Rafael Nadal believes players should be looking to adapt and find “solutions” after Novak Djokovic hinted at a boycott should quarantining have to continue ahead of tournaments this season.
After his quarter-final win over Alexander Zverev, Djokovic claimed – having spoken to “a lot” of players – that a “majority” would not want to carry on the season should they be required to quarantine ahead of events.
But Nadal rebuked those comments, claiming he struggles to see which upcoming events on the calendar will force players into a quarantine as strict as the one they were subjected to before the Australian Open.
“I don't know, but if I am not wrong, I don't see events that we have to do quarantine to play in the next couple of months,” Nadal said after his quarter-final defeat to Stefanos Tsitsipas.
“I am right or I am wrong? There is an event that we have to do quarantine before playing? Because if okay, yes, I agree, but is there any tournament that this thing going to happen? Can you answer me that?”
'We have to find a way' - Djokovic on future quarantine situations
It remains unclear going forward what protocols players will need to take ahead of future Tour events. The next ATP 1000 event takes place in Miami at the end of March and is set to welcome 750 fans per session, while the next Grand Slam is not until May 17 when the French Open gets under way.
On Tuesday, Djokovic said options must be discussed, with the world No 1 also suggesting an NBA-style bubble where tournaments take place at one location, "four weeks in, three, four, two, three weeks' rest, then back again", adding: "We have to find a way."
Nadal echoed the sentiments that a solution must be found. He went on to stress that players must be “grateful” to be playing during a global pandemic, and though he agreed with Djokovic on the fact it is “difficult” for players due to the ever-changing rules and restrictions across the globe, the Spaniard called for those on Tour to adapt.
“Honestly, this was the first event that we had to do this quarantine,” he said. “We didn't have events before that with this quarantine.
“We had New York but that was not the same at all. The situation that we are facing is tough, and the world is facing a very tough situation. That's very clear. He's completely right that for our sport things are difficult because governments are changing the rules constantly. So it's difficult to make predictions about how the things are going to happen.
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“But there is a very clear thing, you know. There are two options. To stop the tour or keep going. My personal feeling is it's tough for the players, of course, to have to do bubbles in every single event, flying just plus two, a lot of players have family and they cannot have the family with them, so that makes our tour probably tougher than ever, no?
But on the other hand, if we stop the tour, why and how and when we will be able to come back, and a lot of jobs are going to suffer a lot. I mean, not only players. A lot of people are living from our sport, no? If we stop our sport again, a lot of people are going to suffer, no?
“So we need to have a little bit more. We need to think a little bit bigger, no? And of course we need to protect players. Probably we need to find a way to protect the players with the ranking, to not force them to keep playing, yes, 100%, because the situation is very tough for a lot of players depending on the countries.
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“But that's it. We need to find solutions and we need to adapt to this very tough times that we are facing. Not only us; the world. We are here to find solutions. I mean, and we need to be grateful in life that we can keep doing what we are doing.”
Are we heading for a collision course?
Nadal is a key member of the ATP Player Council, while Djokovic resigned from his role on the council last year to form the Professional Tennis Players’ Association (PTPA).
Djokovic was up for re-election to the player council at the end of 2020, but withdrew to avoid a “conflict of interest”.
It was then revealed an ATP rule prevented him having roles with both the player council and PTPA, and there is a danger this division could lead to further cracks in the sport should there be a disagreement regarding how to move forward in 2021.
Nadal is joined by Roger Federer, Felix Auger-Aliassime, John Millman, Kevin Anderson, Andy Murray and Bruno Soares – among others – on the player council, with Nadal and Federer in particular voicing their disapproval of a separation last year.
Meanwhile, Djokovic, Vasek Pospisil and John Isner were among the players to lead the PTPA breakaway, and just how strong their backing is, could have a huge say on the 2021 season.
One thing that is for certain is that the questions will not stop once the Australian Open is over - if anything, the spotlight on the 2021 tour will only intensify.