After moving on to the Australian Open semifinal, men's tennis star Novak Djokovic said he would be open to the exploration of an NBA-type bubble to attain consistency in the playing of tennis tournaments during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We have to find a way, 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," Djokovic said Tuesday. "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 made the comments after he eliminated No. 5 seed Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinal.
Serbia's Novak Djokovic reacts after winning the third set against Germany's Alexander Zverev at the Australian Open. (Photo: Andy Brownbill, AP)
The NBA resumed its play during last season in a restrictive bubble environment in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Twenty-two teams traveled there and all stayed in the nearby hotels and resorts at Walt Disney World, where games were played at the 220-acre ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
After players arrived at the bubble, the NBA reported no positive cases of COVID-19.
Djokovic, who is the ATP's top-ranked player in the world, has expressed his disagreement with the quarantine structures in place after the contents of a letter he sent to to Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley were leaked. Among Djokovic's demands in the letter, via 7News in Victoria, Australia: move players to houses with a court, better food, reduce the number of days of isolation and permission to visit a coach.
Djokovic later tried to clarify his criticisms in a social media post.
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A post shared by Novak Djokovic (@djokernole)
Djokovic sustained a stomach muscle injury in the third round of the tournament and said Tuesday he thought the issue might be linked to the quarantine measures the players had to face upon arrival in Australia.
"I don't want to sit here, complain about what we have been through," Djokovic said. "But we have to be honest and realistic that it has an effect on the physical well-being of players. Of course also mental, emotional, but physically, I mean, this is not normal."
Zverev agreed with Djokovic's assessment on the need for a bubble, saying: "We can’t have a traveling circuit right now."
Djokovic will face 27-year-old Russian player Aslan Karatsev Wednesday in the semifinal.
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