Published on : 16/01/2021 – 18:49
47 players scheduled to participate in the Australian Open are banned from training for two weeks after traveling on two flights where other passengers have tested positive for the coronavirus. A blow for the players concerned who see their preparation compromised before the start of this major tournament.
The landing in Melbourne was brutal for 47 players due to take part in Australian Open in three weeks (8-21 February): they are banned from training for two weeks after traveling on two flights where other passengers have been tested positive for coronavirus.
The state of Victoria, where Melbourne is located, first announced two positive cases aboard a flight from Los Angeles carrying 24 players, then the Australian Open confirmed another case aboard ‘an Abu Dhabi-Melbourne flight, aboard 23 players.
A little later, Sylvain Bruneau, the coach of Bianca Andreescu, 7th player in the world, revealed to be the positive case discovered on board the second flight.
“I regret to announce that I just tested positive for Covid-19 when I arrived after traveling from Abu Dhabi,” Bruneau wrote in a press release. “I am extremely saddened and sorry for the consequences which now weigh on the shoulders of all those who shared my flight,” he added, adding that the “rest of (s) our team is negative”.
Even though those diagnosed positive are not gamers, everyone on board is considered contact cases and has therefore been placed in strict quarantine for 14 days.
“No player or member of their entourage will be able to interrupt the quarantine to participate in training,” said a spokesperson for the Victoria State quarantine program, after the news of the cases aboard the Los Angeles flight was announced. Melbourne, which concern a crew member and another passenger, tested negative before departure.
The 47 players concerned are therefore deprived of the five hours of daily training authorized during the fortnight that all tournament participants must observe in a hotel room upon their arrival in Australia.
According to local media, Belarusian Victoria Azarenka (winner of the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013), American Sloane Stephens and Japan’s Kei Nishikori were on the Los Angeles-Melbourne flight and other players. crowned in Grand Slam were in the one from Abu Dhabi (Bianca Andreescu, Angelique Kerber, and Svetlana Kuznetsova).
“We are in contact with everyone on board this flight and in particular the group of players whose conditions have now changed, to best meet their needs,” said Australian Open boss Craig Tiley, after the cases were announced aboard the flight from Los Angeles.
Draconian health measures
“It’s absurd”, denounced on Twitter the French Alizé Cornet, who arrived in Melbourne by another flight.
“Soon half of the Australian Open players will have to self-isolate. Weeks and weeks of training and hard work are going to be wasted for a positive person on a plane that is three-quarters empty.” , she regretted, before deleting her tweet in front of the reactions provoked.
Players had already been moved that a contingent of around fifty participants, including Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep, could carry out their fifteen days of confinement in Adelaide and not in Melbourne like the rest of the players.
Craig Tiley had brushed aside the accusations of favoritism by ensuring that the training conditions would be the same in Adelaide and Melbourne.
The tournament management had to enact very strict and very restrictive health rules in order to make the event acceptable to the local authorities. In particular, the tournament was postponed by three weeks and the qualifications moved to Dubai (women) and Doha (men) from January 10 to 13, to allow the approximately 1,270 participants to respect a fortnight upon arrival after having traveled 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.