Naomi Osaka said the scheduling of lead-up events was a factor in her decision to withdraw from the Gippsland Trophy on Saturday.

The three-time major champion opted to pull out of her scheduled semi-final against Elise Mertens due to a shoulder injury.

Osaka, 23, was due to play a fourth match in five days, but decided to withdraw ahead of the Australian Open starting on Monday.

"Anyone that's kind of followed me for a bit knows that I've kind of had a slight shoulder thing since like 2018 in Beijing," the Japanese star told a news conference.

"It kind of flared up again because I played a lot of matches back-to-back. But, for me, my main focus is hoping I can rest enough before the Open."

Osaka, who will face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the Australian Open first round, said the time between the Gippsland Trophy and year's first major also impacted her decision.

"I would say it is a factor because for me, I don't normally play the tournament right before a slam," she said.

"But I felt like it was really necessary to get matches in. I think everyone felt that way.

"I'm kind of sad that I wasn't able to play today. But I think in the end it's the right decision."

Serena Williams admitted she would be dealing with her shoulder injury during the Australian Open, but the star is "very confident" she will be ready to go.

Williams withdrew from the Yarra Valley Classic on Friday due to a right shoulder injury.

Asked how she was feeling on Saturday, the 23-time grand slam singles champion was upbeat.

"I feel pretty good. I've gotten a lot of treatment already on my shoulder.  But I'm super confident it's going to be great," Williams told a news conference.

"I'm feeling very confident, I think is a better word, and getting ready for hopefully the next two weeks."

However, Williams said the injury would be an issue throughout the Australian Open, which begins on Monday.

"It's definitely something that I'm going to have to deal with for the fortnight. Kind of knowing that going into a tournament definitely helps," the 39-year-old said.

"Also knowing, okay, I'm going to have to probably pick up some different therapy exercises after each match, etcetera.

"It's going to be really important."

Williams' last grand slam title came in Melbourne in 2017 and all eyes will again be on the American in her bid to equal Margaret Court's record of 24 major crowns.

While that record is again on her mind, Williams – who will face Laura Siegemund in the first round – said she was now more relaxed about it.

"It's definitely on my shoulders and on my mind. I think it's good to be on my mind," she said.

"I think it's a different burden, I should say, on my shoulders because I'm used to it now. It's more relaxing I would like to say, yeah."

Sofia Kenin insisted her leg injury was improving as she prepares for her Australian Open title defence.

In a rematch of last year's Australian Open decider, Kenin was crushed 6-2 6-2 by Garbine Muguruza in the Yarra Valley Classic quarter-finals on Friday.

Kenin, 22, said she struggled with a leg injury which she hopes will not affect her at Melbourne Park, where the year's first grand slam begins on Monday.

"It was my left groin and my left glute, it was completely sore," the American told a news conference on Saturday.

"I think I was rolling a lot yesterday. Even before the match I rolled probably like an hour before they even finished. I was just rolling with the Theragun. It kind of got better, but it wasn't the best. She obviously played well."

Kenin, who will face Maddison Inglis in the Australian Open first round, added: "It's better, which I don't understand. From a match, now today it's better. Thank God. Obviously I'm not going to complain about that. I want it to be better for AO."

The defending champion's injury worry is just the latest ahead of the Australian Open, with Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Victoria Azarenka among those withdrawing from lead-up tournaments.

Kenin believes quarantine ahead of events had an impact, as well as long lay-offs.

"People who haven't played matches for two weeks, it's obviously not the same. Everyone is using this tournament to prepare for Australian Open," she said.

"Obviously you can see that being in a room for two weeks, not playing, practising, it's not the same as playing a match clearly. After two matches, my leg is completely sore. 

"Yeah, it's obviously different. But everyone's obviously going to be ready for Australian Open, for sure."

Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic could face Dominic Thiem in a mouth-watering semi-final after being handed a tough path to success at Melbourne Park, where Serena Williams will continue her quest for a 24th grand slam singles title.

The Australian Open draw took place on Friday, with world number one Djokovic set to play Frenchman Jeremy Chardy in the opening round of the year's first major tournament.

Amid coronavirus concerns in Melbourne, where Swiss great Roger Federer is absent, Djokovic has set his sights on a ninth crown and 18th major success, but the top seed's title defence is far from straightforward.

