July 11, 2024

Open Court


Drama in the bubble as Mannarino-Zverev match delayed



Adrian Mannarino and several other French players have had issues with the USTA, in the wake of their friend Benoit Paire testing positive for the coronavirus.

Despite the additional strict protocols imposed on Mannarino, Kristina Mladenovic, Kirsten Flipkens and others, Mannarino managed to win his first two matches and is in the third round.

He was due to play No. 5 seed Alexander Zverev about 2:30 p.m., on Louis Armstrong Stadium.

Except … by 4:15 p.m., the court was still on hold.

And Zverev was sunning himself on the veranda of his Arthur Ashe Stadium condo, shirtless, watching Shapovalov vs. Fritz.

At 4:30 p.m., official word came that the match would take place, and would start 2 1/2 hours later at 5 p.m.

Zverev and Mannarino finally got on court at 5:15 p.m., about 2 3/4 hours late.

What that also did was delay the match between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Borna Coric that extra 2 1/2 hours – which turned a potential happy-hour/early evening match into a much later affair.

At 5:45 p.m., the USTA issued a statement that was probably not worth the time it took to compose and send it.


The dénouement ended up being a matter of politics, not protocol.


Mannarino one of “Benoit’s Eleven”

What we’re hearing from inside the bubble is that after someone in the French press reported that Belgian player Kirsten Flipkens (more on her below) was spotted at JFK Airport – the government was mobilized to get involved.

In the wake of Paire’s positive test, Mannarino was one of the players subjected to significantly elevated safety measures. The purpose of them was to try to make sure those players had as little contact as possible with … anyone.


Service entrance and stairs at the hotel. Dedicated practice court. No access to the regular player areas.

And, it turns out, a mandated stay in New York City for a longer period – even if they are eliminated from the tournament.

That was the case for Belgian Kirsten Flipkens, who is out of both singles and doubles … and can’t leave for a week.

But in the meantime, they have found out they can’t even leave the hotel – can’t train or practice even if they have been doing that every day since the positive test.

And, as Mladenovic’s brother and designated coach this week Luka Mladenovic wrote on Twitter, have all tested negative 10 times.

Mannarino can’t leave for another week, regardless. And it makes things complicated for the next phase of the return to play.

A lot going on behind the scenes

According to Zverev’s brother Mischa, in conversation with countryman Boris Becker on Eurosport, New York governor Andrew Cuomo was “not allowing Mannarino to play”.

That, even though he was allowed to play his first two rounds.

It seems, eventually, they came to some sort of resolution.

Impossibly short turnaround to clay

Flipkens’ Instagram post outlines the ever-evolving COVID-19 quarantine rules inside the leaking US Open bubble.

Mannarino had been entered in the 250-level tournament next week in Kitzbuhel.

But he’s withdrawn.

He also is not entered in the Rome qualifying, which begins on Sept. 12 (a week from Saturday).

That would be impossible for him to make, under the current conditions.

He’s two out of the Rome main draw, which begins on Sept. 14.

If he is to lose to Zverev – a likely scenario – he would have to hang around New York.

That means his room at the Long Island Marriott, which is probably a little sketchy by this point.

The original protocols for players eliminated from the tournament was that their credentials became invalid two days after being eliminated.

But they don’t appear to have spelled out explicitly the details of what happens to players “in contact” with a positive case.

Even if they have continued to test negative during their house arrest.

Multiple times.

After Mannarino’s good friend Benoit Paire tested positive for COVID-19, things got pretty complicated in the bubble. (Stephanie Myles/Opencourt.ca)

If Mannarino has to stay in New York for the duration of the prescribed period, he would have perhaps two days – maximum – to get over jet lag to Rome, try to adapt to the clay, and play his match.

Unforeseen consequences and plot twists

There were certainly risks and consequences to players who decided to come to play the US Open.

But every day, more consequences are being revealed.

Mladenovic’s brother Luka said that most of the drama is behind the scenes, and it’s better than a Netflix series.


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