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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Saturday January 23, 2021


Belinda Bencic says that she appreciated the efforts of Novak Djokovic on behalf of the players in hard quarantine in Melbourne, even if the World No.1 took a fair bit of criticism from the Australian public for it.

Tennis Express

“I would like to salute the position taken by Novak Djokovic,” the No.12-ranked Swiss told Mathieu Aeschmann of the website 20min.ch. “Even though he [took the heat] he was the only privileged one to move for us,” Bencic said.

Djokovic communicated with Australian Open CEO and gave him a list of recommendations that would help the players. He was targeted by Australian media for being tone deaf in a time where the community is extremely concerned about keeping coronavirus out of Australia, but his efforts have not been lost on players like Bencic during this difficult time for them.

Bencic is one of the 72 players undergoing the hard quarantine, which means she cannot leave her room at all, and she says it’s going to be difficult for her to recover in time to hit Grand Slam form.

“It's going to be very complicated,” she said. “You shouldn't expect a high level. In fact, I thought about whether I would withdraw from this tournament (WTA 500 in the week before the Australian Open) and practice instead. But I finally said to myself that a game, even a lost one, was useful before attacking a Grand Slam.”


Bencic says the most difficult challenge will be to avoid injury when she finally gets back on the tennis court.

“The most complicated part of all of this is the risk of injury,” she said. “The public may not realize that in order to perform at a high level, our muscles and tendons need to be conditioned. Fourteen days off is huge. I only give myself such a long break once a year on vacation. And when I resume, I feel like I have to start over. That's why you have to be really careful not to get hurt.”


Returning to the subject of Djokovic’s efforts to help the players in hard quarantine in Melbourne, Bencic says that she’s not too upset about the fact that some of the sport’s elite players are in Adelaide doing quarantine under less strict conditions. But she agrees that it doesn’t feel entirely fair.

“It's okay with me,” she said. “But on the condition that we stop proclaiming everywhere that we support equal treatment. On the other hand, I find it more difficult to live with the fact that in official hotels, some have large rooms, others small. Me, I received a bicycle, others not. All of this is not fair.”


Bencic also talked about the fact that she and many of her WTA colleagues were taken by surprise when the Australian authorities decided to deem them “close contacts” to the positive Covid-19 tests on their flights and lump them all into a hard quarantine. She says it wasn’t explicitly clear to her based on the correspondence she had received from Tennis Australia and the WTA.

“It is true that this rule has never been explicitly expressed in all the emails we have received. For us it was clear that we were responsible for our health, that of our team, that of our training partner and his team,” she said. “And that the planes, filled to 20 percent of their capacity, were separated into sections. But when we arrived in Melbourne, we found a mention in the players' regulations that the health authorities had the last word in handling these kinds of situations. In the end, the communication was not perfect. I also realized that ATP warned the players, not the WTA. It all added to the frustration and caused some of the backlash posted on social media in the early hours.”

 

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