EXCLUSIVE: Inside The Melbourne Bubble - ‘Players Can’t Act Like Spoilt People’ - UBITENNIS
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EXCLUSIVE: Inside The Melbourne Bubble – ‘Players Can’t Act Like Spoilt People’

UbiTennis speaks to a leading WTA coach about the current controversy surrounding the Melbourne tennis bubble which he is currently part of and if he believes players are right to express their frustration.

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Less than a week into the mandatory 14-day quarantine process for players in Australia and there has already been plenty of drama.

 

Approximately 1200 players and their teams have travelled to Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open. Under government rules they are required to stay in their hotel rooms but are allowed to train up to five hours each day unless they have been in close contact with somebody who has tested Positive for COVID-19. Although things haven’t entirely gone to plan. There has been social media complaints about the food, insects in rooms and issues with practice sessions. Roberto Bautista Agut even went as far as describing the situation as a ‘prison’ in a personal video call that was published by an Israeli website without his permission.

The amount of negativity surrounding quarantine is substantial but is it really as bad as what it sounds?

Spanish coach Carlos Martinez is currently one of those living inside the bubble. With a wealth of experience in working with WTA players under his belt, he is currently mentoring former top 10 star Daria Kasatkina. Martinez has clarified some of the controversies surrounding the quarantine, including comments from players that they were misled about the rules upon arrival.

“They (Tennis Australia) made like, I don’t know how many, but hundreds of zoom’s (video conferences). They would inform us about everything, how it is going to be and the quarantine. We were getting messages and emails every single week,” Martinez told Ubitennis.net.
“Tennis Australia was doing a great job in my opinion. The only thing that was a bit unclear was about the quarantine when somebody gets infected on the plane. They were talking like they were going to make sections inside the plane so if they found somebody in a section (who tests positive) they would isolate those people,’
“But in the end the government didn’t want to do this and they preferred to isolate all on the plane because it was safer for everyone.”

So far Martinez has been fortunate not to have gone into strict isolation which at least 72 players have entered. Due to a series of flights having a passenger test positive for the virus, those on board must stay in their room throughout their quarantine. Those affected have been provided with exercise equipment of some sort.

“We know what we came for and how it is going to be. Of course, where you arrive everything seems more difficult than it is. But in my opinion they made a big effort and a super job to make the event. We can’t complain much.”

A frosty atmosphere with teething problems

(Martinez pictured with Kasatkina)

Martinez has a lot of admiration for Tennis Australia’s management in order to enable the first Grand Slam of the season to go ahead but he himself has also experienced some minor setbacks in the bubble. Undergoing daily testing, the Spaniard said he was kept inside his room for three and a half days without proper clarity about what was happening. Eventually he was informed that an issue with the practice schedule resulted in his first session with Kasatkina being cancelled. Fortunately, those issues have been resolved and they have now resumed practice.

“We are keeping to our plan. We are four days in and it is nothing compared to the others in the hotel,” Martinez said of Kasatkina’s preparation.
“She’s feeling good, she’s feeling happy and I’m not feeling anything strange.’
“Daria hasn’t lost any shape. We are coming from Abu Dhabi in what was a good week for us. She lost in the third round but was playing quite well in my opinion.”

https://twitter.com/DKasatkina/status/1350401479207575553

While the problems are starting to be resolved Martinez admits that there remains what he describes as a ‘strange and complicated’ atmosphere within the bubble. Frustration, anger and criticism from the public is a bit of a nightmare scenario for anybody preparing for a Grand Slam. On top of that, the two types of quarantine occurring is leading to concerns of an uneven playing ground.

“It is a strange atmosphere because there are 72 players in (stricter) quarantine. We can say that maybe it’s unfair because it’s true that we will not have the same opportunity. For example, we are practising for two hours a day plus fitness. They are in their rooms and can’t move. Of course it is not the same,” he commented.
“It is a bit complicated because I have found many people complaining and some of them talk about some things which are not right. That’s not nice at the moment.”

