COVID-infected tennis star slams ‘pitiful’ quarantine

MELBOURNE: A cleaner wipes down the net after a player’s practise session in Melbourne on January 25, 2021, with players allowed to train while serving quarantine for two weeks ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament. – AFP

MELBOURNE: A Spanish tennis player who attracted criticism for hitting out at coronavirus quarantine rules and then testing positive has complained she is being forced to endure “pitiful” conditions ahead of the Australian Open. World number 67 Paula Badosa told Spanish newspaper Marca she felt abandoned in a small Melbourne hotel room after being diagnosed with the virus. The 23-year-old was among several players who complained about their quarantine ahead of the delayed, season-opening Grand Slam, before apologizing on Twitter last week.

But in a new salvo Badosa, who was moved to a different hotel after testing positive, told Marca the Melbourne quarantine was one of the worst experiences of her career. “I don’t have windows in my room that is barely 15 square meters (160 square feet),” she said, in comments published on Monday. “It’s obvious that the only thing I breathe in is the virus. I have asked for cleaning products, like a vacuum cleaner, but they haven’t given me anything.”

Tournament organizers previously said they were providing exercise equipment for players, many of whom turned their rooms into makeshift gyms and have been hitting balls against hotel walls. But Badosa said she had been waiting five days for training equipment to be sent to her room. “I feel abandoned because I don’t have the material to train with, that I asked for five days ago,” she said. “They don’t inform me about the type of virus I have, even though after three days it is known. No information about the tournament.”

Some players, including men’s world number one Novak Djokovic, who is quarantining in Adelaide, have taken issue with the lockdown arrangements. Badosa was one of 72 players confined to their hotel rooms for 14 days on arrival after positive cases were detected on their flights to Australia. Other players were allowed out to train for five hours a day.

Player complaints have drawn an unsympathetic reaction from the Australian public, many of whom defended the strict isolation measures as necessary in the largely virus-free country. The Australian Open, delayed for three weeks over coronavirus complications, is scheduled to begin on February 8 after a series of build-up tournaments in Melbourne.

Veiled swipe
Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal has taken an apparent swipe at Novak Djokovic over his requests for quarantined players preparing for the Australian Open, saying not everyone felt the need to “advertise” how they were trying to help. The Serbian world number one issued a list of suggestions to Tennis Australia last week on behalf of 72 players unable to leave their Melbourne hotel rooms after COVID-19 cases were detected on their planes to Australia.

They reportedly included moving players into private homes with tennis courts and getting them better meals. But his requests fell on deaf ears, while Australian media portrayed players as petulant and selfish and fellow star Nick Kyrgios called Djokovic a “tool”. Djokovic later issued an open letter to say his “good intentions for my fellow competitors in Melbourne have been misconstrued”.

“We all try to help each other,” Spanish great Nadal told ESPN yesterday from Adelaide, where he and Djokovic are quarantining ahead of the year’s opening Grand Slam in Melbourne on February 8. “Some need to make public everything they do to help others,” he added, in remarks widely seen as referring to Djokovic. “Others… do it in a more private way without having to publish or advertise everything we’re doing.”

While most players are undergoing a mandatory 14 days of quarantine in Melbourne, Nadal, Djokovic and other superstars of the game including Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka jetted into Adelaide, where they are due to play an exhibition on Friday. It sparked mutterings about preferential treatment, and Nadal admitted it had been smoother sailing.

“In Adelaide, conditions have been better than most players in Melbourne,” he said. “But there are players in Melbourne who have larger rooms where they can develop physical activities, others have smaller rooms and can’t have contact with their coach and their physical trainer. Where’s the line? It’s an ethical issue. Everyone has their own opinion and they are all respectable.” – AFP

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