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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 27 February 2021

Australian Open: Flights from Abu Dhabi and Los Angeles reveal positive coronavirus cases, 47 players banned from practise

Those on the plane, including Gonzalez and Cuevas, will not be able to leave their rooms for the agreed five hours per day practice sessions

Australian Open organisers announced on Saturday that three people on board charter flights from Abu Dhabi and Los Angeles to Melbourne tested positive for Covid-19, meaning all 47 players who travelled will not be allowed to practise during a 14-day quarantine period.

Two dozen players who arrived from Los Angeles entered strict hotel quarantine after an aircrew member and Australian Open participant who is not a player tested positive for the coronavirus.

Later, another non-player passenger on a flight from Abu Dhabi tested positive, prompting the organisers to usher 23 players into hotel quarantine.

All three who tested positive had been transferred to a health hotel, the organisers said in a statement, adding: "The players on the flight will not be able to leave their hotel rooms for 14 days and until they are medically cleared. They will not be eligible to practise."

Australia has agreed to accept about 1,200 players, officials and staff on 15 flights for the major sporting event that is due to begin next month.

As part of the arrangement, players are able to leave their rooms for five hours each day to train on the courts, but that will not apply to those who have come into close contact with someone who tests positive for Covid-19.

According to local media, former Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, America's Sloane Stephens and Japan's Kei Nishikori were among those on the plane, which departed from Los Angeles.

Mexico's Santiago Gonzalez, who is ranked 48 on the doubles circuit, has confirmed he was on the flight as has Uruguayan world No 68 Pablo Cuevas.

"Unfortunately, we have been informed by the health authorities that two people on your flight AR7493 from LAX that arrived at 5.15am on Friday 15 January have returned positive Covid-19 PCR tests on arrival in Melbourne," Gonzalez posted on Instagram.

"From having 5 hours of training in a bubble to this ... (strict quarantine x 15 days). I will be showing you my workouts x Instagram (inside the room)," Cuevas wrote on Twitter.

As for the 23 players on board the flight from Abu Dhabi, they include 2016 Australian Open winner Angelique Kerber, former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu, two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova, and Tunisian star Ons Jabeur.

Spanish player Paula Badosa, who last week competed at the Abu Dhabi WTA Women's Tennis Open and was on the plane, shared her frustrations.

"All the preparation and hours of hard work going away ... good way to start a Grand Slam with no practice or anything," she wrote on Twitter.

British player Heather Watson also played in the Abu Dhabi tournament and was on the plane.

"One person on the flight I was on from Abu Dhabi tested positive. So now everyone else who was on that flight has a 14-day quarantine where we are NOT allowed out our rooms," she tweeted.

"The same happened on one of the chartered flights from Los Angeles. 2 flights... so far."

The world's top players began arriving in Australia on Thursday for the delayed Grand Slam, which is due to start at Melbourne Park on February 8.

Most touched down in Melbourne, although the biggest names in the game – including Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams – flew into Adelaide.

All must undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine, but are being allowed out for five hours daily to train in strict bio-secure bubbles.

Players were only allowed to head to Australia with proof of a negative test prior to departure, or with approval as a recovered case at the discretion of the Australian government.

Updated: January 16, 2021 04:22 PM

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