France's Jeremy Chardy became the first player to accuse Tennis Australia of favouritism, after it emerged that six of the world's biggest names were to be sent to Adelaide for an exhibition tournament at the end of this month.
The chosen ones will be part of an exclusive 50-person quarantine bubble ahead of the Australian Open, which starts on February 8.
The world's top three for each gender have been invited to Adelaide, but women's No.1 Ashleigh Barty does not need to quarantine and will be replaced by Serena Williams, possibly irritating world No.4 and defending Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin.
The names will thus be Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem on the men's side, with Simona Halep, Naomi Osaka and Williams on the women's.
They are to stay in a 4½-star hotel in Adelaide city centre, which is considerably smarter than the accommodation on offer in Melbourne, and will be allowed to take their whole staff to the courts, while their less-exalted counterparts must make do with one person.
The exhibition tennis event, to take place at Adelaide's Memorial Drive complex on Friday January 29, will be known as 'A Day At The Drive'.
The players bound for Adelaide will begin a mandatory 14-day period of quarantine from January 14. A tennis contingent of more than 1200 people including players and officials will arrive in Melbourne between January 15 and 17 and start quarantine at a number of inner-city hotels. Several tour events will be played at Melbourne Park in the week beginning Sunday, January 31 – before the delayed Australian Open gets off the ground.
Some of the world's top players and biggest names had already been granted larger entourages, of four people or more, while lesser names are allowed to take only two associates. The Adelaide hotel will offer a gym, whereas the rank and file will have to leave their accommodation to exercise. In both cities, players will be allowed out only for a maximum of five hours a day, including court time.
"This announcement for the top threes is a bit out of the blue, and it's weird, to put it mildly," Chardy, ranked 72, told L'Equipe. "They will even be able to benefit from a gym at the hotel and will be able to do their exercises, which will not count towards the five-hour quota. Everyone can go out. They will almost be able to live normally. Already they have a lot of privileges. If they can do everything more than you, it will not be the same preparation. And that's weird for a sport where we're all supposed to be on the same footing. If I was world number four I would be distraught."
Other players can go to Adelaide as the hitting partner for one of the six stars. For instance, Venus Williams can join her sister's entourage.
Tennis Australia confirmed on Friday it had been exploring the prospect of using Adelaide to quarantine a small portion of the tennis contingent as it finalised the complex planning for chartered flights and the quarantine arrangements in Melbourne.
TA boss Craig Tiley said that they hoped to have some top-level tennis in Adelaide this summer.
"We're working with the South Australia government, who've been magnificent in supporting us," Tiley said.
"We're hoping that there's an opportunity to have some professional tennis in their state during the course of this period."
Meanwhile, American world No.30 Amanda Anisimova has tested positive for COVID-19, the Tennis Channel reported on Friday.
The 19-year-old has not confirmed the result but she is not competing at the WTA tournament in Abu Dhabi.
In an Instagram post on Friday which included a crying emoji, she wrote: "I want to play."
The Telegraph, London, theage.com.au and Reuters
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