The Australian Open was plunged into a crisis on Saturday as positive COVID-19 cases were detected on two charter flights into Melbourne, forcing 47 players into hard lockdown for a fortnight.

Tournament officials said two passengers on a flight from Los Angeles that arrived on Friday morning had tested positive, along with one passenger who travelled in from Abu Dhabi.

None of those who tested positive were said to be players, although one was described as a "participant", which may mean a member of a player's entourage.

About 1,200 players and staff are arriving in Melbourne ahead of the delayed Australian Open, which is due to get under way on February 8.

They are travelling on sparsely populated aeroplanes to allow for social distancing, with 79 people, including 24 players, aboard the flight from Los Angeles and 64 people, including 23 players, arriving from Abu Dhabi. It was reported that players affected included recent grand slam champions.

A statement from the Australian Open said the players "will not be able to leave their hotel room for 14 days and until they are medically cleared. They will not be eligible to practise."

Australia's Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) said those aboard the flights were considered 'close contacts' of those with the virus, and that means they will be confined to their hotel bedrooms for the next two weeks.

The Australian Open has pulled out all the stops in an effort to get the grand slam on, and that has meant all players have had to arrive early and go into quarantine, although most will be allowed to spend five hours outside their hotel rooms each day, to allow for practice and gym work.

Such limited liberties will not be afforded to those hit by the news of the positive tests on their flights.

French player Alize Cornet questioned why such steps were necessary, writing on Twitter: "Soon, half of the players from the AO will actually have to isolate. Weeks and weeks of practice and hard work going to waste for one person positive to Covid in a 3/4 empty plane. Sorry but this is insane."

The 30-year-old world number 53 added: "I just think that these measures are not made to hold an international tennis event."

Cornet, who said she was not on an affected flight, believed there were meant to be measures in place to avoid wholesale lockdown in the case of positive tests.

She said: "We've been told that the plane would be separated by section of 10 people and that if one person of your section was positive, then you had to isolate. Not that the whole plane had to."

Victoria on Saturday recorded its 10th consecutive day with no locally acquired cases of coronavirus.

Madison Keys is set to miss the Australian Open after testing positive for coronavirus.

The 2017 US Open runner-up announced on Thursday that she contracted COVID-19 before she was due to fly out for the first grand slam of the year.

Keys did not state she will definitely miss the major, which starts on February 8, but it appears the American will not make the trip to Melbourne.

The American wrote on Instagram: "Hi everyone, I wanted to let you know that I unfortunately tested positive for COVID-19 before I was supposed to fly to Australia.

"I'm very disappointed to not be able to play in the coming weeks after training hard in the off-season and knowing Tennis Australia and the tours did so much to make these events happen.

"I am self-isolating at home and will continue to follow all the necessary health precautions. I look forward to being back on tour next month."

It was revealed earlier in the day that three-time major winner Andy Murray has also tested positive for the virus, but still hopes to play in the Australian Open.

Meanwhile, world number 50 Tennys Sandgren was cleared to board a flight from the United States bound for Melbourne despite revealing he returned a new positive coronavirus test this week. 

The American, twice a quarter-finalist at Melbourne Park, initially posted to social media on Wednesday that he had tested positive for the virus for a second time. 

Although his first instance of having the illness was recorded in November, the 29-year-old's participation in the tournament appeared to be in doubt. 

But as he continued to update followers through the day, it emerged he had been allowed to board his flight. 

Players will only be allowed into Australia with proof of a negative test just prior to departure, or with approval to travel as a recovered case at the complete discretion of an Australian government authority.

Anyone wanting to travel out for the tournament who previously tested positive is required to provide additional and highly detailed medical information as proof they are a recovered case and no longer infectious or a risk to the community.

 

The Australian Open has hinted Andy Murray will not be able to compete in Melbourne following his positive test for coronavirus.

Murray, a five-time finalist at the Australian Open, remains in good health and is isolating at home.

The three-time grand slam winner is still hoping to play and travel to Australia later than planned.

However, a statement from the tournament cast serious doubt on his involvement, with Murray – ranked 123rd in the world – having initially been granted a wildcard to play.

The statement read: "Andy Murray has advised that he has tested positive for COVID-19 and is isolating at home in the UK.

"Unfortunately, this means that he will be unable to join the official AO charter flights arriving in Australia in the coming days to go through the quarantine period with the other players.

"The AO fans love Andy, and we know how much he loves competing here in Melbourne and how hard he'd worked for this opportunity."

The first grand slam of the year is starting three weeks later than it normally would on February 8 due to the complications of players flying into Australia amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Tournament organisers are putting on 15 chartered flights, which will operate at 25 per cent capacity, to bring players to the tournament.

Before boarding, competitors must test negative and will undergo a series of tests once in the country, while undergoing a 14-day quarantine period in Melbourne.

It was after a first-round defeat at the Australian Open two years ago that Murray stated his career might be over due to an ongoing hip injury.

Andy Murray's participation at the Australian Open is in doubt following a positive COVID-19 test.

Three-time grand slam champion Murray remains in good health but is isolating at home.

The 33-year-old Briton is still hopeful of being able to travel to Australia later than planned and taking part in the first grand slam of the year.

Murray received a wildcard for the Australian Open, where he has been a runner-up on five occasions.

It is set to be the Briton's first participation at Melbourne Park since announcing after a first-round loss in 2019 that his career was in the balance due to a persistent hip injury.

The Australian Open is scheduled to get under way on February 8.

Rafael Nadal will be without his coach Carlos Moya due to the pandemic, while Dominic Thiem's coach Nicolas Massu tested positive before travelling to Australia.

It is still hoped that Massu can make the trip following a negative result.

Tennys Sandgren was cleared to board a flight from the United States bound for Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open despite revealing he returned a new positive coronavirus test this week. 

The American, twice a quarter-finalist at Melbourne Park, initially posted to social media on Wednesday that he had tested positive for the virus for a second time. 

Although his first instance of having the illness was recorded in November, the 29-year-old's participation in the tournament appeared to be in doubt. 

But, as he continued to update followers through the day, it emerged he had been allowed to board his flight. 

Writing on Twitter, he said: "Wait hold on I think they are trying to get me on 15 min [sic] after the plane was supposed to depart.. my bags still aren't checked lol." 

A follow-up read: "Wow I'm on the plane. Maybe I just held my breath too long. Craig Tiley [Tennis Australia] is a wizard." 

Some expressed concerns about the possibility of Sandgren potentially spreading the virus to fellow passengers and then locals once he arrives in Australia. 

But a statement from the Australian Open has looked to reassure people that players' infectiousness is checked prior to boarding flights. 

It read: "In the case of Tennys Sandgren, who has self-disclosed that he previously tested positive in late November, his medical file had to be reviewed by Victorian health authorities. Upon completion of that review he was cleared to fly.

"Any recovered case must go through this process in order to have an opportunity to travel here for the Australian Open. No one can travel without either proof of a negative test or this special clearance from authorities confirming they are not infectious. 

"Upon arrival all players are immediately placed in a secure quarantine environment for 14 days under the authority of COVID Quarantine Victoria, and will undergo a more rigorous testing schedule than most returning travellers." 

An earlier statement issued by the tournament organisers in reply to Sandgren's tweets said: "Some people who have recovered from COVID-19 and who are non-infectious can continue to shed the virus for several months. 

"Victorian Government public health experts assess each case based on additional detailed medical records to ensure they are not infectious before checking in to the charter flights. 

"Players and their teams are tested every day from their arrival in Australia, a much stricter process than for anyone else in hotel quarantine." 

The first grand slam of the year is due to begin on February 8 after being delayed due to the pandemic. 

Initially it was to run from January 18-31 but was pushed back to help give qualifiers time to travel and complete a two-week quarantine in Australia prior to warm-up events getting under way at the end of the month. 

Players at Melbourne Park will have to follow strict guidelines and protocols, including a five-hour limit on training with a maximum of one team member. 

The teams must stay in their hotel for the other 19 hours of every day, and players have to return six negative COVID-19 tests before being allowed to play.

Aryna Sabalenka is keen to continue her hot streak after claiming a third consecutive title on the WTA Tour with a commanding victory over Veronika Kudermetova at the Abu Dhabi Women's Tennis Open.

Following season-ending triumphs in Ostrava and Linz, the world number 10 extended her ongoing winning run to 15 matches, prevailing 6-2 6-2 in an hour and five minutes.

"I'm really happy to keep winning and I’ll do everything I can to keep winning," Sabalenka told reporters. "Nobody likes to lose!"

"Every final is really something special and I would say finals are a different competition.

"This final was really nice and I would say a really fast game."

The pace of the contest owed much to Sabalenka's power game, with the Belarusian hitting 18 winners to her opponent's 13, while Kudermetova leaked 24 unforced errors to 13.

Sabalenka's clinical confidence was in evidence as she dispatched six of 12 break points fashioned.

"I’m really proud that I was fighting no matter what," she said of a run that has now yielded titles seven, eight and nine of her career.

"Some matches, I didn't feel my serve, some matches I didn't feel my forehand or backhand, but I would just keep fighting, finding my shots, and that this is what I’m really proud of, and really happy with this title."

Aryna Sabalenka will face Veronika Kudermetova in the Abu Dhabi Women's Tennis Open after extending her magnificent career-best winning run with a straight-sets victory over Maria Sakkari.

Sabalenka ended 2020 in red hot form and has carried on where she left off at Zayed Sports City International Tennis Centre to stand on the brink of claiming a third successive title.

The fourth seed from Belarus has now won 14 consecutive matches following a commanding 6-3 6-2 success over Sakkari on Tuesday.

Sabalenka reached the 13th WTA singles final of her career at the age of only 22, taking just 57 minutes to see the back of ninth seed Sakkari.

The world number 10 struck 22 winners, eight of which were aces, and made only eight unforced errors, while winning 83 per cent of points on her first serve and will be one to watch at the Australian Open next month.

Kudermetova will be playing in her maiden WTA singles final following a 7-6 (10-8) 6-4 victory over Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine.

Russian Kudermetova came from a break down in the first set and was behind in the tie-break, but dug deep to edge in front in a battle between two unseeded semi-finalists.

The world number 46 broke Kostyuk three times in the second set to secure her spot in the championship match, in which she will have to improve on a first-serve percentage of just 46.5.

The top two seeds are both out at the Abu Dhabi Women's Tennis Open after Sofia Kenin and Elina Svitolina suffered quarter-final defeats on Monday.  

Kenin had won the two previous meetings against Maria Sakkari and appeared on course to retain her 100 per cent record when cruising through the opening set.  

However, Sakkari hit back to stun the top seed, dropping just two more games as she rallied in emphatic fashion to triumph 2-6 6-2 6-0 after one hour and 23 minutes on court.  

"I think I did way too many errors and I was hitting too big when I didn't have to. But I'm glad that once again I found the way to turn the match around," the ninth seed told reporters.

Next up for Sakkari will be Aryna Sabalenka, who extended her impressive winning run to 13 matches after coming through a three-set tussle with Elena Rybakina.  

The fourth seed has not lost since going out at the 2020 French Open to Ons Jabeur - a result she avenged when the pair met on Sunday in the last eight in Abu Dhabi.  

In the other half of the draw, Veronika Kudermetova once again got the better of Svitolina, ending the second seed’s hopes of success in the tournament. 

Russian Kudermetova – who won their only previous meeting on the WTA Tour – came out on top in the deciding tie-break to triumph 5-7 6-3 7-6 (7-3).  

She will take on another player from Ukraine next, Marta Kostyuk overcoming a nightmare opening set to beat Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo 0-6 6-1 6-4 and reach the last four.

Sofia Kenin and Elina Svitolina fought back from the brink of defeat as both reached the Abu Dhabi Women's Tennis Open quarter-finals on Sunday.

Top seed Kenin fended off a match point in the second set before battling to a 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 victory over Yulia Putintseva at Zayed Sports City International Tennis Centre.

Putintseva was serving for a straight-sets win at 6-5 up in the second, but the tenacious Kenin forced a tie-break and rallied from 3-1 down to take the third-round match the distance.

The Australian Open champion secured three breaks in the decider to reach the last eight, hitting 35 winners to 25 from 13th seed Putintseva to set up a showdown with Maria Sakkari.

Svitolina, the second seed, was also on the verge of crashing out, but she hung in there to pull off a 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (10-8) win over Ekaterina Alexandrova.

The world number five was a break down in the final set and saved two match points in a tense tie-break before finally seeing the back of her Russian opponent.

Ninth seed Sakkari beat two-time grand slam champion Garbine Muguruza 7-5 6-4 to give herself the opportunity to get the better of Kenin for the first time in three attempts.

Aryna Sabalenka stretched her impressive winning streak to 12 matches with a 6-2 6-4 success over Ons Jabeur, while Marta Kostyuk, Sara Sorribes Tormo, Elena Rybakina and Veronika Kudermetova also progressed.

Karolina Pliskova has crashed out of the Abu Dhabi Women's Tennis Open in the second round, while Coco Gauff was also eliminated.

Third seed Pliskova suffered a stunning 6-2 6-4 defeat to Anastasia Gasanova, a qualifier ranked at 292 in the world.

Pliskova fell to defeat in only 75 minutes on Saturday, the first time she had lost to an opponent outside of the top 50 in over a year.

