Zverev’s illness casts spotlight on safety plans

Zverev’s illness casts spotlight on safety plans

PARIS • Alexander Zverev lost in the fourth round of the French Open on Sunday, but it became clear after the match that he likely should not have competed at all.

“I’m completely sick,” the 23-year-old said following his four-set loss to Jannik Sinner. “I can’t really breathe, as you can hear by my voice. I had fever as well. Yeah, I’m not in the best physical state, I would say.”

French Open officials said that he had not shared the details of his symptoms with tournament doctors as he arrived to play, as required by the event’s coronavirus protocols. It is not clear whether the German has contracted the virus – he has tested negative repeatedly, although his most recent test had been five days earlier.

But the episode raised questions about the precautions taken by the French Tennis Federation (FFT) for a marquee event in a country that has seen an uptick in coronavirus cases and recently imposed tighter limits on large gatherings.

“Zverev is up to date on his tests, which have all been negative,” the FFT said in a statement.

Zverev’s last test was Tuesday, with the negative result returned on Wednesday, the federation said.

“Today he received a reminder for his next test, to be carried out within five days of the previous results. He did not consult the tournament doctors before his match.”

Zverev said he began feeling sick on Friday night after his third-round win over qualifier Marco Cecchinato. He said his body temperature reached 38 deg C.

The world No. 7 consulted tournament medical officials during the first set of the match, and they gave him a nasal spray that he used.

Although he competed well, he regretted taking to the court. “To be honest, I warmed up today – I shouldn’t have played,” he said.

No positive tests have been disclosed since the main draw began on Sept 27. Two players in the junior girls’ tournament had tested positive for Covid-19 and had been removed from the draw.

In total, approximately 3,000 tests have been carried out since Sept 17, organisers said.

Zverev stressed that he had repeatedly tested negative. He is hopeful that he does not have the virus and pointed out that he had not shown some of its symptoms.

It is not clear whether he will be tested again following his loss. Tournament protocols mandate that players “be tested again every five days until they are knocked out of the tournament”.

The tournament’s health and safety guidelines state that its health protocols were based on “calling on a sense of civic duty and responsibility on the part of all attending the event in any capacity”.

Perhaps with that sense of trust, the French Open has not taken daily mandatory temperature readings for players entering the grounds, as the US Open did. Its approach is also less restrictive in terms of access to the main player hotel, which is open to outside guests.

Players still in the draw must remain at the hotel when not competing or risk being disqualified, but players who have been eliminated are permitted to come and go while remaining guests.

At the US Open, eliminated players and their team members had to remain in the official hotels.

Zverev said after his second-round win that the hotel was “not really a bubble” and compared the safety measures unfavourably to the US Open in New York.

Players and coaches also have complained that they have sometimes not received their results in Paris after coronavirus tests.