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"My good intentions have been misconstrued." Novak Djokovic's open letter to Australia.

World No. 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic has issued an open letter to Australia, insisting he was not being "selfish, difficult and ungrateful" when speaking out about quarantine conditions for players in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open.

With under three weeks to go until the grand slam, ten positive coronavirus tests have caused chaos for organisers and players, many of whom are now in 'hard lockdown' before competing. 

Djokovic is part of a group of top players enjoying better conditions while quarantining in Adelaide, but the 33-year-old said he had felt obliged to use his "hard-earned" privileges to make suggestions to tournament director Craig Tiley on how to improve conditions for players in Melbourne.

Earlier this week his 'list of demands', which he sent to tournament director Craig Tiley in an email, caused a media storm. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews responded to the list, saying: "People are free to provide lists of demands. But the answer is no."

His proposals for the 72 tennis players in 'hard quarantine' included:

• Fitness and training equipment in all rooms

• Decent food, according to the level of the tournament and for an elite athlete

• Reduction in quarantine days for players and carry out more tests to confirm they are negative

• Permission to visit their coach or physical trainer, as long as both test negative to coronavirus

• Permission for players and their coach to be on the same floor of the hotel

• Move as many players as possible to private houses with a court to train

Social media was quick to criticise the tennis player, who tested positive to the virus last June after organising a charity tennis tournament in Serbia and Croatia without social distancing measures. 

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In his letter to Australia, published late on Wednesday, Djokovic explained: "I genuinely care about my fellow players and I also understand very well how the world is run and who gets bigger and better and why.

"I've earned my privileges the hard way and for that reason it is very difficult for me to be a mere onlooker knowing how much every help, gesture and good word mattered to me when I was small and insignificant in the world pecking order.

"Hence I use my position of privilege to be of service as much as I can where and when needed."

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Explaining how the list of requests came about, he said: "There were a few suggestions and ideas that I gathered from other players from our chat group and there was no harm intended to try and help.

"I was aware that the chances were low that any of our suggestions would be accepted, just like my request to quarantine with my team in Melbourne instead of Adelaide was denied prior to our travel because of the strict government regulations."

He went on to apologise for any offence he had caused. 

"Things in the media escalated and there was a general impression that the players (including myself) are ungrateful, weak and selfish because of their unpleasant feelings in quarantine. I am very sorry that it has come that because I do know how grateful many are," the winner of the 2020 Australian Open said. 

Here's what else you need to know about the Australian Open COVID controversy.

Who from the Australian Open has tested positive to COVID-19?

There are now a total of 10 people associated with the Australian Open, who have tested positive to COVID-19, after arriving via charter flights last week.

Of those 10, four are tennis players.

The first positive case came last Friday morning, when Australian Open officials confirmed an aircrew member and a non-playing participant tested positive following their arrival from Los Angeles. The situation quickly escalated, with Tennis Australia (TA) on Saturday evening sharing another positive COVID-19 test returned from a passenger on a charter flight into Melbourne from Abu Dhabi. It has since grown to 10 in total. 

The Victorian Government has confirmed all close contacts, including players, "will not be able to leave quarantine to attend training". Players were originally given an exemption to leave their quarantine hotel to train for up to five hours a day.

"Players are being supported to access equipment for their hotel rooms to help them maintain their fitness during this time."

Former world number one Andy Murray also tested positive to the virus, just days before he was due to arrive in Melbourne, and is now isolating at his home in the UK. 

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Players' reactions. 

Earlier this week, several players shared their frustration and criticised the organisers over their decision to quarantine all players on the COVID-affected flights. However many have since apologised. 

"Weeks and weeks of practice and hard work going to waste for one person positive to COVID in a 3/4 empty plane. Sorry but this is insane," France's Alize Cornet, who is not among the affected players, said in a since-deleted tweet. 

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Belgium's Kirsten Flipkens also criticised the decision, and suggested they postpone the grand slam by one week. 

Russian player Yulia Putintseva, who was on one of the impacted charter flights and is now in quarantine, also said she was never told that she would be in mandated-quarantine if one person on their flight had coronavirus. 

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Player Sorana Cirstea added to the chorus of criticism, saying she would have not come if she'd known this was a possibility. Cirstea added that she won't be able to compete at her peak performance if she cannot train for two weeks.

The Australian Open begins on Monday, February 8.

- With AAP.

Feature image: AAP.


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