French player Kristina Mladenovic is banned from the US Open. She sees herself as a victim of an inconsistent Corona policy.
Feels treated like a "criminal": Doubles specialist Kristina Mladenovic Photo by Seth Wenig/ap
The big sport is currently taking place in the bubble. Or in the bubble, as the American says. The NBA’s basketball players are playing for the championship in Orlando, shielded from view and without spectators. In New York, the tennis players are in the process of determining the US Open champions. Life as a bubble boy and bubble girl is tough at times, the "new normal" in the wake of Corona prevention comes with restrictions and precautions that meet with a divided response. It’s no different in New York.
French player Kristina Mladenovic, in particular, has been mightily upset about her isolation. Four days ago, she said, "This is a nightmare that we are experiencing here. I just have a desire to get my freedom back," railed the professional player, who is ranked 44th in the world.
"I want to say so many things that happened to us here. It’s absolutely despicable how they treated us." She felt "that we are prisoners, criminals," the 27-year-old said. "We are powerless and just suffer." Is this a coronary talking, a hothead who better check his privileges as a big earner – career prize money: $11,415,424?
The case is complicated, and it has become even more complicated since Sunday, because the Frenchwoman, with her doubles partner Timea Babos (Hungary) actually seeded number one in this Grand Slam tournament, was excluded. She is no longer allowed to play because, roughly speaking, she had contact with French pro Benoit Paire. The tested positive for the Corona virus before the US Open.
A bubble in the bubble
Later tests did not confirm this result, and Paire did not complain of any symptoms. Nevertheless, the full program of preventive measures was started. Contact persons, among them Mladenovic, were identified and specially rubbed down in the bubble.
Initially, however, the contact persons were told that they could leave their hotel rooms for training sessions and matches. Accordingly, Mladenovic took on Hailey Baptiste of the U.S. in round one (7:5, 6:2), lost to Varvara Gracheva of Russia in round two (6:1, 6:7, 0:6), and also had a go at doubles: with her partner, she defeated Giuliana Olmos of Mexico and Kaitlyn Christian (U.S.) 6:2 and 6:2 in the first round.
Mladenovic said she had been tested for the virus over 30 times, she didn’t understand all the heckling, and it was also strange that Frenchman Adrian Mannarino, who was under special observation as a contact person, was only able to start his match against German Alexander Zverev after long discussions.
Obviously, the organizers of the US Open themselves were not clear what rules they were following – or there was a lack of implementation: in one players’ hotel on Long Island, things were reportedly very strict, in another rather lax; here, meticulous attention was paid to the wearing of the mouth guard, there it even came to contact with tourists.
There was some harsh criticism of the inconsistent and intrasparent handling of hygiene measures. In order to counter further accusations, the decision has now been made to take a tough stance. A statement from U.S. Open organizers said, "Representatives of the Nassau County, New York, Health Department have determined that all contacts are prohibited from commuting from Long Island to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the site of the U.S. Open, effective immediately.
"No identity, nothing"
Players who have had prolonged contact with Benoit Paire must remain in their hotel rooms for the duration of the quarantine, at least until Sept. 11. As a result, Mladenovic could not compete in second-round doubles and attempt to win in New York after winning a doubles title at the Australian Open. "We have no freedom of movement, no identity, nothing," the Frenchwoman said Thursday.
The back-and-forth then brought Novak Djokovic into the fold. The Serb is known not to consider the Corona virus a major threat; he organized the Adriatic Tennis Tour in the spring, where several professionals, including Djokovic himself, were infected with the virus.
When Djokovic found out in New York that the authorities did not want Mannarino to play in his third-round match against Zverev, the superstar himself picked up the phone: "I wanted to reach the governor of New York through some contacts," said the world number one after his unchallenged round of 16 victory.
Djokovic did not get as far as Andrew Cuomo of the Democrats, but his intervention shows how heated the debate is about the stringency of the anti-Corona measures, even at the US Open. Zverev summed it up after his win over Mannarino: "It was political." Bubbles of discontent rise in the Bubble. The dithering in the Mladenovic case is unlikely to calm the corona-skeptical minds.