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Djokovic's mask slips again in Australian Open gaffe


Novak Djokovic. Photo: AP

Novak Djokovic. Photo: AP

Novak Djokovic. Photo: AP

Sympathy has rarely turned to disdain with such speed as it has in Australia, where the 'poor-me' attitude of the world's tennis players has incensed local residents and politicians alike.

Before we go any further, we should point out that the majority of the 370-odd players who arrived in Melbourne over the weekend have got on quietly with their business - even if that business entails bouncing tennis balls off their walls and windows as they begin 14 days of hard quarantine.

But it only takes a few "flogs" - a typically vivid Aussie term for plonkers - to tar all the others with the same brush of arrogance and entitlement. In the words of Arina Rodionova, the world No 169 who lives in Melbourne, "Actually embarrassed to be a tennis player these days, if anyone asks I am a full time gardener and a cleaner on the weekends."

So who has dropped the biggest clanger, again showcasing his talent for striking the wrong tone in any situation? You guessed it: Novak Djokovic.

Yes, it's Djokovic: the man who still thinks he represents the locker-room, despite the invisibility of his breakaway player union. The man who has spoken out against vaccinations and who helped assemble the embarrassingly bio-insecure Adria Tour last summer.

Djokovic's latest stunt is to send Tennis Australia (TA) a six-point list of suggestions about how to ease the plight of the 72 players in hard quarantine. It began sensibly enough, with requests for fitness equipment in all rooms and "decent food". But he then suggested that TA should "reduce the days of isolation" for those confined to their rooms. This would be a decision for a scientist, you might think. At least, that's what you'd think if you believed in science.

Then came the piece de resistance - a reminder that Djokovic's impression of the world outside his gated mansion could do with a little reality check. "Move as many players as possible to private houses with a court to train."

Leaving aside the amusing idea that there are dozens of such properties available, does Djokovic have any idea why the players are being cooped up in their quarantine hotels in the first place? With security guards on each floor and Victorian state police ready to apply A$20,000 (€12,000) fines to anyone who so much as opens their door?

Victoria's state premier Daniel Andrews barely bothered to be diplomatic. "People are free to provide lists of demands," Andrews said. "But the answer is no." And then came Nick Kyrgios, who wasted no words as he tweeted: "Djokovic is a tool."

Despite a record eight Australian Open titles, Djokovic's standing across the country has never been lower. To borrow another vivid local term, the Aussies reckon he's a flamin' galah.

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© Telegraph Media Group Limited 2021

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]

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