Gasanova, 21, beat Mona Barthel in her WTA main draw debut this week and went on to save five of the six break points she faced to record an even bigger upset against Pliskova.

"It was not me on the court," a stunned Gasanova said after winning in her first match against a top-100 player, booking a last-16 clash against Sara Sorribes Tormo.

"I was so sure of myself. I'm really happy right now.

"I'm really surprised, but when I woke up today, I thought, 'Why not? Why can't I win this match?'

"Actually, I thought I would lose in qualies or something like that, but I just kept pushing myself, like, I need to win and I want to win.

"I had a [2021] goal to be top 200, actually! I don't know if I did this today, but that's my goal. 

"To play against a top-10 player is a great opportunity for me, and it's a great chance to show how I could play."

Pliskova, therefore, starts her year on a negative note, but there were no such problems for second seed Elina Svitolina, who was a 6-4 6-1 winner against Vera Zvonareva.

Last year's Australian Open finalist Garbine Muguruza cruised through with a 6-1 6-4 victory over Aliaksandra Sasnovich and sixth seed Elena Rybakina won in straight sets against Xiyu Wang.

Muguruza will face Maria Sakkari in an intriguing last-16 match next after the Greek ended the hopes of American Gauff with a comfortable 7-5 6-2 victory.

Top seed Sofia Kenin, who made two grand slam finals last year and won in Melbourne, will resume her campaign against Yulia Putintseva on Sunday.

Sofia Kenin admitted she was given a stern test by Kirsten Flipkens before the Belgian was forced to abandon their tussle at the Abu Dhabi Women's Tennis Open.

With a month to go before Kenin begins the defence of her Australian Open title, the American world number four was fighting to avoid a second-round exit to an experienced opponent.

Flipkens took the first set 7-5 and trailed 5-4 in the second, a break down, when an injury to her left ankle caused her to retire from the match.

A run of three consecutive games and 12 unanswered points from Flipkens had seen the 34-year-old former Wimbledon semi-finalist snatch the opener.

Kenin was turning the contest around in the second set and the top seed admitted she was "a little bit upset" to see Flipkens suffer when injury struck.

"We're good friends and that's not something you like to see," Kenin said, quoted on the WTA website. "I just hope [Flipkens] can have a speedy recovery and get ready for Australia.

"She played a really good match. It was the third time we’ve played each other, and it was a really solid match from both of us. This is not the way I wanted to win."

Aryna Sabalenka could be a player to fear at Melbourne Park in February, as the world number 10 made it 11 consecutive match wins by fending off Australian Ajla Tomljanovic 7-5 6-4.

Sabalenka finished off the 2020 season with titles in Ostrava and Linz so the Belarusian is looking for a hat-trick of tournament triumphs.

Tunisian Ons Jabeur scored a 5-7 6-3 6-2 victory against Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine to reach the last-16 stage, and she faces Sabalenka next.

Jabeur won on the only previous occasion she and Sabalenka have met, securing a three-set win in round three of the delayed 2020 French Open.

Alexander Zverev insists his latest split from a high-profile coach ended on amicable terms after David Ferrer cut ties with the US Open finalist.

Spaniard Ferrer's decision to walk away leaves Zverev yet again, now at the age of 23, looking for a coach with whom he might establish a long-term partnership.

The German ditched former world number one Juan Carlos Ferrero in early 2018, after six months together, claiming the coach had been "very disrespectful" to other members of his team.

He then linked up with Ivan Lendl in August 2018 but that lasted just under a year, with Zverev reportedly criticising the eight-time grand slam winner's focus.

This time, Zverev and former world number three Ferrer have not hinted at any animosity or disagreements.

They teamed up in July 2020, and Zverev said of their break-up: "I would like to thank David for the months we have shared, the times on and off the court, wishing him only the best in the future.

"I also want to thank his family for giving me the chance to spend precious weeks with David during these difficult times. I have tremendous respect for the way David played and coaches tennis."

Ferrer helped Zverev battle through to the US Open final in September, where he led by two sets but was ultimately beaten by Dominic Thiem.

Zverev also won a pair of titles in Cologne in October and reached the final of the Masters 1000 event in Paris.

But they are going their separate ways as the new season begins, with the Australian Open just weeks away.

Ferrer said: "At the end of the year, a decision had to be made, I spoke with Sascha [Zverev] and told him that I preferred not to continue, that we were not going to continue next season. Not for anything special, I just didn't think it was time."

