Rare image of a tenniswoman authorized to go to train.
William WEST / AFP
The start of the Australian Open has been postponed to February 8 by the organizers.
More than 70 athletes face a quarantine period making their preparation for the tournament extremely complicated.
To make matters worse, they have alienated a good part of Australian public opinion, which sees their complaints as an unwelcome whim.
Planes chartered especially for players when Australians from abroad are struggling to return home themselves, a cargo of confined players forced to hit balls against the walls of their rooms and to talk physically in 10m² and a population a local break with the athletes… We knew that the organization of the Australian Open - whose launch was postponed to February 8 - in the midst of a global pandemic was going to be a bit complicated, but the reality on the ground far exceeds all our forecasts.
After the discovery of cases of Covid-19 in three of the seventeen planes carrying the players and their staff (coming from Doha, Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi), the organizers of the tournament, pressed by the authorities of the country, did not have no choice but to place all these little people in strict quarantine in their Melbourne hotels.
This has given rise in recent days to many funny scenes of players forced to train with the means at hand in their hotel room.
And for those who were lucky enough to be able to go out for a few hours, we had to do with cascading cancellations of training sessions.
"It's like being in prison but with wifi"
Called to play the service firefighters to calm things down, tournament boss Craig Tiley had no other choice but to admit "the failure of the system".
“There have been a lot of hours of work, planning, and preparation around it,” he said.
But the events of the last few days have tested our device, and it has failed.
This resulted in transport problems and delays in training sessions ”.
Joined Monday by our colleagues from the
, the lucky French loser Alexandre Muller gave a good overview of the life that awaits the confined for quite a while yet: "We simply have the right to open the bedroom door to retrieve the breakfast, lunch and dinner.
In the room opposite mine, there is Quentin Halys.
We must avoid opening our doors at the same time.
If we ever talk to each other, we risk being fired… There is a policeman at the end of the corridor who watches the floor 24 hours a day.
I'm a celebrity, get me out of here!
- William WEST / AFP
From there to compare that with the conditions of surveillance of a high security prison, it is only one step that the Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut took without trembling his calves.
“It's like being in prison but with wifi.
These people have no idea what tennis and training are.
It is a complete disaster.
It is not Tennis Australia which controls everything, it is the government, ”he complained.
He is not the only one in this case.
Better off than the bulk of the herd since they share with the heavyweights a sort of “VIP bubble” in the city of Adelaide, Novak Djokovic called for a relaxation of the rules for his colleagues confined to Melbourne.
Request bluntly brushed aside by Daniel Andrews, Prime Minister of Victoria.
“People are free to make a list of requests, but the answer is no.
The rules apply to players just like anyone else.
They were all briefed before coming and they came on that condition.
There is no preferential treatment because the virus does not, ”he said categorically.
This attitude of extreme firmness must also be read in light of the situation Australians have been experiencing since the start of the pandemic.
Melbourne has had to comply with extremely strict containment for more than three months (July to October) while Australians abroad are struggling to get the green light to return to the country.
Alizée Cornet apologizes
Under these conditions, the complaints of the athletes obviously went very badly with the local population who saw it, at best, an unwelcome clumsiness, at worst, a whim of perfectly scandalous stars.
Recalling the sacrifices of the Australian population in the fight against the coronavirus, the local media made themselves the spokespersons of their fellow citizens, not hesitating to destroy the trade unionist Djokovic, taken hand in the bag without a mask in a minibus of players, while its port is required in public transport.
Some athletes have also taken the side of the locals, like Nick Kyrgios, always on the front line when it comes to slipping a little one to Djoko, who called the Serbian a “moron”.
"There are enough of the mourners", engaged the New Zealand specialist in double Artem Sitak.
Faced with this outcry, Alizée Cornet made a point of “apologizing to the Australian people” after having also criticized the reception conditions for athletes.
“Your reaction made me understand what you went through last year and how much you suffered.
All this makes me a little anxious and I would have done better to shut down my g… ”, she wrote on her social networks.
Seeing the general atmosphere around his tournament turn to the octagon version of the score, Craig Tiley took the floor to whistle the end of recess.
While he acknowledged that the firmness of the quarantine rules may have "shocked" some players at first, he added that most of them told him on a conference call that they accepted the restrictions and apologized for the restrictions. the hype of a few.
"The majority of the players have been absolutely fantastic and they are even a little pissed off by what some have said because it puts them all in a bad light."
For the first time since the start of the Covid crisis, we would almost come to be relieved that this Grand Slam is being played behind closed doors.
Australian Open: Two players positive for Covid-19, the Australian bubble already under pressure
Australian Open: Health authorities will not grant "any preferential treatment" to players for training