Djokovic could face Gael Monfils (fourth round) and sixth seed Alexander Zverev (quarter-final) en route to a possible semi-final against US Open champion and third seed Thiem.

The Serb overcame Thiem in a five-set thriller in last year's Australian Open final, before the latter broke through for his maiden major trophy at Flushing Meadows.

Djokovic could then meet second seed and 20-time major champion Rafael Nadal in a blockbuster final – he blitzed the Spanish superstar in the 2019 Australian Open decider but lost in three one-sided sets in their previous meeting in the French Open final.

Nadal will go head-to-head with another Serb in the first round – Laslo Djere – while Stefanos Tsitsipas could await in the quarters, with 2019 US Open final opponent Daniil Medvedev also on the same side of the draw.

Meanwhile, Williams' bid for a record-equalling 24th slam will begin against German Laura Siegemund.

The 39-year-old Williams has been stuck on 23 majors since winning the Australian Open in 2017 – losing finals at Wimbledon (2018 and 2019) and the US Open (2018 and 2019).

World number one and local hope Ashleigh Barty will meet Montenegro's Danka Kovinic in round one and defending champion Sofia Kenin faces Australian wildcard Maddison Inglis.

The last 16 could see Williams clash with Aryna Sabalenka, Barty meet Petra Martic, Kenin tackle Johanna Konta and three-time major champion Naomi Osaka do battle with last year's runner-up Garbine Muguruza.

One in eight women in the Australian Open draw have already won a grand slam title.

One in eight. It is staggering that of the 128 players who set out in the hope of singles glory at Melbourne Park, there are 16 major champions among them, and perhaps never has it been so difficult to predict who will carry off the title.

Compare it to the men's draw, where there are just five grand slam singles winners, and where you would struggle to make a compelling case for any more than three of those this year, with apologies to Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic.

As long-running dynasties near their end on the men's and women's tours, the WTA is a lengthy step ahead of the ATP with a cast of appealing characters already assuming leading roles.

The leader of the pack

Three-time grand slam champion Naomi Osaka is at the forefront of a school of rising stars, but she has impressive rivals for company.

The last four years have seen the 15 women's majors won by 12 different players, whereas in the men's game, Rafael Nadal (6), Novak Djokovic (5), Roger Federer (3) and Dominic Thiem (1) have creamed off all the top prizes in the same period.

Often criticised in the past for a perceived lack of depth, in the years when Serena Williams won seemingly at will, the women's tour has exploded with a rush of bright and young talent.

Osaka is a revelation and a leader, on and off the court. Twice a US Open champion now, and a winner in Australia two years ago, the 23-year-old Japanese star took a powerful stance for racial equality at Flushing Meadows back in September, at the height of Black Lives Matter protests. She wants to achieve even more off the court than on it, where she looks assured of one day leaving an impressive legacy.

If there is any area where Osaka's game falls down it is consistency. She has surprisingly not passed the fourth round in 14 of her 17 grand slam appearances, but on every occasion she has gone beyond that stage it has been en route to lifting a trophy.

In hot pursuit

Last year's three slam champions were, at the times of their triumphs, just 21 (Sofia Kenin - Australian Open), 19 (Iga Swiatek - French Open) and 22 (Osaka - US Open).

The women's game has not seen anything comparable in terms of youthful winners of its blue riband tournaments since 2004, when the 21-year-old Justine Henin won in Australia, Anastasia Myskina landed the Roland Garros title at 22, Maria Sharapova was a 17-year-old bolter to Wimbledon glory and 19-year-old Svetlana Kuznetsova scored a stunning Flushing Meadows victory.

Last year does not touch the 1997 season, when a 16-year-old Martina Hingis won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open, denied a grand slam clean sweep by 19-year-old Iva Majoli's shock French Open final win over the Swiss.

But women's tennis is still seeing a remarkable shift to relative youth.

The 2019 season saw a then 19-year-old Bianca Andreescu scoop a stunning US Open win, while Ash Barty took the French Open.

Andreescu has been sidelined with a knee injury since the 2019 WTA Finals, but she is back for Australia, where Queenslander Barty, now 24, is the home hero.

Brace for the prospect of Andreescu and Barty joining Kenin, Swiatek and Osaka in a group of five who can take the women's game boldly into the post-Williams era.

