Tennis

Covid-19 causing uncertainties ahead of Australian Open

Thiem, Nadal set to be without coaches; Murray's participation in doubt after testing Covid-19 positive

With less than a month to go before the Australian Open, players and coaches have found themselves confounded by Covid-19 in one way or another as they prepare for tennis' first Grand Slam of the year.

World No. 3 and US Open champion Dominic Thiem has had to travel to Australia without his coach Nicolas Massu, who tested positive for the coronavirus, Austrian media reported on Wednesday.

"Before flying out, we got the surprising news that Massu had received a positive test result," Thiem's father Wolfgang was quoted as saying by the Kurier daily.

"Nico will get tested again in a few days. We hope it then comes back negative and he can follow on after," said Wolfgang, who added that Massu was expected to be unavailable for "one to two weeks".

He told Austrian media that in the meantime, he would train with Dominic and fellow Austrian Dennis Novak.

Thiem and Novak flew to Australia on Wednesday.

They will undergo a 14-day quarantine before representing Austria in the ATP Cup, which starts in Melbourne on Feb 1, with the Australian Open following a week later.

Thiem won't be the only one without his coach. On Wednesday, Rafael Nadal's coach Carlos Moya also announced that he would not be travelling to Melbourne due to the coronavirus restrictions.

The Spaniard is aiming for a 21st Grand Slam title in Melbourne, which would put him ahead of Roger Federer's record of 20, with the Swiss skipping the tournament, citing a need to regain fitness following two knee operations.

Besides Massu, former world No. 1 Andy Murray also returned a positive Covid-19 test recently, casting doubt on his participation in the Australian Open, local media reported yesterday.

Murray, who is self-isolating and in good health, was awarded a wildcard to play in the main draw and still hopes to compete at the tournament, the reports added.

However, that could prove difficult, with players and officials required to arrive in Australia during a 36-hour window from today to serve their quarantine.

One of those heading to Melbourne is world No. 50 Tennys Sandgren, who was granted special permission to board a chartered flight from Los Angeles, despite testing positive for Covid-19 earlier in the week.

Tennis Australia said in a statement the decision to allow the American to fly had been made after a review by medical officials, as Sandgren's positive diagnosis was deemed to have been from a previous infection.

Sandgren, a quarter-finalist at Melbourne Park last year and in 2018, said on Twitter he had tested positive last November and returned another positive test on Monday.

A spokesman for Covid-19 Quarantine Victoria said it was common among people who had previously tested positive to "shed viral fragments for some time - which can trigger another positive result".

"There's not a single documented case where I would be contagious at this point," Sandgren added.

Tennis Australia said Sandgren's medical file had to be reviewed by Victorian health authorities before he was cleared to fly. - AFP, REUTERS

Tennis