In the French capital of Paris six players were excluded from Roland Garros qualifying after either testing positive for COVID-19 or being in close contact with somebody who has. At the same time in neighbouring Germany Benoit Paire returned to action on Wednesday despite testing positive – twice.
The two different scenarios are an abrupt reminder of the ongoing uncertainty that has been caused by the devastating coronavirus outbreak which has infected an estimated 31.6 million people, according to John Hopkins University. World No.25 Paire finds himself in an unfortunate situation of illustrating how difficult the pandemic is for the world of tennis. In August he was banned from playing at the US Open and placed in isolation under protocol after he failed a COVID-19 test. After that ordeal he was able to travel to both Paris and Rome without any issues. Then Germany caused a whole new headache.
“I tested positive for (COVID-19) in Hamburg. The only negative I got was yesterday,” Paire revealed after retiring during his first round match on Wednesday.
“The rules seem different here so the ATP has to explain what they are. Here in Germany you can test positive and you can play. So thank you to the tournament and doctors for allowing me to play but there are some rules I obviously don’t understand much.
“We don’t know if the positive test in the USA was false. We only know that I was negative after the US Open, in France, in Rome and then I was positive in Hamburg,” he later added.
Paire’s revelation caused both a stir and confusion. In the aftermath of his comments, the chiefs of the Hamburg Open issued a statement explaining why the Frenchman was allowed to play. Their argument is that it is normal for a person to still have fragments of the virus in their body after contracting it for weeks after. Dr. Volker Carrero said Paire didn’t show symptoms (that he knew of at the time) and wasn’t contagious.
“Paire was tested positive for COVID-19 on August 28th at the US Open and consequently was required to quarantine in New York for 10 days. When he arrived at Hamburg a re-test was positive. On Tuesday he tested negative,” the statement reads.
“According to Dr. Volker Carrero, it is not uncommon that three weeks after a positive result, fragments of the virus can still be found inside the body. Paire has not shown any symptoms of the disease and has not been contagious at any time. Local health authorities in Hamburg made the decision on Saturday that Paire is allowed to play.”
But there are still unanswered questions. For instance how did medical officials ascertain that Paire didn’t have the virus and his positive test in New York might have been a false alarm? Furthermore, he cited tiredness as the reason for his withdrawal from the tournament which is a sign of the virus. Was this something he had prior and were the medical officials aware of this?
The unlucky ones
The story will likely enrage one group of players on the Tour who were kicked out of the French Open. Unlike Hamburg, those who test positive or have a close contact who has tested positive are removed from competition no matter what. Although it has proved to be a controversial decision.
Damir Dzumhur has told blix.ba that he is in contact with lawyers after he was removed from Roland Garros due to his coach, Petar Popovic, testing positive. Although Popovic had the virus during the summer and asked officials for a second to test to rule out a false result. Something that the French Tennis Federation (FFT) refused. Just over a day later Popovic underwent another test in Serbia where he was negative.
“We were just asking for the right to another test that would prove that it is a false positive test, which happens in more than 15% of cases … Unfortunately, they did not accept that, they told us that we could stay in the room in isolation for seven days, and we decided to go home because I knew I was not infected – I did two tests in Serbia and I am negative, he told Sport Klub.
“Now we will fight for the rights of all other players, not to expel from Roland Garros players who are a false positive.”
Dzumhur isn’t the only person to be in this unfortunate situation. Poland’s Katarzyna Kawa and Spain’s Bernabé Zapata were also excluded after testing positive to only return to their home countries and test negative. To empathise the significance of their removal, those who play in qualifying and win all three of their matches are guaranteed at least 60,000 euros in prize money. Kawa says she is unable to claim compensation after signing an agreement.
So who is at fault? Unfortunately it isn’t as simple as to blame one individual or a certain process. Tennis is a global sport but the downside for players is that they are playing in different countries with each of them having their own rules on COVID-19. If Paire was in Paris this week instead of Hamburg he would have never been allowed to play.
There is also the argument that perhaps the sport should have a standardised testing system applied throughout. Although in reality that is unrealistic not only due to each country having their own rules, but the fact seven governing bodies operate within the sport.
Ironically the current mood among players is best summarised by Paire himself, who uploaded a photo of him on Instagram with the caption ‘Quand est ce que ça va s’arrêter?’ French for ‘when will this end?’
Unfortunately, given a rise in cases once again, COVID-19 will be around for a while and therefore so will be the complexed testing processes.
Jelena Ostapenko cruises into the second round with a straight-set win over Petra Martic in Ostrava
Former Roland Garros champion and world number 44 Jelena Ostapenko cruised past number 5 seed Petra Martic 6-3 6-1 after 57 minutes to reach the second round at J&T Banka Ostrava Open.