But the Williams era isn't over

This is true, and again Serena will make another attempt to land that elusive 24th grand slam, the one that would move her level with Margaret Court on the all-time list.

She remains, at the age of 39, a magnificent competitor and a beguiling player, as does sister Venus, who turns 41 in June.

Serena has lost her last four grand slam finals, however, and the most recent run to a title match came almost 18 months ago in New York, where Andreescu had her number.

As the new gang of five threaten to pull away from the old establishment, perhaps Williams is now in the next group, along with the likes of Simona Halep, Victoria Azarenka and Petra Kvitova: still perfectly capable of winning another slam or even multiple slams, but it feels important to strike now.

Serena has not won any of her last 10 slams, making it the longest span in her professional career without winning a major.

Barty party, or Sofia the second?

Osaka begins the Australian Open as favourite with bookmakers, but world number one Barty will have home support and could make that count. How she performs will be keenly watched, given she chose not to travel once the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year, sitting out 11 months.

Should Barty get on a roll, hopes will be high she can become the first Australian woman to take the title since Chris O'Neil in 1978. Last year, Barty fell in the semi-finals to Kenin, and she will be eager to land a second slam title.

Kenin, whose intense concentration and steely resolve helped her pull off last year's shock Melbourne win, and follow up with a run to the French Open final, can be a match for anyone. She will be aiming to become the first woman to win back-to-back Australian Open titles since Azarenka in 2012 and 2013.

Success on this level has come perhaps ahead of schedule for the American, and the same can be said for Swiatek, whose demolition of the field at Roland Garros in October made a mockery of her being ranked number 53 in the world.

The teenage Polish player became her country's first grand slam singles champion, and with that status comes the expectation she will follow it up. How that turns out for her will be one of the most intriguing of sub-plots in the new season.

Changing priorities

Halep said in a recent WTA interview that winning an Olympic medal was her "main goal" for 2021, although Osaka will also have the Tokyo Games firmly circled in her diary.

For the likes of those other players among the 16 slam winners in the Melbourne draw, there will be differing targets this year, too.

Angelique Kerber, Sloane Stephens, Jelena Ostapenko and particularly Garbine Muguruza may yet come good again on the big stage at some point this season.

For Venus Williams, Kuznetsova and Samantha Stosur, it may be a case of one final hurrah.

As the likes of Coco Gauff emerge as potential future big-stage winners, and fledgling ambassadors, the women's game looks in safe hands.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said there were no plans to change the schedule for the major amid coronavirus concerns.

More than 500 players and officials were forced into isolation after a worker at an Australian Open quarantine hotel tested positive for COVID-19.

It led to play at lead-up events in Melbourne on Thursday being called off and sparked fears around the year's first grand slam, which is scheduled to begin on Monday.

But Tiley is hoping play is back underway on Friday and said he expects the Australian Open to start as scheduled.

"The intention is to start the Australian Open on Monday so there's no intention of changing the time for the Australian Open," he told a news conference.

Tiley added: "We're absolutely confident the Australian Open is going to go ahead.

"We know that we've got a period now that we've got to work through with those 507 players and their staff, 160 players actually, that need a test and we fully expect the probability is very low that there's going to be any issue.

"We fully expect them all to test negative and then we continue with play tomorrow like we originally planned and if we have to go through this again we'll continue to go through this again and we've got another three and a half weeks of tennis, we've got a lot of tennis to play and fully expect to keep the original schedule once we get past today."

The draw for the Australian Open was pushed back to Friday, while crowds are still expected to be in attendance for the major.

Preparations for the Australian Open were dealt a fresh blow on Wednesday when a member of hotel staff tested positive for coronavirus, although Victoria's premier insists the tournament is not under threat at this stage.

A 26-year-old worker at the Grand Hyatt Hotel returned a negative test at the end of his previous shift on January 29 but subsequently developed symptoms and tested positive on Wednesday.

As a result, Melbourne and the wider Victoria region has reverted to its New Year's Eve restrictions of gatherings at home being limited to 15 people and masks having to be worn in public indoor spaces.

In terms of the specific impact upon participants in the Australian Open, players, officials and support staff who were staying at the hotel during this period must now isolate and undertake a COVID-19 test.

The number of tournament-related personnel classed as "casual contacts" related to the incident is estimated to be between 500 and 600.

