It's Getting Messy In Melbourne, 47 Players Quarantined With No Training Ahead Of Australian Open

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It’s Getting Messy In Melbourne, 47 Players Quarantined With No Training Ahead Of Australian Open

After months and months of planning, it didn’t take long for issues to arise with the Australian Open COVID-19 protocols.

The tournament chartered several flights to ferry players to Australia, but in the last 24 hours two of those planes had passengers test positive upon arrival.

On a flight from LAX, two aboard tested positive including a coach.

On a flight from Abu Dhabi, one passenger tested positive — Bianca Andreescu’s coach, Sylvain Bruneau.

The Australian Open has confirmed the cases on both flights. And the consequences are not pretty.

A total of 47 players (23 from LAX, 24 from Abu Dhabi) must now fully quarantine without leaving their hotel rooms for 14 days.

Where it gets sticky is players signed up to play the event because the tournament told them that if they tested negative they would be allowed five hours per day to train. Now, for 47 players that has been taken away through virtually no fault of their own.

Some of them include Victoria Azarenka, Angelique Kerber, Kei Nishikori, Heather Watson, Yulia Putinseva, Sloane Stephens, Bianca Andreescu, Vasek Pospisil and Pablo Cuevas.

Imagine you undertake this 20-hour or so journey, land in Australia, test negative, prepare to get two weeks of training in only to get told you will have to isolate instead and cannot leave the hotel.

No shock, some players were not happy.

“We are communicating with everyone on this flight, and particularly the playing group whose conditions have now changed, to ensure their needs are being catered to as much as possible, and that they are fully appraised of the situation,” Australian Open TD Craig Tiley said in a statement.

“Our thoughts are with the two people who tested positive on the flight and we wish them well for their recovery.”

The good news is, none of the positives were players and they are safe (and I hope the three that did contract the virus will come through), and, according to the tournament above, they will have access to food and training equipment in their rooms, plus at least $100K coming to them in a month. It sounds like they will be taken care of.

The tournament also begins on February 8. So while they won’t be able to be on a tennis court the next two weeks (assuming their restrictions are not overturned and their quarantine ends around the 30th), they will have about a week or more before their first match. They should approach it like a having 2-week injury, then getting a week to train before returning to play.

The bad news is the view will be there is a distinct competitive imbalance. You have one group who have been denied practice (right now the 47) and another group who can practice including the top players like Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams who are in Adelaide.

And for tennis as a whole, it’s not good for players to complain publicly. Not in this climate. The problem is for the 47 they will not have many options to vent during the 14 days ahead and with social media right at their fingertips…

So for the 47, it does stink. It’s unfortunate and bad luck. It’s not what you signed up, as Bencic said. I’m sure the tournament is hard at work trying to figure something out. But this is the new COVID reality and anyone travelling to Australia must undergo these strict protocols.

And the reality is, with more flights coming in today and more tests to come, there will be fallout. Let’s just hope there’s no outbreak.

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