July 22, 2024

Open Court


Mannarino gets through, despite COVID quasi-lockdown


The stress of the previous few days was evident in Mannarino's voice, and in the smudges under his eyes after his first-round win Monday.


Adrian Mannarino was one of the players who was in contact with Benoit Paire in the days leading up to the Frenchmen’s positive COVID-19 test.

As a result, he is having to submit to increased safety protocols.

And you can see by the smudges under his eyes, and hear in the weary tone of his voice how tough the last few days have been.

You could see the same effects with Kristina Mladenovic, who was subject to the same protocols but who also was able to win her first-round match Monday.

(She hit the wall Wednesday. A tiebreak win away from beating Gracheva and advancing to the third round, she dropped the tiebreak and lost the third set 6-0).

Here’s what Mannarino said after his 6-1, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 win over Lorenzo Sonego of Italy.

He is set to play American Jack Sock in the second round Wednesday.

Not just the French

“This is not only French players who are in my situation, I’ve ben reading that a lot. There is also players from another country than France (Mannarino’s contention was true: several female Belgians as well as No. 3 seed Daniil Medvedev were among the players subject to the increased protocols).

“It affected us a little bit. In my case, I received a text from the ATP on Saturday night saying that they needed to speak to me – in a hurry. I went to my room, they asked me to stay in my room, they told me that a player had tested positive. Obviously I’d been in contact with him

“They asked me how were my last couple of days, who did I talk to, in which conditions. Obviously they could see that I was in close contact with Benoit, who was the player tested positive.

“At first they told me to stay in my room. They told me that they would come back to me on Sunday to see what the decision was from the NY health department.”

Sleepless night for Mannarino

“I haven’t been sleeping much. I had no idea if I was going to be withdrawn from the tournament, if I was still going to be in the tournament, and in which conditions. On Sunday, the ATP told us they were in contact with the health representative to see what was going to be the decision concerning all the players who were in contact with Benoit

“It took awhile for them to take the decision to leave us in the tournament. But then they were trying to figure out which protocol would be for us. I would say by 5:30 p.m. they sent us the new protocol that would need to agree if we still wanted to be in the tournament.

“We came to the stadium (Sunday) night to hit a few balls around 7:30-8 p.m. We’re still around, we can practice, we can play but we have some different conditions now.

“I was kind of exhausted mentally, because I’ve been thinking a lot, haven’t been sleeping much. That was not really easy, not to knokw what was going to be my future in the tournament. But I’m still really happy to be able to play.”

Concern for his pal Paire

“First of all, I’m worried about Benoit, he has the virus, that’s for sure. I know he’s healthy now. He’s feeling good, he has absolutely no symptoms. Then, I was … little mix of everything. I’m wondering at the moment if I might have the virus or not.

Mladenovic, who had a real rough go of it during the uncertainty, got through her first-round match. But you could see by her face how exhausted she was. (USTA photo)

Now I know that I’m still in the tournament,  I’ve been tested every day since we had the news. As long as I’m negative on the test I’m still able to play. But a lot of things going through my mind at the moment.

“I’ve been playing cards with Benoit, that’s the thing However, we haven’t been breaking the rules, either, or the protocols. We were wearing masks all the time, we were playing on big table. I don’t know if we were six feet apart, but we were always wearing masks.

(As an aside, Open Court has a source that saw people playing cards in the lobby with Paire, who reports that the wearing of masks was not, as the players claim, necessarily the case. Mannarino may not have been there at that specific time, though).

“Benoit has the virus; we might have been in contact through the cards. I’m pretty sad for him. I now him very well, we’re really really good friends. I know that he has been doing everything the right way.

Paire playing by the rules

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Je vais revenir plus fort… ✔️

A post shared by Benoit Paire (@benpaire) on

“He was respecting everything, wearing the mask all the time, and was at the hotel – the same hotel as me. He’s been tested negative many many times before being positive.

“He probably got the virus here, so that’s a really unlucky thing. We’re not 100 pre cent (sure) that he got the virus here, but that’s a big probability. He’s been here for awhile, he’s been tested negative many times here at the US Open

“We’re not in a bubble. We’re in a safe environment, which is different. There’s some people working in the tournament and going at night. It was really hard for everybody to feel really safe. We can be really lucky at some point.


“I’m not a doctor, I don’t exactly know how the virus is spreading and how we can get it at some point. Sitting in the bus where somebody sat before. I don’t know. The only thing that I know is that Benoit has been really unlucky, he didn’t do anything wrong, he respect the protocol, as we did.

“But he has been in contact with half of the draw. Everyone knows how it works in a tournament. You practice with everybody, you say Hi to everybody, you’re wearing a mask. Obviously I’ve been in more contact with him than others, so that’s why I have to go through this new protocol.”

Stricter protocols

“Now we have someone escorting us all the time in the stadium. We are not allowed to walk around, have to stay in a special place; the tournament gave me a suite, as the all the seeded players. I have to stay there; I have to stay inside. Can’t go on the balcony to watch centre court; I have to stay inside with my mask, coach has to stay with me all the time

Seven floors up, and seven floors down for Mannarino any time he leaves his room.

