World number one Novak Djokovic has issued a statement in reply to the media backlash he has received after making suggestions for Australian Open players in quarantine.
The Serbian himself is based in Adelaide where he will take part in a pre-slam curtain raiser with five other top players.
As news broke of positive COVID tests on chartered flights into Melbourne, it was revealed that 72 players would have to remain in lockdown with no access to training facilities and practice courts for 14 days.
Djokovic, aware of the rules and restrictions, suggested some improvements for those players self-isolating in personal correspondence with Tournament Director Craig Tiley.
These included better food, contact with coaches, exercise equipment and a shorter quarantine period subject to regular testing.
But the suggestions were leaked to the press and reported as a list of entitled hard demands made by Djokovic, rather than ideas.
This sparked outrage amongst the media and the Australian public and has led to Djokovic issuing the long statement.
“In light of recent media and social media criticism for my letter to Craig Tiley, I would like to clarify a few things.
“My good intentions for my fellow competitors in Melbourne have been misconstrued as being selfish, difficult, and ungrateful. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
“Not every act is taken at its face value and at times when I see the aftermath of things, I do tend to ask myself if I should just sit back and enjoy my benefits instead of paying attention to other people’s struggles.
“However, I always choose to do something and be of service despite the challenging consequences and misunderstandings.
“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” Djokovic added.
“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.
“I have always had a very good relationship with Craig and I respect and appreciate all the effort he puts into making the Australian Open a place to look forward to coming back to each year.
“In our email exchange I used an opportunity to brainstorm about potential improvements that could be made to the quarantine of players in Melbourne that were in full lockdown.
“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 the the request to quarantine with my team in Melbourne instead of Adelaide, was denied prior to our travel, because of the strict government regulations.
“Since I couldn’t be with other players in Melbourne, I made myself available if needed. I understand that organising international sporting events during a pandemic poses health risks to the local community and to the players themselves.
“Therefore, I would like to express my full gratitude to Tennis Australia, the Australian government and local citizens for being willing to take this risk with us for the love of the game and the multiple opportunities it brings to the economy of the country and its people.
“We are honoured, and we will all do our best to follow the guidelines and protocols put in place.
“We do hope that we will be able to nurture our bodies and be ready for the mental and physical endurance and strength tests that are ahead of us once the competition starts.
“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 to that because I do know how grateful many are. We all came to Australia to compete.
“Not being able to train and prepare before the tournament starts is really not easy.
“None of us ever questioned 14 days of quarantine despite what is being said by media outlets.
“I am very much looking forward to playing in front of the people and joining the tennis frenzy and energy of the city that has always carried me towards many victories.
“I am also looking forward to seeing all my fellow players together in Melbourne. I am blown away by the numerous messages of gratitude and love that I have received during these past few days.”
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