US Open Covid-19 protocols have been ‘relaxed to prevent player clear-out’

Kristina Mladenovic - APKristina Mladenovic - AP
Kristina Mladenovic – AP

The United States Tennis Association came under attack on Monday from one of their own – the American doubles player Noah Rubin, who had been granted a wild card into this event, yet complained that the Covid-19 protocols were being relaxed to prevent a drastic clear-out of the player field.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The starting point for this debate was the positive test returned by the French player Benoit Paire on Sunday. The USTA tracked his contact with other players – a process made easier by the chips implanted in every accreditation pass – and came up with 11 other names, mostly French.” data-reactid=”18″>The starting point for this debate was the positive test returned by the French player Benoit Paire on Sunday. The USTA tracked his contact with other players – a process made easier by the chips implanted in every accreditation pass – and came up with 11 other names, mostly French.

All these players were required to sign a new and more restrictive protocol which means that – in the words of French No 1 Kristina Mladenovic – “I’m allowed to play my match, literally allowed to do nothing else. No fitness, or public bubble thing. I’m completely alone with my brother and coach.”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="On his Behind the Racquet podcast, Rubin queried why the 11 had not been withdrawn from the tournament, as Guida Pella and Hugo Dellien were when their physio Juan Galvan tested positive shortly before last week’s Western &amp; Southern Open.” data-reactid=”20″>On his Behind the Racquet podcast, Rubin queried why the 11 had not been withdrawn from the tournament, as Guida Pella and Hugo Dellien were when their physio Juan Galvan tested positive shortly before last week’s Western & Southern Open.

“The bubble is broken,” Rubin insisted. “My best guess is one, if not a couple, of top players are part of this 11, and they are not willing to give up the tournament. Maybe 11 is too big a number to start pulling [them] out of the tournament. They [the USTA] are basically going against everything New York has worked for. “

In an interview with ESPN on Monday, tournament director Stacey Allaster insisted: “The protocols are all being executed exactly the way we had intended. Everyone remains safe. With 3,500 individuals in our tier one and tier two groups we had anticipated positive tests. The two individuals who have had positive tests [the first being Galvan] have been well looked after.”

It is still too early to guess whether this is an individual case or an outbreak in the making. But Hailey Baptiste, who lost to Mladenovic on Monday, said that she had been in an elevator with Paire and was concerned about how many players had been in his orbit.

Paire himself expressed his dissatisfaction in an Instagram post last night. “I’m fine for now I have no symptoms,” he said. “I hesitate to tell what is really going on in this Fake Bubble.”  

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