Wild twist in Aus Open ‘prison’ furore
World number 13 Roberto Bautista Agut has apologised for comments he made comparing hotel quarantine in Australia to prison.
But in a wild twist the Spanish star says they were part of a private conversation that was leaked to the media.
Tennis journalists are now speculating whether Agut, 32, is the victim of a sting.
"The context of Bautista interview calling quarantine 'jail' is odd," Telegraph tennis correspondent Simon Briggs tweeted.
"He looks to be speaking not to a reporter but to Amit Naor, who was part of the CAA agenting team which represented RBA, before CAA sacked Naor in the wake of sexual-harassment allegations."
"Very bizarre clip for lots of reasons," added the New York Times' Ben Rothenberg. "Camera is facing the trophy; does Bautista realise he's being recorded?"
In the video, Agut lashed Victorian health authorities, branding the forced isolation a "complete disaster".
He said the 14-day Melbourne quarantine was "really tough" and like a prison "with Wi-Fi".
"These people have no idea about tennis, about practice courts, about anything. It's a complete disaster because of that," he said.
"The control of everything is not Tennis Australia, it's the people from the government … I can't imagine staying two weeks like this."
Bautista Agut, who has been guaranteed a minimum of $100,000 for competing at this year's Australian Open, issued an apology on Tuesday night.
"I want to apologise to everyone who has been offended by the video that was posted about me recently," he wrote.
"It is a private conversation that was taken out of context that has unfortunately been released to the media without my knowledge or my consent."
It comes after two Australian Open players tested positive for the coronavirus, health officials said Tuesday, taking the cluster of cases linked to the Grand Slam tennis tournament to seven.
The Victoria state health department said two players and a third person associated with the tournament - a woman in her 20s, and two men in their 30s - had returned positive results.
The Australian Open, already delayed by three weeks to February 8, has been rocked by the detection of COVID-19 among the more than 1,000 players and staff who flew into the country on charter flights.
A total of nine people have tested positive while in quarantine ahead of the event in Melbourne, but two cases were deemed to be historical infections on Tuesday.
Positive cases on three charter flights have left 72 players confined to their hotel rooms, rather than being allowed out to train like the other competitors.
But health officials said none of the 72 had yet been cleared to train as a result of the two cases being reclassified as non-infectious.
"This does not change broader assessment of the player group in hotel quarantine," a statement said.
Some players have complained that the possibility of a hard lockdown was not explained before they travelled to Australia, and have raised concerns about their fitness for lead-up events beginning January 31.
- with AFP
Originally published as Wild twist in Aus Open 'prison' furore