Amid the tension, the real question is how much of a disparity will there be between the players who are able to train on court during these two weeks and those who can’t? Some have called for the Australian Open to be delayed and for the men’s matches to be reduced from best-of-five to best-of-three sets. Two things which are unlikely to happen at present unless there is a mass rebellion.

Perhaps the media and players are reading too much into it? Martinez believes the impact will not be as significant as some are suggesting. Although he admits those 72 players are unlikely to be ready to play their tournament leading up to the Melbourne major.

“In my opinion, it’s not like they are going to lose all of their shape because most of them have equipment in their room and can make something. Of course it is not the same but I think in one week they can practice a lot and recover their shape,” he said.
“In the end, I think it will not be that bad. Of course it is not the same because they cannot compete in the first tournament and it is important to go into a grand slam with a few matches. But in the end it is going to be better than they think.”

The public is right to be unhappy

Players arriving in Australia

The series of player comments about their conditions in quarantine has prompted some backlash from the Australian public, highlighted best by The Sydney Morning Herald who published a series of letters criticising them. Meanwhile Novak Djokovic’s attempt at changing the quarantine rules by submitting his own letter outlining a series of suggestions were greeted with a flat out ‘No’ from the government. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters earlier this week ‘I think it’s just time people followed the rules, do their quarantine, play Tennis.’

As the public gets bemused by the situation, some are wondering how players will be received by fans during their tournaments in Melbourne Park?

“There are people living out of Australia who cannot come back and that’s why they (the public) can be a little bit unhappy with us,” said Martinez.
“I don’t think they will react badly because the public will be very happy to go to Melbourne Park to watch matches and see the top players in the world doing their job. There will not be any inconvenience for anyone.”

Like others within the tennis community, such as Victoria Azarenka, the Spaniard said it is vital that everyone look at the wider picture concerning the pandemic. On January 16th the worldwide death toll for COVID-19 surpassed 2 million people.

In the end, we have to understand why players can not act like spoiled people. Complaining about the hotel, room and that when there are other people worse off in really tough moments. Many people are losing their jobs and in the end for us we can be very proud with what Tennis Australia is doing. Otherwise, we are home crying that we cannot play tennis.” He concluded.

The Australian Open is set to start on February 8th.

SEE ALSOEXCLUSIVE: Inside The Melbourne Bubble – ‘Top Names Get Preferential Treatment But That’s Part Of The Tour’

Grand Slam

US Open 2022: Djokovic, Medvedev Early Favorites but Will the Serb Be Allowed to Compete?

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Wimbledon was a great success for the World’s No.1 ranked Novak Djokovic, as the Serbian star claimed another Grand Slam title. However, with the grass season officially behind us, tennis enthusiasts are looking towards the US Open. 

 

The Hard Court season is around the corner, and the usual suspects are topping the bookmaker’s odds to win the final Grand Slam of the season – the US Open – which will take place at Flushing Meadows, New York City. 

US Open 2022 betting odds & favorites to win it all 

To the surprise of nobody, Djokovic is topping the current US Open tennis odds at Caesars sportsbook New York as he looks to finish the Grand Slam season with another success added to his resume. 

Daniil Medvedev is the second favorite to win the competition, and Carlos Alcaraz is the third betting favorite. Interestingly, Rafael Nadal – all-time record holder with 22 Grand Slam titles – is currently priced at +660, making him an outsider to the aforementioned players. 

Tennis fans eagerly anticipated a meeting between Djokovic and Nadal in the Wimbledon finals, but the Spaniard was forced out of the competition due to an injury. A US Open final meeting between the two most successful ranked tennis stars is undoubtedly a match we’re all craving, but can Nadal prove the sportsbooks wrong and battle his way into another final? 

With less than a month until the first round begins, here are the latest available odds to win the US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, taking place between Aug 29 – Sep 11, 2022.      

