Novak Djokovic hits back in Australian Open row with scathing statement on lockdown letter

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Novak Djokovic has taken the chance to justify his letter to Australian Open chiefs, asking them to ease quarantine restrictions following fierce criticism from colleagues including Nick Kyrgios. Upon arrival Down Under, players have been placed into lockdown for 14 days ahead of this year’s competition which gets underway on February 8.

The world No 1 is said to have sent a list of demands to Tennis Australia chief executive, Craig Tiley.

The strict regulations put into place has caused backlash amongst competitors, despite positive COVID-19 cases on three charter flights to Melbourne.

Tiley was quick to reject the recommendations from Djokovic and denied claims that the players did not know about quarantine regulations.

Djokovic’s action saw him labelled a tool by Kyrgios and now the Serbian has attempted to clear his name with a lengthy statement.

He posted on Instagram: “Australia, In light of recent media and social media criticism for my letter to Craig Tiley (Tournament director of the Australian Open), I would like to clarify a few things.

“My good intentions for my fellow competitors in Melbourne have been misconstrued as being selfish, difficult and ungrateful. This couldn’t be any further from the truth.

“Not every act is taken at its face value and at times when I see the aftermath of things, I do tend to ask myself if I should sit back and enjoy my benefits instead of paying attention to other people’s struggles.

“However, I always choose to do something and be of service despite the challenging consequences and misunderstandings.

“I genuinely care about my fellow players and I also understand very well how the world is run and who gets bigger and better and why.

“I’ve earned my privileges the hard way and for that reason, it is very difficult for me to be a mere onlooker knowing how much every help, gesture, and good work mattered to me when I was small and insignificant in the world pecking order.

“Hence, I use my position of privilege to be on service as much as I can where and when needed.”

Tiley has since launched a passionate defence on behalf of Tennis Australia, stating that players were “very privileged the state has invested in a modified quarantine program.”

Djokovic continued: “I have always had a very good relationship with Craig and I respect and appreciate all the effort he puts into making the Australian Open a place to look forward to coming back to each year.

“In our email exchange, I used an opportunity to brainstorm about potential improvements that could be made to the quarantine of players in Melbourne that were in full lockdown.

“There were a few suggestions and ideas that gathered from other players from our chat group and there was no harm intended to try and help.

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“I was aware that the chances were low that any of our suggestions would be accepted, just like my request to quarantine with my team in Melbourne instead of Adelaide, was denied prior to out travel, because of strict government regulations.

“Since I couldn’t be with the other players in Melbourne, I made myself available to them if needed.

“I understand that organising an international sporting event during a pandemic poses health risks to the local community and the players themselves.

“Therefore, I would like to express my full gratitude to Tennis Australia, the Australian government and local citizens for being willing to take the risk with us for the love of the game and multiple opportunities it brings to the economy of the country and it’s people.

“We are honoured and we will all do our best to follow the guidelines and protocols put in place.”

Japanese player Taro Daniel has said that some players have argued to change the format to a best-of-three sets format for this year’s competition only.

With limitations of just two hours a day and one hour in the gym, the players are set to put their bodies and mind to the test.

Djokovic is not convinced the players will be able to maintain a high-level of performance.

He added: “We do hope that we will able to nurture our bodies and be ready for mental and physical endurance and strength tests that are ahead of us once the competition starts.

“Things in the media escalated and there was a general impression that the players (including myself) are ungrateful, weak and selfish because of their unpleasant feelings toward quarantine.

“I am very sorry that is has come to that because I do know how grateful many are. We all come to Australia to compete.

“Not being able to train and prepare before a tournament really is not easy.

“None of us ever questioned 14 days of quarantine despite what is being sold by media outlets.

“I am very much looking forward to playing in front of people and joining the tennis frenzy and energy that has always carried me towards many victories.

“I am looking forward to seeing all my fellow players together in Melbourne.

“I am blown away by the numerous messages of gratitude and love that I have ever received during these past few days.

“Wishing you all health and love, Novak.”

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