MELBOURNE, Australia – It has been a number of days since the last positive COVID-19 tests surfaced.
Those were for Spanish player Paula Badosa and her coach Javier Marti.
So, given what we know about incubation periods, this is probably the home stretch.
As far as we know. And in a few days everyone will be out and about. And the Australian Open organizers will heave a big sigh of relief.
As the events have unfolded, the thought is that the scene the last 10 days is somewhere between the worst-case and the best-case scenario.
With everyone adjusting on the fly and one hand not always knowing what the other hand is doing, the rules are shifting every day.
Virus information underload
But on the virus itself, the information has been sparse and speculative since the first few days.
It’s almost humorous.– except to those involved. Luckily, it’s almost over.
Tennis Australia was as transparent as it probably could legally be in the early going, announcing that passengers on the flight from Los Angeles and then the Abu Dhabi and Doha flights had tested positive. Those came over three consecutive days from Jan. 15-17. And the result was that everyone on those flights had to hard quarantine, no longer allowed to train and practice.
But since then, not a lot. A few positive tests that were deemed “virus shedding”, without much detail. And word of additional tests have come from word of mouth and from announcement by some of those involved.
Eddie is outta here
The strangest case is that of American coach Eddie Elliott.
Elliott, who works with WTA player Lauren Davis, tested positive for the coronavirus on arrival in Melbourne, despite needing a negative test to be able to board the plane in Los Angeles.
As a result, 24 players – Victoria Azarenka, Sloane Stephens, and his own player – and 78 people in all have had to make do with whatever exercise they can get in their not-too-spacious hotel rooms in downtown Melbourne.
Except … suddenly, on Monday, Elliott was sprung with four days to go in the 14-day period.
Great for him. Except that the other 77 passengers on the plane forced into hard quarantine because of his having the virus are still … in quarantine.
Virus gone? We don’t know
It was reportedly quite the topic of discussion on Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley’s nightly Zoom call with the players on Monday. The Herald Sun reported that veteran American doubles star Bethanie Mattek-Sands – one of the players affected as she begins a new partnership with Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski in Australia – was the most outspoken on the issue.
Explanations? We have none. The Sydney Morning Herald couldn’t get anything from the health services and quarantine departments.
Open Court reached Mattek-Sands’s husband and manager Justin Tuesday. His response has us shooting him straight to the top of the candidates list for the next Republican primary in their home state of Arizona.
A message to Elliott also was not returned.
Elliott also reportedly did not have, or did not have to have, a negative COVID-19 test to get sprung. That’s all we know.
Badosa and Marti battle virus – which strain? Unknown
Meanwhile, Badosa and Marti reportedly have adjoining rooms in the medi-hotel as they’re both monitored for the virus.
Badosa wasn’t happy with the hard quarantine required after Bianca Andreescu coach Sylvain Bruneau tested positive on their flight from Abu Dhabi. Obviously she’s even less thrilled to have had the quarantine clock start all over again with the positive tests for her and her coach.
She told Marca that it has been six days since she was last tested, despite her asking. And she hasn’t been able to determine if she was struck with one of the more aggressive strains of the virus.
Badosa also said that, as a result, she doesn’t know if the quarantine clock will tick for 10 days, or a full 14 days. Those extra days will make a huge difference as she’s up against the Australian Open clock.
“The first thing that is recommended when you have a virus is to open the windows of the rooms to let the air flow. I have no windows (that open) and my room is barely 15 square metres. It is obvious that the only thing I breathe is the virus,” she told Marca. “I have asked for cleaning products, like a vacuum cleaner. And they don’t give me anything.”
Badosa also said she had been asking for an exercise bike and some weights for five days.
Badosa said she’s been dealing with anxiety and a bout of claustrophobia. But she said she isn’t getting much help even though Tiley did call to check on her. As for resolving some of her needs, she said, Tiley referred her to other staff.
Silence from Adelaide
Since an ill-advised video from Naomi Osaka showing she and a large (and maskless) support team having fun on the practice court in Adelaide, it has been practically radio silence from the haves of the tennis circuit.
I mean, it’s so evident it’s amusing. But it’s nice of them to be considerate of the rank and file.
Even Tiley has basically told the non rock-star players in Melbourne to, in essence, suck it up. That the top players in any sport or endeavour usually get special treatment. And it is what it is. And that the Adelaide government helped the tournament out a lot by taking the overflow of players and staff that were over the limit set by the Victorian government.
That doesn’t stop the rumours from flying, of course. Notably that the Adelaide situation had been set up for the world’s best long before the quarantine maximum issue officially arose.
What’s up with Rafa?
Rafael Nadal gave a rather curious interview to Spanish ESPN in which he … hmmm…. well, he said that some of the players who begrudged the conditions in Adelaide didn’t feel badly for those who had smaller rooms than they did in Melbourne. Or something.
He also dropped some not-too-subtle shade on Novak Djokovic (without naming him). Nadal agreed with the expression used by the interview, “tribunero”, which means. He said that not everyone who was trying to help behind the scenes needed to make such a public display of it.
All righty then!
Nadal also thinks there are only about 20 players who are in hard quarantine. So he really has been in a bubble (there are 72).
The sizes of many of the teams are significantly larger than many in Melbourne, which has not gone unnoticed and is one reason the hard cap imposed by the Victorian government of 1,000 tennis visitors was blown away.
What we have seen is that many of the players have balconies. And washing machines. Oh, and kitchens. And extra guests.
It is what it is.
Oopsie for Barty
Score one for the home team when world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, who doesn’t have to quarantine because she hasn’t left Australia since the pandemic hit, was spotted in a supermarket.
Without a mask.
And one for the ro(dents)
Minister of Police Lisa Neville basically accused the players of feeding the mice that appeared in the players’ fairly high-end downtown Melbourne hotel. That was a good one.
Ask Yulia Putintseva.