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How is the Australian Open dealing with international tennis players to ensure they are COVID-free?

Tennis stars and their coaching staff have started to arrive in Australia ahead of the Australian Open, which begins on February 8.

About 1,200 players and coaching staff are expected to travel to Australia for the tournament, which has been delayed by three weeks.

But there have already been hiccups, with Andy Murray and Madison Keys banned from travelling due to a positive coronavirus test — and Tennys Sandgren travelling despite a positive test.

There have also been accusations of double standards, with a large number of Australians still struggling to secure flights home — or even Victorians stranded in other red zones — while the tennis stars are given a free passage.

Are all players tested before they travel?

Yes, all the players and their coaches/entourage, which number 1,240 people, have to return a negative test before they can travel.

That ruled out five-time finalist Murray and Keys, who are now both isolating at home.

“We do know that two persons so far have been refused their approvals to be part of that program as a result of their negative tests not being up to scratch — indeed they have been positive,” Victoria’s Deputy Premier Martin Foley said at a press conference Friday morning.

“In regards to Mr Murray, we’ve been clear from the start: anyone who tests positive is not able to be part of the program coming into Melbourne and Australia.”

So what about Tennys Sandgren?

US star Sandgren did test positive in LA but was given special clearance to travel.

Tennys Sandgren tested positive, but was allowed to travel to Australia anyway.(AP: Andy Brownbill)

Sandgren tweeted he tested “COVID positive” on Monday, after originally testing positive in late November, and was initially barred from the flight containing international players out of Los Angeles.

COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria released a statement on Thursday saying it had reviewed Sandgren’s positive test result “as per standard processes” and he was cleared to travel to Australia.

It said the evidence in Sandgren’s case “suggested he had recovered from a previous COVID-19 infection and is still shedding viral particles”.

Can Andy Murray still come to play?

A tennis player closes his eye and roars in relief after winning a five-setter at the US Open.
Andy Murray is currently isolating in his home outside London.(AP: Seth Wenig)

Despite missing the charter flight, Murray has not definitively been ruled out of the tournament.

Murray is quarantining at home after his positive test and could still get to Australia, but he’d have to return a negative test first.

“Mr Murray and the other 1,240 people as part of the program need to demonstrate that if they’re coming to Melbourne they have returned a negative test,” Mr Foley said.

“Should Mr Murray arrive, which we’ve seen no indication that he will, he will be subject to those same rigorous arrangements as everyone else.”

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