Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley has rejected suggestions of an uneven playing field as his organisation announces a new exhibition tournament in Adelaide.
The event is part of the South Australian Government’s reward for hosting a 50-strong COVID-19 quarantine bubble, given TA was at bursting point in Melbourne.
Almost 1300 people from more than 100 countries are set to arrive in Australia next week on 18 charter flights, departing from various international cities.
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The top-three-ranked men’s players – Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem – have all accepted invitations to the Adelaide tournament.
World No.2 Simona Halep, 2019 Australian Open winner Naomi Osaka and 23-times grand slam champion Serena Williams are also going to play.
Two more players will be added to the field at Memorial Drive Tennis Centre for the one-off event, A Day at the Drive, on January 29.
They will arrive in Adelaide on Thursday and serve their 14-day quarantine period there rather than in Melbourne, where the rest of the Australian Open competitors will be.
Djokovic, Nadal and Thiem are then headed to Melbourne for the ATP Cup, starting on February 1, while there are two WTA 500 events for the leading women’s players in the same week.
Speaking to L’Equipe, 72nd-ranked Frenchman Jeremy Chardy accused TA of favouring certain players, saying the exclusive exhibition came “a bit out of the blue” and was “weird, to put it mildly”.
“They will even be able to benefit from a gym at the hotel and will be able to do their exercises, which will not count towards the five-hour quota,” the 2013 Australian Open quarter-finalist said.
“Everyone can go out. They will almost be able to live normally.
“Already they have a lot of privileges. If they can do everything more than you; it will not be the same preparation.
“And that’s weird for a sport where we’re all supposed to be on the same footing. If I was No.4 in the world, I would be distraught.”
A TA spokesperson confirmed that non-invited players who were hitting partners for invited competitors, such as Venus Williams with Serena, would be able to go to Adelaide as well.
Whether or not players in Adelaide will be able to use the hotel gym outside of their five allocated hours remains unclear as negotiations with SA Health continue.
However, Australian Open tournament director Tiley told Tennis Channel that quarantine conditions would be the same in Adelaide as Melbourne.
“They’ll be in a different hotel – obviously a smaller cohort – and travel directly to Adelaide, so there will be some benefit because of that,” Tiley said.
“But outside of that, the conditions of training will be the same. I know there’s a fair bit that’s been written on social media, which is not completely accurate about what would be experienced in Adelaide.”
Adelaide will also host a star-studded WTA 500 tournament after the Open finishes, between February 22 and 27.