Two positive COVID-19 tests at Australian Open qualifying in Doha


FILE PHOTO: Aug 30, 2019; Flushing, NY, USA; Denis Kudla of the United States returns a shot against Novak Djokovic of Serbia in a third round match on day five of the 2019 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) - Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina and American Denis Kudla have been withdrawn from the Australian Open qualifying event in Doha after testing positive for COVID-19, organisers Tennis Australia said on Tuesday.

The men's qualifying tournament for the year's first Grand Slam is being hosted by Qatar from Jan. 10-13, while the women are competing in Dubai.

Players are set to begin arriving in Melbourne this week for the Australian Open and Victoria's government has said it was imposing the strongest protocols seen at any tennis tournament for the Feb. 8-21 event.

"Two players have returned a positive COVID-19 test at Australian Open men's qualifying in Doha, Qatar," Tennis Australia said in a statement. "Both players have been withdrawn from the tournament and transferred to a quarantine hotel.

"Local health authorities, the tournament physician and medical team are monitoring each individual. Contact tracing is currently underway to notify close contacts."

Morocco's Elliot Benchetrit, who lost 6-4 6-3 to fourth seed Kudla, said in a video posted on Instagram that news of the positive test reached match officials when the American was leading 5-3 in the second set.

However, they did not interrupt the match to inform Kudla of the positive test and the American broke serve to seal the win.

"The rule was to finish the game in progress before the match was stopped and it was during the last game of the match so he was declared the winner ..." Benchetrit told the Tennis Majors website by telephone.

A Tennis Australia spokesperson said local health authorities inform organisers in writing if a player tests positive. The player is then notified as soon as possible, which can be during a match.

Australian wildcard Dane Sweeny received a walkover into the third and final round of qualifying due to Kudla's withdrawal.

Also advancing on account of a walkover was Mario Vilella Martinez of Spain after Cerundolo beat Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-2 6-4 before being withdrawn.

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Peter Rutherford)

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