Speaking to tennis website Punto de Break, Ferrer added: "Absolutely nothing has happened between us, everything is still fine, in fact I am very grateful to him for the opportunity he gave me to travel with him during that stretch of the season.

"During those months we had a good coexistence, everything was perfect."

Dayana Yastremska says she is "astonished" after the world number 29 was provisionally suspended for failing an out-of-competition doping test.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) on Thursday revealed Yastremska was charged on December 22, having tested positive for mesterolone metabolite in a sample taken on November 24.

Ukrainian Yastremska, who reached a career-high 21st in the rankings 12 months ago, says she is not guilty of any wrongdoing and will do all in her powers to clear her name.

The 20-year-old posted on Twitter: "I firmly state that I have never used any performance-enhancing drugs or any prohibited substances.

"I am astonished and under shock, particularly given that two weeks prior to this test - on 9 November 2020 - I tested negative at the WTA event in Linz. After this last tournament of the year, I stopped practising to rest prior to the start of the new season.

"Only a very low concentration of mesterolone metabolite was detected in my urine. Given that low concentration and given my negative test two weeks earlier, I have received scientific advice that the result is consistent with some form of contamination event.

"Besides, I have been informed that this substance is meant for use as medication by men and that women are advised not to use it due to the adverse effects it causes."

Yastremska said she was "resolutely determined to do everything to clear my name".

Rising star Yastremska has three WTA singles titles to her name.

Sofia Kenin and Coco Gauff both made it through to the second round of the Abu Dhabi Women's Tennis Open on a day of few shocks. 

Seven of the nine seeds in action on Thursday advanced, with only Marketa Vondrousova and Jennifer Brady falling by the wayside. 

Those upsets came despite Vondrousova and Brady each winning their opening sets - against Hsieh Su-wei and Tamara Zidansek respectively - the latter racing through 6-0 in the first before being reeled back in. 

Kenin and Gauff had no such problems, however. 

But top seed Kenin - the 2020 WTA Player of the Year - had to stay patient as she took down 789th-ranked Yang Zhaoxuan 7-6 (7-4) 6-2. 

The first set lasted more than an hour and saw Kenin face five break points, defending each of them, with another 11 Yang opportunities following in the second, although the world number four proved more clinical en route to victory. 

"It was the first match, obviously a bit of nerves, I had to find my groove," Kenin said afterwards. "Conditions weren't easy, it was quite windy.

"The first set was tough for me. I couldn't find the ball, I guess." 

Gauff was comfortable throughout, meanwhile, swatting aside Ulrikke Eikeri 6-0 6-1 to tee up a meeting with Maria Sakkari. 

Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova and Aryna Sabalenka each also progressed in two sets, as did Garbine Muguruza, overcoming a potentially tricky hurdle in the form of Kristina Mladenovic. 

Muguruza was a 6-2 6-4 winner and afterwards said: "I was trying to do my game, dominating, not letting her dominate the point. 

"It's the first match of the year, it's a little bit tricky to get the feeling, but I'm happy with the win." 

Roger Federer decided to miss the Australian Open because wife Mirka opposed having to spend a full fortnight in quarantine, a leading official has claimed.

It was widely assumed Federer's reason for skipping the upcoming grand slam related to the knee surgery he underwent last season.

He had hinted as much, and agent Tony Godsick referred to the knee rehabilitation when announcing in December that the Swiss great would not travel to Melbourne.

But Andre Sa, the head of player liaison at Tennis Australia, says Federer pulled out when it became apparent his wife and children would be holed up in their hotel accommodation for two weeks.

The players travelling to Australia must all quarantine to avoid any possible spread of COVID-19, but they are allocated five hours per day in which they can leave their rooms to train and practise with specified hitting partners.

Sa, a former top-20 doubles player, told Band Sports in his native Brazil that he discussed with father-of-four Federer the practicalities before the 20-time grand slam winner reached his decision.

"The main reason was the quarantine," said Sa. "I talked to him a month ago and he had two options. He could come with the whole family and do the quarantine.

"The problem is that Mirka and her children couldn't leave the room. They would have to stay 14 days in the room. The exception is only for players.

"He could go out, train and come back, but the family couldn't. Mirka did not approve the idea.

"The other option would be for him to come alone. Only there would be at least five weeks away from family and children. And then he said, 'Dude, 39, four kids, 20 grand slams. I'm no longer at the stage to be away from my family for five weeks.'"

Former world number one Federer has not played a tournament since losing to Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of the Australian Open last year.

This year's edition of the grand slam has been delayed by three weeks to a February 8 start, due to factors tied into the pandemic.

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