Tennys Sandgren forced an early clarification of the Covid-19 rules as the first of 15 charter flights began flying Down Under to deliver players for the Australian Open.
The two-time Melbourne Park quarter-finalist was given a special clearance to board one of the flights from Los Angeles to Melbourne despite testing positive to coronavirus in November and again on Monday.
The first of about 1,200 players, coaches, entourage and officials began to land in Australia on Thursday, including the likes of Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
Under tournament protocols agreed with Australian government authorities, all players had to to return a negative test before boarding their flights to Australia and would be subjected to further testing on arrival and daily during a 14-day period of quarantine.
Sandgren, the world No 50, received an exemption after Australian health officials assessed his case history.
The American player posted on social media to say he wasn’t contagious and was allowed to join a delayed flight.
“My two tests were less than eight weeks apart. I was sick in November, totally healthy now,” Sandgren tweeted. “There’s not a single documented case where I would be contagious at this point. Totally recovered!”
The Australian newspaper published an online story headlined 'US tennis ace sparks Aus Open virus worry'.
Tennis Australia moved to clarify the situation in a statement that outlined players who have previously tested positive to Covid-19 were “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.”
They added: “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 (state government) health authorities. Upon completion of that review he was cleared to fly.”
The Australian Open has already been delayed three weeks because restrictions in place for the pandemic, and is set to start on February 8.
On Wednesday, nearly 12,000 kilometres from Melbourne, the qualifying tournament was completed for the tournament, with 16 men and 16 women set to join the singles main draw.
Due to the Australian restrictions, the men’s and women’s qualifying tournaments – in Doha, Qatar and in Dubai – were held outside of Australia for the first time.
Aryna Sabalenka won the inaugural Abu Dhabi WTA Women's Tennis Open title on Thursday when she thrashed Veronika Kudermetova 6-2, 6-2 at Zayed Sports City.