After overcoming a challenging match against Alexander Zverev to advance to the Australian Open semifinal, Novak Djokovic blamed the mandatory quarantine for players’ injuries at the Australian Open and wondered if tennis should set up an NBA-style bubble for upcoming tournaments.
Djokovic is among a large group battling injury at the Australian Open, where players had to quarantine for 14 days after arriving in Melbourne. The No. 1-ranked Djokovic has an abdominal injury and Italy's Matteo Berrettini was unable to play his fourth-round match with the same problem. No. 2 Rafael Nadal has been dealing with a back issue throughout the Grand Slam tournament.
"I'm just hoping that this [quarantine] is all temporary, so we can go back to what we are kind of used to without interruptions of practice," Djokovic said in his on-court interview after eliminating Zverev in four sets on Tuesday.
"The 14-day quarantine, people don't realize, but I think the amount of injuries during this tournament has shown how much effect it has on the players’ bodies. It’s taken its toll, unfortunately."
During Djokovic’s third-round match against Taylor Fritz, fans were forced to leave around 11:30 p.m. due to a local COVID-19 five-day lockdown that began at midnight. Fans may be allowed at matches again later in the tournament, but Djokovic pondered how other countries will handle events during the pandemic.
"We have to find a way, you know, whether it's something like an NBA bubble, because I heard some players talk about that, and I don't mind to discuss about that kind of idea," he said, per ESPN. "Select one place and we play all the tournaments on that surface and that place. You know, three, four weeks in, three, four, two, three weeks' rest, then back again. Something like that. I don’t know. On the top level.
"But we just have to discuss options, because I don't know honestly if this is going to work."
Djokovic added that he's spoken with several players who do not want to finish the season if they have to quarantine at more tournaments, citing its effects on one's well-being.
Zverev supported the idea of playing multiple tournaments in one location.
"I think what the ATP should do and should look into is maybe having a venue like here and play multiple weeks at one place," said the No. 5 seed, per AFP.
"Multiple tournaments, multiple weeks. Because at the end of the day in Europe right now we can't have spectators anyway, so what difference does it really make where we play the tournament?" Zverev added. "We simply cannot have a traveling circuit with how things are going."