47 Players Quarantined Ahead of 2021 Australian Open Because of COVID-19 on Flights

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 16, 2021

Ahead of the 2021 Australian Open, which is set to get underway Feb. 8, 47 players are in quarantine for 14 days because of positive COVID-19 tests returned by three people on flights from Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to Melbourne.

According to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN), the charter flights were carrying players, coaches and officials to Melbourne in preparation for the tournament. Two non-players tested positive for COVID-19 from the L.A. flight, and one non-player tested positive from the Abu Dhabi flight.

Victoria Azarenka and Kei Nishikori were reportedly among the players on the flight from Los Angeles, while Heather Watson said she was on the flight from Abu Dhabi.

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With regard to the Los Angeles flight, Victoria state's health department said:

"An aircrew member and Australian Open participant who is not a player have been transferred to a health hotel following positive test results for coronavirus [COVID-19].
"All remaining 66 passengers on the flight have been determined to be close contacts. Any players and support people will not be able to leave quarantine to attend training. The remaining flight crew all tested negative and were permitted to fly out without passengers directly to their home port."

Tennis Australia then released a statement regarding the Abu Dhabi flight:

"All passengers from the flight are already in quarantine hotels, and the positive case, who is not a player and had tested negative before the flight, has been transferred to a health hotel.
"The 23 players on the flight will not be able to leave their hotel room for 14 days and until they are medically cleared. They will not be eligible to practice."

The players who are quarantining in their hotel rooms could be at a disadvantage since they will not be permitted to return to practice until one week before the Australian Open begins.

Eight-time winner Novak Djokovic, seven-time champion Serena Williams and one-time winner Rafael Nadal are among the high-profile players who were not on either flight.

Djokovic, Williams and Nadal flew to Adelaide and began a hotel quarantine period ahead of an exhibition they are scheduled to participate in Jan. 29, per the AP.

Djokovic and American Sofia Kenin will look to defend their 2020 titles when the 2021 Australian Open commences next month.