Three new COVID-19 cases yesterday hit the Australian Open’s troubled buildup as a backlash grew against international tennis players flown in during a raging pandemic.
Two of the new cases were players, state health officials said, taking the total infections to seven since more than 1,000 people arrived in largely COVID-19-free Australia on charter flights last week.
The Victoria Department of Health and Human Services said that the two players and a third person associated with the tournament — a woman in her 20s, and two men in their 30s — had returned positive results.
The year’s first Grand Slam, delayed three weeks, has proved an enormous undertaking and is provoking disquiet among Australians, especially in host city Melbourne, which emerged from a four-month lockdown in October last year.
All players and staff are undergoing 14 days of quarantine in hotels. Cases also came to light on three of the flights.
Earlier, Nick Kyrgios called world No. 1 Novak Djokovic a “tool,” as player complaints about quarantine were slammed by Australia’s public and media.
Kyrgios led the criticism after Djokovic reportedly issued a list of demands for players undergoing quarantine.
World No. 13 Roberto Bautista Agut told a TV station that quarantine was like prison “with Wi-Fi,” calling the arrangements a “complete disaster.”
At least 72 players have been barred from leaving their rooms for two weeks after COVID-19 cases were detected on their charter flights into the country.
The others are allowed out for up to five hours a day to train under strictly controlled conditions.
The Australian Open starts in Melbourne on Feb. 8.
Djokovic, 33, the reigning Australian Open champion, is among a select group of stars — including Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Rafael Nadal — allowed to fly into Adelaide and enjoy better facilities.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion sent a letter to Tennis Australia that reportedly called for players to be moved into private homes with tennis courts and get better meals, among other demands.
Australian media portrayed Djokovic’s request as petulant and selfish, but Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley defended the tennis star, saying that his letter merely contained “suggestions and ideas,” not demands.
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