Nevertheless, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews told a news conference he was confident the Australian Open would go ahead as planned, even though the requirement that some players isolate and test could have an impact upon warm-up tournaments that are ongoing at Melbourne Park.

"There's about 500-600 people that are either players and officials and others who are casual contacts," Andrews said.

"They will be isolating until they get a negative test and that work will be done tomorrow so it might have an impact on tomorrow's play in the lead-up event, but at this stage there's no impact to the tournament proper.

"That's important to us, but the issue we're most focused on is much broader. That's about public health and public safety and that's why we've really pounced on this."

The Australian Open is scheduled to run from February 8-21.

Roger Federer is aiming to make his return to the ATP Tour at the Qatar Open, while Rafael Nadal is contending with a back injury with less than a week until the Australian Open.

Swiss maestro Federer has not played since losing in the semi-finals at Melbourne Park to Novak Djokovic in 2020 having undergone knee surgery last year.

The 20-time grand slam champion opted not to play in Australia this year but is aiming to return in Doha in March.

"I want to celebrate great victories again. And for that I am ready to go the long, hard road," Federer, a three-time champion at the tournament, said in an interview with SRF.

"I wanted to make my comeback at a smaller tournament so that I wasn't fully in focus and where the stress is also a little less."

Federer said it "hurts" to miss out in Australia but still has lofty ambitions at Wimbledon, the Olympics and the US Open in 2021, while saying he will attempt to play on clay this year.

"I'll try to play on clay again. The whole thing, of course, with regards to Halle, Wimbledon, the Olympics and the US Open," he added.

Federer's on-court rival Nadal matched the Swiss for most grand slam singles titles won by a male player after winning the French Open last year.

But his chances of going one better may be hindered by a back issue that forced the Spanish great to sit out his country's ATP Cup opener against Stefanos Tsitsipas on Tuesday.

"Hi all, we have decided with #TeamSpain and my team, to not play today the first match of the @ATPCup here in #Melbourne since I have a stiff low back. Hopefully I'll be better for Thursday," Nadal posted on Twitter.

Serena Williams and Simona Halep started the season with straight-sets victories in Melbourne a week before the Australian Open gets under way.

Williams and Halep played in an exhibition event with a crowd of 4,000 watching on in Adelaide last Friday and they were back in competitive action three days later.

Legendary American Williams beat Daria Gavrilova 6-1 6-4 to move into the third round of the Yarra Valley Classic.

The fifth seed struck 27 winners to 15 unforced errors on Margaret Court Arena as she set up a meeting with Tsvetana Pironkova, who ousted Donna Vekic 1-6 6-4 6-2.

Williams said: "It was a good match for me. It wasn't easy at all. It was lots of rallies and lots of movement, and she's from here, so she obviously always plays hard. So it was really good and it felt good to clinch that in the end."

Third seed Karolina Pliskova, Petra Martic, Danielle Collins and Marketa Vondrousova also advanced to the last 16 on Monday.

Elsewhere, top seed Halep is through to the third round of the Gippsland Trophy following a 6-4 6-4 win over Anastasia Potapova.

Halep hit 23 winners and broke twice in each set in what was her first official match since October.

Elina Svitolina, the third seed, beat Andrea Petkovic 6-1 6-4, while Coco Gauff, Ekaterina Alexandrova and Jelena Ostapenko were among the other winners seven days prior to the start of the first grand slam of 2021.

The Australian Open is set to welcome up to 30,000 spectators each day when the tournament begins on February 8 in Melbourne.

Local officials have given the go-ahead for fans to head to Melbourne Park, predicting a near-normal atmosphere when action begins at the year's first grand slam.

Last year's US Open was contested behind closed doors in New York, while only 1,000 paying fans were allowed at Roland Garros on each day of the 2020 French Open.

However, the COVID-19 crisis has been tightly managed in Australia, to the point where it was reported on Saturday that there had been no new local cases in the state of Victoria for 24 days.

The crowds will be split between day and evening sessions, and the number of fans allowed will drop to 25,000 for the final six days of the tournament, when fewer courts will be in operation.

Saturday's announcement means the event will be capped at around 50 per cent of capacity.

Tournament director and Tennis Australia chief executive officer Craig Tiley said it had taken "a massive team effort" to accommodate the arrival of around 1,000 players and officials into the country, with all required to spend two weeks in quarantine.

