'Not happy': Ash Barty caught in ugly Australian Open controversy

·Sports Editor
·6-min read
Ashleigh Barty, pictured here in action at the Australian Open in 2020.
Ashleigh Barty in action at the Australian Open in 2020. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Tennis officials have been forced to warn players quarantining in Adelaide about their social media use in fear of further angering those being forced to hard quarantine in Melbourne.

Over 70 Australian Open players are spending the next 14 days locked in their Melbourne hotel rooms after three chartered flights from overseas were found to be carrying COVID-infected passengers.

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And a number of those affected are fuming about the perceived special treatment being given to the game’s top players in Adelaide.

About 50 of the world’s top players - including Australia’s World No.1 Ash Barty - are quarantining in Adelaide rather than Melbourne and will contest an exhibition tournament there in an agreement between Tennis Australia and the South Australian government.

With hotel rooms for international players in Melbourne nearing capacity with over 1200 arriving on charter flights, TA approached the South Australian government about hosting 50-plus players.

Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley said the SA government wanted some reward for their risk so they offered up an exhibition tournament in Adelaide on January 29 and 30 featuring the top three ranked men’s and women’s players.

That means Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem could feature in the men’s draw at Memorial Park, and Australian superstar Barty, Simona Halep and Naomi Osaka in the women’s.

However the treatment afforded to those players in Adelaide has sparked controversy among their peers.

Novak Djokovic, pictured here sitting on his hotel balcony in Adelaide.
Novak Djokovic sits on his hotel balcony in Adelaide. (Photo by BRENTON EDWARDS/AFP via Getty Images)

“First, players (in Adelaide) were allowed to take a lot more staff with them,” Austrian player Philipp Oswald said on Monday.

“They also have a gym in their hotel. So they don’t have to do their fitness exercises during the five-hour period.

“You only have the five hours to play tennis. There was a huge discussion and the other players were also upset.

“It’s not apples and apples here, but apples and pears - and I caught the sour lemon.”

French player Jeremy Chardy previously claimed those in Adelaide “have a lot of privileges.”

“Everyone can go out. They will almost be able to live normally,” he said.

“Already they have a lot of privileges. If they can do everything more than you; it will not be the same preparation.

“And that’s weird for a sport where we’re all supposed to be on the same footing. If I was No.4 in the world, I would be distraught.”

Bernard Tomic, pictured here exercising in his hotel room in Melbourne.
Bernard Tomic exercises in his hotel room in Melbourne. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

Japanese player Taro Daniel told the Herald Sun on Monday: “People in Adelaide are being able to hit with four people on court, so there’s some resentment towards that as well.

“Tennis always has these very unfair treatments towards top players and lower players, especially during grand slams.

“The court time they get to hit usually is completely different … which I think, to a certain extent, they deserve, but especially during a crisis like this it gets even bigger.”

Bernard Tomic’s girlfriend Vanessa Sierra took to social media on Monday to complain that the food served at their quarantine hotel room in Melbourne was cold, while grumbling about having to wash her own hair.

“This is the worst part of quarantine,” Sierra said on her YouTube channel.

“I don't wash my own hair. I've never washed my own hair. It's just not something that I do. I normally have hairdressers that do it twice a week for me.

“This is the situation that we're dealing with. I can't wait to get out of quarantine just so I can get my hair done.”

Adelaide players told to stop boasting

Tennis officials were forced to ask Osaka to delete a social media video on Sunday, which showed her and four staff members on the practice court in Adelaide.

Italian journalist Luca Fiorino reported that players in Melbourne had “revolted” after seeing the video.

“The players are not very happy for the unequal treatment in relation to big players in Adelaide,” he tweeted.

“This photo of Naomi Osaka has driven their (sic) mad.”

American writer Jon Wertheim further explained the situation.

“This was the unforced error. The Adelaide dimension was unnecessary and has already led the charges of unfairness,” he wrote on Monday.

“I’m told that, over the weekend, the fortunate players in Adelaide have been ‘encouraged’ to stop with social media posts, which have enflamed tensions.”

Fellow American writer Ben Rothenberg said players had been asked to stop posting “lest the jealousy of the locked-down seed even more unrest.”

Ash Barty spotted practicing in Melbourne

And those fuming about being locked in their hotel rooms for 14 days won’t be impressed to know Barty has already been spotted practicing at Melbourne Park on a number of occasions.

Barty reportedly stopped off in Melbourne before heading to Adelaide in order to get a feel for the courts she’ll be playing on at the Australian Open.

The Aussie star had to undergo three days of self-isolation and return a negative COVID-19 test, but didn’t have her movements restricted after that.

She has since been restricted from using Melbourne Park after it was locked down for overseas players who haven’t had any contact with COVID-19 on their flights.

with AAP

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