News, Culture & Society

Disgruntled tennis stars paint bleak picture of quarantine life in Melbourne

Spain’s World No 13 Roberto Bautista Agut has described the conditions in Australia as being ‘like a jail’ in the latest player complaint about Covid-19 quarantine in Melbourne.

In a leaked private video call via Israel’s Sport 5, the Spaniard criticised officials for the strict protocols they are implementing as another two positive cases emerged among tournament personnel.

‘It’s like a jail here,’ he said. ‘These people have no idea about tennis, about practice courts, no idea about anything. It’s a complete disaster. It’s not Tennis Australia, it’s the people of the government.’

Spain’s World No 13 Roberto Bautista Agut hit out in an interview with an Israeli news channel

His outburst came as 2021 Australian Open chief Craig Tiley urged disgruntled players not to go public with their moaning.

‘If you want to have a crack, come to me, not social media,’ Tiley said during a Zoom meeting with the players.

Last weekend, Stan Wawrinka was among those in Melbourne expressing frustration at stars such as Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal staying in luxury accommodation, with balconies, 450 miles away in South Australia.

‘I get the feeling it is perceived as preferred treatment,’ said Tiley. ‘My general rule is — if you are at the top of the game and are a Grand Slam champion, it’s just the nature of the business, you are going to get a better deal.’

The 32-year-old Spaniard criticised officials for the strict protocols they are implementing

The 32-year-old Spaniard criticised officials for the strict protocols they are implementing

Dan Evans has turned into a Joe Wicks-type figure for the British contingent as they try to get through the quarantine.

Doubles team Ken and Neal Skupski revealed that the GB men’s No 1 has been leading online yoga classes as they pass the hours in isolated hotel rooms around Melbourne.

The Liverpudlian duo painted a picture of the ultra-tight regime they have been living under since arriving in the Victorian capital late last week.

Hotel corridors are being patrolled 24 hours a day to make sure that there is no fraternising between players, not even brothers who play together.

Grateful for small mercies, they are at least not among the 72 players and 100-plus coaches and officials denied even the five-hour daily supervised escape. A WhatsApp group has been started among GB’s collection of mainly doubles players who are confined to barracks, with Evans having the idea of a daily Zoom session.

Heather Watson has kept fit by running in her hotel room and exercising with a chair

Heather Watson has kept fit by running in her hotel room and exercising with a chair

‘Dan has become our yoga teacher, we can all join in and his girlfriend is on it as well,’ said Ken. ‘We can’t see each other so you’ve got to do what you can. There’s probably 1,000 messages a day on the WhatsApp group.’

The brothers were given an abrupt reminder of how strict things are when they attempted to do a quick racket exchange after their bags arrived three days late. ‘When we travel we always have a mix of each other’s rackets in our bags so if someone’s delayed they still have some to play with. We are in rooms next door to each other so we tried to open the doors to do a racket swap but were told to go back inside. People are patrolling the corridors all the time.’

Neal added: ‘There are police outside the hotel making sure that nobody leaves and there are checkpoints on the way to the courts. There are two people allowed in the lift and when you get out there is someone there waiting for you with a notebook to record any misdemeanours.

‘They are in full PPE gear when they deliver food and they don’t like it if you open the door and you don’t have a mask on.

‘They tell you to put it on next time, it’s quite tough. I don’t know what the people in full quarantine will be feeling like, it must be pretty hard.’

Australian Open chief Craig Tiley urged players not to air their grievances on social media

Australian Open chief Craig Tiley urged players not to air their grievances on social media

The five-hour outing per day is controlled on a computer log-in system and a glitch meant Ken missed his scheduled slot on Monday, meaning his one designated partner, Neal, was left high and dry.

‘I was waiting on the court but Ken didn’t turn up,’ said Neal. ‘So I spent two hours just hitting serves, that was it.’

After two hours per day on court they are escorted to a nearby gym where they have to stay for 90 minutes.

They are also given one hour alone in a booth at the hotel restaurant for a meal with no choice. Both brothers insist they are grateful to be getting the chance to play in Australia but admit the experience has been somewhat disconcerting.

‘It has been a bizarre feeling waiting for the knock on your door to allow you out,’ said Ken. ‘It was quite stressful waiting to know if there were any positives from your flight. Luckily there weren’t on ours.

‘I do wonder what it will be like for anyone who has been in a room for 14 days and then has to go out and play Rafa or Novak.

‘I’m not in the singles draw but that’s going to be a real tough ask and I think some players here have found that hard to accept.

‘It’s only two weeks out of your life. Worse things are happening elsewhere and we are happy to have the chance to play.’

French player Alize Cornet described the situation as 'insane' in a since deleted post

French player Alize Cornet described the situation as ‘insane’ in a since deleted post

Several top players including Corentin Moutet and Fabio Fognini have criticised the food

Several top players including Corentin Moutet and Fabio Fognini have criticised the food 

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

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk