UPDATE: 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu's coach, Sylvain Bruneau, has confirmed that he's the passenger on flight EY8004 from Abu Dhabi who returned a positive COVID-19 PCR test upon arrival.
So the person infected in the Abu Dhabi flight was Andreescu's coach, who is naturally feeling quite bad about the situation. https://t.co/Cyky4K1nhZ— José Morgado (@josemorgado) January 16, 2021
UPDATE: On Saturday evening in Melbourne, the Australian Open released a statement confirming that a second charter flight, this one EY8004 from Abu Dhabi, included a passenger who returned a positive COVID-19 PCR test. Of the 64 passengers on this flight, 23 were players.
Like the charter flight reported on below, all passengers on board must now isolate in their hotel rooms for 14 days, and will not be able to practice prior to the Melbourne swing of tournaments. Some of the players who have shared the news over social media are Angelique Kerber, a former Australian Open champion, and Marta Kostyuk, an 18-year-old ranked 112th in singles and 99th in doubles.
Reem Abulleil, a top tennis reporter based in the United Arab Emirates, tweeted that Bianca Andreescu, Svetlana Kuznetsova Ons Jabuer, Belinda Bencic and Maria Sakkari were also on the flight.
We will continue to update this developing story.
On Saturday at 11 a.m. in Melbourne, tennis players and personnel who entered Australia on flight QR7493 from LAX were notified that two unidentified people returned positive COVID-19 PCR tests upon their arrival. As a result, preparations for the Australian summer swing have taken a major hit for those competitors on board, as everyone from that flight will now be required to stay inside for the entirety of the quarantine period.
“The Chief Health Officer has reviewed the flight and has determined that everyone on board needs to isolate and will be confined to their rooms for the 14-day quarantine,” the statement read. “We know this is not how you imagined your preparations for the AO would start but our entire team is here to support you and do everything that we can to get you through this.”
Later Saturday, COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria (CQV) verified that “an aircrew member and an Australian Open participant who is not a player” accounted for the two positive tests. Both were transferred to a “health hotel.”
At 5:34 p.m. Melbourne time, a statement went up on the Australian Open's Twitter account. Of the 79 people on QR7493, 24 were players.
Among the notable names impacted included two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka and Sloane Stephens, the 2017 US Open winner. Less than two days earlier, Stephens announced on her social media accounts that both her grandmother and aunt passed away from complications of COVID-19.
Also on board the charter, which departed Los Angeles on Wednesday and arrived Friday at 5 a.m., were former world No. 4 Kei Nishikori and American Tennys Sandgren. Nishikori missed last year’s US Open after contracting coronavirus, while Sandgren was permitted to fly with a positive PCR test after Victorian authorities determined he was shedding viral particles from a positive case dating back to November 22.
Sandgren's countryman Nicholas Monroe, a doubles player ranked No. 74, revealed he was among those affected on his Instagram story. “Can't leave the room now”, Monroe's caption read. Doubles world No. 48 Santiago Gonzalez confirmed the same, later sharing his test came back negative. Likewise, Artem Sitak, ranked 30 spots below Gonzalez, updated his followers in a series of IG videos.
“We're all deemed close contact. I asked for a bike, so hopefully I'll get one and stay in shape,” Sitak said. “We'll probably be out on the 29th of January and head straight into the ATP 250 a few days after.
“Obviously not great, but that's the risk we were all taking. They kind of warned us this was going to be at the discretion of the Australian government, Australian health authorities if something like this happened. It's just unlucky that two of them contracted the virus.”
Unfortunate circumstances have also struck Guido Pella for the second time ahead of a Grand Slam event. Last August in New York, Pella (along with Hugo Dellien) was removed from the Western & Southern Open when his fitness trainer tested positive, and subsequently mandated to quarantine for 14 days. Pella would lose his US Open first-round match to wild card JJ Wolf after having little time to prepare.
For the 10th day running, the Australian state of Victoria recorded zero COVID-19 cases locally, with just under 15,000 tests processed Friday. Three positive cases came back for international arrivals in hotel quarantine, though it has not been announced whether any of those are linked to QR7493.
The first set of tournaments in Melbourne begin January 31, with the Australian Open scheduled to kick off February 8.