EXCLUSIVE: Inside The Melbourne Bubble - ‘Top Names Get Preferential Treatment But That’s Part Of The Tour’ - UBITENNIS
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EXCLUSIVE: Inside The Melbourne Bubble – ‘Top Names Get Preferential Treatment But That’s Part Of The Tour’

Marcelo Demoliner celebrated his birthday in quarantine, his doubles partner isn’t allowed to leave his room for 14 days and he believes there is a difference in treatment between the top players and others. Yet, he refuses to complain about the situation he finds himself in.

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Marcelo Demoliner pictured during the 2020 Australian Open. image via https://www.facebook.com/mdemoliner89)

Like his peers, Brazil’s Marcelo Demoliner passes his time in Melbourne quarantine by training, sleeping, eating and posting amusing videos on social media.

 

Demoliner, who currently has a doubles ranking of world No.44, is required by Australian law to abide by a strict isolation period before he is allowed to play any professional tournament. Although he is allowed to train unless he is deemed to be a close contact of somebody who has tested positive for COVID-19. An unfortunate situation 72 players find themselves in, including Demoliner’s doubles partner Santiago Gonzalez

During an email exchange with UbiTennis the Brazilian sheds light on what he labels as an ‘usual experience’ that has prompted criticism from some players. Roberto Bautista Agut was caught on camera describing conditions as a ‘prison’ in a video leaked to the press. Although he has since apologised for his comments. Demonliner himself is not as critical as others.

“It is an unusual experience that we will remember for a long time,” he told UbiTennis. “It is a very complicated situation that we are going through. Obviously, it is not ideal for us athletes to be able to go out for just 5 hours a day, but mainly for the other 72 players who cannot go out, like my partner Santiago Gonzalez. They have a complicated situation of possibly getting injured after not practicing for 14 days, but it is what it is.’
“We need to understand and adapt to this situation considering Australia did a great job containing Covid.”

With three ATP doubles titles to his name, Demoliner is playing at the Australian Open for the sixth year in a row. He has played on the Tour for over a decade and has been ranked as high as 34th in the world.

Besides the players complaining about food, their rooms and even questioning the transparency of the rule making, Tennis Australia also encountered a slight blip regarding the scheduling of practice.

“I was a little lucky because I stayed in one of the hotels that we don’t need to take transportation to go to the training courts. It made the logistics issue much easier. The other two hotels had problems with transportation and logistics in the first two days, but I have nothing to complain about, honestly.”

Demoliner remains thankful for what Tennis Australia has managed to do in order for the Australian Open to be played. Quarantine can have a big impact on a person mentally, as well as physically. Each day players spend at least 19 hours in their hotel rooms which was no fun for the Brazilian who celebrated his 32nd birthday on Tuesday.

“Without a doubt, it is something we have never been through before. I’m luckily having 5 hours of training daily. I am managing to maintain my physical preparation and rhythm. It is not the ideal, of course, but I can’t even imagine the situation of other players who are in the more restricted quarantine.”

image via https://www.instagram.com/MDemoliner/

Priority given to the top names

As Demoliner resides in Melbourne, a selected handful of players are spending their time in Adelaide. Under a deal struck by Tennis Australia, officials have agreed for the top three players on the ATP and WTA Tour’s to be based in the city. The idea being is that it will relieve the strain on Melbourne who is hosting in the region of 1200 arrivals.

Craig Tiley, who is the head of Tennis Australia, has insisted that all players will have to follow the same rules wherever they are based. Although some feel that those in Adelaide have some extra privileges such as a private gym they can use outside of the five-hour training bubble. Japan’s Taro Daniel told the Herald Sun: “People in Adelaide are being able to hit with four people on court, so there’s some resentment towards that as well.” Daniel’s view is one echoed also by Demoliner.

“I do believe they are receiving preferential treatment, quite different from us. But this is part of the tour,” he said.
“The top tennis players always had these extras, we are kinda of used to it. We came here knowing that they would have better conditions for practicing, structure, hotels… they also have merits to have achieved all that they have to be the best players in the world. I don’t know if it’s fair, but I believe the conditions could be more similar than they are in this situation.”

Some players were recently bemused by a photo of Naomi Osaka that surfaced on social media before being removed. The reigning US Open champion was pictured on a court with four members of her team, which is more people than what those in Melbourne are allowed to train with.

https://twitter.com/mdemoliner89/status/1351079924719898632

As the Adelaide contingent continues their preparations, those most unhappy with them are likely to be the 72 players who are in strict quarantine. Demoliner is concerned about the elevated risk of injury that could occur due to the facts they are not allowed to leave their rooms. All players in this situation have been issued with gym equipment to use.

