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Novak Djokovic says ‘majority’ of players won’t continue season if there is more quarantine

Novak Djokovic struggled with an abdominal injury in his third-round match against Taylor Fritz and says he is not practising between matches because of the problem

Novak Djokovic claims a “majority” of players do not want to continue with the tennis season if it means strict quarantines before tournaments.

Players had to complete 14 days of quarantine on arrival in order for the Australian Open to go ahead.

Djokovic, the men’s world number one, believes it has been responsible for a number of injuries in Melbourne.

“This definitely is not good for players in terms of their wellbeing,” said the 33-year-old Serb.

Six players have retired injured from matches at the opening Grand Slam of the year, with Italian ninth seed Matteo Berrettini pulling out of his fourth-round match on Monday without taking to the court.

Djokovic has been among several players struggling with an abdominal injury, a problem which led to British women’s number one Johanna Konta retiring from her first-round match.

Spain’s Rafael Nadal saw his preparations disrupted by a back injury,external-link while Britain’s Heather Watson and Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov suffered leg and back spasms.

Watson was among the 72 players who could not leave their rooms for 14 days after being put into a ‘hard quarantine’ in Melbourne.

Dimitrov said he was unable to pull on his socks before his quarter-final on Tuesday, leaving the court in tears and uncomfortably shuffling back to the locker room after losing to Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev.

“The physical wellbeing of players is a big question mark, and I think it needs addressing,” said Djokovic, who beat Germany’s Alexander Zverev in the last eight on Tuesday.

“Obviously it has something to do with these kind of circumstances that we were in, coming into a Grand Slam and a tournament before the Grand Slam right after 14 days or 15 days of quarantine.

“What we are seeing is not normal. It’s not something we are used to. Top players are the ones that are fittest. It has been proven in the past that that’s the case.”

British number one Johanna Konta receives treatment on an abdominal injury at the Australian Open
British number one Johanna Konta is among a number of players who have suffered abdominal injuries at the Australian Open

With the ATP and WTA Tours set to hold events around the globe after the Australian Open, Djokovic has called for urgent discussions about how the season can continue without the need for players to face further periods of quarantine.

Many nations still have travel restrictions in place, particularly in Europe, North America and the Middle East where ATP and WTA tournaments will take place in the coming weeks.

Djokovic also floated the idea of more bubbles being implemented – like the one which has seen several tournaments held in Melbourne before the Australian Open and used in other sports including basketball’s NBA.

“Talking to a lot of players, the majority of the players just don’t want to go ahead with the season if we are going to have to quarantine most of the tournaments,” said the 17-time Grand Slam champion, who launched a new union for male players last year.

“I’m waiting for some answers. I want to understand how our continuation of the season post-Australia is going to look like, because this definitely is not good for players in terms of their wellbeing.”

World number seven Zverev agreed with Djokovic’s suggestion, saying it did not make sense to have a “travelling circuit” in the current circumstances.

“At the end of the day in Europe right now we can’t have spectators, so what difference does it really make where we play the tournament?” he added.

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