Australian Open boss expected COVID cases | Ralph Lauren

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Australian Open boss Craig Tiley says organisers always expected some positive COVID-19 cases among players and support staff arriving in Melbourne.

Some 72 players and staffers are in a 14-day lockdown in Melbourne amid six positive coronavirus cases among the arrivals.

About 1200 coronavirus tests have been carried out in the past five days from the players and staffers arriving on 17 charter flights in to the Victorian capital.

Tiley described the six positive tests as a low number given the amount of tests.

“There was going to be an expectation to have several positive cases,” Tiley told the Nine Network on Tuesday.

“But now we’re in a position where they’re in lockdown, designed to protect the community.”

Tiley said the lockdown for some players meant preparations for the grand slam starting on February 8 was “not an even playing field”.

Players in lockdown are prevented from training while another group of competitors, including world No.1 Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, are in Adelaide where restrictions don’t prevent them practising.

“We’re going to play our part to try to even it up as much as possible,” Tiley said.

But he rejected calls from some men’s players to reduce Open matches to best of three sets instead of best of five.

“We’re a grand slam at the end of the day,” he said.

“Right now, three out of five sets for the men and two out of three sets for the women is the position we plan on sticking to.”

Some players have used social media to detail their perceived hardships of being in lockdown.

“These are high performing athletes and it is hard to keep a high performing athlete in a room,” Tiley said.

“This is the contribution that they have to make in order to get the privilege of when they do come out to compete for $80 million in prize money.

“We will turn the corner on those few that don’t have the right approach to this.”

Tiley defended Djokovic for appealing to Open organisers to ease restrictions in a wishlist reported on Monday, including a request to shift as many players as possible in Melbourne to private residences with tennis courts.

Djokovic’s requests were refused by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.

“In the case of Novak, he wrote a note, these weren’t demands, they were suggestions,” Tiley said.

“But he too is understanding what two weeks of lockdown means … every player coming down knew that if they were going to be close contacts or test positive that these were going to be the conditions.”

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