Australian Open stars are being released after 14 days of quarantine in Melbourne ahead of the tournament, but disgruntled players have found a new reason to be frustrated.
While some players have already been let out of hotels, the release is being staggered between now Thursday and Sunday afternoon as the 17 charter flights are released.
The plan was to allow them five hours a day to practise outside, and many have enjoyed the privilege.
But eight positive COVID-19 cases from the more than 1000 players, coaches and officials who arrived in largely virus-free Australia threw preparations for others into disarray.
Seventy-two players have been confined to their Melbourne rooms 24 hours a day, forced to strike balls against mattresses and exercise as best they can, sparking complaints about the tough conditions.
There were plenty of complaints from stars in quarantine, with US player Tennys Sandgren taking aim at Tennis Australia once again.
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While far from the only player to complain about the measures, Sandgren is particularly unhappy as he will be forced into an additional day of quarantine.
Having tested positive before boarding the charter plane, Sandgren, who had COVID over Thanksgiving in the United States in November, was still shedding the virus months later and was allowed to get on the plane.
At the time he called Australian Open director Craig Tiley “a wizard”.
But his tune changed, with Sandgren slamming Tiley after the players who flew into Adelaide were given preferential treatment.
Now right at the end of quarantine, Sandgren’s frustrations have boiled over once again.
“I just found out we’re not going to be able to leave the room until midnight tomorrow,” Sandgren said.
“That will put us at close to 15 days in this room. It’s also another day we can’t practice. We play Saturday, Sunday, Monday, play a match on Tuesday. A competitive tennis match.
“[Including travel] 16 days off, three days hitting. Tennis match.
“My name’s Tennis Australia and I’m sooooo cool.”
Later he said the reason for the delay came as players in hard quarantine started from day zero rather than day one.
“So I’ve been able to figure out what actually happened and where the confusion lies for the players that have been in hard quarantine because of close contact rules,” he said in another video.
“So for everybody else, the day they got here started their first day (in quarantine), so they leave 14 days later at the same time they arrived.
“For the players in hard quarantine, the first day we got here was day zero. Day zero! So they started the count from zero,” he said, with evident frustration.
Georgia’s Oksana Kalashnikova was also annoyed by the delay.
The Age reported that releasing all players, staff and officials will take several days.
COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria (CQV) confirmed the process for releasing everyone from quarantine would begin at 6pm on Thursday but a statement added “Departure dates and numbers may be subject to change.”
CQV also wants to ensure each person is released individually to ensure protocols are adhered to.
French veteran Richard Gasquet was one of the first players let out of quarantine and told The Age he had no problems with the fortnight of quarantining.
The 34-year-old said he was largely unaffected by the two weeks of quarantine, with the daily five-hour window for training comfortably meeting his needs.
“It’s an incredible city, so of course we are happy,” Gasquet told The Age. “But you know we could practise five hours a day, so it was no problem.
“Two hours of tennis was enough, (plus) I could go to gym, I could see the physio. Everything was perfect.”
A bumper six ATP and WTA tournaments await them beginning on Sunday, all at Melbourne Park and squeezed into a week to make up for lost time in the lead-up the season-opening Grand Slam on February 8.
Spanish great Rafael Nadal, who is gunning to win a 21st Slam title, moving him past the injured Roger Federer, said he felt “privileged” to play at all given the devastation wrought by the pandemic globally.
“It’s a different situation than usual, it’s much more sad for everyone,” he told CNN this week.
“But at least we’re here, we’re going to have a chance to play here. The world is suffering in general, so we can’t complain.
“I feel that we are privileged people today, having the chance to keep doing our jobs,” he added.
Serena Williams, who is still searching for one more Slam title to equal Margaret Court’s record 24, echoed those sentiments on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, calling the biosecurity rules “super, super strict”, but adding: “They’re doing it right”.
— with AFP