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Tennis stars hit out at Australian Open COVID isolation measures

Dozens of tennis stars placed in strict quarantine in hotels before the opening of the Australian Open will not benefit from “any special regime” to train, Australian health authorities said on Monday.

Forced to hit balls against the walls of their rooms, players have called for a relaxation of isolation measures to be ready to play in the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, which is scheduled to begin on February 8.

Among those isolating are Belarusian Victoria Azarenka and Angelique Kerber, from Germany.

At least nine passengers on three of the 15 chartered flights carrying the players and their entourage to the tournament tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend, officials said.

The 72 players who were on board the affected flights – just over a quarter of the 256 players – will not be allowed to train until the end of a two-week period of isolation to prevent the spread of the virus.

Several players concerned by the restrictions took to social media networks to express their frustrations.

World number one Novak Djokovic, who travelled on a flight in which no cases were recorded and is therefore allowed to train, reportedly sent a list of requests to the tournament organisers which included the right to move into private homes equipped with a tennis court.

Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews has rejected the request, saying the authorities will not change the measures further.

“There is no special treatment here. The virus doesn’t treat anyone special and therefore neither do we,” he said.

The provisions already in place for players have provoked strong reactions in Australia, with some wondering why more than a thousand players and their entourage have been able to fly in to participate in the tournament while tens of thousands of Australians remain stranded abroad.

The island closed its international borders in March and limited the number of its nationals allowed to enter the country each week.

Unlike returnees, the majority of players who qualify for the Australian Open are allowed out of their rooms for five hours a day to train.

The Australian Tennis Federation has begun delivering equipment to allow the players to train during their isolation, while some are concerned about the risk of injury when they return to the courts for the preparation tournaments that will begin in Melbourne on January 31.

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