The Australian Open debacle continues to snowball as four people in the travelling party have now tested positive for Covid-19, while some players have been shamed for breaking hotel quarantine protocol.
Tennis stars expressed their frustration on the weekend after claiming ‘overnight rule’ changes were enforced on a number of players who were barred from training for a fortnight in a major setback to their Australian Open preparations.
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But on Sunday afternoon, Victorian commissioner for Covid-19 quarantine Emma Cassar confirmed another member of the incoming Australian Open party had tested positive for the virus.
This meant up to 63 people, up from 47, had become close contacts and would be forced into hard quarantine for 14 days without training.
Furthermore, Cassar sent a warning to the players in quarantine to abide by the rules in hotel quarantine after a number of players were handed fines for flouting protocol.
“We take all breaches really seriously,” she said at a press conference.
“For the players that is a fine of up to $20,000, a warning from the police, but what we have also considered today is for those who are persistently breaching or not willing to remain in their rooms, our other option would be to transfer people to the complex care hotel where there is a member of the Victorian Police outside the door.”
Cassar revealed there was “zero tolerance” for the players to be interacting.
“Some of this challenging behaviours include, a player who opened his door to try and have a conversation with his training mates down the hallway,” she added.
“Again, he got a fine, you can pick up the phone and use that instead of putting yourself and other people at risk.”
Cassar said another male player had opened his door to interact with the hotel staff.
“It is very low level, but they are dangerous acts that we cannot tolerate,” she said.
Aus Open players fume over hard quarantine
The lead-up to the tournament took a massive hit after passengers on two charter flights that brought them to Melbourne tested positive to Covid-19.
One of the positive tests was returned by Sylvain Bruneau, the coach of Canada's 2019 US Open winner Bianca Andreescu.
He said he was "saddened and sorry for the consequences" after arriving on a flight from Abu Dhabi.
Everyone on board the two flights, considered as close contacts, has been ordered to stay in their hotel rooms for the entire 14-day mandatory quarantine period.
It means none of them will be allowed out to train for the five hours each day agreed to as part of their build-up to the opening major of the year, Tennis Australia said.
That included 24 players on a plane from Los Angeles, where a crew member and one other passenger, reportedly a coach, tested positive.
We are not complaining to be in Quarantine. We are complaining because of unequal practice/playing conditions before quite important tournaments.
— Belinda Bencic (@BelindaBencic) January 16, 2021
I was planning to play the tournament because they promised daily 5 h quarantine exemption where we could go practice,do a gym session and rehab.this was the deal before signing up to this...but the rules changed "overnight"! https://t.co/nRg94NNS57
— Sorana Cirstea (@sorana_cirstea) January 16, 2021
According to local media, former Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, 2017 US Open winner Sloane Stephens and Japan's Kei Nishikori were among those on board.
Twenty-three players, including Grand Slam winners Andreescu, Angelique Kerber and Svetlana Kuznetsova were on the flight from Abu Dhabi.
Players took so social media in isolation and hit out at the ‘overnight’ rule change after landing to the news they would be in a strict lockdown for two weeks.
"We are not complaining to be in quarantine," tweeted Swiss world number 12 Belinda Bencic.
"We are complaining because of unequal practice/playing conditions before quite important tournaments."
Romania's Sorana Cirstea, ranked 71, tweeted: "I was planning to play the tournament because they promised daily 5 h quarantine exemption where we could go practice, do a gym session and rehab. This was the deal before signing up to this...but the rules changed 'overnight'!"
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