With Optimistic Assessments, Australia’s Summer season of Professional Tennis Has a Rocky Begin

MELBOURNE, Australia — A seemingly hermetic plan to stage the primary main tennis match of 2021 with out compromising gamers’ well being or the success of Australia’s efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic fell aside over the weekend.

By Monday afternoon, six passengers from three chartered flights had examined constructive after arriving in Australia, prompting orders for everybody aboard to enter quarantine for 2 weeks. The planes — which arrived from Los Angeles; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; and Doha, Qatar — carried 72 gamers, together with a number of anticipated contenders at this yr’s Australian Open and former Grand Slam champions. They are going to not be capable to go away their lodge rooms to apply for 14 days. There have been additionally journalists, coaches and others on the planes.

The organizer of the Australian Open, Tennis Australia, which spent months formulating the plan, confronted a revolt from gamers, particularly quite a few extraordinarily pissed off ladies who had simply performed the primary occasion of the ladies’s tour final week in Abu Dhabi. The Doha flight carried gamers who participated within the males’s qualifying occasion for the Australian Open.

Passengers have been requested to have adverse check outcomes for the virus inside 72 hours of the flights’ departures. They have been examined once more after touchdown in Melbourne, and 6 folks on the flights have been discovered to have the virus as of Monday afternoon, prompting well being officers within the Australian state of Victoria to order that every one passengers stay of their lodge rooms for 14 days.

For the gamers on the flights, which means stricter restrictions than they’d anticipated earlier than the Australian Open, which is scheduled to start Feb. 8. Three tuneup occasions are supposed to start on Feb. 1.

Entrants within the match had agreed to remain of their rooms for 19 hours a day and have been allowed 5 hours every day on the tennis heart to apply, prepare and eat.

These guidelines obtained even tighter on Saturday for the 72 gamers on the three constitution flights, who have been informed they might not go away their lodge rooms in any respect.

Tennis officers appealed for extra leniency for gamers who repeatedly check adverse of their first days in Australia. For weeks forward of the December announcement that Australia would stage its conventional summer time of tennis, gamers, together with the world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, had mentioned being pressured to stay in a lodge room for 2 weeks after which should compete instantly afterward would pose a severe harm danger. Many mentioned they’d not come to Australia beneath these situations.

Nonetheless, over the weekend, authorities officers declined to melt the foundations or enable Tennis Australia to give you an alternate apply plan. Many gamers and tennis officers mentioned they weren’t conscious after they moved forward with plans to stage the match that the federal government would possibly impose such restrictions, although others mentioned they assumed that will be a consequence.

“We’re speaking with everybody on this flight, and notably the enjoying group whose situations have now modified, to make sure their wants are being catered to as a lot as attainable, and that they’re totally appraised of the scenario,” mentioned Craig Tiley, the chief government of Tennis Australia.

Tiley held a collection of adverse videoconferencing classes with gamers to elucidate the adjustments.

In a livestream on Instagram on Saturday night time, Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine informed her fellow participant Paula Badosa of Spain that she had been blindsided by the ruling and must compete on an uneven enjoying area.

“It’s concerning the concept of staying in a room for 2 weeks and with the ability to compete,” mentioned Kostyuk, who couldn’t keep in mind the final time she didn’t decide up a racket for 2 weeks. “We now have to remain in quarantine, however now we have to satisfy expectations.”

Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan posted a video on Twitter of herself rallying in opposition to the wall of her lodge room. Tiley mentioned officers have been scrambling to get train gear into the gamers’ rooms.

The fast-changing scenario and the escalating frustration among the many gamers illustrated simply how sophisticated holding main sports activities occasions amid a pandemic will be. Even — or maybe particularly — in Australia, which has had fewer than 30,00zero instances for the reason that pandemic started because it imposes some of the strictest rules of any democratic nation, together with extreme curbing of home journey.

Tennis Australia is spending tens of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} on particular preparations to fulfill authorities well being laws, however the virus has discovered methods to hobble even the costliest plans that sports activities organizations have give you to stay in operation.

Tennis Australia chartered 17 flights from seven international locations to convey gamers and assist personnel to the match, limiting capability to 25 p.c on every airplane. Tiley mentioned Sunday that gamers have been warned that coming to Australia concerned the danger of being thought-about in shut contact with somebody who had examined constructive, leading to a compulsory 14-day quarantine.

The flight from Abu Dhabi brought on essentially the most consternation as a result of it carried gamers who had competed within the first occasion of the yr on the ladies’s tour, amongst them Veronika Kudermetova of Russia, who performed within the last on Wednesday.

Steve Simon, the chief government of the WTA Tour, participated in one of many videoconferences Saturday, however the group, which represents gamers and tournaments, has to this point deferred to Tennis Australia on the implications of the brand new instances.

A spokesman for the group mentioned the WTA was “working with Tennis Australia on the challenges at the moment being confronted with a deal with discovering applicable options that assist the numerous efforts and funding which are being made surrounding the Australian Summer season of Tennis.”

The gamers on the Los Angeles flight included Victoria Azarenka, the 2020 United States Open finalist and a two-time Australian Open champion.

Officers mentioned a flight attendant and two others had examined constructive on the Los Angeles flight as of Sunday. Sylvain Bruneau, the coach of the Canadian participant Bianca Andreescu, mentioned he had examined constructive after arriving on the flight from Abu Dhabi.

“I’ve adopted the entire security protocols and procedures, together with testing adverse inside 72 hours earlier than the flight departure and felt completely positive after I boarded the airplane,” Bruneau mentioned in an announcement. “I additionally revered and adopted all Covid protocols and pointers whereas within the Center East. I do not know how I may need contracted this virus. I’m extraordinarily saddened and sorry for the implications now on everybody’s shoulders sharing my flight.”

One other participant, Tennys Sandgren of the US, obtained particular clearance to journey on the Los Angeles flight regardless of a current constructive check. Well being officers decided he was not infectious as a result of he had confirmed no signs and had beforehand contracted the virus in November. “Some individuals who have recovered from Covid-19 and who’re noninfectious can proceed to shed the virus for a number of months,” the tournament said.

Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium expressed empathy for the gamers who confronted a stricter quarantine due to the brand new infections. “Everybody ought to quarantine for 2 weeks or the Aus Open ought to be pushed again by per week,” Flipkens wrote on Twitter.

Tiley mentioned on Sunday that the date of the match couldn’t change. A delay would require a major reshuffling of a schedule that had been fastidiously redesigned, and it will price Tennis Australia considerably more cash to maintain greater than 1,00zero individuals who have come to Australia for the competitors in Melbourne for an extra week. Tiley and his medical adviser mentioned they have been ready to study extra particulars concerning the infections.

Matthew Futterman reported from Melbourne, and Ben Rothenberg from Washington.

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