Australian Open chief defends Novak Djokovic over quarantine 'suggestions'

Australian Open chief Craig Tiley has leapt to the defence of Novak Djokovic over his calls for looser quarantine restrictions, insisting they were ‘suggestions’ rather than ‘demands’.

Djokovic wrote a letter to the Tennis Australia CEO with a series of ideas of how to improve quarantine conditions for the 72 players affected by positive tests on charter flights from LA, Doha and Abu Dhabi.

Some were more reasonable, such as improving the quality of food and providing more fitness equipment, however, others – including reducing the length of quarantine and asking for players to be moved to private houses with tennis courts – bordered on the dangerous and ridiculous.

The requests didn’t sit well with Australian politicians. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews bluntly responded: ‘People are free to provide lists of demands but the answer is no.’

Nick Kyrgios, meanwhile, branded Djokovic as a ‘tool’, while Stan Wawrinka appeared to take aim at the world No. 1 for making his requests from less restrictive conditions afforded to the biggest stars of the sport in Adelaide, writing on social media: ‘From Adelaide? Hahahaha.’

But Tiley insists that Djokovic was not making strong demands and believes that the majority of players are buckling down and getting on with it.

‘In the case of Novak, he wrote a note, these weren’t demands, they were suggestions, but he is understanding what two weeks of lockdown means,’ Tiley told 9 News.

‘I think the reports we’re seeing and things we are seeing doesn’t represent the entire playing group. For the most part, they have been really good.’

While Tiley claimed ‘the vast majority are happy to be here’, certain players continue to vent on social media.

Roberto Bautista Agut, the world No. 13 from Spain, was the latest player to opt for a tone deaf approach.

‘These people have no idea about tennis, about practice courts, no idea about anything. It’s a complete disaster,’ Bautista Agut is recorded saying by Sport 5, seemingly forgetting that the Australian government’s priority is the pandemic rather than tennis.

‘It’s not Tennis Australia, it’s the people from the government… I cannot imagine staying two weeks like this, it’s really, really tough.’

Tiley, however, is confident that those complaining will get on the same page eventually.

‘These are high performing athletes and it is hard to keep a high performing athlete in a room,’ added Tiley.

‘This is the contribution that they have to make in order to get the privilege of when they do come out to compete for $80 million in prize money.

‘We will turn the corner on those few that don’t have the right approach to this.’

Not all players, it should be said, fall into that category.

Victoria Azarenka, the two-time Grand Slam champion from Belarus who is one of the 72 players in quarantine, posted a more reasoned statement on Twitter.

‘We have a global pandemic, nobody has a clear playbook of how to operate at full capacity and without a glitch,’ she wrote.

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