Paris (AFP) – Frances Tiafoe on Saturday joined the list of tennis players to contract coronavirus, pulling out of an exhibition in Atlanta organised by former top 10 player John Isner who had controversially dismissed critics of the tournament as “coronabros”.
Ranked 81st in the ATP rankings, Tiafoe said he had tested negative in Florida last week before travelling to Georgia where around 450 spectators have been watching the eight-man event each day.
“Unfortunately, I tested positive late Friday for COVID-19 and have to withdraw from the All-American Team Cup special event this weekend,” the 22-year-old posted on Twitter.
“Over the past two months, I have been training in Florida and tested negative there as recently as a week ago.”
On the eve of the tournament, Isner had lashed out at sceptics who claimed it could not be held safely.
“You coronabros can stay in your basement all you want. I choose to live my life and play/promote the sport I love in a safe manner,” he said.
Fellow US player Sachia Vickery responded Saturday: “Now would be a great time to RIP this tweet for good…”
Tiafoe’s announcement follows the slew of players who contracted COVID-19 after appearing at Novak Djokovic’s exhibition event in the Balkans last month.
World number one Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki all tested positive at an Adria Tour where social distancing was at a minimum, raising serious questions for professional tennis’ return from lockdown in August.
Alexander Zverev, who tested negative in the Balkans, was then blasted as selfish for partying despite promising to self-isolate.
Organisers of the event in Florida reacted to Tiafoe’s news on social media, saying that he and all the other players were tested on their arrival in Atlanta and subjected to daily temperature tests.
“Tiafoe has left the event site and will not participate in the remainder of the event. We will continue to diligently enforce all guidelines from local health officials.”
The statement added: “Following his match (a win against Sam Querrey), he was showing symptoms and was retested and tested positive.
“Upon learning this information, we immediately began deep cleaning and sanitizing the event site, and enacted protocols in place for contact tracing and alerting individuals who may have been exposed.”
The ATP Tour returns after its five month coronavirus hiatus with the behind closed doors Washington Open on August 14, with the US Open at the end of the month.
Also, Franco Davin, the former coach of Juan Martin del Potro and Gaston Gaudio, has tested positive for coronavirus. Davin is based out of Miami where he teaches tennis.
Former Indian doubles player Mahesh Bhupathi voiced his dismay at the rising number of positive tests.
“When both common sense and logic go out the window, someone with some influence and authority needs to step up and say what’s going on just needs to stop,” he tweeted Saturday.
“Sure everyone wants a pay day but this is poor leadership all round. ‘safety first’ RIGHT!!!”