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Australian Open quarantine blunder: Tennis stars confined to Melbourne hotel rooms

Talk about a double fault. 

First tennis authorities and the Victorian Government give the go-ahead to an event that the majority of Australians don’t want and then, when it all goes pear-shaped, they don’t know what to do.

Surely it must have crossed the minds of the brain-trust at Tennis Australia that there was a better-than-even chance that one of the hundreds of international players and support staff flying into the country for the Australian Open might test positive to COVID-19.

I mean, it’s a very contagious virus. Heaps of people are coming down with it. Some are even tennis players, like Andy Murray just last week. It was in all the papers.

Two passengers inside one of the planes taking people to the Australian Open have tested positive for Covid-19, though it has been confirmed neither person is a competitor

Former world number one and three-time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber is one of 47 players currently undergoing hard lockdown

Former world number one and three-time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber is one of 47 players currently undergoing hard lockdown

Mexican tennis star Santiago Gonzalez filmed a video of himself getting a Covid test inside his hotel

Mexican tennis star Santiago Gonzalez filmed a video of himself getting a Covid test inside his hotel

Kazakhstan number one Yulia Putintseva tweeted: 'What I don't understand is that, why no-one ever told us if one person on board is positive the whole plane needed to be isolated. I would think twice before coming here'

Kazakhstan number one Yulia Putintseva tweeted: ‘What I don’t understand is that, why no-one ever told us if one person on board is positive the whole plane needed to be isolated. I would think twice before coming here’

So you would think, wouldn’t you, that TA and the Victorian government, who have bent over backwards to get this tournament up and running from February 8, might have taken that possibility into account when planning for when the players actually started arriving?

Like, say, making sure the hotels they booked them into had the kind of facilities that professional tennis players might need in an emergency.

Little things like gyms or, gee I don’t know, tennis courts?

Instead, we now have the embarrassing situation where three people on two charter flights from the US and Abu Dhabi have tested positive to COVID, meaning 47 players are currently under lock and key having had their partial-quarantine conditions upgraded to 14 days of total lockdown.

Meaning they have no access to even the most rudimentary of exercise equipment – something that professional athletes tend to need three weeks out from one of the four biggest events on their calendar.

Kazakhstan number one Yulia Putintseva posted a video of a mouse in her room, saying that she had been trying to move accommodation but was not getting a response

Kazakhstan number one Yulia Putintseva posted a video of a mouse in her room, saying that she had been trying to move accommodation but was not getting a response

Pictured: Cornet's view from her room

Pictured: Cornet's hotel quarantine

Alize Cornet shared two photos taken from her own hotel quarantine stay in Melbourne

Several top tier athletes including Carreno Busta and Fabio Fognini have critiqued the food they've received since arriving last week. Frenchman Corentin Moutet shares his meal above

Several top tier athletes including Carreno Busta and Fabio Fognini have critiqued the food they’ve received since arriving last week. Frenchman Corentin Moutet shares his meal above

Really, is it not enough that the cricket world is aghast at the way Australia is treating the Indian cricket team without making us a laughingstock for the rest of the sporting world as well?

Social media vision of Mexican player Santiago Gonzalez exercising on the floor of his Melbourne hotel room and Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta posting a picture of a bowl of … well, I’m not quite sure what it was, with the caption, ‘Lunch … really?’ make a mockery of Victorian premier Daniel Andrews’ assurance that, ‘we are running a hotel quarantine model to the highest standard’.

Tell that to Kazakhstan number one Yulia Putintseva who posted video of a mouse in her room.

Of course the thousands of Australians stranded overseas trying desperately to catch flights home would no doubt gladly swap places with the tennis players and their entourages, mice and all, but that’s not really the point.

Tennis Australia and the Victorian government made certain concessions to the world’s best tennis players in order to get them to agree to play in the country’s major international sporting event.

The main one was that they would be able to leave their 14-day quarantine for five hours per day to practice.

Nowhere did the agreement state ‘unless someone on your charter flight tests positive to COVID, in which case you will be restricted to your room for two weeks with no access to fresh air, adequate gym equipment or a tennis court’.

Given the opportunity to play in a Grand Slam event, many of the lesser lights of the professional circuit may well have accepted that risk had they been offered the chance, but it is doubtful all of the top players would.

Putintseva has made it clear that she wouldn’t, telling her social media followers, ‘What I don’t understand is why no-one ever told us that if one person on board is positive the whole plane needed to be isolated. I would think twice before coming here.’

And despite being ranked 28 in the world she is far from the highest profile of the 47 players currently undergoing hard lockdown. Included are two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka, former US Open champion Sloane Stephens, former world number one and three-time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber and Japanese star Kei Nishikori.

Santiago Gonzalez, from Mexico, is seen exercising on the floor of his Melbourne hotel room

Santiago Gonzalez, from Mexico, is seen exercising on the floor of his Melbourne hotel room

Kazakhstan number one Yulia Putintseva exercising in her hotel room to prepare for the Australian Open on February 8

Kazakhstan number one Yulia Putintseva exercising in her hotel room to prepare for the Australian Open on February 8

Italian star and world No.17 Fabio Fognini was offered the same meal, and explained that he hoped he received something more substantial next time

Carreno Busta, the world No.15 who arrived from Spain, shared a picture of a salad, an apple and juice cup alongside the caption 'really?'

