U.S. Open in chaos as top doubles pair axed over COVID-19 concern

The US Open was plunged into controversy Saturday after New York health officials ordered the women’s top doubles pairing be withdrawn from the tournament due to possible exposure to coronavirus, reports AFP.
Number one seeds Kristina Mladenovic and Timea Babos were yanked from the competition after Mladenovic was instructed to quarantine for coming in contact with Benoit Paire, who tested positive for COVID-19 last weekend.
“All persons who were identified as having prolonged close contact with the infected player will quarantine in their rooms for the remainder of their quarantine period,” the United States Tennis Association said in a statement.
“Kristina Mladenovic is one of these individuals, and as the women’s doubles competition has begun, the women’s doubles team of Kristina Mladenovic and Timea Babos has been withdrawn from the US Open,” it added.
The USTA said that local public health issues had issued the quarantine notices, which prevented the players commuting from their hotel to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
“The USTA is obligated to adhere to government guidance at the State, City and County level,” the body said.
The shock intervention came a day after health officials tried to prevent Adrian Mannarino, who had also been in contact with Paire, from playing his last-32 match.
Officials from New York State’s department had contacted the USTA to say that Mannarino should have been quarantining in his hotel room.
The match went ahead three hours after its scheduled start time, after authorities ruled it could go ahead following discussions with tennis officials that also included lobbying by world number one Novak Djokovic.
Mannarino and Mladenovic were two of 11, mostly French players, put under enhanced safety protocols on Monday after Paire was withdrawn from the US Open on Sunday following his positive test coronavirus.
The players signed an agreement with New York City authorities that allowed them to remain in the tournament under the enhanced restrictions, which involved daily testing and barred them from communal areas in their hotel.
Mannarino told reporters Friday that organisers told him that New York State authorities had taken over case from the city and ruled that he was now not allowed to play.
Following her first-round singles win on Monday, Mladenovic said she had been “living in a nightmare” following Paire’s positive test result.
“I wasn’t even sure if I would able to play,” she said. “We’ve been in a bubble inside a bubble.”
The US Open is taking place behind closed doors because of the deadly pandemic. Players movements are tightly controlled and everyone onsite is being tested regularly to minimise the risk of infection.

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