MELBOURNE (Reuters) – World number one Novak Djokovic claims the majority of players on the ATP Tour would not want the tennis season to continue if strict quarantines are required before tournaments.
Speaking after his quarter-final victory over Alexander Zverev at the Australian Open on Tuesday, he said he wants answers as to what the post-Melbourne season will look like.
Players arriving for the Australian Open had to adhere to a 14-day quarantine process. While many players were allowed to go out for up to five hours to train, some were confined to their rooms 24/7 for the entire isolation period after COVID-19 cases were discovered on their incoming flights.
Djokovic was not one of the players hit with the extra quarantine requirements, but he says a spate of injuries amongst top players could be down to the strange preparations.
“What we are seeing is not normal. It’s not something we are used to. Top players are the ones that are fittest. It has been proven in the past that that’s the case,” Djokovic, who has been playing with an abdominal injury suffered in his third-round match against Taylor Fritz, told reporters.
“Now you have (Matteo) Berrettini, even Rafa (Nadal) coming in with a back injury, myself, Sascha (Zverev), as well, struggled, (Grigor) Dimitrov. I mean, obviously it has something to do with these kind of circumstances that we were in.
“We are hoping that it’s temporary. But talking to a lot of players, the majority don’t want to go ahead with the season if we have to quarantine before most of the tournaments.”
The Australian Open quarantine was especially stringent but even at last year’s U.S. and French Opens, players had to follow strict guidelines.
Djokovic, who formed the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) last year, said the Player Council, which he is no longer a part of, wanted answers from the ATP.
“I spoke to some of the council members, and they are saying they have extensive discussions about that with ATP management,” he said. “I’m waiting for answers. I want to understand how our continuation of the season post-Australia is going to look, because is definitely not good for players wellbeing.”
The 17-time Grand Slam champion said players put up with quarantine because of the financial incentives at the Australian Open, but said the same would not be true of some regular tournaments on the ATP Tour.
“I’m not pointing fingers at anybody. It’s just I’m speaking what is going on,” he said.
“We have to find away, whether it’s something like an NBA bubble, because I heard some players talk about that, and I don’t mind to discuss about that kind of idea,” he said.
“Select one place and we play all the tournaments on that surface and that place. Three, four weeks in, rest, then back again. Something like that.”
Djokovic said that with the Tour moving on to Europe and north America, where COVID-19 rates are still high, players face more potential quarantines and limits on support staff.
“Some countries don’t want to accept people coming in from some specific countries because of the virus strains, different virus strains,” he said. “I don’t know how we’re gonna handle with that, honestly. But we have to address this very quickly.”
Zverev echoed Djokovic’s thoughts.
“We can’t have a travelling circuit right now,” he said.
“What the ATP should do is, maybe having a venue like here and play multiple weeks at one place. At the end of the day in Europe right now we can’t have spectators, so what difference does it really make where we play the tournament?”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)