'Severe symptoms': Australian Open rocked by fresh Covid blow

Belinda Bencic and Rafael Nadal, pictured here at the Australian Open.
Belinda Bencic and Rafael Nadal have tested positive for Covid-19 ahead of the Australian Open. Image: Getty

Belinda Bencic and Ons Jabeur have joined Rafael Nadal in testing positive for Covid-19 after playing an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi.

Olympic champion Bencic announced on Tuesday that she had tested positive but is still backing herself to play next month's Australian Open.

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Switzerland's Bencic and Jabeur of Tunisia played at the World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi last week, as did Nadal.

All three have now tested positive less than a month out from the Australian Open, which starts on January 17.

Jabeur had replaced US Open champion Emma Raducanu after the Briton also tested positive for Covid-19 in Abu Dhabi and withdrew.

Both Bencic and Jabeur said they were fully vaccinated and were experiencing strong symptoms.

"Unfortunately and even though I am fully vaccinated, I recently tested positive for Covid," Bencic said on Twitter.

However, Bencic was quietly confident of contesting the first grand slam of 2022 at Melbourne Park.

"I am currently isolating and taking all precautionary (measures) to get through this as best as possible as I am experiencing quite severe symptoms (fever, aches, chills)," Bencic posted.

"While the timing is not ideal - as I was in the final stages of my preparations for the Australian Open swing - I will make my way to Australia as soon as I am cleared and past the isolation period."

Jabeur said she was also experiencing "strong symptoms" and isolating in Tunisia.

The spate of positive cases is sure to be a concern for Tennis Australia officials less than a month from the first grand slam of the year.

Rafa Nadal's Australian Open plans in disarray

On Monday, Nadal said he was having some "unpleasant moments" after testing positive upon his return to Spain.

Nadal has only played two matches since losing to Novak Djokovic in the French Open semi-finals in June before testing his long-term foot problem against Andy Murray and Denis Shapovalov in Abu Dhabi.

But the 35-year-old's plans to feature in the Melbourne ATP 250 event and Australian Open in early January have now suffered a setback.

Nadal revealed the news on Twitter on Monday as he posted: "I wanted to announce that on my return home after playing the Abu Dhabi tournament, I have tested positive for COVID in the PCR test that was performed on me when I arrived in Spain.

Ons Jabeur, pictured here in action during the semi-finals at Indian Wells in October.
Ons Jabeur in action during the semi-finals at Indian Wells in October. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

"Both in Kuwait and Abu Dhabi we passed controls every two days and all were negative, the last being on Friday and having the results on Saturday.

"I am having some unpleasant moments but I hope that I will improve little by little. I am now homebound and have reported the result to those who have been in contact with me.

"As a consequence of the situation, I have to have total flexibility with my calendar and I will analyse my options. I will keep you informed of any decisions about my future tournaments!"

The Australian Open is already missing a raft of big names.

Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Karolina Pliskova and Jennifer Brady are among the high-profile stars who won't be competing in Melbourne due to injury.

Novak Djokovic's participation also remains uncertain, while Dominic Thiem is under an injury cloud.

with AAP

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