowds, disregarding physical distancing.

The tennis world condemned the poor example set by the participants and the event had to be cancelled.

Victoria recorded its 14th consecutive day of no new locally acquired COVID cases on Wednesday, but four new cases were detected in hotel quarantine – three of them Australia Open participants.

Four coronavirus cases linked to the Australian Open were confirmed on Monday. A member of the air crew on one of 17 flights chartered by tournament organisers also tested positive to the virus.

Infectious disease experts expect more cases as COVID-19 could still be incubating in some of the 1200 players and officials who have arrived in Melbourne.

The strict lockdown following the positive cases prompted outrage from several players, some of whom claimed they had not been told a positive test on a plane would force all passengers on that plane to be confined to their rooms for 14 days.

Swiss world No. 11 Belinda Bencic said players didn’t know what they’d signed up for and Romanian world No. 71 Sorana Cirstea said, “If they told us this rule before I would not play Australia. I would have stayed home.”

Alize Cornet, who is not in hard lockdown, wrote in a since-deleted tweet: “Weeks and weeks of practice and hard work going to waste for one person positive to COVID in a 3/4 empty plane. Sorry but this is insane.”

However, Russian-born New Zealand doubles player Artem Sitak, who is in 14 days’ hard lockdown, said he had been informed about the health rules regarding flights.

“I think we need to put some things into perspective, where a lot of Australians right now cannot get back home because of restrictions and we, as foreigners of over a thousand people in Australia, we are going to be competing in a grand slam earning a lot of money.”

Do you think some of the players are being a little precious? Or do you think there has been a breakdown in communication about what to expect? Should the tournament be going ahead?

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Written by Will Brodie

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