September 28, 2021

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Exclusive: Florida COVID strikes three Aussie US Open qualifiers

Three Australian players – Alex Bolt, Aleksandar Vukic and Jason Kubler – are due to compete in the US Open qualifying beginning Tuesday.

But their quest appears in question, as Open Court has learned from an extremely reliable source that all three tested positive for COVID-19 over the past week.

(UPDATE: Bold, Vukic and Kubler are out of the qualifying list as of Monday morning. Matches begin Tuesday).

The three reportedly were training in the Orlando, Fla. area, in preparation for the qualifying.

(Florida. Of course).

We have reached out to the relevant USTA officials to see that the protocols might be for this situation. It doesn’t seem to be covered in the various restrictions and rules set out in the wake of the coronavirus.

10-day infectious period?

We have no information on how the lads are feeling, how bad their individual cases are.

And, as of right now, all appear to still be on the qualifying list. But at least one player who would get in because of their withdrawal is already aware he has made the cut.

Generally speaking, people who test positive for COVID-19 are considered infectious for at least 10 days – even if they test negative during that period.

That makes it tricky for the first of them, Kubler. He would be on Day 10 (including the day he learned of his positive test) when the first round gets under way on Tuesday. Assuming he’s asymptomatic.

Being in the U.S., they would not have to provide a negative PCR test to board a flight, although the CDC recommendations are … not to do it if you’re infectious.

They could well test negative on arrival in New York, even if they were considered still within that infectious period.

So when we get more information (hopefully), we’ll update this story.

Putting aside the seriousness of the virus, there’s money to be made and ranking points to be earned at the US Open – even in qualifying.

The total prize money for the 2021 US Open is yet to be determined – or at least, announced.

But in 2019, the last time there was qualifying, first-round losers still earned $11,000 US. Getting to the final round was worth $32,000 US and 16 ATP Tour ranking points.

And, of course, making the main draw is gold, especially for players at the lower levels.

Kubler, for example, has earned less than $50,000 so far in 2021.

Participation uncertain for three Aussies

A 28-year-old ranked No. 230 who won the Lexington Challenger on hard courts three weeks ago, Kubler was the first to get the bad news a week ago.

Kubler during his first main-draw appearance at the US Open in 2018.

Vukic, 25, is ranked No. 221. We’re told he heard on Wednesday.

It is/would be Vukic’s first attempt at qualifying at the US Open. Last fall in Paris, he upset Spanish teenaged sensation Carlos Alcaraz in the first round of qualifying, on his way to his second Grand Slam main draw – his first outside Australia.

Vukic after beating highly-touted Spanish teen Carlos Alcaraz in the first round of qualifying at Roland Garros in 2020.

Bolt, we understand, got the bad news on Tuesday. He’s a 28-year-old lefty ranked No. 145, who reached the quarterfinals of the ATP tournament in Los Cabos last month.

Bolt reached the third round of the 2019 Australian Open on a wild card, beating Jack Sock and Gilles Simon before falling to Alexander Zverev. He also took Dominic Thiem to five sets before falling in Melbourne in 2019.

Bolt at Roland Garros in 2020.

He earned a wild card into his first non-Australian main draw at Wimbledon last month, after winning a tournament in Nottingham.

As for Kubler, he has been besieged by injuries during a star-crossed career.

He has played the US Open twice – notably in 2018. He got straight in when his ranking briefly dipped into the top 100 around that time. Kubler upset Roberto Bautista Agut in straight sets in the first round before retiring during a second-round match against Taylor Fritz.

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