Four coronavirus cases were found on charter flights with tennis players, coaches and officials to Melbourne for the Australian Open, which forced 47 players into strict hotel quarantine.
Health officials confirmed there had been three positive tests for COVID-19 on Saturday and one more on Sunday.
None of the cases have so far affected players, although one was Sylvain Bruneau, who coaches number 7 in the Canadian women’s world, Bianca Andreescu.
According to Tennis Australia, the two affected flights from Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi arrived with 24 and 23 players respectively.
Everyone on board was considered a close contact and was instructed not to leave their hotel room for the 14-day quarantine period.
Other players who have landed in Australia are also undergoing a mandatory 14-day quarantine but can leave their hotels for five hours a day to exercise.
The Australian Open starts on February 8th.
It’s an unparalleled introduction to #AusOpen, where players, tournament and support staff come together to protect the health of our community from COVID-19.
– #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 15, 2021
Hello beautiful Melbourne.
It’s so nice to see you again 🇦🇺❤️ # AusOpen pic.twitter.com/jf2KsTOrwj
– Petra Kvitova (@Petra_Kvitova) January 15, 2021
Australian Open director Craig Tiley told Nine News Network on Sunday that the first Grand Slam of the year was on schedule and that Tennis Australia, the governing body, would be considering changing the leadership tournaments to help the players concerned.
“We’re reviewing the schedule to see what we can do to help these players,” said Tiley.
“Obviously it’s not what we wanted. That is why we took the mitigating measures, but we are in this situation, we have to deal with it … The Australian Open is moving forward and we will continue to do the best we can to make sure these players have the best chances to have. ”
“I would have stayed at home”
Several players, including Sorana Cirstea from Romania, Belinda Bencic from Switzerland and Yulia Putintseva from Kazakhstan, used social media to complain about not being able to train.
Cirstea, number 71 in the women’s world, tweeted: “If you had told us this rule beforehand, I wouldn’t be playing in Australia. I would have stayed at home. They told us we would fly in sections with a capacity of 20 percent and only be in close contact if my team or cohort tested positive. “
I agree … if they had told us this rule before I didn’t play Australia … I would have stayed home. They told us we would fly in sections with a capacity of 20% and we would ONLY be in close contact if my team or cohort tested positive. https://t.co/kF58HEijqq
– Sorana Cirstea (@sorana_cirstea) January 16, 2021
Bencic said she and the other 46 players are at a disadvantage.
“We don’t complain about quarantine. We are complaining about unequal training / play conditions before quite important tournaments, ”she said on social media.
Tiley admitted it was difficult but said that players had been warned that positive COVID-19 cases would pose a “significant risk” of restrictions being placed on players.
“We made it very clear in the beginning,” said Tiley. “Now we have to manage an environment for those who cannot practice for the next 14 days.
“It’s a difficult situation. We have to do everything we can to make it as fair as possible to the players who are locked down. “
Rafael Nadal arrives at Adelaide Airport on January 14, 2021 ahead of the Australian Open in Australia [AAP Image/Morgan Sette via Reuters]Some players have already broken the strict quarantine rules by opening their doors.
Victoria State COVID-19 Quarantine Commissioner Emma Cassar warned of fines of up to Australian $ 20,000 ($ 15,300) and persistent criminals risked being sent to another hotel with a police officer stationed outside their door.
She quoted one player “who opened his door to have a chat with his training colleague in the hallway” while another was buying take-out for friends on the same floor “and praising his great efforts and opening his door to it”. .
“It’s really low, but really dangerous acts that we just can’t tolerate,” Cassar said.
The Australian Open has already been affected by the withdrawal of injured Roger Federer, while Madison Keys, number 16 in the world, and three-time main winner Andy Murray tested positive for the virus before departure and did not board their flights to Australia.
While most of the players ended up in Melbourne, superstars like Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka flew to Adelaide.
South Australia’s health authorities “confirmed that there is no one in the entire Adelaide tennis cohort with an active COVID-19 infection,” the Australian Open said on Twitter. “The tests continue daily.”