Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley has come out in defence of under-fire World No. 1 Novak Djokovic. Tiley has revealed that Djokovic's letter asking for improvements in Melbourne's lockdown conditions contained mere 'suggestions' rather than 'demands'.
On Sunday, news emerged that Novak Djokovic had written a letter calling for the relaxation of rules being faced by the 72 players in hard lockdown. Some of the proposals were for fitness equipment to be made available in the players' rooms and providing of better food, while others related to coach visits and accommodating players in private housing with tennis courts.
Novak Djokovic's wish-list was firmly rejected by both Daniel Andrews, the Victoria Premier, and Emma Cassar, the Commissioner for COVID-19 Quarantine in Victoria. Moreover, Djokovic was also criticized heavily by local Australians on social media.
The handful of positive COVID-19 tests on the chartered flights arranged by Tennis Australia, coupled with the struggles that Victorians have had to undergo for months during lockdown, made Novak Djokovic's 'demands' seem out of touch with reality. But according to Craig Tiley, the Serb is perfectly in sync with the authorities about what the quarantine entails.
"In the case of Novak Djokovic, he wrote a note, these weren't demands, they were suggestions, but he is understanding what two weeks of lockdown means," Tiley told the media on Tuesday.
Novak Djokovic to join the rest of the players in Melbourne at the end of January
Novak Djokovic is currently in Adelaide, where he is undergoing quarantine with several other top players - including Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem. Djokovic and Co will compete in an exhibition event on 29 January before travelling to Melbourne, where a majority of this year's Australian summer events will take place.
The World No. 1 is expected to compete in the ATP Cup for Serbia in the first week of February, followed by the Australian Open. While Djokovic has not made any official comment on the letter or the Melbourne quarantine, Craig Tiley asserted that the impacted players had become more accepting of the lockdown regulations.
"I think the reports we're seeing and things we are seeing doesn't represent the entire playing group," Tiley added. "For the most part, they have been really good. These are high performing athletes and it is hard to keep a high performing athlete in a room."
Tiley also recognizes that the playing field will likely be uneven given that only a few players have been forced into hard lockdown. However, he assured everyone that his team would try their best to balance things out as far as possible.
"We're going to play our part to try to even it up as much as possible," Tiley said. "But every player coming down knew that if they were going to be a close contact or were going to test positive, these were going to be the conditions."