The No. 1 seeded women’s doubles team of Kristina Mladenovic and Timea Babos have been pulled out of the tournament, ahead of their scheduled second-round match against Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski and American Alison Riske.
But the basics of it, from our sources, are this: Mladenovic and Adrian Mannarino (from Friday’s drama) were in a similar situation, in the wake of the the Nassau county officials’ decision to override the protocols originally agreed to between the city of New York and the USTA.
Here’s the official word from the USTA, which came shortly before 2:30 p.m.
Questions remain, of course.
The first is why the same directives issued to both Mladenovic and Mannarino meant that Mannarino could still get on court Friday (albeit late), and Mladenovic and Babos could not do the same today?
The reason for that was likely scheduling. With his match scheduled for 2:30 p.m., it’s likely Mannarino was already on site when the summons came.
The other question is how, if at all, the County officials were consulted given the increase in protocols for those who had contact with Benoit Paire involved isolation in their hotel rooms – which are located in Nassau County.
Different day – different outcome for Mladenovic
There were other players involved who also had contact with Frenchman Benoit Paire, who tested positive (three times, we’re told) for COVID-19.
But these two were still in the tournament. And those extremely strict isolation protocols enabled the two to continue to play.
They had to deal with 24-hour watch and the confiscating of their tournament credentials once they returned to the hotel. Daily testing, a dedicated “quarantine practice court” (the Grandstand) and a lot of other concessions. But at least they could still play.
But on Friday morning, both Mannarino and Mladenovic were served notice that Nassau Country was taking over and imposing a quarantine that meant they couldn’t commute out of Nassau County.
The Long Island Marriott, the players’s base, is located in Nassau County. The Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, where the players are competing, is in the New York City borough of Queens.
Thus, they’re overriding the city’s agreements with the USTA – and that gave the USTA no recourse but to withdraw Mladenovic (and Babos) from the tournament.
The other consequence of these developments is that Mladenovic will still have to remain in NYC for the next week, in strict quarantine in her room.
And, as with the rest, she won’t be able to practice or prepare for the transition to the upcoming clay-court season.
Mladenovic now stuck in her room for a week
Over the course of Friday – perhaps going all the way to the top of the chart to New York governor Andrew Cuomo – a compromise was worked out and Mannarino was able to play his third-round match against Alexander Zverev.
A day later, it appears nothing could be done for Mladenovic.
Some of the parties were aware Friday that the withdrawal was a distinct possibility. So it’s not a complete shock.
It surely didn’t help that the Frenchwoman, who hit the wall in her second-round match against Varvara Gracheva and melted down – squandering a 6-1, 5-1 lead to love 6-0 in the third set.
Her public comments following that emotional defeat, including saying she felt like she was in prison, gave a higher profile to the struggles inside the bubble to keep as many players on the court as possible than might have been the case.
Whether it caught the attention of the New York State health authorities cannot be known. In any case, they got on it.
And perhaps, unlike Friday when the USTA was able to get permission for Mannarino to play, the suits couldn’t be reached on a long weekend.
Innocent bystander Babos pays price
But in this case, the consequences don’t just impact Mladenovic – but also her doubles partner.
Babos came to the US Open bubble mostly for the doubles at the main event. She didn’t play the “Cincy” tuneup. And she lost in the first round of the singles to Madison Keys, 6-1, 6-1.
As the top seeds, they rolled past former U.S. college players Kaitlyn Christian and Giuliana Olmos 6-2, 6-2.
On Saturday, they were due to play Dabrowski and Riske.
The Can-American duo will now advance directly to the quarterfinals.
The quarantine requirement, which still has a week to run, means Mladenovic could not travel to Istanbul for the clay-court event there next week. With an early exit in the doubles (in theory) and without the quarantine, that would have been possible.
As well, she’s in the main draw of the big Rome event the following week. But with only a few days to travel to Italy, recover from the jet lag (and the emotional drama) and get on the clay, she will be far from prepared.
Those are the chances all the players took when deciding to come to New York. Still, it doesn’t make the consequences any less significant.
Winning the women’s doubles title would have been worth $400,000 to Mladenovic and Babos (with a cut to their coaches, too).
Being out in the second round means they split $50,000 – a nice payday for people who aren’t professional athletes, but a far cry from what was possible.
The pair teamed up to win the women’s doubles at the Australian Open this year – so far, the only Grand Slam to be completed.
In 2019, they won the French Open doubles and also the WTA Tour Finals.