Divij Sharan in action. (Getty Images)
Divij Sharan in action. (Getty Images)

Australian Open: No Indian among 47 Open players in isolation

  • None of the Indian players has been impacted, the statements said.
By HT Correspondent, Mumbai
UPDATED ON JAN 16, 2021 09:12 PM IST

Chaos gripped the lead-up to next month’s Australian Open on Saturday after 47 players were forced into strict two-week quarantine after three in their charter flights tested positive for Covid-19. While in isolation, the players won’t be allowed to train.

Australian Open organisers said a member of the crew and a passenger in a flight that had 24 players from Los Angeles tested positive. One passenger in a flight from Abu Dhabi with 23 players had Covid-19, according to a separate statement. The passengers were not players, the statements said.

None of the Indian players hav been impacted. Rising pro Sumit Nagal, who received a wild card entry into the main draw of the season’s first Grand Slam, said he wasn’t in either flight. Rohan Bopanna, India’s top-ranked player, said he flew to Melbourne from Doha. Ankita Raina, who lost her final qualifying round but has been taken to Melbourne as one of six alternate players to fill in for withdrawals, said she and her fellow passengers travelling from Dubai were tested on Saturday and were awaiting results.

Doubles specialist Divij Sharan too reached Melbourne from Dubai on Saturday and will have to go through to the testing protocol upon arrival. Thus, more players could swell up the isolation list.

Despite no player testing positive on the flights from Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi, they will be confined to their rooms for 14 days ahead of the tournament starting February 8 in adherence to quarantine rules in Melbourne. The 47 players can only train with the limited equipment in their rooms.

As per the original regulations finalised by Australian Open organisers, after negotiations with the Victorian government, players were allowed to leave hotels to train for up to five hours daily during the two-week quarantine period.

According to reports in Australian media, two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka was in the flight from Los Angeles along with 2017 US Open winner Sloane Stephens of USA and Japan’s Kei Nishikori. Three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber tweeted that she was in the plane from Abu Dhabi. “As a consequence, everyone on board needs to isolate in their rooms for the 14-day quarantine period. That‘s all I know for now!..” the German wrote on Twitter.

Some other players slammed the decision to isolate everyone from the flights, saying they were originally informed by the organisers that only those in a particular section that had the infected individual would be in strict quarantine. “Well, they said we would be in sections. That is what we were aware off! Not the whole plane! All this is just Russian roulette,” Belgian world No. 86 Kirsten Flipkens wrote on Twitter, adding she wasn’t in either of the affected flights.

Experienced Frenchwoman Alize Cornet tweeted, "Soon, half of the players from the AO will actually have to isolate. Weeks and weeks of practice and hard work going to waste for one person positive to Covid in a 3/4 empty plane." The tweet has been deleted.

For tournament organisers and Tennis Australia, the logistical challenge just got tougher after the task of bringing to Melbourne around 1,200 players, coaches, support staff and officials in special flights. “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,” said Craig Tiley, Australian Open tournament director, in the statement.

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