On Saturday, it was discovered that three passengers on flights from Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi heading to Melbourne for the Australian Open had tested positive for the coronavirus. Now, 47 players will be stuck in a hard quarantine in their hotels for the next 14 days. On the flight from Los Angeles flight number QR793, it was confirmed a member of the crew and a passenger had tested positive, whilst a non-player passenger on the flight from Abu Dhabi also tested positive.
The news was leaked regarding the hard quarantine by the players themselves after uploading an email on social media before Tennis Australia could come out with a statement.
This is a serious setback for the event, as well as an illustration of the difficulties in organising a major international sports event such as the Australian Open in the midst of a pandemic. There were 79 passengers on the flight from Los Angeles and according to reports the passenger who had tested positive prior to the flight was Pablo Amalfitano, who is the coach of Lauren Davis, although he has claimed that the test is likely a false positive.
Some notable names on the flight were Victoria Azarenka, Sloane Stephens, Alison Riske, Vasek Pospisil, and Tennys Sandgren. Sandgren himself had tested positive prior to travel, but was cleared by Tennis Australia and the Victorian government to travel.
The Chief Health Officer in Victoria reviewed the flight and determined that a hard quarantine would be required, although the players were given the chance to make requests for items they needed during their quarantine. For example, one player asked for a bike to be delivered to his room and, in fact, received it.
On the flight from Abu Dhabi, the following players have been affected: Belinda Bencic, Maria Sakkari, Bianca Andreescu, Angelique Kerber, Marta Kostyuk, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Ons Jabeur. There is fear this number could grow with more players required to head into a hard quarantine. Andy Murray, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, Madison Keys, and Amanda Anisimova, meanwhile, were unable to travel due to positive Covid tests.
The next scheduled event on the calendar is January 31st and with the 14-day quarantine, players will only be done on the 29th while the first Grand Slam of the year is scheduled to start on February 8th, with the requirement for a hard quarantine a blow to players’ preparations for the Australian Open.
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