Tennis frenzy hits Australia

MELBOURNE • Tennis chiefs insisted Tennys Sandgren was not a coronavirus risk after he sparked a flurry of concern by tweeting he had boarded a flight for Melbourne to play in the Australian Open despite testing positive.

The world No. 50 is among more than 1,200 players and support staff arriving in Australia for 14 days’ quarantine ahead of the delayed Grand Slam due to start on Feb 8.

The American sent out a series of tweets before his departure from Los Angeles, initially saying he had tested positive on Monday and would miss his flight. It was his second positive result, having originally been diagnosed with Covid-19 in November.

But an hour later he said: “Wow I’m on the plane. Maybe I just held my breath too long. Craig Tiley is a wizard.”

Tiley, the Australian Open tournament director, has spent months dealing with the logistical nightmare of hosting the Grand Slam during a pandemic.

Tennis Australia said players were only allowed into Australia with proof of a negative Covid-19 test prior to departure, or with approval as a recovered case at the discretion of the Australian government.

“In the case of Tennys Sandgren, who has self-disclosed that he previously tested positive in late November, his medical file had to be reviewed by Victorian health authorities,” it said. “Upon completion of that review, he was cleared to fly.”

But in a country that largely has the virus under control, Sandgren caused jitters on social media. Melbourne only emerged from months of lockdown in October.

“We’re nervous enough about tennis players flying in & being irresponsible – please don’t joke about this,” tweeted one person.

Another added: “Imagine ruining an international tournament and putting a country of millions at risk for Tennys Sandgren.”

Sandgren later tweeted to clarify: “My two tests were less than (eight) weeks (apart). I was sick in November, totally healthy now. There’s not a single documented case where I would be contagious at this point. Totally recovered!”

My two tests were less than (eight) weeks (apart). I was sick in November, totally healthy now. There’s not a single documented case where I would be contagious at this point. Totally recovered!

Players are due to touch down in Melbourne on charter flights from seven cities, although the game’s biggest stars, including Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams, will arrive in Adelaide and quarantine there.

They will have to stay in their hotel rooms for 19 hours a day and allowed out only to practise for five hours in strict bio-secure bubbles.

Besides the two-week quarantine enforced:

  • All players must return a negative test prior to boarding their flight to Australia.
  • Some 15 flights, none at more than 25 per cent capacity, brought players into Australia in a 36-hour period from yesterday.
  • Everyone will be tested on arrival and isolated until results are received.
  • Once a negative result has been returned, players can train within a highly controlled and strictly supervised environment for five hours a day.
  • Players and their teams will be tested every day during quarantine.

Despite the quarantine, Tiley said he expected virtually all the top players to make the trip with a handful of exceptions, including the injured Roger Federer and John Isner, who pulled out over the Covid-19 restrictions.

Scotland’s Andy Murray has reportedly tested positive for the virus, STV said yesterday, adding that he is still in good health.

The Scottish broadcaster said Murray was self-isolating and still had hopes of competing in Melbourne.

World No. 3 and US Open champion Dominic Thiem, who will be playing for Austria in the ATP Cup warm-up event on Feb 1, travelled to Australia without his coach Nicolas Massu, who tested positive.

Meanwhile, Nadal’s coach Carlos Moya announced he would not be travelling due to the current coronavirus restrictions.


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