Organizers of the Australian Open have scheduled a new warm-up tournament for players who have been unable to train during quarantine.
The additional women’s event, which will be held at Melbourne Park from February 3-7, has been scheduled alongside two other WTA tournaments and three men’s tournaments before the grand slam itself gets underway on February 8.
In total, 72 players are under strict, 14-day hotel quarantines due to positive cases on their flights to the Australian Open. Others have been allotted five hours each day to train in bio-secure bubbles.
“This has been a particularly challenging time for the athletes in hard lockdown and we, along with the WTA and ATP, aim to do everything we can to help,” said Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley.
“These changes to the lead-in events have been made to give the 72 players a little bit of extra time to help them prepare. We also will prioritize them for things like practice sessions, gym and ice baths.”
Officials announced on Sunday that there are currently nine active cases of Covid-19 connected to players and support staff isolating in Melbourne, according to Reuters.
Earlier this week, 23-year-old Paula Badosa became the first Australian Open player to reveal a positive test.
World No. 92 Joao Sousa also announced on Saturday that he had tested positive before traveling to Australia and would be unable to compete.
“Even though I already tested negative and have no symptoms, due to the strict rules of the Australian government, I won’t be able to travel,” Sousa said on social media.
“After such a great off-season and hard work, I’m very disappointed to not be able to play in such a great event where Tennis Australia and the Tour put so much effort (in) to make it happen.”
Former world No. 1 Andy Murray has also been unable to travel to Australia after returning a positive test.
Players stuck in hotel quarantines have had to get creative with how they prepare for the tournament while cooped up indoors.
Some have vented frustration at how the situation has been handled with eight-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic putting forward a list of proposals that would loosen restrictions on those quarantining.
In response, Victoria State Premier Daniel Andrews said: “People are free to provide lists of demands, but the answer is no.”
Djokovic later said that his “good intentions” in drawing up the list were “misconstrued as being selfish, difficult and ungrateful.”