Novak Djokovic has issued a detailed and staunch defence of his requests to Australian Open organisers after being heavily criticised for his attempts to ease hard quarantine restrictions for players.
Earlier this week, the men’s world no1 was labelled a “tool” by Australia’s Nick Kyrgios after reports that he had contacted tournament director Craig Tiley with a list of “demands” including reducing the period of quarantine and moving as many players as possible to private houses with tennis courts to enable them to train as well as permission for coaches and trainers to visit their players, and be housed on the same floor of their hotel.
Premier of Victoria Dan Andrews subsequently made it publicly clear that there would be no changes or special treatment for the more than 70 tennis players in the midst of a 14-day lockdown ahead of the Australian Open that followed positive Covid-19 tests being recorded on their respective flights into Melbourne.
Djokovic took to social media on Wednesday to lament that his “good intentions” for his fellow players had been “misconstrued as being selfish, difficult, and ungrateful”.
The Serbian insisted: “This couldn’t be farther from the truth.”
Djokovic added: "Not every act is taken at its face value and at times when I see the aftermath of things, I do tend to ask myself if I should sit back and enjoy my benefits instead of paying attention to other people's struggles.
"However, I always choose to do something and be of service despite the challenging consequences and misunderstandings.
"I genuinely care about my fellow players and I also understand very well how the world is run and who gets bigger and better and why. I've earned my privileges the hard way and for that reason, it is very difficult for me to be a mere onlooker knowing how much every help, gesture, and good work mattered to me when I was small and insignificant in the world pecking order.
"Hence, I use my position of privilege to be on service as much as I can where and when needed."
Djokovic went on to insist that he has a good relationship with with Tiley and that a recent email exchange between the pair was an “opportunity to brainstorm about potential improvements that could be made to the quarantine of players in Melbourne that were in full lockdown”.
Djokovic - who said that he was previously denied the chance to quarantine with his team in Melbourne instead of Adelaide - added that he took thoughts and ideas from a players’ group chat and was “aware that the chances were low and that any of our suggestions would be accepted”.
He said: "I understand that organising international sporting events during a pandemic poses health risks to the local community and to the players themselves. Therefore, I would like to express my full gratitude to Tennis Australia, the Australian government and local citizens for being willing to take this risk with us for the love of the game and the multiple opportunities it brings to the economy of the country and its people.
“We are honoured, and we will all do our best to follow the guidelines and protocols put in place. We do hope that we will be able to nurture our bodies and be ready for the mental and physical endurance and strength tests that are ahead of us once the competition starts.”
On the reaction to his quarantine requests, Djokovic hit back at suggestions that players were “ungrateful, weak and selfish” due to their struggles in lockdown and denied that he had asked for the period to be reduced.
“Things in the media escalated and there was a general impression that the players (including myself) are ungrateful, weak and selfish because of their unpleasant feelings in quarantine. I am very sorry that it has come to that because I do know how grateful many are,” he said.
"We all came to Australia to compete. Not being able to train and prepare before the tournament starts is really not easy. None of us ever questioned 14 days of quarantine despite what is being said by media outlets.
“I am very much looking forward to playing in front of the people and joining the tennis frenzy and energy of the city that has always carried me towards many victories. I am also looking forward to seeing all my fellow players together in Melbourne. I am blown away by the numerous messages of gratitude and love that I have received during these past few days.”