Players Odds to win the US Open outright 
Novak Djokovic +150 
Danill Medvedev +225
Carlos Alcaraz Garfia+350
Rafael Nadal +550
Stefanos Tsitsipas +1,200 
Alexander Zverev +1,400 
Matteo Berrettini+1,600
Jannik Sinner +1,800 
Felix Auger-Aliassime +2,000
Andrey Rublev +2,500
Taylor Fritz +2,500 
Dominic Thiem +2,800
Denis Shapovalov +3,500 
Miomir Kecmanovic +3,500
Nick Kyrgios +3,500
Hubert Hurkacz +4,000 
Jenson Brooksby +4,000 
Cameron Norrie +4,000 
Casper Ruud +4,000 
Roger Federer +5,000 

Despite owning the favorable betting position to win the US Open outright, Djokovic remains unvaccinated. The current regulations state that non-US citizens must be vaccinated to compete in the US, so he’s ineligible to play. 

Djokovic hasn’t given up hope

The unvaccinated tennis stand-out was removed from the Australian Open in January, as the government declared he’d disobeyed strict Covid-19 regulations. 

The 35-year-old is now facing a similar fate at Flushing Meadows but has insisted on continuing his US Open training camp. 

As it currently stands, Djokovic won’t play at the US Open. Still, the Serbian star remains hopeful and recently took to social media with a video clip of himself preparing for the tournament. 

I am preparing as if I will be allowed to compete while I await to hear if there is any room for me to travel to the US,’ Djokovic wrote on Twitter. 
‘Fingers crossed!’ 

After posting a video of himself preparing, fans showed their support in abundance with the hashtag #LetNovakPlay. 

Further support for the Serbian star has continued with a petition on Change.Org. As of Saturday morning, close to 45,000 people had signed the petition requesting the US Tennis Association and the federal government to agree for Djokovic to gain entry into the US. 

‘I just wanted to take a moment and say to all of you how grateful I am to see so many messages of support and love from all around the world these days,’ Djokovic wrote to his fans. 
‘It feels special that people connect with my tennis career in such a loving and supportive way and wish for me to continue to compete.’ 

Several US politicians have expressed their opinions on the matter and have insisted that US President Joe Biden ease the rules so that Djokovic can participate at the upcoming Open. 

American politicians aren’t the only ones speaking up against Biden’s rules. The Serbia-American Voting Alliance (SAVA) has also written a letter asking the President to reconsider the regulations preventing Djokovic from competing in the United States. It read, “The US Open is the biggest tennis tournament in the world, and it won’t be what it is without Novak Djokovic. 
“Considering the economic situation and the crisis at all levels, America must not allow the US Open not to take place in its full glory and capacity, which means the arrival of Novak Djokovic, who has been crowned three times at the US Open, Novak does not pose any security threat, is one of the healthiest people in the world due to his disciplined life and serves as a role model and inspiration to millions around the world. 
“It is in America’s interest that the biggest tournament in the world hosts the best player in the world, especially since he just won the seventh Wimbledon in London.”  

Should the restriction be removed, Djokovic has the opportunity to level Rafael Nadal for the most Grand Slam titles of all time (22). 

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Grand Slam

McEnroe Labels Novak Djokovic’s Possible US Open Ban As ‘Crazy’

The American tennis great says he ‘respects’ Djokovic’s decision not to get vaccinated against covid-19.

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Novak Djokovic at the 2021 Rolex Paris Masters (Credit: Roberto Dell'Olivo)

John McEnroe says he is hoping that a solution can be found for Novak Djokovic to play at the US Open later this year.

 

As it currently stands 21-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic will not be allowed to play in New York due to government rules related to the entry of unvaccinated individuals. To travel to America, visitors are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they qualify for a special exemption. Djokovic has not been jabbed and stated after his Wimbledon triumph that he is not planning to do so. 

On Wednesday the United States Tennis Association (USTA) issued their entry lists for the US Open which also included Djokovic in the men’s draw. However, they also posted a statement confirming that they will ‘respect’ the American government’s rules concerning unvaccinated players. 

“The US Open does not have a vaccination mandate in place for players, but it will respect the U.S. government’s position regarding travel into the country for unvaccinated non-U.S. citizens,” the USTA said. 

Weighing in on the debate, former world No.1 McEnroe described the prospect of Djokovic missing the US Open as ‘crazy’ during an interview with Tennis 365. The Serbian has won four out of the last seven Grand Slam tournaments. He missed this year’s Australian Open following a high-profile legal dispute over the legitimacy of his visa which resulted in his deportation.

