MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) – Two tennis players were withdrawn from qualifying at the Australian Open in Doha, Qatar, and both remain in hotel quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19.
American Denis Kudla, the fourth seed in the qualifying tournament played outside Australia for the first time, was out after beating Moroccan Elliot Benchetrit 6-4, 6-3 in the first round on Monday.
The same happened with the Argentine Francisco Cerúndolo, who was retired after defeating the Spanish Guillermo García-López 6-2, 6-4.
“Unfortunately today I tested positive for COVID,” Cerúndulo wrote on Twitter. “I am in good health, but I will not be able to continue competing in the tournament.”
“I am going to fulfill the days of isolation that they tell me and I will come out with more strength than before,” he added.
The Australian Tennis Federation confirmed both positives in the tournament and that both players were transferred to a government-run hotel.
“The local health authorities, the tournament doctor and the medical team monitor each individual. A contact tracing is being carried out to notify close contacts, ”the federation said in a statement.
The losses of Kudla and Cerúndolo imply that the Australian Dane Sweeny and the Spanish Mario Vilella Martínez advance directly to the third round of the qualifying tournament.
Australian press reported that the match judge learned of Kudla’s positive result when the American led 5-3 in the second set, but decided to wait for the change of ends after the ensuing game to notify both players.
Kudla broke serve for the victory, and both he and Benchetrit were out of the tournament. If the serve had not been broken, the match would have been stopped after the ninth game of the second set and Benchetrit, 221st in the ranking, would have advanced to the next round.
Organizers of the Australian Open reported that all players participating in qualifying tested negative on at least one diagnostic test after arriving in Doha, where they were swabbed as soon as they arrived and were isolated until a negative result was confirmed.
Players and their companions must be tested every four days during the tournament. In the event of a positive, the Qatari health authorities must inform the tournament in writing.
The Australian Open will start with a three-week delay. It will raise its curtain on February 8 due to travel and quarantine restrictions to deal with the pandemic.
The first Grand Slam of the season is usually staged in the last two weeks of January to coincide with the final part of the southern hemisphere summer vacation.
Players will start arriving in Australia on 15 chartered flights this weekend.
A handful of players will quarantine in Adelaide. The remaining of the almost 1,200 players, companions, judges and employees who come from abroad will have to comply with quarantines in one of the three hotels that make up a biosecurity bubble. This will allow them to leave the hotel to train in facilities for exclusive use up to a maximum of five hours a day.
Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will participate in an exhibition in Adelaide starting January 29.
Australian authorities have warned players of strict penalties, including prosecution, if they disobey quarantine protocols.
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