I’ve had enough.
If you have followed me for a little while, you will know that when most of the world deserts a tennis player for their behaviour, I am generally there looking for the silver lining as to why a player has behaved in a certain way. I died on the Bernard Tomic hill a few years ago, and was one of Nick Kyrgios’ few fans in the tough times.
There have been only three key events over the last 9 months that have really irked me: The Adria Tour, Alexander Zverev’s behaviour and Sam Querrey’s private jet fiasco. The last 24 to 36 hours as a tennis lover living in Victoria have been some of the most difficult to stomach. I have tried my best to seek positives out of this situation, so I will start there.
Tennis Australia has done a phenomenal job in trying to get this tournament off the ground. They are covering the flights and accommodations of players and support staff, and have put up a major prize purse whilst not being able to sell a lot of tickets for the fortnight. They have chartered flights for all these players to reduce the risk of positive tests. Yes, there have a couple of positive tests, however I can only imagine how many positives may have occurred with players spread across more flights coming out of hotspots. They have reduced the risk as much as they could, but this just shows how tough it is to manage international sporting events in pandemic.
I have seen a number of players complaining about being deemed close contacts. The reasons for their complaining kind of sums up part of the issue. They are complaining at their lack of access to training for 2 weeks, and not the fact they have been deemed a close contact and have been exposed to COVID-19. This isn’t like the US Open or the French Open, where a couple of positive tests are added to the local tally of a couple of thousand for the day. Yesterday in Victoria, there were ZERO cases of community transmission for the 11th day in a row. There were 7 cases of positive tests in hotel quarantine, 3 of which are tennis related. It’s not in the community, thanks to the hard work of many Victorians. We spent months and months in lockdown. I could only see my family over Zoom, blew out candles for my birthday over Zoom, have watched my closest healthcare family and friends work tirelessly to help keep this virus contained and at bay, and you can be sure as hell no Victorian is going to just sit back now, watch this litany of complaints fill social media and feel sympathetic.
The players were given the luxury of 5 hours outside of their hotel rooms if things worked out perfectly. That is 5 hours more than any other travelling returning home to Victoria, that is if they can even get home. That is 4 more hours than all Victorians were allowed during lockdown. And I’ll give you the hot tip right now, starting a tweet or an Instagram video with “I am not complaining, but….” is just asking for it.
I have seen a number of players post an article from Craig Tiley a couple of months ago saying that players won’t have to play the Australian Open fresh off a 14 day hard lockdown. And they’re right. That is part of the reason why they will actually have over a week before the Australian Open to acclimatise, and potentially play a warm-up tournament if they want in the worst case scenario. If only they’d read their own guidelines of how to act leading up to and during their flights, we wouldn’t have this type of shitstorm now.
You can’t just walk into this situation, in a pandemic, be briefed on all the risks and what could happen in a worst case scenario, in this case be stuck in a hotel room for 14 days, and then complain when the worst case scenario has eventuated. How did you think the Chief Health Officer, responsible for the safety of an entire state, was going to handle the situation when you have a look at what has been on social media over the last couple of days? He didn’t have a choice. If anything, the actions of the last 24-48 hours have increased my confidence in the hotel quarantine system from a Victorian standpoint. You were advised to isolate in the 48 hours prior to your flight, and many have posted selfies and videos at the beach in Abu Dhabi. You were advised to socially distance on flights and wear masks, yet selfies and videos, some involving maskless players, littered social media. What did you think was going to happen?! The guidelines were there, and they suggested that Tennis Australia would do as much as they can to assist. Unfortunately, there is a new strain of COVID coming into Australia and the country is on high alert. Things change quickly in pandemics.
Other top players have complained about the uneven playing field as a result of some players ending up in hard quarantine. If you’re a top player, with the ability to travel with a partner a coach, a physiotherapist and other team members year round in a perfect world, you are probably the last people who should cry uneven playing field at the top of the tour.
If you don’t like it here, then head back to the airport and enjoy the rest of your year. Give Sam Querrey a call – he can probably source you a jet. I am sure there are many players at Challenger and ITF level who would be more than willing to step into your spot. Craig Tiley and Tennis Australia have bent over backwards to try and facilitate this tournament, and you’ll be walking away with at least AUD$100,000 in most instances. If the worst case scenario for you is being stuck in a hotel for 14 days, how misguided are your perceptions of the world as we now know it in 2021? Seriously…
I have long advocated for tennis to receive better coverage in Australia, however I don’t even know if it is deserved anymore. I haven’t hugged family members for nearly a year, so I’m sorry that I cannot find a sympathetic bone in my body for your current plight.
Thank you to those who have posted how grateful they are to be here and able to play the game they love, but to the others: grow up and read the room.