The top players at this year's Australian Open - most notably Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem, Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka - have all been quarantining in Adelaide instead of Melbourne. Several other players have been claiming all along that this is akin to giving preferential treatment to the big stars, and now tournament director Craig Tiley has admitted as much.
Following multiple COVID positive cases on the chartered flights to Melbourne that sent 72 players into hard lockdown, many have criticized Tennis Australia for housing different sets of players in different cities. While the likes of Dominic Thiem have asserted that the quarantine conditions are 'exactly the same' in Adelaide and Melbourne - echoing what Craig Tiley had also said two weeks ago - there is still plenty of unrest about the apparent unfairness of the situation.
But now Tiley himself has acknowledged the perception of the disparity, while also implying that the top players getting a 'better deal' is just business.
"I get the feeling it is perceived as preferential treatment," said Tiley. "But they're the top players in the world. My general rule is if you're at the top of the game, a Grand Slam champion, it's just the nature of the business. You are going to get a better deal."
The authorities had earlier claimed there was scarcity of space in Melbourne, which is why Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem and others were shifted to Adelaide. There was also the suggestion that the exhibition tournament planned in the South Australian city would help raise money for charity.
But with Tiley's latest comments, there are likely going to be even more questions raised about the treatment of lower-ranked players in tennis.
Players unhappy with the special treatment for Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem and others in Adelaide
Over the past few days, Tennis Australia has received massive backlash for the move to arrange separate isolation conditions for Rafael Nadal and Co.
Jeremy Chardy had initially questioned the advantages afforded to the top players who 'already had privileges'. And following the positive cases, Italian player Salvatore Caruso even hinted at a potential boycott from the players.
"There was a big fight for the privileges of the top 3 (Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem), so let's not fool ourselves - they are important privileges. We are all in the same boat and should have the same chances of preparing for a Grand Slam. These things shouldn't happen," Caruso said. "The players have the power to boycott, it's our only weapon, but getting everyone to agree is difficult because we are a hundred heads."
Dominic Thiem might have hoped to defuse the situation with his comments, but it is unlikely that the controversy will die out any time soon.