(Reuters) – Tennis coach Daniel Vallverdu says players who have been locked down in their hotel rooms for 14 days ahead of the Australian Open should get preferential treatment from organizers such as prime practice times and matches scheduled in the cooler hours of the day.
More than 70 players are confined to their rooms and unable to train for the Feb. 8-21 Grand Slam after passengers on three charter flights carrying them to Melbourne tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
While those in hard quarantine are left to hit balls against mattress in their rooms, the other arrivals are able to spend five hours a day outside to prepare.
Vallverdu, who coaches three-time Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka, told Reuters in an interview that organizers should try to even things up.
“Anything we can do to make it a bit more fair for them, it’s never going to be completely fair,” he said.
“Once they come out of quarantine they’re only going to have one or two days maximum to get on court before having their first match.
“So any extra days that they can get, and preference and some privileges when it comes to scheduling, I think would be more than fair and hopefully the rest of the playing field will feel the same.”
The 34-year-old has worked with some of the biggest names in tennis, including Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro, and also represents coaches on the ATP Player Council.
The Venezuelan said the Council had been trying to help players get through the hard quarantine and made suggestions to Tennis Australia how things can be made easier for them after they are free from isolation.
“Scheduling, extra practice, preferential treatment when it comes to practice times, extra time on the court,” Vallverdu said on a Zoom call.
“Match scheduling, playing not in the sunny time of the day, they can play when it cools down a bit, they can get a late start for the tournament, the tournament can start one or two days later if possible.”
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Vallverdu spent lot of time watching Netflix and deciding what kind of food to order to his room after arriving in Melbourne but says his days now seem normal as he is allowed to spend five hours outside each day to train Wawrinka.
He would have preferred more time on court just three weeks out from the Grand Slam but has no complaints about arrangements made by organizers.
“When we arrived in Melbourne it actually felt like some sort of a movie with how they had set up the players arrival at the airport in a private hangar,” he added. “Everything looked very well prepared and extremely safe.”
Some players have complained about the conditions, drawing a backlash from Australians, but Vallverdu said the gripes were down to frustration at not being able to train despite testing negative for the virus.
“The players are not complaining about the hard quarantine,” he said.
“The issue for players is that they have made the trip to Australia to perform as athletes at one of the biggest sporting events in the world and your job is to be prepared to do that.
“They’re just disappointed that they’re not able to prepare, to be ready to do their job the right way. Most players I know absolutely love being here … it’s one of the happiest months of the year for everybody Down Under.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)