“Only Way”: Australian Open 2021 Organizer Defends Quarantine Rule After Criticism from Novak Djokovic

Published 02/21/2021, 2:00 AM EST
Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, February 16, 2021 General view of Melbourne outside the stadium REUTERS/Jaimi Joy


It’s been a vexed topic that has polarized opinions around the ongoing Australian Open 2021. However, despite unflattering remarks from Novak Djokovic, Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley has put up a stout defense of the strict quarantine rules ahead of the tournament.

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Djokovic had blamed quarantine rule for a spate of injuries at the Australian Open 2021

After his fourth-round win over German Alexander Zverev, Djokovic had blamed the hard quarantine for the spate of injuries at the tournament.

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The World Number 1 even batted for an NBA-style bubble at top tennis tournaments instead of putting players through a punishing quarantine rule.

“The 14-day quarantine, people don’t realize but I think the amount of injuries during this tournament shows how much effect it has on players’ bodies. It’s taken its toll, unfortunately,” Djokovic was quoted as saying after the Zverev game.

Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, February 18, 2021, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates winning the second set during his semi-final match against Russia’s Aslan Karatsev REUTERS/Jaimi Joy

As part of the isolation rule in place for the Australian Open, all players had to quarantine in their respective hotel rooms for a couple of weeks, with no movement outside apart from three hours of practice.

In an interview with Sydney Morning Herald, Tiley shot down Djokovic’s proposal of a bubble, calling it a “very risky proposition” as even one positive case could have posed a threat to other players, officials, and staff, during the tournament.

Australian Open organizer says without hard quarantine, players would have been at risk of being “close contact” or “positive”

More than 70 players, ahead of the Australian Open, were forced into quarantine without the option of practice after some crew members on their chartered flights tested positive.

Shortly after, Djokovic wrote to Tiley seeking an easing of quarantine rules. Even as the move invited backlash online and in a section of the media, the Serb released a statement saying he had only spoken up for players under hard quarantine and not sought privileges for himself.

Zverev later jumped to Djokovic’s defense, saying he had only put forward demands that were discussed and raised by fellow players, including himself, during a group call with him.

Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, February 9, 2021, Italy’s Matteo Berrettini reacts during his first-round match against South Africa’s Kevin Anderson REUTERS/Jaimi Joy

Justifying the unforgiving two-week quarantine rule, Tiley told the Australian daily that organizers did not want a situation of even a single-player opting out of the tournament because he/she is either a “close contact” or “positive”.

“The only way to do that was to put them into a quarantine program,” the Tennis Australia boss said.

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While Djokovic suffered an injury during his bruising five-set win over American Taylor Fritz, World Number 3 Dominic Thiem also conceded to battling “physical issues” during his fourth-round loss to Grigor Dimitrov.

As the tournament wore on, in-form Italian Matteo Berrettini and Norwegian Casper Ruud pulled out, citing injuries.

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‘It’s Taken Its Toll’: Novak Djokovic Slams Harsh Quarantine Rules at Australian Open 2021

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Even Dimitrov struggled with cramps in his quarter-final loss to Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev.

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Priyabrata Chowdhury

992 articles

Priyabrata Chowdhury is a tennis author for EssentiallySports. He has been a print journalist for a decade, producing news pages for leading national dailies such as the Hindustan Times and The New Indian Express. His passion for sports eventually drove him to tennis writing.

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