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Djokovic urges government 'support' players over Australian Open preparations

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - World number one Novak Djokovic has called on authorities to allow players to compete before the Australian Open while undertaking their mandatory quarantine period.

Tennis - ATP Finals - The O2, London, Britain - November 18, 2020 Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action during his group stage match against Russia's Daniil Medvedev REUTERS/Toby Melville

The start of the 2021 season remains in limbo, with officials declining to endorse Tennis Australia’s plans to have players arrive mid-December and be free to compete at the ATP Cup and other events ahead of the year’s first Grand Slam.

Australia is effectively closed to non-residents due to COVID-19 protocols and international arrivals must spend two weeks in quarantine before they can move around freely.

Serbian Djokovic said he would do whatever was required to play at the Australian Open but hoped the government could also be accommodating.

“I hope that there is going to be support and understanding from the Victorian and Australian government for the players and for Tennis Australia and that they will allow players to compete in the second week of quarantine,” he told reporters at the ATP Finals on Wednesday.

“I mean, hopefully that’s going to help tremendously with the calendar and everything, and you won’t be then losing a week.

“You will be able to have at least a tournament or two prior to the Australian Open, which for majority of the players is important.

“Having no official match before the Australian Open, before a Grand Slam, is a huge thing.”

Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews said on Wednesday he was confident the Australian Open would go ahead at Melbourne Park but declined to confirm Tennis Australia’s scheduling for the Jan. 18-31 Grand Slam and other events in the leadup, including the team-based ATP Cup.

Djokovic led Serbia to victory in the inaugural $15 million ATP Cup last January and hopes to defend the title.

U.S. Open finalist Alex Zverev, the world number seven, said players should at least be able to practise during quarantine.

“Because if we can’t even practise for 14 days and we have to go out to play the Australian Open, it’s a lottery,” said the German.

“You can basically flip a coin who wins.”

Top doubles player Bruno Soares, an ATP Players Council member, said he understood that Australia might not want “foreign people” endangering the health situation given the country had largely eradicated COVID-19.

“I think we’ve got to be patient. It’s crazy times,” the Brazilian said.

Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Himani Sarkar

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