Victoria sports minister Martin Pakula said on Sky News Australia: "On Rod Laver Arena, as we get towards the end of the tournament, we'll have an incredible atmosphere – not that different to the atmosphere we've seen in all the Opens in the years past.

"That's really a testament to the work Victorians have done to get our numbers to zero but also the extraordinary work that Craig and the team at Tennis Australia has done."

 

Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal agreed it was great to be playing in front of busy grandstands again as tennis stars emerged from lockdown in Australia.

The women's and men's tennis tours have been contested largely behind closed doors over the past year, and a number of tournaments, most notably Wimbledon, have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 crisis.

The Australia public has given a cautious welcome to the arrival of the world's leading players, who have been quarantining in hotel rooms for much of the past fortnight, only allowed to briefly leave in order to train.

Ahead of the Australian Open, which begins on February 8 in Melbourne, Williams and Nadal are among a star-studded set of players who travelled to Adelaide to feature in the 'A Day at the Drive' exhibition event.

They both scored victories on Friday, with Williams defeating US Open champion Naomi Osaka 6-2 2-6 10-7 and Nadal snatching a 7-5 6-4 win over Dominic Thiem.

The delight in both at seeing crowds at a tournament was plain, with Williams saying in an on-court interview: "Thanks everyone for having us. We haven't played in front of a crowd in over a year. It's been a really long time."

In fact, it has not quite been a full year since the tours locked down initially, as it was early March when most tournaments began to be called off, with crowds frozen out.

Williams said the reception made the difficult past fortnight, being hidden away from the world, worth the strain for the players.

"This is really cool and then for having us and trusting us with your laws was great," said the 23-time grand slam winner. "We were so excited to be here and it's worth it."

Nadal said he was "super happy" to still be playing at the highest level and back in front of Australian crowds.

The pandemic has been carefully managed to the point where very few have the virus and it is considered safe to allow crowds into sporting events in the country.

Nadal said: "Hopefully this situation will go away quick and we will be able to enjoy fans on court [around the world].

"We're super excited to have fans at the Australian Open and today."

That optimism and excitement was shared by men's world number one Novak Djokovic, who played just one set against Jannik Sinner due to a problem with blisters on his right hand.

Eight-time Australian Open champion Djokovic told fans: "Thank you so much for coming out and making our day and making our year.

"We didn't play in front of this much crowd for 12 months. This is definitely something very special.

"It wasn't easy, obviously, with 14 days being constrained in the room and a few hours to train, but at the end of the day it was worth it because you guys made it very special today for us."

Andy Murray has withdrawn from the Australian Open a little over a week after testing positive for coronavirus.

Murray, a five-time finalist in Melbourne, went into isolation at home after returning a positive test on January 14.

The three-time major winner, ranked 123rd in the world, had hoped to compete at the first grand slam of the year after being granted a wildcard.

However, tournament organisers indicated it would be difficult for Murray to remain in the draw as he would be unable to travel via one of the official charter flights containing other players before going through the required period of quarantine.

On Friday, the 33-year-old confirmed he had been unable to come to a "workable" solution with authorities.

In a statement carried by The Guardian and other UK media outlets, Murray said: "Gutted to share that I won't be flying out to Australia to compete at the Australian Open.

"We've been in constant dialogue with Tennis Australia to try and find a solution but we couldn't make it work.

"I want to thank everyone there for their efforts, I'm devastated not to be playing out in Australia. It's a country and tournament that I love."

The build-up to this year's Australian Open has been impacted by players having to spend a two-week quarantine in their hotel accommodation.

A total of 72 competitors have been unable to leave their rooms after positive coronavirus tests among passengers on the chartered flights to Melbourne.

Players have been unable to access practice courts and many have complained on social media about sub-standard food and conditions, with Yulia Putintseva, the world number 28, sharing videos showing mice in her room.

The tournament is due to start on February 8.

Tennis umpire Carlos Bernardes is "recovering well" after reportedly suffering a heart attack ahead of the Australian Open.

The veteran Brazilian, who has officiated in US Open and Wimbledon men's singles finals, was taken from his hotel to a Melbourne hospital on Wednesday after falling ill.

It was widely reported he had a heart attack, with Bernardes pictured on a stretcher while being loaded into an ambulance.

