Tennis

Players support quarantine at Australian Open, says tournament chief

With 72 players being confined, Australian Open boss could delay warm-up events

Australian Open chief Craig Tiley said most players supported being locked down in hard quarantine, with the local government reporting three new cases of Covid-19 linked to participants of the Grand Slam yesterday.

Victoria health officials said two previous cases have been classified as prior infections, taking the total positive cases associated with the tournament to seven.

"The new positive cases linked to the Australian Open involve two players and one non-playing participant," said a statement from the health department.

Tiley said athletes who tested positive were not considered contagious and were still at their regular accommodation.

More than 70 players and their entourage are confined to their hotel rooms for 14 days and unable to train for the Feb 8-21 Australian Open, after passengers on three charter flights returned positive tests for the coronavirus.

Although the two cases had been reclassified, those 70-odd players and their crew must complete the 14-day isolation.

Some players have complained about the conditions, and men's world No. 1 Novak Djokovic suggested governing body Tennis Australia to ease quarantine restrictions, drawing a backlash from Australians.

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said no changes would be made and the measures were essential to contain the virus.

Detailing the quarantine measures in a media conference call, Tiley said one of the seven infected cases linked to the Grand Slam was a flight attendant.

"For the 1,270 (that arrived), having six positives is a low percentage so that's a percentage to manage," said Tiley, adding that he had a call with 500 players to address concerns and most of them were supportive of Australia's strict protocols.

"The vast majority, most of them have been fantastic and been supportive," Tiley earlier told the Nine Network, adding that the negative reactions came from "initial shock" due to the strict measures.

"(They) know that this is the contribution that they have to make in order to get the privilege of when they do come out to compete for A$80 million (S$81.8m) in prize money."

Tiley, however, conceded that the 72 players in hard quarantine were at a disadvantage to those who arrived on other flights and can train up to five hours a day.

"Yes, it's not an even playing field as far as preparation goes but we're going to play our part to try to even it up as much as possible," he said.

He ruled out shortening the Australian Open or any change of schedule or format, but said organisers were considering pushing back the warm-up events by a few days.

Players are scheduled to play lead-up events at Melbourne Park from Jan 31 after their isolation periods. - REUTERS

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