Benoit Paire has slammed the US Open’s “fake bubble” for players, while fellow star Kristina Mladenovic has described her “bubble in the bubble” as “kind of a nightmare” after several players came into contact with the Frenchman.
World number 22 Paire pulled out of the Cincinnati Masters after feeling ill on court last week, carrying out a positive test for COVID-19 inside the safety bubble that is keeping players isolated at the Grand Slam, which started on Monday.
The result forced the 17th seed to withdraw from the tournament on Sunday, issuing a withering appraisal of the steps being taken to protect the likes of world number one Novak Djokovic and former winner Andy Murray.
“Not in the bubble,” he told his following of more than 311,000 on Instagram, speaking for the first time since he tested positive while pledging to “come back stronger”.
Looks like Benoit Paire is saying the @usopen bubble is not a safe environment & that it is a fake bubble! Can French speakers confirm? pic.twitter.com/DBEjdHKbdU
.@USTA tells @ABC they are confident in their health & safety plan and that based on prelim discussions “it was made clear that the infected player was not adhering to the health protocols that have been approved by the State of New York.”Paire posted on IG “FAKE BUBBLE” #USOpenhttps://t.co/qvoyDxVPew
“I’m fine for now – I have no symptoms. I hesitate to tell what is really going on in this FAKE BUBBLE.”
Several players were identified as having been in contact with Paire after playing cards with him in a hotel lobbry.
“We got some bad news a couple of days ago and since then, for me, it was kind of a nightmare,” said French player Kristina Mladenovic, who is among the competitors to have had further restrictions imposed upon their movements.
“I am basically in a new ‘bubble in the bubble,’ so there’s not very much I’m allowed to do, which makes it tough for me to compete and mentally be kind of fresh and ready.”
Several leading players, including women’s world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty and men’s No. 2 Rafael Nadal, are not taking part in this year’s tournament because of health concerns as the pandemic continues to grip the US.
Sorry for your ears🤣 but you can’t imagine how it feels….. 💪🏻 #allez@usopenhttps://t.co/oyWlcpoZsI
Men’s favorite Djokovic endured stinging criticism for hosting an event in June that led to several players testing positive for the virus, having previously said that he felt the restrictions being planned for the US Open were “extreme”.
Organizers claimed that Paire had failed to follow state guidelines and revealed that his test had been one of two positive results from almost 8,000 tests conducted so far, coming alongside an infection for a non-player at the tournament.
“I wasn’t sure if I would be able to play here,” explained 30th seed Mladenovic after her straight sets first round win over American Hailey Baptiste.
“I’ve been put out of the bubble. I’m just very grateful I can be on the court today and safe.
“To get the win is amazing. I didn’t expect that.”