Chaos as Australia Open players, support staff isolate after Covid case

Published February 4, 2021
Up to 600 players and support staff connected to the Australian Open will have to isolate until they have been tested for Covid-19. — Reuters
Up to 600 players and support staff connected to the Australian Open will have to isolate until they have been tested for Covid-19. — Reuters

MELBOURNE: Up to 600 players and support staff connected to the Australian Open will have to isolate until they have been tested for Covid-19 after a hotel quarantine worker in Melbourne returned a positive result for the virus on Wednesday.

Play at the six warm-up events for the Grand Slam at Melbourne Park is likely to be heavily disrupted on Thursday but Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said it should not impact the Australian Open itself, which starts on Monday.

“There is a number of about 500, 600 people who are players and officials and others who are casual contacts,” Andrews said at a news conference late on Wednesday. “They will be isolating until they get a negative test and that work will be done tomorrow. It may have an effect on tomorrows play in the lead-up events.”

Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, reintroduced the compulsory wearing of masks in indoor public places from Thursday while private gatherings were reduced from 30 people to 15.

About 1,200 players, coaching staff and officials arrived in Australia at the middle of last month for the year’s first Grand Slam and went into a mandatory 14-day isolation.

The players were allowed five hours outside for training but 72 of them were confined to hotel rooms for the two weeks after passengers on three charter flights taking them to Australia tested positive to the novel coronavirus.

Participants of the Australian Open were given the green light to begin exiting Covid-19 quarantine from end of last week with most of them involved at the ATP, WTA events at the site of the harcourt major.

“At this stage there is no impact on the tournament proper,” Andrews added. “I must say [the Australian Open] is important to us but the issues are much broader and that is about public health and public safety.”

SERENA SIZZLES

Hours before the government’s announcement, 23-time major champion Serena Williams sounded a warning for her fellow Australian Open contenders with a sleek 6-1, 6-4 victory against Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova to reach the quarter-finals of the Yarra Valley Classic.

She will next face Danielle Collins, who upset third-seeded Karolina Pliskova 7-6 (5), 7-6 (7-3), and could reach a semi-final match against top-ranked Ash Barty.

World number one Barty had a fright in her match against Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic, but recovered from a second-set stutter to win 6-0, 4-6, 6-3.

The 2019 French Open champion will next face American Shelby Rogers, who ousted Croatia’s Petra Martic 7-6 (7-1), 6-3.

On the bottom half of the draw, defending Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin rallied from a set and a break down to fend off Jessica Pegula 5-7, 7-5, 6-2.

Kenin set up a last eight clash against Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, who defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia 6-1, 6-2.

Danielle Collins ousted third-seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-3) in a battle of attrition while Nadia Podoroska of Argentina edged two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova 5-7, 6-1, 7-6 (9-7) in a close contest.

OSAKA STRUGGLES

US Open champion Naomi Osaka was made to work hard against in-form Katie Boulter, but fought back for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 victory to reach the quarter-finals in the Gippsland Trophy.

Japan’s Osaka She next meets Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu, who upset fifth-seeded Johanna Konta 4-6, 7-6 (12-10), 7-6 (8-4).

World number five Elina Svitolina also had to come from behind to beat 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-7 (7-4), 6-3, 6-2.

She next faces 20th-ranked Belgium’s Elise Mertens, who knocked out Caroline Garcia of France 7-6 (7-1), 6-3.

Second-ranked Simona Halep had a more straight-forward 6-2, 6-4 win over Laura Siegemund to set up a quarter-final against Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova, who upset French Open champion Iga Swiatek 6-4, 6-2.

Three-time major champion Angelique Kerber took a while to adjust in her first match since leaving quarantine, beating Katerina Siniakova 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in the Grampians Trophy tournament.

It’s the event for those players who were forced into hard lockdown not allowed to leave their rooms, even for practice after being deemed close contacts of passengers on their flights who test positive for Covid-19 after arriving in Australia.

ITALY, RUSSIA REACH SEMIS

Italy and Russia were the first teams to reach semifinals of the ATP Cup, the 12-team men’s event.

Fabio Fognini beat Benoit Paire 6-1, 7-6 (7-2) before Matteo Berrettini defeated Gael Monfils 6-4, 6-2 to clinch Italy’s win over France, giving the Italians top spot in Group ‘C’.

Daniil Medvedev secured Russia’s win over Japan when he beat Kei Nishikori 6-2, 6-4. Russia are on top of Group ‘D’ with wins over Argentina and Japan.

In Wednesday’s other matches, Germany opened with a win over Canada, with Jan-Lennard Struff downing Milos Raonic 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-2) and Alexander Zverev holding off Denis Shapovalov 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 7-6 (7-4).

World number six Stefanos Tsitsipas levelled the Group ‘B’ tie for Greece against Australia with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Alex de Minaur in front of a raucous crowd after John Millman gave the hosts the lead with a 6-2 6-3 win over Michail Pervolarakis.

John Peers and Luke Saville then clinched a 6-3 4-6 (10-5) doubles win over Tsitsipas and Pervolarakis to help Australia win the tie 2-1.

KYRGIOS RANTS

Australia’s Nick Kyrgios plunged into a trademark meltdown Wednesday, holding up play for more than five minutes as he argued over a time violation while serving during the Murray River Open match with Harry Bourchier.

Kyrgios eventually went on to beat compatriot Bourchier 6-2, 7-6 (9-7) and make the last 16 of the Australian Open warm-up event in Melbourne.

Earlier, former Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka beat Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin 4-6, 6-3, 6-1. He faces Australian Alex Bolt in the third round.

Britain’s Dan Evans also stayed in the title hunt, as did Australian James Duckworth, who upset French seventh seed Ugo Humbert.

Teenager Jannik Sinner, who in November became the youngest ATP champion in 12 years when he won in Sofia, was another winner on Wednesday.

Playing his first match since claiming the silverware in Bulgaria, the 19-year-old Italian swept past Australia’s Aleksandar Vukic 6-2, 6-4 in the Great Ocean Road Open.

While Sinner excelled, two-time Australian Open quarter-finalist Tennys Sandgren exited, beaten in three sets by Italy’s Salvatore Caruso.

Published in Dawn, February 4th, 2021

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