Australian Open semi-finalist Alexander Zverev feels the game’s big guns, including world No.1 Novak Djokovic, have been given an advantage with their preparation for the first major of the year.
The world No.7 said international players had nothing to complain about with their hotel quarantine ahead of the Open, however he believed allowing the world’s best players to prepare under different conditions in Adelaide was unfair.
Eight-time champion Djokovic, as well as Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem, as well as most of the game’s top female players, spent the past fortnight in Adelaide rather than Melbourne.
They quarantined there before playing an exhibition at Memorial Drive on Friday night, and were allowed a larger contingent of support staff.
While Open boss Craig Tiley claimed they had the same training conditions as the Melbourne-based players, Zverev didn’t think that was the case.
“I think maybe the only real mistake that there was the Adelaide thing for the top players, because they did get more practice time on court and had more freedom,” the German said on Saturday at Melbourne Park.
“It’s tough to beat Novak, Rafa and Dominic anyway and that doesn’t change.
“But apart from that Tennis Australia is doing the best job they can.”
Losing to Thiem in four sets in the semi-final last year, Zverev said he had done what he could to improve on that.
Thiem also came back from two sets down to beat Zverev in the US Open final to rob him of his first grand slam title.
“Did I practise as much as I usually do in the offseason – probably not – but Tennis Australia still did a great job for us tennis players to still feel like we can practise and prepare for a grand slam and hopefully we can still play our best tennis,” he said.
Melbourne Park was buzzing on Saturday with all but 22 players out of hotel quarantine and readying themselves for the lead-in tournaments which get underway on Sunday.
The last batch can exit the hotels at 11.59 on Saturday night.
Two WTA tournaments kick off official proceedings on Sunday although Australia’s world No.1 Ash Barty has a first-round bye.
Tiley said the players who were in hard lockdown had been given “priority” with their schedules and access to training facilities.
He said with all players having at least nine days between quarantine and the start of the Open on February 8, the tournament would be as fair as it could be.
“There have been a lot of questions about a fair playing field – some players have had to quarantine, some have not,” Tiley said on Saturday.
“We’ve given nine days when coming out of quarantine to when they’ll really need to be playing.
“It’s not going to be perfectly ideal, but it’s enough time to be as ready as you possibly can be.
“No different to inclement weather or someone being a bit sick and having to take a few days off.”
Crowds will about half of previous years, with 390,000 people expected over the two weeks.
There will be 30,000 people allowed through the gates each day for the first eight days, which will be reduced from the quarter-finals to crowds of 12,500 during the day session and 12,500 during the night sessions.