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ATP chief responds to Novak Djokovic's quarantine concerns, says "move away from structure would present significant challenges"

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic
FEATURED COLUMNIST
Modified 18 Feb 2021
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Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev recently gave their views about the difficulty of playing tournaments with quarantine. And now Andrea Gaudenzi, the chairman of the men's tour, has responded to those concerns, claiming that the tour will work closely with tournament organizers and local officials to ensure the best possible way to move forward.

Speaking after his quarterfinal win on Tuesday at the 2021 Australian Open, Novak Djokovic revealed that many players were not in favor of traveling across the globe if they had to undergo a quarantine similar to the one in Melbourne.

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic

Tennis Australia and local Victorian officials had mandated that players undergo a two-week quarantine upon arrival, during which they would be allowed to leave their rooms for five hours a day for training and practice. But those plans went astray as around 70 players were forced into hard quarantine (not being allowed to leave their room for two weeks) due to positive COVID-19 tests on their flights.

With the fitness regimen of so many players getting disrupted due to lack of practice time, the Australian Open has seen a number of injury issues - with Novak Djokovic himself being one of the affected players. In a recent chat with ESPN, Andrea Gaudenzi acknowledged the 'sacrifices' that the players have made and vowed to coordinate efficiently going forward so that such problems can be mitigated.

"The players have made unprecedented sacrifices in order to compete in Melbourne and they deserve huge credit for that," Gaudenzi said. "As we look ahead, we are working in close collaboration with tournament organizers and local governments to secure travel exemptions for our athletes so they can continue to compete."

At the same time, the ATP boss warned that tennis' structure is vastly different from other sports, and that any changes would have to be made with caution.

"Our sport has looked at many different solutions in its response to the global pandemic over the past 12 months," Gaudenzi added. "The nature of our tour is truly global - a move away from that structure would present significant challenges compared to many other sports or leagues."

The 2021 ATP calendar is supposedly flexible, largely based on local conditions. The Miami Masters recently announced its plans to go ahead with some fans in attendance, while an ATP event in Marrakech, scheduled for early April, has been postponed for now.

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The scheduling of tournaments in countries with different entry, quarantine and exit rules is likely to remain a challenge for the tennis circuit over the next few months.

A prime example of the changing dynamics was seen during the 2021 Australian Open, where local officials announced a five-day lockdown in the midst of the tournament. That meant fans were not able to attend the event during the lockdown, causing a dent in the revenue expectations for Tennis Australia.

Novak Djokovic had suggested an NBA-type bubble for the ATP tour to ensure players' health and well-being

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic
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Speaking to the media on Tuesday, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic had suggested that the ATP tour could consider an NBA-type bubble, where players could play 3-4 events in one location on the same surface.

That has been the approach adopted by Tennis Australia this year too. The bulk of the Australian summer series has been held at Melbourne Park, the venue of the Australian Open.

Novak Djokovic claimed that the quarantine has had an impact on the physical conditioning of the players. The Serb added that being away from their families due to the restrictions on the number of support staff members was also a concern for some players.

Germany's Alexander Zverev supported Novak Djokovic's suggestions, but World No. 2 Rafael Nadal had a slightly different view on the subject.

While Nadal agreed with Novak Djokovic that the current environment is far from ideal, he asserted that the ATP tour must find a way to go on in the safest and most appropriate manner possible. And the fact that the tour provides jobs to thousands of people is an important point in favor of Nadal's argument.

The Spaniard added that if the tour stopped for some time, there would be no certainty on when and how it would restart. The tennis circuit was shut down for five months last year at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, severely impacting the financial situation of scores of people - including players.

Published 18 Feb 2021, 13:55 IST
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