Australian Open: 72 players now in strict COVID isolation after positive cases on flights

Bernard Tomic is pictured at his hotel room window
Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Bernard Tomic, one of the favourites for the Australian Open men’s singles title, is one of 72 players now under strict hotel room lockdown after a positive COVID-19 test result came back on a third chartered flight carrying competitors and their entourage to Australia.

As many as 25 competitors were on a flight from Doha to Melbourne that returned the latest positive case, meaning everyone on board must now isolate in their hotel room for 14 days.

Earlier, two chartered flights had seen positive results, meaning 47 players were already in lockdown in Melbourne, unable to practise on the courts.

All competitors who are clear of the coronavirus cases are also under strict measures, but they are permitted to practise outdoors for five hours each day.

Tournament organisers said those players who had come in on the Doha flight were “already in quarantine hotels”.

“One positive COVID-19 test has been returned from a passenger on a charter flight into Melbourne from Doha which arrived at 5.30am on 16 January,” a statement from Australia Open organisers read. “The passenger is not a member of the playing contingent and had tested negative before the flight. There were 58 passengers on the flight, including 25 players.”

Some players have claimed they would not have travelled had they known they would be placed in isolation in such circumstances.

Organisers are confident the competition will begin as planned on February 8.

According to local media, former Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, 2017 US Open winner Sloane Stephens and Japan’s Kei Nishikori were among those on board a flight from Los Angeles on Friday.

A positive case — not a player — also emerged from another flight, with 23 players affected, reportedly including Grand Slam winners Bianca Andreescu, Angelique Kerber and Svetlana Kuznetsova.

“We are communicating with everyone on this flight, and particularly the playing group whose conditions have now changed, to ensure their needs are being catered to as much as possible, and that they are fully appraised of the situation,” tournament organiser Craig Tiley said of the Los Angeles service.

French player Alize Cornet, who is in Melbourne but was not on either plane, called the situation “insane”.

“Soon, half of the players from the AO will actually have to isolate,” she tweeted. “Weeks and weeks of practice and hard work going to waste for one person positive to COVID in a 3/4 empty plane. Sorry but this is insane.”

The world’s top players began arriving in Australia on Thursday for the delayed Grand Slam, which is due to start on February 8.

Most touched down in Melbourne, although the biggest names in the game, including Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams, flew into Adelaide.

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