On Sunday morning in his hotel room in Melbourne, Rohan Bopanna received two messages. He was waiting for the first, which confirmed he had tested ‘negative’ for Covid-19 when he landed in the city to compete in the Australian Open. The second was a cause of worry.
One of the passengers on his flight from Doha, QR7485, had tested positive for Coronavirus, which meant all travellers on that plane would be sent into a strict quarantine.
“One positive COVID-19 test has been returned from a passenger on a charter flight into Melbourne from Doha which arrived at 5:30 AM on 16 January,” the Australian Open tweeted a few hours later.
“The 25 players on the flight will not be able to leave their hotel room for 14 days and until they are medically cleared. They will not be eligible to practise.”
Bopanna, India’s highest ranked doubles player, World No.38, is now among the 72 players that will be forced to undergo a hard quarantine. The list includes, but is not limited to, the likes of former World No.4 Kei Nishikori, former World No 1s Victoria Azarenka and Angelique Kerber, and 2017 and 2019 US Open champions Sloane Stephens and Bianca Andreescu respectively.
“I got my test result this morning, which said ‘negative,’” Bopanna told The Indian Express. “But by now we all know that it’s not just your test result, everybody on the plane you were on needs to have tested negative.”
It is the fourth positive case so far from the 15 chartered flights that arrived in Melbourne carrying players to the year’s first Grand Slam. On Saturday, two people, including a flight crew member, tested positive on flight QR7493 from Los Angeles. A few hours later, Andresscu’s coach, Sylvain Bruneau, who was aboard EY8004 from Abu Dhabi also tested positive. No player has tested positive so far.
Bopanna’s coach Scott Davidoff was also on the flight from Los Angeles, and will also serve the 14-day hard quarantine.
Tennis Australia, organisers of the major, had secured a relaxation from the Victorian Government to allow players to leave their hotel rooms for five hours a day to train and practice during the 14-day period. The 72 who were on board the three flights though will not be allowed to leave their rooms at all.
“We were aware that there was a possibility of (someone testing positive on the flight). What we didn’t know is that the entire flight would be quarantined,” Bopanna says. “We had zones on the flight. There was nobody in my row, or in the rows in front or behind me. If you were in one zone, you couldn’t go to another. It was maintained like that so that if someone tested positive, maybe the people near that person or just that zone (could be put into isolation). But now the entire flight is being quarantined.”
He’s got another “12 days” (he laments) to kill before he can leave his room and prepare for the Slam.
“I’ll have to try and have a basic routine. I have my yoga stuff and some fitness bands. I have to do things to make sure the mind is occupied. Maybe some online courses, or if the mood requires it, watch some good Hindi movies,” he says.
“Luckily the (Australia vs India Test) was on and India was batting well, so I watched that. But watching television is only interesting if there is live sport on. There is a Manchester United match (against Liverpool), but that’ll be around three in the morning. But maybe I’ll put an alarm on and watch it. I have nowhere else to go.”
One of his favourite things to do is to explore the cities he’s travelled to. But till January 29, his room is as much of Australia as he will get to see.
“Of course, there are a couple of corners in the room which I haven’t explored,” he says lightly. “Now I’ll have time to do that.”