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As Paire wins opener in Paris, Roland Garros changes testing protocols
The tournament now consider a player or team member's medical history before deciding to withdraw them from the tournament if they have tested positive for coronavirus.
Published Sep 28, 2020
Roland Garros has changed its coronavirus testing protocols, L'Equipe confirms, and will now consider a player or team member's medical history before deciding to withdraw them from the tournament if they have tested positive for coronavirus.
The change comes following the controversial withdrawal of two players from the event: Fernando Verdasco, who said he had previously contracted the virus; and Damir Dzumhur, whose coach, Petar Popovic, tested positive, and said that he'd also previously had the virus.
Both publicly criticized the tournament which, unlike other tennis events, was not looking at medical history. But now, Roland Garros says it has changed this stance, with the agreement of local authorities.
"The modifications of the ARS (Health Regional Agency) is to now accept non-infectiousness on the post-illness, if it is documented by a medical file and validated by medical experts, which is good for the players," an unnamed FFT official told L'Equipe. "Unfortunately, we only received this decision on Friday evening."
Verdasco had also announced his forced withdrawal from the tournament that day, saying "I explained my history," but had not been allowed to take another test as he requested. He also said he had been tested at previous events and again upon returning to Spain, and those test had not come back positive.
Verdasco has again protested since the change in protocols, stating that while other players would now be allowed to play, the tournament took no "action to rectify the error and I am simply excluded from the draw."
Though Verdasco's statement said the tournament would now "retest those who tested positive," the tournament said this was not correct—they would only consider records of previous infection.
"We do not do a second test when it is positive," said the FFT official. "But each sample is subject to two evaluation methods and declared positive if both are positive."
Top seed Novak Djokovic, along with Benoit Paire, Borna Coric and Grigor Dimitrov, are among the players competing at Roland Garros who have previously announced that they have had coronavirus, with Paire being withdrawn from the US Open. Another five players were withdrawn from Roland Garros qualifying.
Paire was allowed to compete at Hamburg just days before Roland Garros despite testing positive two times at the event. He was tested again at Roland Garros and was not positive, and was allowed to compete. He won his first-round match over SoonWoo Kwon, 7-5, 6-4, 6-4.
"It was not easy, the situation after New York," said Paire after the match. "Stayed 10 days in my room. Then I went to Rome to play my tournament, but I was not totally ready to play. So it was not easy against Jannik [Sinner, who beat Paire 6-2, 6-1]. Then I went to Hamburg and again positive test, so I had to stay in my room only. I could leave my room only to practice and to play my match for one hour. [Paire would retire in his match against Casper Ruud, 6-4, 2-0.]
"The only thing I wanted was to go home, so couldn't because we had to come here for the test. So honestly now what happen is I'm tired. I'm tired physically. I'm tired mentally."
Benoit Paire was allowed to compete in this year's Roland Garros tournament. (Getty Images)
Paire went on to detail his testing history: "Positive in New York twice, then six times in New York negative. Then Paris negative. Then I went to Rome, negative three times. I arrived in Hamburg, the first one was positive, the second one was positive, and the third one was negative, and one negative here in Paris."
Does Paire trust the system, or the accuracy of the tests?
"I really don't care about the system, about what happen," he said. "The only thing I know is sometimes positive, sometimes negative. If I'm positive I go home. I will be happy to go home a little bit.
"Honestly now, the importance of the test is not the thing I'm thinking. I'm just thinking, okay, if you can play you play. If not, you go home and you see your dog, your family, and you will be happy."