NEW YORK—Stacey Allaster didn’t confirm the name of the player who tested positive for COVID-19 and was withdrawn from the 2020 US Open, but she confirmed that those players believed to be in contact with said player will remain in the tournament.
In an interview on Tennis Channel Live just before the start of the US Open, its tournament director said that safety and health protocols approved by New York state have been implemented in this specific case—one that saw 23rd-ranked Benoit Paire removed from the event on Sunday, and a sizable number of fellow players connected to him in limbo as to their playing statuses.
“They’ve all been executed exactly they we that we had intended,” Allaster said about the tournament’s coronavirus protocols. “Everyone remains safe.
“The two individuals that did have positive tests (Paire is the only player to have tested positive) have been well-looked after. Contact tracing has been executed, decisions have been made, and we're continuing on to have those individuals in the competition based on the medical science and all of those facts. They will be in the competition starting this morning.”
Benoit Paire, at the 2020 Dubai tournament. (Getty Images)
Richard Gasquet, Adrian Mannarino and Edouard Roger-Vasselin were some of the players reported by French newspaper L’Equipe to be connected to Paire through contact tracing; later on Sunday, player Noah Rubin said in his Behind the Racquet podcast that 11 players in total were being examined. Alex de Minaur, who will play his first-round match tomorrow, backed up Rubin’s claim on Facebook.
“I know there is a group of 10 or 11 players that have been given certain protocols since they were close to Benoit,” de Minaur said, according to The Australian. “I don’t know exactly what those protocols are or who those players were, but I do believe they are going to allow them to play.”
While this is a situation the tournament hoped to avoid, it is also something it had anticipated, given the size of the bubble.
“With more than 3,500 individuals in our Tier 1 and Tier 2 bubble, we anticipated that we would have some positive tests,” said Allaster. “We’re blessed that it’s only two—two too many.
“When we only have two positive tests—again, two too many—it shows that the testing's working, and the masks and physical distancing.”
Adding to the controversy was the Western & Southern Open's decision to withdraw Guido Pella and Hugo Dellien from last week's tournament after the players' fitness trainer had tested positive for COVID-19. A number of players, including world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, claimed they were given different information prior to entering the two-tournament bubble.
On Monday morning, Dustin Brown tweeted, "Tryin 2 Understand The Difference Between What Happend During W&S Open & Whats Goin On Now."
Both Pella and Dellien will compete in the US Open on Tuesday.
An update on this story, from the Associated Press:
NEW YORK (AP) — As the U.S. Open got underway amid the pandemic Monday, seven players were put in what one described as a “bubble in the bubble” because they were in contact with Benoit Paire, the Frenchman dropped from the tournament after testing positive for the coronavirus, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press.
The seven players were not identified to the AP by the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the U.S. Tennis Association has not announced the names of anyone involved.
But two players from France acknowledged their involvement: Kristina Mladenovic, who is seeded 30th in women's singles, and Edouard Roger-Vasselin, who is entered in men's doubles.
“We cannot confirm any numbers or names of players due to health laws," tournament director Stacey Allaster said. “In the case of Edouard Roger-Vasselin, as he has publicly stated he is one of a select number of players in the enhanced protocol plan, I can confirm that he is one of those players.”
Edouard Roger-Vaseelin, at the 2020 ATP Cup. (Getty Images)
Mladenovic acknowledged after her first-round victory on Day 1 at the Grand Slam tournament that her movements were restricted because she spent time with Paire. She said she practiced with Paire for about an hour and spent 30-40 minutes playing cards with him and others in the lobby of a hotel being used by the USTA for what it has called a “controlled environment.”
“I am basically in a new ‘bubble in the bubble,’ so there’s not very much I’m allowed to do, which makes it tough for me to compete and mentally be kind of fresh and ready,” said Mladenovic, who doubled over and let out a loud yell after beating Hailey Baptiste of the United States 7-5, 6-2.
Asked to describe what she can and cannot do, Mladenovic chuckled.
“Let’s make it simple: I’m allowed to play my match,” she said. “Literally, not allowed to do anything else.”
Kristina Mladenovic, at the 2020 Dubai tournament. (Getty Images)
Allaster said the players potentially exposed to the virus because of contact with Paire now must be tested daily for COVID-19, instead of every four days.
Mladenovic said she was told she can spend time with her brother but “no one else,” and has been banned from working out at the gym and “any other facilities that have been put in place for the players.”
“It’s pretty tough for me to accept that ... because it’s not like I’m part of (Paire’s) entourage,” Mladenovic said.
Paire is one of two people to have tested positive so far and the only player. The other was a fitness trainer; two players he was in contact with — Argentina’s Guido Pella and Bolivia’s Hugo Dellien — were kicked out of the Western & Southern Open, the tournament that preceded the U.S. Open at the same site.
As for the difference between those two players who potentially were exposed being dropped from the field and this more recent group remaining eligible to play, Allaster said: “Each case is determined by the facts and circumstances. We will not discuss how the two are specifically different because this is protected health information."