World No.1 Novak Djokovic says COVID-19 quarantine caused numerous injuries at Australian Open

Novak Djokovic won an Australian Open match between two guys with abdominal muscle issues, setting up a semi-final against someone who beat an opponent with debilitating back spasms.

In the other half of the draw, Rafael Nadal’s back pain improves, at least, as he heads into his quarter-final against a man whose fourth-round foe has withdrawn from the tournament. Grand Slam due to his own abdominal injury.

Health was therefore a priority on Tuesday night for number one Djokovic, who sees what is happening all around Melbourne Park and makes a direct link to the 14-day quarantines imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic when players arrived in Australia in January.

According to Djokovic, who announced last year that he was forming a new association to represent male tennis players, most don’t want to continue the season if it means going through that kind of isolation over and over – either with a time. limited to working out and going to the gym every day or, in the case of those who have potentially been exposed to COVID-19 while traveling, were completely prohibited from leaving their hotel rooms during both weeks.

“It’s too many injuries, honestly,” Djokovic said, then sighed heavily, during an interview on the pitch after his four-set quarter-final victory over Alexander Zverev.

“I just hope this is all temporary, so that we can kind of get back to what we’re used to, without a break in training,” Djokovic continued. “The 14-day quarantine – people don’t realize it, but the number of injuries in this tournament has shown how much effect it has on the bodies of the players. It’s really – it’s taken a toll, unfortunately, on all of us. “

Zverev’s mid-section, like Djokovic’s, was taped for their game. Djokovic’s next foe, 114th-ranked qualifier Aslan Karatsev, won on Tuesday against 18th-seeded Grigor Dimitrov, who could barely climb the stairs to leave the pitch afterward and said his back was so sore beforehand that it was difficult to put on his socks.

Nadal has had a back problem for weeks, having been absent from one of the tune-up tournaments held at the Australian Open site.

No.9 Matteo Berrettini retired after injuring a stomach muscle in the third round. Quarter-finalist Andrey Rublev’s fourth-round match ended after two sets when No.24 Casper Ruud came to a standstill due to injury. Dimitrov’s third-round opponent, No.15 Pablo Carreño Busta, came to a halt after just seven games.

Etc.

“What we are seeing is not normal. It’s not something we’re used to. The best players are the fittest. … I mean, obviously it has something to do with those kinds of circumstances we were in, ”Djokovic said in his post-match press conference, referring to quarantines meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“I don’t want to sit here (and) complain about what we’ve been through. But we have to be honest and realistic that this has an effect on the physical well-being of the players, ”he said. “Of course, also mental, emotional.”

He said he had “heard a lot of complaints” from players who were prepared to undergo quarantines for the biggest paychecks at a Grand Slam tournament, but who are concerned about the reduction in cash prizes during a Grand Slam tournament. lower level events.

Djokovic also raised the possibility of a “bubble” environment of the type used by the NBA last season, with all competitions taking place at one site – an idea endorsed by Zverev.

“We can’t have a touring circuit right now,” said Zverev, No. 7 ranked and US Open finalist in September.

“I think what ATP should do and consider, maybe have a place like this and play several weeks in one place. Several tournaments, several weeks, ”said the 23-year-old German. “Because at the end of the day in Europe right now we can’t have spectators anyway, so what difference does it really make where we play the tournament? We can change the background, we can change the city name on the field or whatever, and then play it on a site. “

In response to a request for comment, ATP President Andrea Gaudenzi emailed a statement via a spokesperson which read in part: “The two-week quarantine was a first, and we are monitoring very near the impact on player health. “

As for the idea of ​​a sort of ‘bubble’, Gaudenzi’s statement said: ‘The nature of our Tour is truly global – moving away from this structure would present significant challenges compared to many other sports or leagues. We will continue to assess all viable options to keep the Tour operational and ensure the best possible conditions for players in today’s difficult circumstances.

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