“I think that they will be at a considerable disadvantage compared to who can train. But we need to obey the law of the country, there is not much to do … until the 29th they will have to stay in the room and that is it,” he said.
“Whether it is fair or not, it is not up to me to say because I am not in this situation. The thing about having the other players who didn’t have contact with the positive cases to also stay in the rooms is the concern about the risk of injury, specially for singles players. It will be a tough challenge, especially at the beginning of the season.”

In recent days, officials have been holding video calls with players to discuss ways to address these concerns ahead of the Australian Open. Which will start a week after they are allowed to leave their rooms.

When the tournaments do get underway there are also questions about how the public will react to players who have made headlines across the country for their criticism of the quarantine process. A somewhat sore point for Australian’s with some nationals unable to return home due to the government restrictions. On top of that, people in Melbourne are concerned about a potential outbreak of COVID-19.

It is a very complex situation. I fully understand the reaction of the Australian population considering the recent events… the effect that the players are bringing, the risks to the population,” Demoliner said of the current circumstances.
“We know this and obviously they are concerned with the whole situation, which is still very uncertain. On our side, though, they did allow us to come here to play. It is important to remember that the decision to welcome us was approved by the Australian Government, otherwise we would not be here.”

Demoliner is one of three Brazilian doubles players ranked to have a top 100 ranking on the ATP Tour along with Bruno Soares and Marcelo Melo.

https://twitter.com/mdemoliner89/status/1351677802832142340

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

Grand Slam

Wimbledon Set To Change Historic All-White Dress Code Rule

The clothing policy at the the grass-court major, which dates back to the Vcitoria era, has been under increasing scruity in recent years.

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Ons Jabeur (TUN) playing against Venus Williams (USA) on No.1 Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 3 Wednesday 30/06/2021. Credit: AELTC/Jon Super

It is understood that The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) are having discussions about making changes to its dress code following concerns from female players. 

 

The Telegraph is among a series of sources to report that organizers are speaking with the WTA about changing their policy to address players’ concerns about playing in white whilst going through their menstrual cycle. Whilst no official announcement has been made, it is underwood that there will be a relaxation on what colour underwear and bras are worn. Although the top layer of clothing must remain completely white. 

During this year’s championships, there was a protest shortly before the women’s finals called ‘Address The Dress Code.’ During an interview worth The Guardian, protesters said they wanted to highlight the anxiety women face whilst playing in their whites. 

More recently, tennis coach and former British Fed Cup captain Judy Murray told The Daily Mail that more players needed to speak out on the issue to drive a change to the policy. Murray, who is the mother of three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray, has also called for the inclusion of women in the decision-making panel when it comes to these matters. 

“One of the biggest problems previously in sport was that it was always white shorts, white kit and so on in lots of different sports. Everything was white. Nearly all sports have moved over to colour now.” Said Murray. 

“I think it’s certainly a much more open talking point, but it would probably need more of the players to speak out openly about the trauma it can cause you, if you are wearing all white and then possibly have a leak while you’re playing. I cannot think of a much more traumatic experience than that.”

In a statement sent to The Telegraph, the AELTC confirmed that they are currently looking into making adjustments to the dress code. As it currently stands, the rule states that all players must wear almost all white whilst playing and practising at the Grand Slam. However, around the neckline and the cuff of sleeves can be in colour but no thicker than 1cm. The same applies to Caps (including the underbill), headbands, bandanas, wristbands and socks. 

“Prioritising women’s health and supporting players based on their individual needs is very important to us, and we are in discussions with the WTA, with manufacturers and with the medical teams about the ways in which we can do that.” The AELTC said. 

The all-white policy can be traced back to the 1870s when it was widely considered that white was best at not showing sweat. During the Victorian era, it was viewed as improper to visibly sweat. The tournament has since continued with this tradition. 

Next year’s Wimbledon will begin on Monday, July 3rd. 

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ATP

Nick Kyrgios Urges Officials To Allow Djokovic To Play Australian Open

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Nick Kyrgios has lent his full support to Novak Djokovic and his bid to be allowed to return to the Australian Open next year. 

 

Nine-time champion Djokovic is currently waiting to see if government officials will waive his ban from entering the country. Earlier this year, the former world No.1 was deported from Australia following a high-profile dispute regarding the legality of his visa. Djokovic said he was told by Tennis Australia that a medical exemption would allow him entry into the country despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19. Something the border force and government deemed not to be a legitimate reason. After winning his first court case regarding the process of how his detention was handled, a second at the High Court ruled in favour of the government, who decided to deport him. 

Under Australian law, deportations such as these result in a three-year ban from returning to the country. However, Djokovic is hoping his ban will be removed by the latest administration who are said to be more sympathetic to the matter. 

