Novak Djokovic casts ATP Tour doubt as Australian Open stars feel effects of quarantine

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Novak Djokovic has claimed top tennis players do not want to play future tournaments following quarantines after Grigor Dimitrov became the latest injured star to go out of the Australian Open.

“We just have to discuss options, because I don’t know honestly if this is going to work,” said the world No 1.

The Serbian superstar has reached the semi-finals taking painkillers after suffering an abdominal injury in the third round while Rafa Nadal is nursing a back problem.

British No 1 Jo Konta and Italian Matteo Berrettini have already pulled out with similar injuries while Dimitrov lost to world No 114 Aslan Karatsev after pre-match back spasms.

Defending champion Djokovic caused fury Down Under before the tournament for lobbying for an easing of quarantine rules.

All players had to spent two weeks in quarantine before the start of the first Grand Slam of the year with 72 in hard lockdown where they were not allowed to leave their rooms.

Now the Serb has voiced his concerns about playing conditions for players – and said alternatives like NBA-style bubbles should be considered for future events outside the Grand Slams.

After beating world No 7 Alex Zverev, the 17-time Grand Slam winner said: “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.

“Obviously it has something to do with these kind of circumstances that we were in. Coming into a Grand Slam after 14 days’, 15 days’ quarantine.


“We have to be honest and realistic that it has an effect on the physical well-being of players. Of course also mental, emotional, but physically, I mean, this is not normal.

“We are hoping that it’s temporary. But talking to a lot of players, majority of the players just don’t want to go ahead with the season if we are going to have to quarantine most of the tournaments.

“So this is something that should be discussed. I want to understand how our continuation of the season post-Australia is going to look like, because this definitely is not good for players in terms of their well-being.

“A Grand Slam is a Grand Slam. Okay, we’ll accept 14 days’ quarantine.

“But that’s not going to be the case on the ATP events, especially 250, 500. It’s huge prize money reductions. So for the lower-ranked players, I have heard a lot of complaints. Challenger players, a lot of complaints.

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“We have to find a way whether it’s something like an NBA bubble. Select one place and we play all the tournaments on that surface and that place.

“You know, three, four weeks in, three, four, two, three weeks’ rest, then back again. Something like that. I don’t know. On the top level.”

Djokovic said his biggest fears were when the Tour returns to Europe for the spring time clay-court swing.

“I have been hearing that there are some countries that don’t want to accept people coming in from some specific countries because of the virus strains, different virus strains, so forth, and transmission, and God knows what,” he said.

“I don’t know how we’re gonna handle with that, honestly. The physical well-being of players is a big question mark, and I think it needs addressing.”

Bulgarian No 18 seed Dimitrov said: “I just got a back spasm yesterday at some point, and that was it. It started yesterday out of the blue.

I couldn’t put my socks on before the match, so I knew it was going to be a tough moment. That’s sport. It just super unlucky. There’s not much else I can say, really.”

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