Naomi Osaka said she would be willing to undergo two more weeks of quarantine to play at the Tokyo Olympics later this year, if it helped ensure the safety of the people of her home country.
"The way that I feel is I will stay in my room for two weeks to play the Olympics," the 23-year-old told reporters on Sunday.
"I missed out on the last one. Playing in Tokyo would be very special to me. My concern would be the general safety of everyone else because you're opening the country.
With Osaka and Barty out, who will win gold in wide-open women's draw?
"Everyone is flying in from different places. I would just want the public to feel safe. I feel like the athletes definitely would want to play, but I would want the public to feel safe."
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Osaka's most recent competitive match was the US Open final last September so she said she was looking forward to getting a decent amount of match practice this week in the Gippsland Trophy warm-up tournament at Melbourne Park.
"I'm actually really happy," she said. "For me, I like it's being held at the same spot. I know normally we don't get that sort of luxury."
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The U.S. Open was played without fans and Osaka said while she was delighted that there will be fans in attendance when the year's first Grand Slam starts on Feb. 8, it did have a downside.
"I think I get distracted by the crowd sometimes because I want to show off a little bit, so I do some crazy shots," she said.
"(But) I would say I definitely love having a crowd watching. I feel like you sort of interact with them. Sometimes they shout things and it makes you laugh."
15 LEFT IN QUARANTINE
The Australian Open quarantine facilities are still holding 15 people, including one player and two others who tested positive for Covid-19 earlier in their lockdown, Melbourne health authorities said on Sunday.
The vast majority of the more than 1,000 players and their entourages undergoing 14 days of isolation in Melbourne and Adelaide were released by midnight on Saturday and have started preparing for the Grand Slam.
Spain's Paula Badosa was the only player to have confirmed that she tested positive for Covid-19 in Melbourne, restarting the clock on her mandatory period of isolation.
Victoria on Sunday reported no local transmission of the virus for the 29th straight day and Australian Open tournament chief Craig Tiley said the priority for his organisation remained the health of the local community.
"No one is coming out of quarantine unless it is absolutely proved that they are not incubating the virus," he said on ABC TV on Sunday.
"They've had a test every day, there's no quarantine process in the world that has been as rigid as this one.
"The players are in the community, and they are like us, and we have to keep practising the health protocols to keep us safe."
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