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Australian Open qualifiers halted mid-match to tell player he had Covid-19

Posted at Jan 12, 2021

Denis Kudla has been rushed into quarantine at the Australian Open qualifying event in Doha after testing positive for Covid-19.

Fourth-seeded Kudla downed Moroccan Elliot Benchetrit 6-4 6-3 but the match ended in controversy. Kudla’s positive Covid test result reportedly came through with Kudla leading 5-3 in the second and, according to Benchetrit, they had to finish the game in progress.

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Because world No 114 Kudla won that game, which wrapped up the match, he was declared the winner. Had Benchetrit won the game to extend the match, it would have been declared a walkover in his favour.

“At 5-3, they got the result. So to sum up: if I’d won that game at 5-3 to make it 5-4, I’d have qualified for the second round,” Benchetrit said on Instagram. In another blow, Benchetrit may also have to isolate in Doha if he is deemed a close contact.

Kudla is the second player forced to withdraw from the event due to a positive test, joining Francisco Cerundolo in hotel quarantine.

Cerundolo was due to face Spain’s Mario Vilella Martinez but received his positive result before taking to the court. The Argentine later tweeted he was in “good health”.

The positive test result for Kudla means teenage Queenslander Dane Sweeny, who was to face the American in his second match, advanced straight to the final round of qualifying - which is being held offshore for the first time.

Tennis Australia confirmed the positive tests in a statement. “Two players have returned a positive Covid-19 test at AO men’s qualifying in Doha, Qatar. Both players have been withdrawn from the tournament and transferred to a quarantine hotel,” it said.

“Local health authorities, the tournament physician and medical team are monitoring each individual. Contact tracing is currently under way to notify close contacts.”

Benchetrit told the Tennis Majors website that players are bizarrely permitted to play before getting their test results, which have taken longer than expected.

“The concept of a test is to have the information up front, to not put the linespeople, the opponent or, quite simply, everyone the person might meet before or after their match, in danger,” he said.

“There also are lucky losers who are waiting for a forfeit to be able to play, who travelled there for nothing. The draw is compromised; there will be a player in the third round of qualifications having played just one match. That’s also the problem.”

Benchetrit believes Kudla must have contracted coronavirus in Doha, given this would have been his third test since arriving in Qatar.