Carreno Busta, the world No.15 who arrived from Spain, shared a picture of a salad, an apple and juice cup alongside the caption ‘really?’. Italian star and world No.17 Fabio Fognini was offered the same meal, and explained that he hoped he received something more substantial next time

All have huge followings around the world, and it is the involvement of players of their standing which makes the Australian Open such a money-spinner for organisers, broadcasters and the local economy.

In return, the players commit to the event with an understanding that they will be given every opportunity to perform to their best, advance through the rounds, win prize money and even take the title.

But with no Plan B in place by Tennis Australia or the Victorian government, such as making safe, private practice facilities available for players in hard lockdown, that is now virtually impossible.

As TV commentator and former French Open semi-finalist Sam Groth put it, ‘I would almost say that anyone who is in this situation is out of any chance of winning the Australian Open title.’

Thankyou linesmen, thankyou ball kids – and thankyou Tennis Australia and Daniel Andrews

Japanese star Kei Nishikori is one of the 47 players currently undergoing hard lockdown

Japanese star Kei Nishikori is one of the 47 players currently undergoing hard lockdown

‘This is insane’: Australian Open stars locked in hotel rooms for 14 days of quarantine after Covid breaches on flights lash out at their food and conditions

By Brittany Chain

International tennis stars have blasted their living conditions after being forced into hotel quarantine in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open.

Several top tier athletes including Carreno Busta and Fabio Fognini have critiqued the food they’ve received since arriving last week, while French player Alize Cornet described the situation as ‘insane’ in a since deleted post.

The 30-year-old shared her frustration at the Australian government’s decision to quarantine 47 players after two cases of Covid were imported on a plane from Los Angeles.

Cornet understood that she is 'privileged' to be in the position she is in, but argued players are risking serious injury if they compete after a two-week break

Cornet understood that she is ‘privileged’ to be in the position she is in, but argued players are risking serious injury if they compete after a two-week break

Pictured: France's Corentin Moutet

Pictured: Fabio Fognini of Italy

Several top tier athletes including Corentin Moutet and Fabio Fognini have critiqued the food they’ve received since arriving last week

Returning Australians have to self-isolate in designated hotels upon arrival for two weeks, but Victoria made arrangements to allow Australian Open participants five hours’ daily training during the quarantine period.

Given the two new Covid cases, the government ordered every other passenger on board into a hard two week quarantine, scrapping the agreed training periods.

Returning Australians have to self-isolate in designated hotels upon arrival for two weeks, but Victoria made arrangements to allow Australian Open participants five hours’ daily training during the quarantine period.

Given the two new Covid cases, the government ordered every other passenger on board into a hard two week quarantine, scrapping the agreed training periods.

This week flights ferrying players, including defending champion Novak Djokovic, have arrived

This week flights ferrying players, including defending champion Novak Djokovic, have arrived

Spanish star Rafael Nadal (pictured centre) has also touched down in Australia

Spanish star Rafael Nadal (pictured centre) has also touched down in Australia

‘Soon, half of the players from the AO will actually have to isolate,’ Cornet 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.’

Cornet said that when she agreed to the tournament, players were told that they’d be separated into sections of 10 people on their flights.

If one person within that section tested positive, players were informed they would need to quarantine.

But those rules have since been amended to include the rest of the plane, she claimed.

Despite the setback, Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley has stressed the tournament will go ahead.

‘We are reviewing the schedule leading in to see what we can do to assist these players,’ he said.

‘Obviously it is not what we wanted to happen. That is why we took the mitigating measures but we are in this situation, we have to deal with it.

‘The Australian Open is going ahead and we will continue to do the best we possibly can do to ensure those players have the best opportunity.’

Cornet said that when she agreed to the tournament, players were told that they'd be separated into sections of 10 people on their flights. If one person within that section tested positive, players were informed they would need to quarantine

Cornet said that when she agreed to the tournament, players were told that they’d be separated into sections of 10 people on their flights. If one person within that section tested positive, players were informed they would need to quarantine

Cornet understood that she is ‘privileged’ to be in the position she is in, but argued players are risking serious injury if they compete after a two-week break.

‘This seems to be a very sensitive subject and I understand it… But we are not asking the Victorian residents to play a professional sport afterward. Maybe I’m too focused on my side of the story, but that’s also why we are here for.’

Cornet was one of several stars who voiced the same concern after learning of the quarantine orders.

Swiss world No. 12 Belinda Bencic said the restrictions offered some players an unfair advantage.

‘We are not complaining to be in quarantine. We are complaining because of unequal practice/playing conditions before quite important tournaments,’ she said.

‘We made our decision to come here from rules that were sent to us. Then we arrived and received an information/rule book with more/new rules that we did not know about.’

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