“The 25 players on the flight will not be able to leave their hotel room for 14 days and until they are medically cleared. They will not be eligible for [practice],” the Australian Open said in a statement.
Players, who began arriving Thursday, had agreed to mandatory quarantine upon arrival as a precaution, agreeing to remain in their rooms for 19 hours a day and practicing and training for the other five. But players on the charter flights with passengers who tested positive cannot leave their hotel rooms at all. Although tennis officials asked that players who repeatedly test negative over their first days in the country be treated leniently, government officials refused.
Craig Tiley, the tournament director, said the event would start as scheduled, but Tennis Australia, the governing body, will consider possible changes to the lead-up tournaments. “We are reviewing the schedule leading in to see what we can do to assist these players,” Tiley told Australia’s Nine Network on Sunday (via the Associated Press). “The Australian Open is going ahead, and we will continue to do the best we possibly can do to ensure those players have the best opportunity.”
Still, he added that players and organizers were warned there was “significant risk” of restrictions if there were positive coronavirus tests. “We did make it very clear in the beginning,” Tiley said. “Now we have to manage an environment over the next 14 days for those who won’t be able to practice.”
In October, Tiley said he hoped for flexibility in the government’s rules. “If a player has to … be stuck in a hotel for two weeks just before their season, that won’t happen,” Tiley told the Australian Associated Press at that time. “You can’t ask players to quarantine for two weeks and then step out and be ready to play a Grand Slam.”
Players weren’t required to quarantine during the U.S. Open and French Open. Instead, there was a bubble and players were regularly tested. They wore masks between matches in Paris.
Just as baseball players improvised by throwing against hotel mattresses this past summer, tennis players are using whatever is at their disposal, whether it’s hitting a ball against a window or interior wall. Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva illustrated vividly what the situation is like.
She noted that she might have reconsidered entering the tournament. “What I don’t understand is that, why no one ever told us, if one person on board is positive the whole plane need to be isolated, I would think twice before coming here,” she tweeted.
And her hotel room also had a previous occupant: a mouse.
Players, such as Spain’s Pablo Carreño Busta and Italy’s Fabio Fognini, were unhappy with their meal options, and France’s Benoît Paire ordered from McDonald’s.
In an Instagram story, Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine told Spain’s Paula Badosa she was caught off-guard by the ruling and later added video of her jumping rope and receiving a delivery of fresh fruit.
“It’s about the idea of staying in a room for two weeks and being able to compete,” Kostyuk said, adding that she could not remember the last time she had not picked up a racket for two weeks — especially with the first major tournament of 2021 looming. “We have to stay in quarantine, but we have to fulfill expectations.”