Facebook Social Button Twitter Social Button Follow Us on InstagramYouTube Social Button Follow Me on Pinterest
NewsVideosLive ScoresTV ListingsTournamentsRankingsLucky Letcord PodcastMagazine

By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, January 17, 2021


Coronavirus turbulence swirls around the Australian Open as third charter flight produced a positive case pushing a total of 72 players to hard quarantine.

Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve

Coronavirus turbulence continues to swirl around the Australian Open.

A third AO charter flight produced a positive COVID-19 case on Sunday requiring all passengers aboard Qatar Airways flight QR7485 from Doha forced into a 14-day hard quarantine.

AO Director Tiley: Risk Was Clear From Beginning

Spanish phenom Carlos Alcaraz and his coach, former world No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, were reportedly among those on board the flight from Doha. Both are reportedly in good health and among a growing list of players, coaches and officials confined to quarantine.

"There were 58 passengers on the flight, including 25 players," the Australian Open said in a statement. "All are already in quarantine hotels. The 25 players on the flight will not be able to leave their hotel room for 14 days and until they are medically cleared. They will not be eligible to practice." 

There are now enough players to fill a tournament draw locked up in their rooms probably bouncing balls off the walls right about now.

There are now 72 players serving hard quarantine after three of the tournament's charter flights featured positive Coronavirus cases. Hard quarantine restriction means players are not permitted to leave their hotel rooms.

Nine News Melbourne reports one of its reporters aboard the Doha flight tested positive for Coronavirus upon arrival in Melbourne.

Earlier, three cases of COVID-19 were detected among two flights—one flight from Abu Dhabi and the other from Los Angeles—forcing 47 players who were on those flights to serve a strict 14-day quarantine in their hotel rooms.

They won't be able to leave their hotel rooms even to practice or train. Former AO champion Victoria Azarenka, Kei Nishikori, Sloane Stepens and Heather Watson are reportedly among the players who were on those flights and now serving quarantine. 

Sylvain Bruneau, coach of 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu, revealed he tested positive for the virus after flying to Melbourne from Abu Dhabi and offered apologies to fellow passengers now confined to quarantine.

“I am deeply sorry to share that I have just tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival here in Melbourne, after travelling from Abu Dhabi on flight EY8004,” Bruneau posted on social media. “I have followed all of the safety protocols and procedures, including testing negative within 72 hours before the flight departure and felt perfectly fine when I boarded the plane.

“I also respected and followed all COVID protocols and guidelines while in the Middle East. I have no idea how I might have contracted this virus. “I am extremely saddened and sorry for the consequences now on everyone’s shoulders sharing my flight. The rest of my team is negative and I sincerely hope that any further disruption is kept to a minimum.”

Some players have taken to social media to protest the confinement, particularly the inability to practice for two weeks that can put them at a competitive disadvantage. 

Tennis Express

AO tournament director Craig Tiley hit back at those charges and said the tournament plans to proceed as scheduled starting on February 8th.

"These conditions they are constantly changing, but there's always a risk, we did make it clear at the beginning," Tiley told Nine News.  "That's why we have the player groups and cohorts, that there was always a risk that someone would be positive then and would have to go into 14 days of isolation, there was a risk on the plane that you would be a close contact, there was a risk that everyone could be a close contact.

"You don't know what the outcome of that decision is going to be until it actually happens. It is unfortunate that we are in an environment right now where we've got to manage it.”

How will players manage two weeks of room confinement and could 14 days without practice lead to injury when the quarantine crew all return to practice at the end of January?

If the group of 72 quarantine players are back on the practice court by about January 31st that only offers a week before main-draw AO play begins.

For now, the Happy Slam is hectic major striving to be Healthy Slam in time for its first-ball aim on February 8th. 


Latest News