Just as players started boarding flights to the Victorian capital before the 2021 Australian Open, the health authorities found two people testing COVID-19 positive upon their arrival at Melbourne. The two people were on the charter flight QR7493 from Los Angeles alongside the two-time Australian champion Victoria Azarenka, Sloane Stephens, and Japanese star Kei Nishikori.
In a major setback for the players, Tennis Australia issued a statement to all the players on that flight mentioning they will have to isolate themselves in their rooms for the next two weeks. One of the players on the fight, World No.155 Santiago González, posted the email sent by Tennis Australia on his Instagram handle.
“The Chief Health Officer has reviewed the flight and has determined that everyone on board needs to isolate and will be confined to their rooms for the 14-day quarantine period,” read the email.
Because of strict instructions, all the players on the flight won’t be able to train for the next two weeks leading to the Australian Open. As per the original guidelines, players were allowed to train for five hours each day during the two-week quarantine period. However, the unfortunate incident results in an enormous challenge for players’ to maintain their fitness levels confined in their hotel rooms.
The official Twitter account of the Australian Open issued a statement regarding the COVID-19 tests, with Craig Tiley assuring the players of catering to their needs as much as possible.
Tennis – WTA Premier 5 – Italian Open – Foro Italico, Rome, Italy – Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka reacts during her second round match against Venus Williams of the U.S. Pool via REUTERS/Clive BrunskillIt will be a huge dent to Azarenka’s morale who returned to top form towards the latter half of the 2020 season. As for Nishikori, who withdrew from the last year’s Australian Open due to an elbow injury, now faces another big impediment before the start of the 2021 Australian Open.
In fact, Tennys Sandgren was also on the same flight despite returning a positive test before take-off. However, the Victorian health authorities clarified the matter in a statement that Sandgren was no longer contagious and was shedding viral particles because he has originally tested positive in November last year.