October 14, 2020

Not Out of the Woods Yet

Here's a good reminder for everyone in the world, and not just for those involved in the world of tennis: we are in the midst of a global pandemic, one that has infected 38 million people so far and resulted in over a million deaths worldwide. And while we are opening back up our businesses, our bars, our gyms, our sporting events, we have to remember that we don't yet have things under control.

That's become abundantly clear when you look at what's happening at events this week in Europe. At the inaugural Forte Village tournament in Sardinia, Italy -- remember that country was one of the first COVID hotspots back in February -- top seeded Fabio Fognini was forced to withdraw after he tested positive for the coronavirus. Some reports say that more than a dozen others did as well.

And then there's the curious case of Sam Querrey who, along with his wife and child, was diagnosed earlier this week and broke quarantine to recover in an undisclosed neighboring country. I'm not sure I fault him for wanting to get out of Russia, but I certainly question his decision to go there in the first place.

After all, plenty of players have chosen to stay local during these uncertain times -- Simona Halep and Rafael Nadal stayed in Europe the last few months and put together some incredible results, while Ashleigh Barty, confined to Australia for some time, decided to win trophies in a whole other sport rather than travel to New York or Paris. But others have gone from one continent to another -- many without consequence, at least for now, but some, not so much.

In all at least ten of the top hundred players on the ATP have tested positive at some point this year -- Alexander Zverev, who raised more than a few eyebrows after his loss at Roland Garros, apparently was not COVID positive. Whether by good luck, less testing, or better safety measures, no one at the top of the WTA has. But there is something to be said about better protocols/more risk aversion -- many more of the top seeded women opted out of the U.S. Open compared to the men, and the WTA has only three tournaments left on the calendar this year, versus ten for the men, three of which are this week.

Now I know it's a difficult situation -- players need to be able to make their livings, and us fans want to watch them do it. But as much as I loved every moment of watching this year's French Open, I'm frankly stunned that it was able to be played through to completion, especially as Paris sees a resurgence in cases. Today president Emmanuel Macron, facing a record number of new positive cases this month, instituted a 9pm to 6am curfew for parts the country -- something that would have caused some scrambling had it happened a week ago, when Nadal was playing his semifinal match into the wee hours of the morning. And it just feels like we're pushing the limits of how much we can get away with.

So here's hoping the worst that comes out of the recent headlines is a few positive tests and no symptoms. And in the meantime, just wear a mask.

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