Television host Karl Stefanovic didn’t mince his words on Monday when taking a dig at international tennis players who have complained about hotel quarantine in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open.
At least 72 tennis players have been forced into a hard isolation after three flights into Melbourne found positive COVID-19 cases. Karl sarcastically said on air he felt “a little bit sorry” for the elite sports stars before describing them as “high maintenance” and “spoilt”.
“I do feel a little bit sorry for tennis players,” the TV presenter said on the ‘Today’ show during a segment where he and co-host Allison Langdon spoke to retired tennis player and now sports presenter Todd Woodbridge.
“No you don’t,” Allison quipped, which cued Karl’s subsequent sarcastic spiel.
“They get up in the morning, they hit some balls. They go for breakfast, hit more balls,” he began. “They go and have a bite to eat at lunch, hit more balls. Have a massage maybe, have a sleep. Then they get up and hit more balls and maybe go clubbing at night. They have these infringements on the lifestyle, it is pretty difficult.”
Karl then went on to describe the tennis players: “They are just like racehorses; Pedantic, peculiar. They are high maintenance, spoiled”.
“Who you are talking about? Yourself now?” Allison laughed.
Later on in the show, Karl said it was important for the sports stars to realise why the quarantine restrictions were being enforced, particularly after Melbourne’s 112-day hard lockdown last year to combat a significant second wave.
“I think people who have been through what they have been through in Victoria and Melbourne, or actually anywhere who has been through quarantine, any Australian sitting in quarantine now, [will think] ‘Hang on, this is tough’,” he said. “Everyone knows it’s tough, but we are trying to protect a lifestyle here.”
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley confirmed at the weekend that the year’s first Grand Slam will go ahead from February 8 despite anger from players forced into hard quarantine in Melbourne due to the cases on their charter planes.
So far more than 70 players and their entourages have to isolate for two weeks and cannot leave their hotel rooms in Melbourne to train after infections were reported on three flights ferrying players.
A positive case was reported late on Sunday from the third flight which landed a day earlier and had ferried 58 passengers from Doha, where the Grand Slam’s qualifiers were held.
Twenty-five players were on board but the passenger, who tested negative before the flight, is not a player.
“The 25 players on the flight will not be able to leave their hotel room for 14 days and until they are medically cleared. They will not be eligible for practise,” the Australian Open said in a statement.
Other players who arrived in different planes are also undertaking a mandatory 14-day quarantine but are permitted to leave their hotels for five hours a day to train, raising questions about the integrity of the Grand Slam.
French player Alize Cornet apologised on Monday after many social media users hit out at her for criticising Australia’s strict COVID-19 quarantine protocols ahead of the tournament.
She said the situation was “insane” because weeks of training was “going to waste” but was quickly reminded that she was better off than many Victorian residents who endured worse as authorities looked to curb the spread of the virus.
“After my last (deleted) tweet I feel like I need to apologise to you Australian people,” she wrote on Twitter.
“Your reaction to this tactless comment made me realise what you’ve been through last year and how much you suffered. I guess I feel a bit anxious about all this and I better have shut my mouth.
“But sometimes we make mistakes and the last thing I wanted to do was to hurt your feelings. Don’t be mad at me Aussie people, you’ve always been one of my favourite. I promise I’ll stay quiet for a while.”
New Zealand’s Artem Sitak was on flight QR7493 from Los Angeles, sharing the chartered plane with three people who tested positive to COVID-19 after landing in Melbourne.
As one of the two-dozen players aboard the flight deemed “close contacts” of the infected trio, he is effectively in solitary confinement at the View Melbourne, an inner city hotel converted into a quarantine facility.
The tennis player said he was eating the food served by the hotel but other players were unsatisfied with it and were using a food delivery app instead.
“We told Tennis Australia that it’s not up to the professional tennis player’s standards, so they are working on improving that,” he told Reuters.
“They gave us the Uber Eats, if we want to order Uber Eats we’ll get extra money in the end with our prizemoney to compensate for that.”
With files from Reuters.
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