Weighing in on the debate during the opening of the NBA store in Sydney, Kyrgios said it was important for the sport that the best players participate. Citing the recent retirement of Roger Federer, he argues that the remaining members of the Big Three must continue showing their presence at major events. 

I hope he is here, for the sport,” WAtoday quoted Kyrgios as saying.
“We just saw one of the legends leave the sport, Roger, and that’s going to be some shoes that no one is ever going to be able to fill.
“While Novak and Rafa [Rafael Nadal] are still around, we need these types of players. Otherwise, the people of Australia love the AO, Ash Barty brought us crowds, me and Thanasi [Kokkinakis] won it.
“We want to see the best players in the world there. Me being a competitor, I want to see Novak there.“

Djokovic’s potential presence at Melbourne Park would make him one of the key contenders for the title and could make it tougher for Kyrgios to claim his first Grand Slam title. The two locked horns in the final of Wimbledon earlier this year with Kyrgios claiming the first set before losing in four. 

“Of course, you want to have those guys there,” he said.
“He’s some of the reason why I play. As a kid, you want to play the best players in the world in the best stadiums. Hopefully, he is there.
“He’s had a rough run the last nine months and not being able to play here, play here, not being able to play here, hopefully, Australia welcomes him with open arms this time.”

Djokovic has won the Australian Open men’s title more times than anybody else in history. It is unclear when a final decision regarding his participation in the 2023 tournament will be made. 

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ATP

‘Unofficial’ Signs Give Novak Djokovic Hope Of Australian Open Return

The tennis star has given an update on his chances of returning to Melbourne Park following his deportation from the country.

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NOVAK DJOKOVIC OF SERBIA - PHOTO: MATEO VILLALBA / MMO

Novak Djokovic says he is cautiously optimistic that he will be allowed to play at the 2023 Australian Open as legal negotiations continue. 

 

The 21-time Grand Slam champion was deported from the country in January following a high-profile legal battle with authorities over his visa. Djokovic said he was told he could use a medical exemption to enter the country despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19. At the time all arrivals needed to be vaccinated. The Australian border Force declared that exemption to be invalid and therefore his visa. Djokovic was then moved to an immigration facility before winning a court hearing over how his case was handled. However, in a second legal hearing, the High Court backed the government’s decision to deport the tennis star. 

As a result of being removed from Australia, Djokovic is currently banned from re-entering for three years. However, there is hope that this ban could be waived with the help of a new administration coming to power which is understood to be more sympathetic to the situation. 

“When it comes to Australia, there are some positive signs, but unofficially,” Djokovic said during a recent interview with Sportal“We are communicating through my lawyers in Australia. In fact, they are communicating with the authorities in charge of my case. I hope to have an answer in the next few weeks – whatever that answer might be, but of course I am hoping for a positive one – so that I have enough time to prepare for the start of the season, if that start is going to happen in Australia.”

Not everybody is thrilled by the prospect of the Serbian being allowed back into Australia. Former Home Affairs minister Karen Andrews has previously described such a move as a ‘slap in the face for those in Australia who did the right thing and got vaccinated.’ 

Djokovic is still not vaccinated against COVID-19 and has repeatedly stated that he doesn’t intend on doing so. In an interview with the BBC earlier this year, he explained that he had reservations about what is injected into his body and was cautious about the side effects. The COVID-19 injection has been deemed safe by the World Health Organization (WHO). 

“I respect that everyone has a different way of thinking in relation to my situation and my circumstances. After all, I have never offended anyone or ever tried to be disrespectful in any way. I always tried to show that it is important for everyone to have the right and freedom of choice.” He said. 
“For the choices I made, I knew there would be certain consequences like not going to America, and that is it. For Australia it was a different case, I had the exception, but in the end it did not work out. We know what happened, let’s not go back. This time I am waiting for the permission again. It is a good thing that they have now opened the borders for unvaccinated foreigners travelling to Australia. I have that ban, I hope it will be lifted. As I said, it is not in my hands, I hope the people in the Australian Government will give a positive answer, that is all.”

Djokovic is the most decorated male tennis player in Australian Open history with nine titles to his name. That is three more than his nearest challenges (Roy Emerson and Roger Federer both won the event six times). It was at Melbourne Park where he won his first major title back in 2008. 

“I really want to go there, I am over what happened this year and I just want to play tennis, it is what I do best. Australia has always been the place where I have played my best tennis, the results speak for themselves, so I am always extra motivated to go there. This time even more, so. I am hoping for a positive answer.” He concluded. 

The Australian Open will start on January 16th. It is unknown when a final decision regarding Djokovic’s participation will be made. 

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