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Tennis News • 72 Players in AO Hard Quarantine, Outrage Over Unequal Treatment

A third Australian Open charter flight produced a positive case pushing a total of 72 players to hard quarantine.

By Witherspoon

Coronavirus turbulence continues to swirl around the Australian Open.

A third AO charter flight produced a positive COVID-19 case forcing all passengers aboard Qatar Airways flight QR7485 from Doha into a 14-day hard quarantine.

Now, there are 72 players in isolation lock down in their hotel rooms serving quarantine.

Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz, who qualified for the Australian Open, and his coach, former world No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, were among those on board the flight from Doha. Both are reportedly in good health and among a growing list of players, coaches and officials confined to quarantine.

“There were 58 passengers on the flight, including 25 players,” the Australian Open said in a statement. “All are already in quarantine hotels. The 25 players on the flight will not be able to leave their hotel room for 14 days and until they are medically cleared. They will not be eligible to practice.” 

The Australian Open is set to start on February 8th.

There are 72 players serving hard quarantine after three of the tournament’s charter flights featured positive Coronavirus cases. Hard quarantine restriction means players are not permitted to leave their hotel rooms.

Nine News Melbourne reports one of its reporters aboard the Doha flight tested positive for Coronavirus upon arrival in Melbourne.

Earlier, three cases of COVID-19 were detected among two flights—one flight from Abu Dhabi and the other from Los Angeles—forcing 47 players who were on those flights to serve a strict 14-day quarantine in their hotel rooms.

They won’t be able to leave their hotel rooms even to practice or train. Former AO champion Victoria Azarenka, Kei Nishikori, Sloane Stepens and Heather Watson are reportedly among the players who were on those flights and now serving quarantine. 

Sylvain Bruneau, coach of 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu, tested positive for the virus after flying to Melbourne from Abu Dhabi and offered apologies to fellow passengers now confined to quarantine.

“I am deeply sorry to share that I have just tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival here in Melbourne, after travelling from Abu Dhabi on flight EY8004,” Bruneau posted on social media. “I have followed all of the safety protocols and procedures, including testing negative within 72 hours before the flight departure and felt perfectly fine when I boarded the plane.

Rafael Nadal arrives at Adelaide Airport ahead of the Australian Open.

Some players have taken to social media to protest the confinement, particularly the inability to practice for two weeks that can put them at a competitive disadvantage.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley pushed back on the criticism saying players and coaches were informed “there was always a risk” of quarantine. Tiley said the Australian Open plans to proceed as scheduled starting on February 8th.

“These conditions they are constantly changing, but there’s always a risk, we did make it clear at the beginning,” Tiley told Nine News.  “That’s why we have the player groups and cohorts, that there was always a risk that someone would be positive then and would have to go into 14 days of isolation, there was a risk on the plane that you would be a close contact, there was a risk that everyone could be a close contact.

“You don’t know what the outcome of that decision is going to be until it actually happens. It is unfortunate that we are in an environment right now where we’ve got to manage it.”

There are no such issues in Adelaide, where Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal can leave their rooms for up to five hours every day to train.

Osaka, the 2019 Australian Open champion, posted a video to social media over the weekend of her and four members of her team on the practice court.

But it seems the video was not received well by fellow players lockdown in their hotel rooms in Melbourne, prompting Osaka to remove it.

According to Italian journalist Luca Fiorino“a revolt broke out” among other players.

“The players are not very happy for the unequal treatment in relation to big players in Adelaide,” Fiorino tweeted.