January 25, 2021
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Paula Badosa’s Australian Open spot could be in jeopardy due to her positive COVID-19 test after the Victoria state government confirmed on Friday that anyone contracting the virus would have to undergo an additional period of isolation.
Badosa was the first player to have arrived in Australia for the Grand Slam to confirm a positive test, although four were among the 10 cases announced earlier this week.
There has been some confusion over the results, however, with several positives later reclassified by Victoria health authorities as “viral shedding” from previous infections.
Badosa, the world number 67, flew to Australia from Abu Dhabi and was halfway through her 14-day quarantine period when the 23-year-old’s test came back positive and she was moved to a “health hotel”.
While most of the players are able to train for up to five hours a day, more than 70 have been confined to their hotel rooms after some passengers on the three charter flights that brought them to Australia tested positive.
At the end of isolation, players will participate in tune-up events from Jan. 31 at Melbourne Park ahead of the Feb. 8-21 hardcourt Grand Slam.
However, with Badosa’s confinement set to be extended beyond the start of the WTA warm-up tournaments she will have little time to build her fitness back or get in any match practice ahead of the Grand Slam.
“That’s an unfortunate consequence for anyone who becomes a confirmed case — the isolation period starts from when that case is confirmed,” Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said.
“For ordinary coronavirus that period is at least 10 days, so you have to be free of symptoms for three days and complete that 10 days.
“For the variants of concern, including the UK strain as some call it, that period of isolation is 14 days so it will depend on those elements.”
Badosa was one of those players who initially complained about the strict anti-virus curbs put in place by the local government but on Friday she said she now fully grasped how important the measures are.
“Quarantine and preventive measures are pivotal right now,” she tweeted. “I talked about rules that changed overnight but I understand the sad situation we are living. Sorry guys. Stay safe.”
Spain’s tennis federation on Thursday complained to organisers that Mario Vilella and Carlos Alcaraz had not been informed they would be strictly confined to their rooms if they were on a flight with someone who tested positive “regardless of the physical proximity”.
The federation said it was clear that the duo would not be able to compete on “equal terms” at the Grand Slam and that the confinement could result in physical and psychological harm.
Tennis Australia was not immediately available for comment.
Tournament boss Craig Tiley has already ruled out any change to format or dates for the hardcourt major.
Six-times Grand Slam winner Boris Becker also questioned how fair the Australian Open would be if some players “… haven’t even been out in the fresh air, haven’t played tennis”.
“No matter how many steps they’ve taken in the room, they haven’t played ball, and then they have a week to prepare for best-of-five matches, at least for the men, in the hot conditions,” the two-time winner at Melbourne Park told Eurosport.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney and Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai, editing by Shri Navaratnam/Peter Rutherford)