In the end, the mystery delay before the third-round match between Alexander Zverev and Adrian Mannarino Friday came down to something native New Yorkers are more than familiar with.
The New York City government zigged.
And the New York State government zagged.
And never the twain did meet.
According to Mannarino he was about to head to the court for a scheduled 2:30 p.m. third-round match against No. 5 seed Alexander Zverev when the ATP Tour manager came to talk to him.
Adrian, we have a problem
For his first two matches in the tournament, the city of New York authorities allowed Mannarino– and the other players who had contact with Covid-19 positive French player Benoit Paire – to remain in the tournament.
As long as they agreed to, and signed the new waiver, they were good.
“The players who were in my situation, we all signed the paper from the city of New York’s department of health, giving us some new protocols – what we might call restrictions. A huge organization has been done around us so that we were allowed to play. I didn’t know that they actually the state (of New York) could take over this decision,” Mannarino said.
It turns out – they can. And they did.
“Obviously the state took over this decision to say that I’ve been exposed to a positive case, so I should be quarantined in my room and not be able to go on the tennis court and play my match today,” Mannarino said. “They told me they were trying to contact some guys on the phone to see if this decision could be changed … I imagine a lot of things went on during that short period of time.”
Djokovic tried to pull some strings
Following his 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 win over Jan-Lennard Struff later Friday, world No. 1 and former ATP Player Council president Novak Djokovic said that in the hours before his 7 p.m. match, he also tried to intervene.
Djokovic said he was contacted in the morning by Mannarino’s coach, Tom Jomby and was in back-and-forth communication with him for several hours. He also was trying to get more information from the Tour managers.
“I was also trying to get to the people in the highest positions in New York State, through some of my contacts, trying to get to the governor of New York (Andrew Cuomo),” he said. “Because I understand that he was the only one who could make the decision to overturn the decision that Mannarino would be withdrawn from the tournament.”
Djokovic lost track of it after that, as he began preparing for his own match.
“Communication wise it’s not, I think, ideal. It can be better. But at the same time I also understand the ATP and USTA don’t hold the decision-making process in their hands,” Djokovic said. “We knew that coming into the States – that there was a high probability that these types of situations might occur.”
Pushed back to 5 p.m. – or not at all
The match was pushed back to 5 p.m., in the hope that the proper releases could be acquired in time.
Mannarino focused on trying to be prepared – if indeed he did get to play.
He began well, winning the first set before straining his adductor late in the second set,. Eventually, he bowed out 6-7 (4) 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.
“We were just waiting,” Zverev said. “They told us 5 p.m. was the last time we are going to go on court – if we’re going to go on court (at all). The chances of us going on court were very slim. Yeah, I thought we might not play today anyways,” he said.
Zverev agreed to the initial postponement, something Mannarino greatly appreciated.
“At the end of the day I always looked at the situation that what if I was in the same situation? I would have wanted my opponent or my fellow players to have an understanding for it. It was not his fault. It was not the US Open’s fault. It was just the situation. There were politics involved,” Zverev said.
“At the end of the day I think maybe I could have said, I want to play at the time we’re playing. And if he’s not on court, bad luck. But in my opinion, that was the right thing to do, to wait. … Give the opportunity to give him the chance.”
And now, a week of room service
Mannarino was fine with whatever had been decided for the players who had contact with Paire. He was grateful just to be able to play.
“We were warned that in 2020 a lot of things are happening. We can (restart) tournaments again, but obviously we’ll have to face weird situations that no one can predict ahead of time. We have to adjust,” he said.
Mannarino must now stay in New York until the end of his 14-day quarantine period. Which means he can’t return to Europe until next Friday.
He is likely to get into the main draw in Rome which begins early the next week – adductor permitting. So it’s a quick – a near-impossible – transition.
His coach, who had contact with Paire a day later, can’t leave until Saturday.
Until then, he’s stuck in his hotel room.
No practice, no training – just waiting
Belgian player Kirsten Flipkens wrote on social media that – until a sudden reversal – the USTA had arranged for a clay court so the players stuck in the city because of quarantine could at least prepare for the looming clay-court swing.
Then, on a dime, that changed. Along with Mannarino, Jomby and others on Paire’s contact list who are out of the tournament, she has to stay isolated in her room.
Kristina Mladenovic, who is the No. 1 seed in doubles with Timea Babos, is still in. And for the second time in a week, during all this drama, she thought she was going to be pulled out.
So far, as with Mannarino on Friday, it’s still a go.
Tomorrow? We’ll have to wait and see.
It didn’t really click with Mannarino that change Friday morning in quarantine protocol for Flipkens and the others might be something that might affect him as well. He was just focused on the match.
Looking back, he said, he probably should have realized it.
But he was philosophical about it, not angry. And he was appreciative of all the efforts made by the tournament to try to ensure he could continue to compete, and the efforts Friday to reverse the New York State decision to take him out.
“Anyway, tennis is a sport where you always have to adjust. That’ll be pushed to the extreme for awhile, but we have to deal with it,” he said.