Djokovic reportedly sent Australian Open boss Craig Tiley a letter with six points he would like actioned for frustrated players who are in lockdown in Melbourne, but the South Australian and Victorian premiers are having none of it.
There are 72 competitors now in 14 days isolation after further positive COVID-19 tests from their charter flights to Melbourne.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews today announced another four positive cases linked to the flights, bringing the total to nine – including one unnamed player.
The fresh blow to preparations for the tournament comes as world No.1 Djokovic reportedly called on Tennis Australia to fulfil a list of requests.
Djokovic, currently in Adelaide, was the former president of the ATP Player Council but resigned to set up the PTPA (Professional Tennis Players Association).
According to Spanish tennis website Punto de Break, Djokovic wants the days of isolation reduced, the ability for players to see their coach or trainer, and as many players as possible moved to private houses with a tennis court to facilitate training.
He also wanted better food and more fitness equipment delivered to the rooms of players.
South Australian Premier Steven Marshall said any changes to restrictions for players in Adelaide would be a matter for SA Health, but “certainly nothing has been suggested here in SA”.
He said the COVID-19 plan for players in Adelaide for exhibition matches later this month had been developed with the players and Tennis Australia.
“It’s a good plan, it’s working very well and I don’t see any reason to change that whatsoever,” he said.
“I think we’ve had very good feedback from the group we have in SA [but] the number is very small compared to the numbers in Victoria… they’re very happy with where they are in SA, they are getting out to train under very strict supervision and that’s of course unavailable for many of the players over in Victoria at the moment.”
Marshall said SA Health and police had worked “very closely” on designing a quarantine program for the tennis players and they were hopeful that none would test positive while they are in Adelaide.
“We have made sure that we have put every precaution in place to make sure that we don’t increase the risk to South Australians whatsoever.”
He said there was “very extensive preflight testing before people even got onto those flights” to Adelaide.
However, Marshall handballed the standoff with the tennis star to his Victorian counterpart, saying: “I think Novak Djokovic had put his list of demands over to the Victorian Premier, so I’ll let the Victorian Premier respond to that list.”
Andrews shut down Djokovic’s ideas about reducing the duration of quarantine.
“People are free to provide lists of demands but the answer is no,” Andrews said.
The Premier also said that the rules regarding close contacts were firmly laid out for players before their arrival after a number complained they weren’t warned that all aboard the flights would go into lockdown.
“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 and that was a condition on which they came,” he said.
“There’s no special treatment here … because a virus doesn’t treat you specially.”
Djokovic’s demands have been criticised on social media given his involvement in organising the shambolic Adria Tour, a tennis exhibition series in Serbia and Croatia held without any social distancing measures in place that resulted in positive COVID-19 cases to numerous players involved – including the Serbian himself.
Djokovic and some the game’s biggest stars including Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal are preparing for the Open in Adelaide, where they will play an exhibition on January 29.
There have been claims those players have better training conditions and were allowed to bring more staff than the one person allocated to players in Melbourne.
Despite the chaos, Tiley has ruled out delaying the tennis grand slam a second time after it was initially put back three weeks.
The Commissioner for COVID-19 Quarantine in Victoria, Emma Cassar said police presence had been increased at the Open hotels and added that there had been cases of “challenging behaviour” from some confined players and support staff.
She cited two cases when hotel room doors were opened to have a conversation or shout down the hallway.
“There is zero tolerance for breaches,” she said.
“It’s low level but dangerous acts that we just can’t tolerate.”
Cassar warned the players and support staff could be fined up to $20,000 or repeat offenders transferred to the complex care hotel where they have a police officer stationed outside their door.
– with AAP
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