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Tennis Bubble Burst ? • U.S. Open Controversy Reaches New Heights With Zverev vs Mannarino Match That Almost Wasn’t

Alexander Zverev of Germany hits a return to Adrian Mannarino of France.

By Ricky Dimon

Even before Friday, emotions were boiling over in the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center bubble. Kristina Mladenovic said that players are being treated like “prisoners.” Kirsten Flipkens complained that she isn’t allowed to leave New York and go home despite being eliminated from the tournament. Dominic Thiem was upset that he could not drink out of a Red Bull can during his second-round match.

Kirsten Flipkens takes to twitter to talk about being in the “Bubble in the Bubble”.

On Friday, there almost wasn’t a match between Alexander Zverev and Adrian Mannarino.

Mannarino is one of the infamous “Paire 11,” the group of 11 players who came into close contact with the Frenchman before he tested positive for the coronavirus one day before the tournament began. The Paire 11 were allowed to continue competing…until that almost changed on Friday.

Zverev and Mannarino should have taken the court around 2:30 pm following the conclusion of the second match in Louis Armstrong Stadium (Angelique Kerber vs. Ann Li). More than an hour later, Zverev was seen lounging in his Arthur Ashe Stadium suite and Mannarino was nowhere to be found.

In an interview with Eurosport Germany, Mischa Zverev–Alexander’s brother–said the players were waiting to hear from New York State regarding Mannarino’s playing status. Eventually Mannarino was given word that he could play–perhaps from authorities as high up as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“He was around Benoit Paire, so I guess New York State called and said that he shouldn’t play,” the younger Zverev said during his post-match interview. “It was political; it was not us players. We were just sitting around. I was told that there was very little chance we were going to play. I was just kind of waiting around; I was very relaxed. As a competitor, as a fellow tennis player, I was happy that he was able to play. I was happy we played that match.”

The German probably wouldn’t have been happy about that if he had lost…but he did nothing of the sort. Zverev started slow, perhaps due to not being ready for a match, but he recovered for a 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 victory.

Afterward, of course, the result wasn’t the story. Approximately 40 media members showed up for Mannarino’s Zoom press conference–without question an all-time record for him in a setting outside France (and perhaps even including France!).

Adrian Mannarino of France serves to Alexander Zverev during their match.

“I was preparing to go on court at 2:30 pm,” Mannarino explained. “The tour manager came to talk to me and explained the situation that the state department of health took over the city. The city allowed me to play on Sunday, but the state took over the decision to say that I’ve been exposed to a positive case so I should be quarantined in my room and not be able to go on the court and play my match today. They told me they were trying to contact some guys and see if this decision could be changed. Obviously a lot of effort has been done. They pushed the match back (more than two hours); Sacha agreed, which is nice.

“I was just trying to get ready…trying to focus and be prepared as if I’m going on the court at 5:00. I’m thankful to all of these people who have been trying to get me on court today. Around 4:30 pm, I heard that I [was] allowed to go on court.

“Unfortunately I lost the match. But I’m happy I was on court.”

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

Editors Note• Flipkens’s  can’t leave her room anymore. Now can she leave NY ?  So what happens now ? Can Mannarino leave the country ? Can Flip ? Whose paying for the hotels ? (LJ)