Nadal issues 'public' put-down

Spaniard derides Djokovic 'advertising' bid to help those in trying quarantine conditions

Venus Williams (above) and Rafael Nadal are among the leading players quarantining in less spartan conditions in Adelaide before a pre-Australian Open exhibition tournament there.
Venus Williams (above) and Rafael Nadal are among the leading players quarantining in less spartan conditions in Adelaide before a pre-Australian Open exhibition tournament there. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Rafael Nadal (above).
Rafael Nadal (above). PHOTO: REUTERS

MELBOURNE • Rafael Nadal has taken an apparent swipe at Novak Djokovic over his requests for quarantined players preparing for the Australian Open, saying not everyone felt the need to "advertise" how they were trying to help.

The world No. 1 issued a list of suggestions to Tennis Australia (TA) last week on behalf of 72 players unable to leave their Melbourne hotel rooms to train after Covid-19 cases were detected on their charter planes to Australia.

They reportedly included moving players into private homes with tennis courts and getting them better meals.

However, his requests fell on deaf ears, while Australian media portrayed the players as petulant and selfish and Australia's own Nick Kyrgios called Djokovic a "tool". The Serb later issued an open letter saying "good intentions for my fellow competitors in Melbourne have been misconstrued" but Nadal is unconvinced.

"We all try to help each other," the 20-time Grand Slam winner from Spain told ESPN on Tuesday from Adelaide, where he and Djokovic are quarantining ahead of the year's opening Grand Slam in Melbourne on Feb 8.

"Some need to make public everything they do to help others," he added, in remarks widely seen as referring to the 17-time Major champion.

"Others... do it in a more private way without having to publish or advertise everything we're doing."

While most players are undergoing a mandatory 14 days of quarantine in Melbourne, the top three men's and women's players, as well as 23-time Slam winner Serena Williams are isolating in Adelaide, where they are due to play an exhibition event on Friday.

It has since been revealed that although those in Adelaide get the same five hours of practice, they have been allowed to bring a significantly larger entourage, access a gym and have bigger hotel rooms with outdoor patios.

TA chief Craig Tiley has brushed aside the complaints from other players, saying that "if you're at the top of the game, you are going to get a better deal".

While Nadal agreed things had been smoother sailing, he also insisted quarantining was not the same across the board.

"In Adelaide, conditions have been better than most players in Melbourne," the world No. 2 said.

"But there are players in Melbourne who have larger rooms where they can develop physical activities, others have smaller rooms and can't have contact with their coach and physical trainer.

"Where's the line? It's an ethical issue. Everyone has their own opinion and they are all respectable."

On Djokovic's requests, some players remain split, referencing how he and the other top seeds have the luxury of a more salubrious environment although they appreciated him speaking out.

"Djokovic's balcony is bigger than my room but at least he said something," said Argentinian world No. 44 Guido Pella. "I'm surprised with Nadal and (third-ranked Dominic) Thiem's silence."

But Kyrgios has continued to insist Djokovic, who was widely criticised for holding the ill-fated Adria Tour in June - the exhibition was prematurely axed due to Covid-19 cases - should be held to a higher standard as he is the sport's equivalent to LeBron James in the National Basketball Association.

"He is one of our leaders of our sport. He's technically our LeBron James in the way he has to be setting an example for all tennis players," the 47th-ranked Australian told CNN.

"When he was doing some of the things he was doing during the global pandemic, it just wasn't the right time. I know everyone makes mistakes, some of us go off track sometimes, and I think we have to hold each other accountable.

"No one else was really holding him accountable. Everyone loses their way a little bit but I think he just needs to pull it back."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2021, with the headline 'Nadal issues 'public' put-down'. Subscribe