Two of the world's biggest tennis stars are at odds over the Victorian government's cautious approach to the pandemic-affected summer of tennis in Melbourne, which could result in the Australian Open being delayed.
World No.2 Rafael Nadal said on Sunday that tennis players were in no position to dictate to the state government on any of the restrictions it places on players or tournaments in Victoria, days after world No.1 Novak Djokovic asked the state for "understanding" and to allow players to compete in the second week of their quarantine.
Rafael Nadal is happy to let the Victorian government proceed cautiously. Credit:Getty Images
The Victorian government and Tennis Australia are currently working through the complex situation of trying to host the Australian Open in Victoria, as the state continued its more than three-week run of no new coronavirus cases following winter's second wave, which killed 768 people. A decision is expected within days.
One of the options is to delay the Australian Open, with the government not willing to allow tennis players into the state before January to begin their two-week quarantine, rather than December, which would make lead up tournaments such as the ATP Cup easier.
Nadal – who did not go to New York for the US Open but did play and win the French Open – was asked after losing to Daniil Medvedev at the ATP World Tour Finals in London on Sunday if there were any circumstances under which he would not play in the Australian Open.
"I don't know what's the situation going to be yet," Nadal said. "We need to wait about what the government there in Victoria says.
"We can't do much from ATP position or just wait. We [are] nobody to say what they feel is better for [their] country, no?
"We just need to be patient and accept the situation that we are facing. That is difficult for everyone. We need to be flexible to understand the situation and to find a way to play as many tournaments as possible next year."
"Hopefully with the vaccine, that ends soon and we can come back at least to close to normal in a couple of months, but now is a difficult situation."
Nadal's comments are the opposite of world No.1 Djokovic, who this week urged Australia to give tennis players special allowances in quarantine.
"I hope that there is going to be support and understanding from the Victorian and Australian government for the players and for Tennis Australia and that they will allow players to compete in the second week of quarantine," Djokovic told reporters at the ATP finals on Wednesday.
"You will be able to have at least a tournament or two prior to the Australian Open, which for majority of the players is important.
"Having no official match before the Australian Open, before a grand slam, is a huge thing."
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said on Sunday that discussions about the tennis were ongoing.
"We're working closely with Tennis Australia and they in turn are speaking with their global partners, media partner, sponsors, and when we have a announcement to make we'll make it," he said.
"When you put on top of that quarantine effort the need to have many more than 1000 people in direct connection with that event [coming to Melbourne], that's not a simple thing, there is some complexity to that."
Tennis Australia had been hoping to welcome international tennis stars to Melbourne from December 8 but they were thrown a curveball when it was revealed the government would prevent any players arriving in Melbourne – and beginning a mandatory two-week period of quarantine – until the start of January.
With Melbourne's much-loved grand slam event – virtually a permanent fixture during the school holidays – scheduled to start on January 18, that would leave players only a few days to prepare after leaving quarantine.
The Open's junior events have been postponed.
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