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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Australian Open qualifiers in Qatar halted mid-match to inform player he had COVID-19

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Two players in the qualifying rounds have tested positive for COVID-19

An Australian Open qualifying match between the USA’s Denis Kudla and Morocco’s Elliot Benchetrit was halted to inform Kudla that he had tested positive for COVID-19. 

The qualifiers are being played in Doha, the first time in the tournament’s history that they are being held overseas. 

Kudla is not the first player to have tested positive for COVID-19 among contestants at the Australian Open. Argentina’s Francisco Cerundolo was due to face Spain’s Mario Vilella Martinez but received his positive result before taking to the court. He later tweeted he was in “good health.”

While Kudla was told about his positive test mid-game, Benchetrit did not qualify to the next round as the American was winning at the time. If there hadn’t been a break of serve at that time, the match would have been stopped after the ninth game of the second set and Benchetrit would have advanced to the next round.

“At 5-3, they got the result. So to sum up: if I’d won that game at 5-3 to make it 5-4, I’d have qualified for the second round,” Benchetrit said on Instagram. Benchetrit may also have to quarantine in Doha if he is deemed a close contact.

Tennis Australia confirmed the positive tests in a statement. “Two players have returned a positive COVID-19 test at AO men’s qualifying in Doha, Qatar. Both players have been withdrawn from the tournament and transferred to a quarantine hotel,” it said.

“Local health authorities, the tournament physician and medical team are monitoring each individual. Contact tracing is currently underway to notify close contacts,” the statement added. 

Australian Open organisers said all players who started in the qualifying tournament had returned at least one negative test after arriving into Doha, where they were given PCR tests on arrival and isolated until their results came out.

According to Benchetrit, Kudla must have contracted coronavirus in Doha, given this would have been his third test since arriving in Qatar.

He told the Tennis Majors website that players are bizarrely permitted to play before getting their test results, which have taken longer than expected.

“The concept of a test is to have the information up front, to not put the linespeople, the opponent or, quite simply, everyone the person might meet before or after their match, in danger,” he said.

The Australian Open qualifiers are taking place at Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex, between 10 and 13 Jan. While the matches are open to the public, courts are restricted to 30% of their seating capacity in line with preventative measures due to COVID-19. 


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