The Covid-19 pandemic has affected everyone all around the world and such is the case with tennis. After the resumption of tour in 2020, players had to go through strict quarantine and follow necessary protocols.
Top guns, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal both agree that quarantining is tough on players and their physical fitness, but they have different views on whether the coronavirus pandemic requires further adjustments to the ATP tour.
There are different rules and protocols in different countries. Government restrictions on traveling and entry have increased in various countries in recent weeks, creating concerns about whether players can feasibly get to tournaments, and whether they will be required to quarantine. The same was the case in Australia ahead of the Aussie summer leg.
This led to several injuries to players during the Australian Open, where competitors had to spend two weeks in hotel quarantine in order to play.
“What we are seeing is not normal. It’s not something we are used to. Top players are the ones that are fittest,” said Djokovic, who experienced an abdominal injury during his third-round victory. “Now you have Matteo Berrettini, even Rafa [Nadal] coming in with a back injury, myself, Sascha [Zverev], [Grigor] Dimitrov.
“I mean, obviously it has something to do with these kind of circumstances that we were in. I mean, coming into a Grand Slam and a tournament before the Grand Slam.”
“I don’t want to sit here, complain about what we have been through, but we have to be honest and realistic that it has an effect,” the world no.1 said.
“Of course also mental, emotional, but physically—I mean, this is not normal. We are hoping that it’s temporary. But talking to a lot of players, majority of the players just don’t want to go ahead with the season if we are going to have to quarantine most of the tournaments.”
“I mean, Grand Slam is a Grand Slam. If you want to talk about financial aspects, obviously here we are getting the prize money that we are usually getting,” Djokovic said. “So obviously I think that’s one of the biggest reasons why a lot of players just came and said, ‘Okay, we’ll accept 14 days quarantine.’
“But that’s not going to be the case on the ATP events, especially [at the] 250, 500 [levels]. It’s huge prize money reductions. So for the lower-ranked players, I have heard a lot of complaints. Challenger players, a lot of complaints.”
“A lot of jobs gonna suffer a lot, not only players.”: Rafael Nadal
20-time grand slam champion, Rafael Nadal agreed that having to quarantine repeatedly would be difficult, but was not aware of any upcoming tournaments that would require players to quarantine.
“Yes, I agree… but if I am not wrong, I don’t see events that we have to do quarantine to play in the next couple of months,” he said. “And [Djokovic is] completely right that for our sport things are difficult because governments are changing the rules constantly.”
Like Nole, the Spaniard is not in favor of suspending the tour again. There was a five-month stop in competition in 2020.
“We need to think a little bit bigger,” he said. “Probably we need to find a way to protect the players with the ranking, to not force them to keep playing. But that’s it. We need to find solutions and we need to adapt to this very tough times that we are facing.”
Nadal acknowledged the difficulties for players.
“My personal feeling is it’s tough for the players, of course, have to do bubbles in every single event, flying just plus two, a lot of players have family and they cannot have the family with them, so that makes our tour probably tougher than ever,” he said.
But “if we stop the tour,” it would be difficult to restart and “a lot of jobs gonna suffer a lot. I mean, not only players,” he said.
“We can change the city name on the court or whatever, and then play it at one venue.”: Alexander Zverev
German star, Alexander Zverev had brushed off suggestions of injury affecting his quarterfinal against Djokovic—“I think we felt fine,” he said—the German questioned whether the tour could function as usual.
“I agree that we can’t have a traveling circuit right now. It’s just as simple as that. Injuries will keep on happening. You know, there is restrictions to countries,” he said.
“I think what the ATP should do and should look into is, you know, maybe having a venue like here and play multiple weeks at one place. Multiple tournaments, multiple weeks.”
“Europe right now we can’t have spectators anyways, so what difference does it really make where we play the tournament — we can change the, you know, city name on the court or whatever, and then play it at one venue.”
The young German also added that he had spoken to Djokovic and Vasek Pospisil, who lead the PTPA player group that is aiming to represent player interests. Djokovic and Pospisil are former members of the ATP Player Council.