Dominic Thiem has voiced his sympathy with the "bitter" situation many of his fellow Australian Open hopefuls face, with Covid-19 forcing them into quarantine.
More than 70 players are confined to hotel rooms in Melbourne ahead of 2021's first Grand Slam after some of their fellow passengers en route to Australia tested positive for the virus.
They have almost universally taken to trying their best to keep fit while isolating with hotel-room workouts, but Thiem says their new routines are far from ideal preparation for the competition which awaits them.
He exclusively told Eurosport: "Honestly, for the 70 players who were on the planes, it is of course very bitter.
"They will certainly be at a serious competitive disadvantage, that's for sure. There are still nine days until the start of the Australian Open, but in contrast to the others who can train normally, this is a huge disadvantage. There's no need to discuss that.
"It was unbelievably unfortunate for them, and I feel very sorry for them. But of course, everyone knew what they were getting into. Tennis Australia and the whole country have tried everything to let the tournament take place and that is also a sensational achievement."
However, Thiem believes that cancelling the tournament would be an over-zealous reaction.
"It sounds harsh now, but there are only 70 players in quarantine, everyone else in Melbourne can train normally.
Ruud practises serve indoors during hotel quarantine
"It would be unfair to everyone else who made the long journey if the tournament were to be cancelled now. It was everybody's own decision to travel here. Nobody had to do it. So, I already believe the tournament will take place."
Despite the controversy involving his fellow players, Thiem sympathises with the local authorities, who have almost eliminated the Covid-19 pandemic, with the state of Victoria subject to a four-month lockdown over the southern hemisphere winter last year.
"It's very crazy times, but we knew what to expect," he explained.
"Here in Australia it's a bit stricter again, which is understandable. The coronavirus is almost extinct in their country and they want to prevent it from being brought back in.
"It's very strict. We can train for about two hours a day and go out for about four hours. The rest of the time is spent in the hotel."
Thiem reached the final in Melbourne last year before finally winning his first Grand Slam title at the US Open and has set his sights on further glory in the majors.
"2020 was sensational from a sporting point of view. The feeling of winning the Grand Slam was the best I've ever experienced in my tennis career.
"I want to achieve that again. Paris is probably the big goal. It's probably been my favorite tournament since my junior final and I've always played very well there the last few years.
"It's an absolutely overpowering opponent there, but that's the next really big goal. Next to the other big tournaments, it's the event that has the highest priority."
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