Belinda Bencic baulked at playing an opponent freshly arrived from Italy, with the WTA No. 8 skipping a match with a compatriot at the weekend in Swiss interclub play.

Bencic refused to take to the court against 155th-ranked Leonie Küng, who had travelled through the night to make it to the home event.

Palermo, where the WTA is restarting the COVID-interrupted season after a break of five months, had  one positive virus test to an unnamed qualifier, who never set foot on the court.

Kung lost in qualifiers in Sicily and struggled to make it to Chiasso, just over the Italian border to southern Switzerland for a Sunday start against Bencic.

But with health threats a top current concern in tennis, Bencic simply refused to play, leaving King bitter about the experience.

“This is total arbitrariness,” the player’s mother, Dana Bencic, told Blick. “Leonie was tested on Corona in Palermo three days ago. The result was negative. 

“Since then she has been in quarantine at the hotel and has always been shuttled to the tennis courts and the airport. She also wore a mask all the time.

“The one person who tested positive for the coronavirus in Palermo had to leave immediately. The WTA measures are as rigorous as possible.”

Bencic’s team suggested the pair meet in doubles, with Bencic forfeiting the singles, but that plan was rejected. “Leonie didn’t leave Palermo in the middle of the night for this,” her mother said. 

The Bencic move has exploded into a minor Swiss controversy, with Bencic and her club team ultimately withdrawing from the national competition. 

Bencic followed up by pulling without explanation from the WTA Prague tournament starting at the weekend.

She will be replaced by France’s 59th-ranked Alizé Cornet. 

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