Current US Open champion, Dominic Thiem has denied that the top players are receiving a notable advantage before the Australian Open on account of spending their 14-day quarantine in Adelaide, rather than Melbourne where more than 300 players are staying.
Thiem, the Men’s World No 3, is among a group of players who were flown into Adelaide because of restrictions on the number of people allowed to travel to Melbourne. Other big names present include Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep. This has been a point of contention for some other players, particularly those coming to terms with two weeks without practice because of positive cases on the flights they boarded to get to Melbourne.
“It’s a privilege to be here in Adelaide. But it’s not that huge an advantage,” Thiem said in an interview with The Guardian. “We get the same amount of practice time as the guys in Melbourne. It’s just not that busy on-site. It’s just that we are [fewer] players here. Compared to the players who are not in hard quarantine in Melbourne, we have pretty similar conditions.
“The only really bad and unlucky thing are the 72 players in the hard quarantine. For them, it’s going to be really tough to play a good ATP Cup or good tournament before the Australian Open and then a good Australian Open. They have a huge disadvantage, but that’s the risk we take when we go on to a plane nowadays.”
While most of the elite group have kept a lower profile in Adelaide than their aggrieved colleagues elsewhere, Novak Djokovic’s letter to Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley, with suggestions on behalf of the players in Melbourne led to widespread criticism.
The suggestions in the leaked list ranged from more exercise equipment for players unable to practise to houses with tennis courts. The list led to widespread condemnation, including from Nick Kyrgios, who branded him a “tool” on Twitter.
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While Thiem’s comments suggest that preferential treatment hasn’t been dished out, TIley’s comments from a day earlier suggested otherwise. Defending the decision to house the top players in Adelaide, Tiley said: “The top players do have better living conditions because they have a balcony.”
“I get the feeling that it’s perceived as preferential treatment, but they’re the top players in the world, it was an advantage for us to get the additional quarantining space and it’s a great opportunity for Adelaide and they deserve it.”
“My general rule is that if you’re at the top of the game, a grand slam champion, it’s just the nature of the business – you are going to get a better deal.”
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In sharp contrast, in Melbourne, the world No 28 Yulia Putintseva received a particularly rough deal. Having encountered a mouse in her first hotel room, she was moved the next morning at 3am, only to discover mice inside her new room and in the corridor. Putintseva is one of the 72 players confined to their hotel rooms without practice for two weeks. The Victoria state police minister, Lisa Neville, offered little sympathy on Wednesday, instructing players not to feed mice in their rooms after one said her room was infested.
“As I understand there may have been some feeding going on,” Neville said. “I just encourage them to minimise interaction with the mice, we will keep doing pest control if we need to, but hopefully that pest control work that was done this week will have fixed the problem.”
Meanwhile, Spain’s Paula Badosa became the first player to test positive for Covid-19 while in Melbourne, seven days after her arrival. Badosa was among the 72 in hard lockdown after arriving on a contaminated flight from Abu Dhabi.
“I’m feeling unwell and have some symptoms, but I’ll try to recover as soon as possible listening to the doctors,” Badosa said. “I’ve been taken to a health hotel to self-isolate and be monitored.”
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