“We have to find a way to get Novak into the US Open,” said McEnroe. “How can he not be there? He has just won Wimbledon, he is a great champion and he should be in the US Open.
“I don’t agree with his decision not to get vaccinated, but I respect it. He is one of the fittest guys in the world and everything he puts into his body, he is watching carefully.
“Now we are saying that because of his choice, he can’t play at the US Open. I mean, come on. He has already been deported from Australia for the same reason and here we are again.
“I hope someone finds a way to sort this out. It’s crazy that Novak misses the US Open at this stage.”

Djokovic has won the US Open three times in his career with his most recent triumph occurring in 2018. He also won the title in 2011 and 2015. The 35-year-old was also runner-up at the tournament on six other occasions.

Should he be unsuccessful in trying to enter America, it is unclear when Djokovic will play his next tournament. He has previously hinted that he could feature in the Laver Cup that will take place in September. 

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US Open: Unvaccinated Novak Djokovic On Entry List But Former Champion Thiem Is Missing

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Novak Djokovic (SRB) - Credit: AELTC/Simon Bruty

Novak Djokovic has automatically entered himself to play at this year’s US Open even though there is a strong chance that he will not be allowed to participate. 

 

The 21-time Grand Slam champion has been included in the provisional entry list which was published on Wednesday. However, organizers confirmed that they will ‘respect’ the US Government’s rules on the admission of vaccinated individuals into the country. As it currently stands those who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 are not allowed to enter the country unless they qualify for a special exemption. 

“The US Open does not have a vaccination mandate in place for players, but it will respect the U.S. government’s position regarding travel into the country for unvaccinated non-U.S. citizens,” the USTA said in a statement. 

Djokovic is one of those who are not vaccinated against the virus. Following his win over Nick Kyrgios in the Wimbledon final, the former world No.1 stated that he still has no intention of being jabbed. Even though it could result in his missing a series of key Masters 1000 events across the summer, as well as the US Open. Djokovic has previously said he is cautious about injecting substances into his body due to concerns about how he may react. The COVID-19 vaccination has been deemed safe by the World Health Organization. 

“I’m not vaccinated and I’m not planning to get vaccinated so the only good news I can have is them removing the mandated green vaccine card or whatever you call it to enter the United States or exemption,” Djokovic told reporters at Wimbledon. “I don’t know. I don’t think the exemption is realistically possible. If that is a possibility, I don’t know what exemption would be about.”

As Djokovic hopes for a change in the law for him to play, 2020 champion Dominic Thiem will be relying on receiving a wild card for him to participate. The Austrian has decided not to join the entry list with the use of his protected ranking. Thiem was unable to defend his title last year due to a right wrist injury which ended up sidelining him from the Tour for months. 

Elsewhere, a trio of former top 20 players are using their protected ranking to join the field. Stan Wawrinka, Borna Coric and Kyle Edmund are all using their passes. Wawrinka and Coric have both started their comeback from injury but Edmund hasn’t played a singles tournament since October 2020. Aljaz Bedene, who is set to retire from the Sport at the end of this season, is also using his protected ranking. 

Williams joins the women’s field

In the women’s tournament, Serena Williams has used her protected ranking of 16th to join the field. The American recently played her first tournament for 12 months at Wimbledon where she lost in the first round to France’s Harmony Tan. Williams, who is one major title away from equalling Margaret Court’s record of 24, has also entered herself into other tournaments leading up to the US Open. 

Reigning champion Emma Raducanu is 10th on the list and will be hoping to repeat her heroics from last year where as a qualifier she won 10 matches in a row without dropping a set en route to the title. Since then, the Brit hasn’t featured in another Tour final and has been hampered by various physical issues. 

Raducanu and Williams are two out of six former US Open champions on the entry list. The others are Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber, Sloane Stephens and Bianca Andreescu. 

Venus Williams, who last won the tournament back in 2001, isn’t on the list. However, she could enter via wild card if she is given one. 

The 2022 US Open main draw will begin on August 29th. The full list of men’s entries can be seen HERE and the women’s HERE

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