Updated Feb 4, 2021 - Sports

Over 500 Australian Open tennis players and staff isolate after COVID case

Serena Williams of the US signs autographs for fans after beating Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova in their Yarra Valley Classic women's singles tennis match in Melbourne
Serena Williams, pictured signing autographs for fans after beating Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova in their Yarra Valley Classic women's singles tennis match in Melbourne on Wednesday, won't have to isolate. Photo: William West/AFP via Getty Images

One COVID-19 case contracted at a Melbourne quarantine hotel has caused 507 tennis players and staff to go into isolation until they return a negative test result, four days out from the Australian Open beginning.

Why it matters: The first community case in the state of Victoria for 28 days has resulted in new restrictions implemented and the cancelation of all of Thursday's scheduled warm-up games.

  • 160 players were among those back in isolation, some two weeks after clearing Melbourne's mandatory hotel quarantine, officials said.

Driving the news: A 26-year-old volunteer firefighter, who'd been working with the Open as a resident support officer at the Grand Hyatt hotel, tested negative for the coronavirus while at the end of his shift Jan. 29 but later developed symptoms, state Premier Dan Andrews announced late Wednesday.

  • In response, Andrews imposed restrictions including a 15-person limit on private gatherings and reintroduced a mask mandate.

For the record: Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley told reporters he was "absolutely confident" the tournament will start Monday as scheduled and that lead-in events will take place.

  • Testing of all of those isolating was due to be completed later on Thursday.
  • Up to 30,000 spectators a day would be allowed to attend the two-week event.

Of note: While it's unclear which players were affected by the isolation order, tennis stars Serena Williams and Novak Djokic won't have to isolate as they spent their 14-day mandatory quarantine in the South Australian city of Adelaide.

Flashback: Djokovic was among a group of tennis players who last month sent a letter demanding Victorian authorities ease strict quarantine rules for players ahead of the season-opening tennis major's Feb. 8. start.

  • Soon after, 72 players were required to fully isolate in their hotel rooms for 14 days after an outbreak of seven coronavirus cases linked to the tournament.

The big picture: Melbourne had one of the world's longest lockdowns, with restrictions in place on the city of 5 million for 139 days before being lifted last October.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with the latest details on the number of people affected by the isolation order and with comment from Tiley.

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