The difference between the Australian Open COVID plan and rules at other international tournaments - Australian Latest news
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The difference between the Australian Open COVID plan and rules at other international tournaments

The world’s best tennis players have had an abrupt introduction to the world of hotel quarantine and isolation upon their arrival into Australia.

Of all the players set to compete in the first major of the season, 72 are now in hard quarantine after three of the 17 charter flights were impacted by positive COVID tests.

Some players have criticised the hard quarantine, saying they did not know that everyone on a flight would have to quarantine in the event of a positive test, although that has been contradicted by some other players.

Regardless, the increase in restrictions the players are facing has come as a shock to their collective systems. So why is that?

What have the rules been at other tournaments?

Like most sports around the world in 2020, tennis endured a hiatus of several months, with tournaments, including Wimbledon, cancelled across the world.

However, after that period off, tennis got back underway, with the US and French Opens both taking place, in conjunction with their associated warm-up tournaments.

Those tournaments used very similar protocols to those being used in Australia.

At the US Open, players were placed in a bio-secure bubble, with allocated hotels close to the National Tennis Centre site at Flushing Meadows.

Naomi Osaka speaks into a US Open microphone while wearing a mask with Breonna Taylor written on it.
Naomi Osaka wore masks with names of people killed as a result of police brutality in America during the US Open.(AP: Frank Franklin II)

Players were regularly tested, twice within 48 hours of arriving in New York before being accredited, and then re-tested every four days after. At the Australian Open, players will be tested every day.

Heading off site, including visiting Manhattan, was banned and players had to wear masks when not on court.

The US Open even moved a warm-up event, the Cincinnati Open, to Flushing Meadows to reduce the amount of travel for players, much in the same way that the pre-Australian Open tournaments were moved from Perth, Brisbane and Sydney to Melbourne.

Players were told to wear masks at all times apart from playing, as well as subjecting themselves to daily temperature testing and a questionnaire before being allowed access.

The rules around the French Open, which took place two weeks after the conclusion of the US Open, were similar.

Simona Halep holds a trophy and a bunch of flowers while wearing a mask
Simona Halep won the Italian Open, prior to the French Open.(LaPresse via AP: Alfredo Falcone)

Were the players OK with that?

There was some dissent at the conditions imposed on players for the return to tennis.

Novak Djokovic, who has also called for changes in quarantine for players in Australia, criticised the conditions that were imposed for the US Open, saying it would be “impossible” to play tennis.

“The rules that they told us that we would have to respect to be there, to play at all, they are extreme,” Djokovic said in an interview with Serbian TV prior to the tournament.

“We would not have access to Manhattan, we would have to sleep in hotels at the airport, to be tested twice or three times per week … we could bring one person to the club which is really impossible. I mean, you need your coach, then a fitness trainer, then a physiotherapist.”

An image posted to Rafa Nadal’s Facebook account on September 2, 2020.
Rafael Nadal did not travel to the US Open, but won the French Open.(Facebook: Rafa Nadal)

Rafael Nadal also didn’t travel, questioning the safety of travelling during the pandemic.

“The situation is very complicated worldwide, the COVID-19 cases are increasing, it looks like we still don’t have control of it,” Nadal tweeted ahead of the Open.

“This is a decision I never wanted to take but I have decided to follow my heart this time and for the time being I rather not travel.”

He had no such qualms about travelling to France though, where he won a record-extending 13th French Open title.

Lack of quarantine around the world

Normally, the life of a tennis pro involves multiple smash-and-grab raids around the world — players fly in to a city, play and then fly out again once they’re done.

However, that’s not possible in Australia due to the federal requirement to quarantine.

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