Martic won her previous two head-to-head matches against Ostapenko at Indian Wells in 2018 and in Birmingham in 2019.
Ostapenko has scored her milestone 20th career over a top-20 rival. The Latvian player hit 30 winners to 15 unforced errors.
Martic got an early break in the first game and consolidated it with a hold of serve to take a 2-0 lead. Ostapenko saved two break points and held serve for 1-2 before breaking serve with a forehand passing shot in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. The Latvian player reeled off five consecutive games to open up a 5-2 lead. Martic held serve to claw her way back to 3-5. Ostapenko served out the set at love. Ostapenko hit 20 winners to 10 unforced errors.
Ostapenko got an early break with a forehand crosscourt winner. The 2017 French Open champion went up a double break and hit a series of forehand winners to race out to a 4-0 lead extending her winning streak to five consecutive games. Martic held serve in the fifth game to close the gap to 1-4. Ostapenko held serve easily to build up a 5-1 lead with a crosscourt backhand winner. In the next game Ostapenko earned two match points, as Martic hit the netcord with a dropshot and closed out the match with a forehand down the line.
“I think I played really well well today. I just got used to playing the first couple of games, but then I played really well and I did not give her any chances to play her game, and I made so many winners. I played very smart and also used dropshots and mixed it up a little bit, which helped me, but in the deciding moments I was still aggressive. I knew Martic was going to make a lot of balls in play and I would have to be very focused and very consistent to beat her”, said Ostapenko.
Maria Sakkari reaches her third quarter final of the season in Ostrava
Maria Sakkari got through to her third quarter final of the season after beating Elina Svitolina 6-3 6-3 at the J&T Banka Open in Ostrava with five breaks and 32 winners.
Sakkari has already reached two quarter finals in 2020 in St. Petersburg and at the Western and Southern Open in New York and scored the fourth win of her career against a top 5 player.
Sakkari went up a 3-0 lead with a double break. Svitolina pulled one of the two breaks back in the fourth game to claw his way back to 1-3. Sakkari converted his third break point in the eighth game to win the first set 6-3.
Svitolina earned her first break in the third game of the second set to take a 2-1 lead. Sakkari battled to deuce four times and converted her third break points in a marathon fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Sakkari earned another brek to open up a 5-3 lead to close out the match after 1 hour and 16 minutes.
“Obviously winning against a player like Elina, the way I played I think that made me happy today. I think playing like me gives me a lot of confidence. Getting another top 5 win is very important for me. When I was starting my career, I had people telling me that I cannot play indoors. I think it was a big mistake listening to them. I have beaten very good indoor players in St. Petersburg and here in Ostrava. I have developed my game in a way that I can now be dangerous indoor sas well. My serve is big, and I am playing a little bit more aggressive. So I am super happy. I have proved these people wrong”, said Sakkari.
Grigor Dimitrov rallies from one set down to beat Pablo Andujar in Antwerp
Grigor Dimitrov came back from one set down to beat Pablo Andujar 4-6 6-3 6-4 at the European Open in Antwerp.
Andujar earned the break in the ninth game to win the first set 6-4. Dimitrov went up an early break in the second game to take the second set 6-3. The Bulgarian player raced out to a 4-1 lead with a double break in the decider. Andujar pulled one break back in the sixth game for 2-4. Dimitrov saved four match points in the eighth game to hold serve at deuce and converted his first match point in the 10th game to win the third set 6-4.
Ugo Humbert came back from one set down to beat this year’s US Open semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta 5-7 6-3 6-4 after 2 hours and 33 minutes Humbert earned an early break in the second game of the opening set to build up a 5-2 lead. Carreno Busta fought back by winning five consecutive games with two breaks in the ninth and eleventh games to win the first set 7-5.
Humbert saved four break points in the fifth game before breaking serve in the eighth game to win the second set sending the match to the third set. Humbert fended off four break points at 2-3 in the third set and broke serve to love to take a 5-4 lead, when Carreno Busta made three consecutive groundstroke errors. Humbert has improved his win-loss record to 18-11 and won the ASB Classic title in Auckland last January. The Frenchman scored the biggest win of his career when he beat Danil Medvedev in the Hamburg quarter final.
Humbert will face either US Taylor Fritz or South African qualifier Lloyd Harris. Fritz dropped six of his first service points in his 7-6 (7-5) 6-1 win over his compatriot Reilly Opelka.
Milos Raonic beat Aljaz Bedene 6-3 7-6 (7-4) in 86 minutes setting up a second round match against Cameron Norrie. Bedene fended off two match points, when he was serving at 5-6 15-40 to force the second set to the tie-break. Raonic rallied from 1-3 down to win the tie-break 7-4. The Canadian player reached the final at the Western and Southern Open in New York and lost to Borna Coric in the semifinal in St. Petersburg.
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