Sport Aust Open qualifying hit by coronavirus as Tomic wins first-round match

Aust Open qualifying hit by coronavirus as Tomic wins first-round match

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Bernard Tomic took the first step towards redemption with his qualifying win in Doha on Monday. Photo: AAP
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American Denis Kudla has tested positive for COVID-19 at the Australian Open qualifying tournament in Doha and has been sent to a quarantine hotel.

Fourth-seeded Kudla downed Moroccan Elliot Benchetrit 6-4 6-3 but the match ended in controversy as his result came through half-way through the match.

The coronavirus outbreak comes as Australia’s one-time world No.17 Bernard Tomic, 28, is two victories from a ticket to Melbourne Park after battling for more than two hours to win his first-round qualifying match in Doha.

Fetching his own balls without ball kids and playing before no crowds, a fully-focused Tomic outlasted Slovakian Jozef Kovalik 6-4 3-6 6-4 in a sweat-soaked baseline grind on Monday night.

He hopes his “top-20” pedigree will be enough to secure an 11th appearance in the Australian Open draw and ultimately revive his flagging tennis career.

The latest positive COVID-19 text result reportedly came through with Kudla leading 5-3 in the second set, and according to Benchetrit they had to finish the game in progress.

Because Kudla, the world No.114, won that game which wrapped up the match, he was declared the winner.

If Benchetrit had won the game, it would have been declared a walkover in his favour.

“At 5-3, they got the result. So to sum up: if I’d won that game at 5-3 to make it 5-4, I’d have qualified for the second round,” Benchetrit said on Instagram.

In another blow, Benchetrit may also have to isolate if he is deemed a close contact.

However, it was good news for teenage Queenslander Dane Sweeny, who was supposed to face Kudla in his second match, but instead moves straight into the final round of qualifying – which is being held offshore for the first time.

 

Benchetrit told the Tennis Majors website that players are bizarrely permitted to play before getting their test results, which have taken longer than expected.

“The concept of a test is to have the information up front, to not put the linespeople, the opponent or – quite simply – everyone the person might meet before or after their match in danger,” he said.

“There also are lucky losers who are waiting for a forfeit to be able to play, who travelled there for nothing.

“The draw is compromised; there will be a player in the third round of qualifications having played just one match.

“That’s also the problem.”

Benchetrit believes Kudla must have contracted the coronavirus in Doha, given this would have been his third test since arriving in Qatar.

Tomic plummets to 228 but hopes to qualify for Aust Open

Without a top-level tour win in 18 months and having earned just $US23,684 ($30,740) during his COVID-ravaged 2020 campaign, Tomic has plummeted to No.228 in the rankings.

But the 28-year-old showed no signs of the back injury that forced his retirement from a UTR match in Brisbane last month as he overcame an opponent ranked almost 100 places above him.

“I’d love to qualify for the Australian Open. I’ve played so well there in the past 10 years,” Tomic said.

“A few times I’ve made the third round, three times the fourth round. So it’s been an unbelievable tournament for me.

“I hope I get my chance in the draw. So I’ll try. I haven’t played much tennis. I only started practising a couple of months ago so there’s not much to expect.

“I’ll try my best.”

Once derided as “Tomic the Tank Engine”, the dual grand slam junior champion and 2011 Wimbledon quarter-finalist confessed to doing little training between March and September last year as coronavirus forced much of world sport into shutdown mode.

“But the last couple of months were good,” he told AAP.

“I’m not the type of guy who’s going to train five or six hours a day.

“I never needed to. I did a lot of hours on court when I was young and that sort of built my game to where I was.

“It’s more about concentration and doing the right things and keeping your head straight.

“If my head’s there and I’m focused, I’m always a top-30 player, (top) 20 player and even (top) 10.

“So I’ve got to do the right things. I have a chance here so I’ll be focused for sure.”

Tomic crowned a hugely successful second day for Australia’s men’s qualifying hopefuls.

He next faces young West Australian Tristan Schoolkate, who beat Argentine Guido Andreozzi 7-6 (7-1) 6-4.

-with AAP