The ATP, which runs the men's tour and has been Bernardes' employer since 1990, offered an positive update on Thursday.

In a statement, the governing body said: "Following admittance to hospital [non-COVID related] on Wednesday in Melbourne, we are pleased to report that ATP umpire Carlos Bernardes is recovering well.

"Carlos passes on his gratitude for all the well wishes he's received, and we wish him all the best for a full recovery."

According to Brazilian tennis website TenisNews, Bernardes remains under observation but is expected to leave hospital on Saturday.

He was staying at The View, one of three hotels where Australian Open players and tennis officials are quarantining for two weeks after their arrival in the country.

Novak Djokovic has denied he was being "selfish, difficult and ungrateful" in making suggestions for easing quarantine restrictions ahead of the Australian Open.

Djokovic came in for criticism after it emerged he had sent Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley a list of potential ways for lockdown conditions to be improved for players who are under a strict lockdown in Melbourne.

Less than three weeks before the first major of the year gets under way, 72 players are consigned to their hotel rooms due to positive coronavirus tests on their flights to Melbourne.

World number one Djokovic does not have to adhere to such stringent rules in Adelaide, as he arrived on a virus-free flight.

The 17-time grand slam champion was labelled a "tool" by Nick Kyrgios after he was said to have asked for less time in isolation for players, requested they are given private housing with access to training courts, and better food.

Djokovic responded on Wednesday by stating that he was only trying to look out for his fellow players and expressed his gratitude to tournament organisers, the Australian government and the people of Melbourne.

He posted on social media: "My good intentions for my fellow competitors in Melbourne have been misconstrued as being selfish, difficult and ungrateful. This couldn't be farther from the truth

"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 word mattered to me when I was small and insignificant in the world pecking order.

"Hence I use my position of privilege to be of service as much as I can where and when needed."

The Serb added of his correspondence with Tiley: "In our email exchange I used an opportunity to brainstorm about potential improvements that could be made to the quarantine of players in Melbourne that were in full lockdown.

"There were a few suggestions and ideas that I gathered from other players from our chat group and there was no harm intended to try and help.

"I was aware that the chances were low that any of our suggestions would be accepted, just like my request to quarantine with my team in Melbourne instead of Adelaide was denied prior to our travel because of the strict government regulations.

"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.

"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 that because I do know how grateful many are.

"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."

Victoria Azarenka called for greater understanding from players stuck in hotel quarantine ahead of the Australian Open.

After being exposed to coronavirus on flights, 72 players – including Azarenka – have been forced into a two-week quarantine ahead of the tournament beginning on February 8.

Novak Djokovic reportedly made several requests, which were rejected, of officials for players in quarantine, while Roberto Bautista Agut compared the conditions to prison.

But amid complaints on social media, two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka pleaded for players to be more understanding in a measured statement.

"Dear players, coaches, entourage and Australian community. I would like to take a moment and address some of my colleagues as well as the media around the world," the Belarusian wrote on Twitter.

"This has been a very difficult time for a lot of us that did not expect to end up in the situation we are in today, myself included. To be in a 14-day hard quarantine is very tough to accept in terms of all the work that everyone has been putting in during their off-season – to be prepared for playing our first grand slam of the year. I understand all the frustration and feeling of unfairness that has been coming and it is overwhelming.

"We have a global pandemic, nobody has a clear playbook of how to operate at full capacity and without a glitch, we all have seen it last year. Sometimes things happen and we need to accept, adapt and keep moving.

"I would like to ask all my colleagues for cooperation, understanding and empathy for the local community that has been going through a lot of very demanding restrictions that they did not choose, but were forced to follow.

"I would like to ask to be sensitive as well to the people who have lost their jobs and loved ones during this horrible time for all of us around the world. I would like to ask all of us to have respect for people who work tirelessly to try to make our lives easier.

"I would like to ask the media to please have consciousness on the impact and influence you bring to this situation and to the community. I would like for the people in the community to know and understand that we have it as our top priority to ensure the health [and] safety of all the people.

"Lastly, I would like for us to please try to support each other as much as someone can or is willing to. Things are always easier when you have a compassionate environment and work together."

Victoria endured tough restrictions after a second coronavirus wave last year.

On Tuesday, the state recorded its 13th consecutive day of no locally acquired cases of COVID-19.

Page 8 of 9
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.