World No 1 Novak Djokovic has defended himself against charges of insensitivity towards the people of Melbourne, claiming that his much-criticised letter to Tennis Australia had been “misconstrued”.
Djokovic had come under fire for sending a six-point list of requests to Craig Tiley, tournament director at the Australian Open, concerning the plight of the 72 players serving a 14-day hard quarantine.
The letter began by asking for the players to be granted fitness equipment and “decent food”, before moving on to “reduce the days of isolation” and “move as many players as possible to private houses with a court to train”.
At the time, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews brushed the requests aside, while Australia’s best-known player Nick Kyrgios called Djokovic a “tool”. On social media, many Melburnians complained that the letter showed scant regard for public-health risks.
But Djokovic said on Wednesday that “My good intentions for my fellow competitors in Melbourne have been misconstrued as being selfish, difficult and ungrateful.
“This couldn’t be farther 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.”
Djokovic continued his post over eight pages on Instagram before concluding that “Things in the media escalated and there was a general impression that the players (including myself) are ungrateful, weak and selfish … None of us ever questioned 14 days of quarantine despite what is being said by media outlets.”
Earlier in the day, Tiley had defended his decision to send Djokovic and a handful of other leading players to play an exhibition event in Adelaide – where they have larger entourages and more favourable training options – while the bulk of the field have been restricted to just two support-staff presenters in Melbourne.
“I get the feeling it is perceived as preferential treatment,” Tiley said. “But they’re the top players in the world. My general rule is if you’re at the top of the game, a Grand Slam champion, it’s just the nature of the business. You are going to get a better deal.”
Also in Australia, the leading umpire Carlos Bernardes is believed to have suffered a minor heart attack while in one of the quarantine hotels. He was photographed on a stretcher, being moved towards an ambulance. Encouragingly, the pictures showed him sitting up and looking alert.
Finally, back in Britain, Judy Murray told the BBC that her son Andy has now completed his ten-day self-isolation period after testing positive for Covid. Andy Murray’s management were hoping to speak to Australian Open organisers on Wednesday about the possibility of a late arrival in Melbourne, although time is running out if he is to serve the fortnight’s quarantine period before the tournament starts on February 8.