“I’m not allowed to take the elevator, because we might be in contact with other players. So I have to take the stairs all the time (Mannarino’s room is on the seventh floor of the hotel, and he said he’s required to enter the hotel by the service entrance and take the service stairs).

“It’s okay. I’m happy to ne able to compete. We knew the rules when we came here; the last thing I want to now is to be dangerous for any other players. I just want to not spread the virus. I might be infected, I don’t know. I just want everyone to be safe, and I’m doing all my best to keep everybody safe, as much as I can.”

Taking the stairs to the 7th floor

“We have special transportation. And we’re not allowed to leave the room at any time. We get room service, or can Uber Eats, but someone has to pick it up and drop it at the door. Basically we’re not in contact with anybody at the moment. For food on site, there is an app where we can order and it’s delivered directly to the suite.

“I think that everything that’s happening this year is quit extraordinary anyway. We are facing some really unusual situations now. We need to make the best of it. Everything is different now. We have new conditions on court – no line umpires, we have restricted ball boys, we need to take care of the towel. But we need to stick to the new rules and to the conditions. These conditions were told to us a long time ago already. We’re just trying to make the best of it.

“We’re happy to be able to compete. A lot of people made a lot of big effort for the tournament to be on this year, and we need to congratulate them. We need to be patient, we need to respect tall the rules, and hopefully things are going to get better.

“We’re not allowed to go to the testing room, because other players might be tested at the same time Every morning, I will have someone coming to my room to test me. And the I’m going to have someone from the security to take me from my door to take me to transportation, through the stairs.”

More details in French

Mannarino said his main concern – and that of the other French players – was that their friend Benoit Paire was okay. (Stephanie Myles/OpenCourt.ca)

(Mannarino answered again in French at the end of the press conference. We’ve translated some of that here).

He pointed out that Sonego had beaten him both times they played previously. One of those match was in Cincinnati.

Mannarino pointed out that the conditioning for best-of-five sets is a question at the moment. He said that it took him two days to recover from a three-set match in the “Cincy” event last week.

“I sort went through every emotion Saturday night, having dinner at the hotel lobby Some French players were there, we were chatting during supper. We’d finished eating, all had our masks on, talked a little – and then I got the text from (the ATP’s) Ross Hutchins.”

“Adrian, we have to speak to you immediately, can you call us ASAP?

“I had a big shot of stress, I knew a little what it means. I don’t know if it was me who was positive because I had one that morning or if it was something else. So I went back to my room to take the call.

“The tournament officials, doctor – everyone was on the call. fo the tournament, doctor, everyone was on the call

“At the beginning I didn’t know who was positive. They asked me who I was in contact with, what I did, I retraced my last 48 hours so they could see if I was someone who might have been with the positive person. I didn’t know it was Benoit. I said what I’d been doing.”

Mannarino said that he was to train early on Saturday. But it rained. The practice was pushed back, and he practiced with Gregoire Barrere.

Cards in Paire’s suite

“I went to play cards in Benoits’s suite, big space,  We played, all with our masks We didn’t get lucky – especially him.

“I know him well, He might seem a bit crazy on the courts sometimes, but he really respected all the rules since he arrived. He tested negative several times. We really don’t know how he could have caught the virus.

Mladenovic had a rough time of it before the tournament started, but she got through her first-round match.

“So I was required to stay in my room until further notice. I found out a few minutes later that other French payers had gotten the same order. We got a bit of news of all the people who were in the same situation. We had a big group that was created.  All the French players, including Benoit, to stay in contact

“It was a pretty unusual situation, very stressful. We wanted to know he was okay. Which is the case; he has no symptoms.

“We supported each other. It’s no fun to have to have to stay in rooms like that, two days away from a Grand Slam. We all prepared as best we could, got to 48 hours before the tournament, we all wanted to play – and so we were on hold. We didn’t know if we would play or not

“We knew that tournament, the ATP and NY health department were trying go determine who Benoit was in prolonged contact with. We were in our rooms, waiting for the decision.”

An eternal wait for word

“Sunday morning, the ATP said they were in a meeting with the tournament and the NY health department. to examine the situation and to make a decision going forward We still didn’t know if we were out of the draw. Or still in the draw, if we could play, if we could leave the room. It was very stressful; none of us got any sleep.

“We created a Whatsapp group help to pass the time a little faster and handle the stress differently .We had a a few deep discussions with the others players I’m close to.

“By the late morning Sunday, around noon, we got the news that we were still in the tournament, but there would be a new protocol put in place for us. And they were examining that.

“We waited, and waited. I knew I was second match on (Monday). I wanted to practice, leave the room – to at least be minimally prepared for the match. By 5:30-6 p.m., I got the protocol and saw the new conditions, which are quite strict. It’s quite complicated. We have to be more organized, to get transport. We can’t take the shuttle.

“I came to the site (Sunday) night. Barrere, (Richard) Gasquet, their coaches,  Edouard (Roger-Vasselin) and his coach, My coach and me. We hit around 8-830 p,m. It was quite bizarre. Sunday night at a Slam, to be on the court at that hour. But we did the best we could.

“The most important is that Benoit is well. It’s tough for him – It’s never fun to respect the rules 100 per cent and, in the end, catch the virus like that.

“That’s how it is. We can’t go back.”

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