The landing in Melbourne was brutal for 47 players due to participate in the Australian Open in three weeks (8-21 February): they are banned from training for two weeks after traveling on two commercial flights where d other passengers tested positive for Covid-19.
Victoria state (where Melbourne is located) has announced two positive cases aboard a flight from Los Angeles, carrying 24 players. Then the Australian Open confirmed another case on board an Abu Dhabi-Melbourne flight, on which 23 players were.
Even though the three people diagnosed positive were not gamers, everyone on board is considered contact cases and has been quarantined for 14 days. “No player, nor member of their entourage will be able to interrupt the quarantine to participate in a training”, specifies the State of Victoria, after the announcement of the positive cases on board the flight Los Angeles-Melbourne, concerning a member of the crew and another passenger, tested negative before departure.
Azarenka, Stephens and Nishikori in quarantine
A decision that could have consequences on the conduct of the first Grand Slam tournament of the 2021 season. According to local media, Belarusian Victoria Azarenka (winner of the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013), American Sloane Stephens and the Japanese Kei Nishikori were aboard the Los Angeles-Melbourne flight and other Grand Slam winners were in that of Abu Dhabi (Bianca Andreescu, Angelique Kerber, and Svetlana Kuznetsova).
“It’s absurd”, denounced on Twitter about this decision the French Alizé Cornet, arrived in Melbourne by another flight. “Soon half of the players in the Australian Open will have to isolate themselves. Weeks and weeks of training and intense work will be wasted for a positive person aboard a three-quarters empty plane, ”she regrets, before deleting her tweet in front of the reactions provoked.
The tournament management had to enact very strict and very restrictive health rules in order to make the event acceptable to the local authorities. The competition was postponed by three weeks and the qualifications moved to Dubai (women) and Doha (men) from January 10 to 13, to allow the 1270 participants to meet a fortnight upon arrival after traveling aboard 18 charters chartered by the Australian Federation.
These conditions have prompted some to give up, like the American John Isner or Rafael Nadal’s coach Carlos Moya. American Madison Keys, who tested positive, has also withdrawn and Briton Andy Murray, five-time finalist of the tournament, is very uncertain after also contracting the disease.