Was it really only two months ago that the ATP Tour felt that conditions had improved to the point where it could relax its strict protocols for players at tournaments?
Actually, it was.
Unfortunately, the honeymoon was shortlived. Open Court has learned that effective immediately, players will have to get tested again – even if they are fully vaccinated.
The schedule is for players and staff to be tested every second day at tournaments.
This is due to “the COVID-19 (Delta variant) mutation and its highly infectious characteristics coupled with the low vaccination rate among individuals at ATP tournaments at this time.”
Players and staff who have had COVID-19 in the last 90 days will remain exempt. On the plus side, vaccinated people will not be considered “close contacts” if someone tests positive, unless the health protocols in the area the tournament is being held indicate otherwise.
The new directive also apply to Challenger tournaments, which generally only test once a week, on the Wednesday.
Those who have contracted the virus in the last 90 days will remain exempt there, too.
“It is important to note that this modification of testing has been implemented to protect everyone at our tournaments. Vaccination continues to be our best protection and is strongly recommended to eventually return to less restricted protocols at our tournaments once again,” the ATP told its players.
Restrictions eased back in May
It was just two months ago, during the Masters 1000 in Rome, that players learned that beginning the following week, at the final tuneups in Geneva and Lyon, that the restrictions would be eased after nine months of challenging times.
Those who had passed the 14-day period after the second dose could be exempt from having to be tested (other than national requirements to enter whatever country it was) for a period of six months. But even then, there was a caveat that those guidelines could change, if cases rose again or new variants complicated the situation.
Grand Slams not covered
As we’ve seen, those ATP rules did not extend to the Grand Slams.
In Paris, the players were in a restricted bubble at the player hotels, restricted to the hotel and the site. And movement even around the site was controlled.
At Wimbledon, all the players and staff stayed at one massive hotel. For most of the tournament, those headed from the main locker room up to the Aorangi practice courts, among other movements, took the underground tunnel to avoid the massive number of fans allowed on site.
So if the players thought they could get back to slightly more relaxed protocols when they returned to the ATP Tour, that’s unfortunately not the case.
At least, not in the current climate.
Although it should be less restrictive than the majors.
As for the US Open, early indications are that the situation will be leagues ahead of the closed bubble the players had to deal with last summer.
Vax opps during US Open Series
There’s good news for those not opposed to vaccination but who have had trouble scheduling the jabs because of the constant travel.
There will be opportunities to get vaccinated at many of this summer’s ATP tournaments – especially in the U.S.
In addition to next week’s clay-court tournament in Umag, Croatia, all of the American events – Newport this week, Atlanta, Washington, Cincinnati and Winston-Salem – will have availability for those who want to get the jab.
There was no mention of the Canadian event in Toronto, which is still in a day-to-day situation as far as the details.