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Rodent woes Quarantined tennis stars told not to feed the mice in their rooms as Novak Djokovic hits back

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

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

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

Tennis stars stuck in quarantine ahead of the Australian Open have been encouraged not to feed mice that appear to be rampant in their hotel rooms.

World No.28 Yulia Putintsev asked to swap rooms after finding a mouse, but said her new room is also infested and she posted a message on Twitter to confirm her problem.

Putintsev is among more than 70 players and their entourages confined to their hotel rooms for 14 days, with Victoria state police minister Lisa Neville suggesting some players are befriending the mice.

"As I understand, there may have been some feeding going on," said Neville. "We will keep doing pest control if we need to, but hopefully that pest control work that was done this week will have fixed the problem."

The mice issue is the latest chapter of a nightmare story for the game's top tennis players, who are all in hard quarantine after numerous positive Covid-19 tests from players and their coaching teams after arriving in Australia last week.

Ten people who have flown to Melbourne for the first grand slam of the year have tested positive for coronavirus, resulting in 72 players being confined to their rooms.

World No.1 Novak Djokovic is part of a group of top players enjoying better conditions while quarantining in Adelaide, but the 33-year-old said he had felt obliged to use his “hard-earned” privileges to make suggestions to tournament director Craig Tiley on how to improve conditions for players in Melbourne.

His suggestions that included private villas for players sparked ridicule from onlookers, but he has insisted he had does not regret his intervention: "My good intentions for my fellow competitors in Melbourne have been misconstrued as being selfish, difficult and ungrateful. This couldn’t be farther from the truth

"I genuinely care about my fellow players and I also understand very well how the world is run and who gets bigger and better and why.

"I’ve earned my privileges the hard way and for that reason it is very difficult for me to be a mere onlooker knowing how much every help, gesture and good word mattered to me when I was small and insignificant in the world pecking order.

"Hence I use my position of privilege to be of service as much as I can where and when needed."

Regarding his suggestions to Tiley, Djokovic added: "In our email exchange I used an opportunity to brainstorm about potential improvements that could be made to the quarantine of players in Melbourne that were in full lockdown.

"There were a few suggestions and ideas that I gathered from other players from our chat group and there was no harm intended to try and help.

"I was aware that the chances were low that any of our suggestions would be accepted, just like my request to quarantine with my team in Melbourne instead of Adelaide was denied prior to our travel because of the strict government regulations.

"I understand that organising international sporting events during a pandemic poses health risks to the local community and to the players themselves.

"Therefore, I would like to express my full gratitude to Tennis Australia, the Australian Government and local citizens for being willing to take this risk with us for the love of the game and the multiple opportunities it brings to the economy of the country and its people.

"We are honoured and we will all do our best to follow the guidelines and protocols put in place. We do hope that we will be able to nurture our bodies and be ready for the mental and physical endurance and strength tests that are ahead of us once the competition starts.

"Things in the media escalated and there was a general impression that the players (including myself) are ungrateful, weak and selfish because of their unpleasant feelings in quarantine. I am very sorry that it has come that because I do know how grateful many are.

"We all came to Australia to compete. Not being able to train and prepare before the tournament starts is really not easy. None of us ever questioned 14 days of quarantine despite what is being said by media outlets."

Tennis Australia chief executive Tiley said the safety of the Victorian community would not be compromised, but added the body was walking a "tightrope".

He told ABC News Breakfast: "I do understand the players, this is a new experience for them and I don’t think anyone expected to know what the 14 days was like and they are adapting to it.

"At the beginning, it was pretty challenging with their adaptation, it’s got a lot better, I think the majority of the players understand and accept it and there is a minority struggling with it but we are going to do whatever we can to make it better for them."

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