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Novak Djokovic's list of lavish demands rejected as Australian Open crisis deepens

Novak Djokovic waves as he arrives at Adelaide Airport. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

Kevin Palmer

World No.1 Novak Djokovic has reportedly sent a list of demands to organisers of the Australian Open, as the chaos surrounding the event threatened to derail plans to start the tournament on February 8th.

Tennis players stuck in isolation in their Melbourne hotel rooms will not be given any special treatment, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has said.

A total of 72 players are enduring 14 days of strict quarantine following positive coronavirus tests returned by passengers on three of the charter flights that arrived in the country last week ahead of the Australian Open.

Andrews was asked about a series of requests reportedly made by Novak Djokovic to help those players, including a reduction in the time spent in isolation, permission to see coaches and moving athletes to private houses with practice facilities.

Djokovic set up a player association separate to the ATP last summer and has made improving the lot of athletes within the sport a major goal.

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The list received short shrift from Andrews, though, who told local media at a press conference: “People are free to provide a list of demands. But the answer is no.

“I know that there’s been a bit of chatter from a number of players about the rules. Well, the rules apply to them as they apply to everybody else, and they were all briefed on that before they came.

“That was the condition on which they came. There’s no special treatment here.”

A statement on the official Twitter account of the Australian Open said: “One positive Covid-19 test has been returned from a passenger on a charter flight into Melbourne from Doha which arrived at 5.30am on January 16.

“The passenger is not a member of the playing contingent and had tested negative before the flight. There were 58 passengers on the flight, including 25 players. All are already in quarantine hotels.

“The 25 players on the flight will not be able to leave their hotel rooms for 14 days and until they are medically cleared. They will not be eligible to practice.”

Rafael Nadal arrives at Adelaide Airport on January 14, 2021 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

A fourth positive case has been recorded from the two flights that carried the initial group of 47 players.

Covid-19 Quarantine Victoria commissioner Emma Cassar revealed the news on Sunday, adding the positive test was returned by a broadcast team member on a charter flight from Los Angeles.

Two other people on that flight had earlier tested positive, while another case was detected on a flight from Abu Dhabi.

With many players voicing their anguish as they are locked in their hotel rooms and unable to practice due to the positive Covid cases, Djokovic is reported to have sent a list of demands to Australian Open chief Craig Tiley to try and plot a path forward.

These include:

* Fitness and training material in all rooms

* Decent food for elite athletes, following players taking aim at the meals on offer

* Reduce the days of isolation for players in hard isolation and carry out more tests to confirm they are negative

* Permission to visit your coach or physical trainer, as long as both have passed the tests

* Grant both the player and his coach to be on the same floor of the hotel

* Move as many players as possible to private houses with a tennis court to facilitate training

It remains to be seen whether these requests will be granted, with anger growing in Australia that tennis players were allowed into the country at a time when many Aussies are not being allowed to return home due to pandemic restrictions.

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