World No.3 Dominic Thiem has been fined by US Open officials after becoming embroiled in another coronavirus-related controversy at the New York grand slam.
The Austrian second seed advanced to the second round of the tournament when Spaniard Jaume Munar retired after dropping the first two sets.
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However, the 26-year-old has come under fire for breaching the tournament's virus protocols, in another embarrassing blight on his reputation.
Thiem was forced to apologise for his behaviour during Novak Djokovic's ill-fated Adria Tour, after being pictured alongside several other men's tennis stars high-fiving and dancing topless in nightclubs amid the global pandemic.
Many of the players involved in the tournament ended up testing positive for COVID-19, sparking public outrage over why it was staged in the first place.
"Our behaviour was a mistake, we acted too euphorically. I am extremely sorry," Thiem said after the event.
However, the Austrian's response to the deadly virus has again landed him in hot water at the US Open after someone in his entourage was found to be in breach of the tournament's COVID-19 protocols.
The United States Tennis Association (USTA) said Thiem’s entourage violated the rule requiring universal masking, with the player fined $1500.
Fans were quick to condemn Thiem over the latest virus controversy, insisting that he should have learnt his lesson after the Adria Tour debacle.
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) September 1, 2020
I think it's deliberately antagonistic rather than clueless. Should be disqualified for endangering others.
— Reesiepie (@Reesiepie) September 1, 2020
He has put himself in several unnecessarily complicated situations
— jb (@pepsicocom) September 2, 2020
They don’t care - they need to be disqualified to make a statement.
— AMPSCA (@otaliatime) September 1, 2020
Theim seems pretty much another #covidiot following dear leader down the ditch
— Saga (@SagarikaRamana) September 1, 2020
A lesson in how you come through a pandemic with a worse reputation that before it started...
— Neil (@spadeloads) September 1, 2020
I look back on many Thiem quotes from before the pandemic and Coupled with his pandemic response, i can say that he is unequivocally stupid. Like really effing stupid
— CJ Silva Halo (@christo02782008) September 1, 2020
Thiem, who reached his third Grand Slam final at this year's Australian Open where he lost to Novak Djokovic, was leading 7-6(6) 6-3 in his opening round match when Munar, who had slipped on the baseline midway through the second set, ended the match.
"I was happy with the way I was fighting, because it wasn't easy to play him," Thiem said during an on-court interview inside Louis Armstrong Stadium.
"The courts are very different this year, the court seemed to be slow inside. It was a little bit windy, but we had some good rallies.
"I felt I was playing good. I played a good tiebreak, which was pretty comfortable, then I'm sorry for what has happened."
Thiem progresses after rival’s retirement
Munar came back from 5-3 down in the opener to pull ahead but Thiem held to love to force a tiebreak which he went on to secure on his second set point when he fired down an ace.
After Munar held serve to level the second set at 3-3, Thiem stepped up his game and won 12 of the next 16 points to seize control before the Spaniard retired after one hour, 55 minutes.
Thiem came into the match having won just three games in his shock first-round exit at the US Open tune-up event, which also marked his first match since the ATP Tour returned from its COVID-19 hiatus.
Thiem, who had dropped just one set in three previous meetings with Munar, broke the Spaniard three times and hit 33 winners in the one-hour and 55-minute encounter.
Up next for Thiem will be a showdown with India's Sumit Nagal, who beat Bradley Klahn 6-1 6-3 3-6 6-1.
Thiem has never faced Nagal before but remembers clearly what his next opponent is capable of having watched him in his Grand Slam debut last year in New York where he took the opening set against Roger Federer before going on to lose the match.
"I actually saw the full match. He was playing well," said Thiem. "I just remember that he has an amazing forehand, like a really, really good one.