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Australian Open Stifled by Covid-19 Cases Among Players: Report

The Australian Open, the first tennis Grand Slam of the year, is scheduled to start on February 8, three weeks later than usual. The delay is for facilitating quarantines of the players and officials who arrive as per Australian government’s Covid-19 protocols.
Stan Wawrinka arrives  for Australian Open

The 15 charter flights used to fly in the players were filling passengers to just 25% capacity, and arrived over a 36-hour period that ended on Saturday. Stan Wawrinka (in pic), arrived in Melbourne on Friday (Pic: Wawrinka Instagram).

The Australian Open has hit a mini crisis after a couple of players among the first batch of arrivals for the Grand Slam tested positive for the coronavirus. The first group of players arrived on charter jets for the delayed Australian Open a couple of days back, and, as per local media reports, many players including two-time champion Victoria Azarenka were confined to their hotel rooms for the next 14 days after two in a chartered flight from Los Angeles tested positive for the virus.

According to a report in Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper, the players and officials who were aboard the flight in question, were informed that they would be confined to their quarantine hotel rooms. The restriction, which would be for the next 14 days, means the players would be unable to hit the courts or do other outdoor workouts. They have also been provided with exercise bikes in their rooms.

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The identity of the players who tested positive on arrival have not been revealed by Tennis Australia. Athletes who travelled on other flights will be allowed to train for up to five hours a day, but under strict rules and under supervision.

The report quoted the email from tennis officials which informed the passengers of “a flight from LAX that landed in Melbourne at 5:15 a.m. on Friday” had reported two positive Covid-19 PCR tests after arrival.

“The Chief Health Officer has reviewed the flight and has determined that everyone on board needs to isolate and will be confined to their rooms for the 14-day quarantine period," the email read. "We know this is not how you imagined your preparations for the AO would start but our entire team is here to support and do everything we can to get you through this.”

As per rules, the players and officials who boarded the chartered flight for Australia were supposed to have got on after producing a negative Covid-19 test result. 

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Americans Madison Keys and Tennys Sandgren returned positive tests. However, Sandgren, who had initially tested positive in November, was given permission to fly, after it was deemed that he was no longer contagious and the positive test was due to the inactive viral particles still present in his system.

The 15 charter flights used to ferry the players were filling passengers to just 25% capacity, and arrived over a 36-hour period that ended on Saturday.

Meanwhile, five-time finalist Andy Murray’s participation Down Under is still in doubt after he tested positive for Covid-19 days before his flight to Melbourne. Murray, who was given a wild card for Australian Open, is in self quarantine at home in Britain.

The Australian Open was embroiled in a non-Covid controversy as well when it came to light that Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine, who was provisionally suspended for failing an out-of-competition dope test on January 8. She is currently in quarantine. 

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The International Tennis Federation (ITF) said 20-year-old Yastremska, World No. 29, tested positive for the mesterolone metabolite which can be used to boost testosterone.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF), however, clarified that since the suspension is provisional Yastremska could get it lifted and compete post an appeal. In the event of such a development, she would have to go through the mandatory quarantine anyway to be able to compete and so her presence is justified, said the governing body.

The Australian Open draw will be held February 4. The tournament will end with the men’s final on February 21. 

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