The Australian Open Promised Lessons for Pandemic Sports. Just Not These Ones.


“It’s so tough with an international sport having to travel,” Pegula said. “Do all the logistics of going to another bubble, figuring out I got to get tested three days before, I got to get my results, make sure I get tested when I land.”

Organizers were somewhat ready to deal with some developments, like a shift to empty stadiums in the middle of the tournament. But other difficulties they were not prepared for at all.

“It’s been relentless,” a sleep-deprived Tiley said of the daily problems as he watched the women’s semifinals last week in a bunker beneath Rod Laver Arena. “A roller coaster from the start.”

Government officials imposed a hard lockdown for 72 players who were aboard charter flights that carried 10 passengers who tested positive after arriving in Australia. The new restrictions meant those athletes, even if they continually tested negative for the virus, could not leave their hotel rooms at all for 14 days before the first tuneup tournaments before the Open. Some of those rooms had windows that could not be opened, which became a magnified irritation when some of the players were not allowed to leave for any reason.

Organizers had also set aside 11 exercise bicycles in case some players were isolated, but after getting more bikes for the players who couldn’t leave their rooms, they got similar requests from the rest of the field since their training was limited to two hours on the court and 90 minutes in the gym each day. So, Tiley needed several hundred bicycles, plus yoga mats, kettlebells and medicine balls.

Only one player tested positive, Paula Badosa of Spain, and organizers could not do much for her beyond transfer her to a medical hotel and keep her there for 10 days with no exercise equipment.

Once the quarantines ended and the warm-up tournaments began, a security worker in the main hotel for players tested positive. Health officials ordered more than 500 people who were staying there, including many players, to be tested and remain in their rooms for the day. The start of the Australian Open was five days away, and no one knew what another positive result might prompt. Fortunately there were none.


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