French player Kristina Mladenovic is all but being held prisoner at the US Open after an innocent card game with infected colleague Benoit Paire.
The Frenchwoman ranked 44th had the misfortune to be in “close contact” with Paire and is now under virtual house arrest – all the while still alive in the second round of the Grand Slam.
“Kiki” and a small handful of mainly French players who came in contact with Paire in the Open run-up, were allowed to remain in the draw – against all initial protocols – but had to sign supplementary waivers which severely limit their freedom around the grounds of the deserted, no-fan tennis complex.
“Let’s make it simple, I’m allowed to play my match, I’m literally allowed to do nothing else,” Mladenovic said.
“I don’t know how we are going to keep going, but yeah, I’m not allowed to fitness, to any public like bubble thing,
“I’m not allowed to do anything anymore. I’m completely on my own with my brother / coach, so it is literally a bubble in the bubble, I don’t know how to be more precise.”
Among the more draconian requirements: no use of lifts in the player hotel (she’s on the seventh floor), no entry to the racquet stringer facility, all meals taken alone and no contact with others save playing matches.
This being America, there are surely plenty of legal traps written into the extra document signed by the small player group – the most severe being dismissal from the tournament.
Mladenovic said she sat at a card table near Paire for barely three-quarters of an hour.
“Since I arrived here I was super happy and super pumped – I still am, don’t get me wrong,” she said. “Bubble was pretty organised, you could do lots of things in terms of practice, performance, activities and so on.”
But that all evaporated once she was fingered in the Paire caper.
“It’s been a very tough last two, three days for me. I’m basically in a new bubble in a bubble so there’s not much I’m allowed to do.
“This makes it very tough for me to compete and mentally be kind of fresh and ready, but I’m just so relieved and grateful that I got to play and won my first match.
“I’ve been kind of enduring the last few days.”
Mladenovic and her brother-coach have had to make do as far as preparation for the second round.
“(I’m) literally seeing no one else, not allowed to any other facilities that have been put in place for the players.
“I still have to find a way and discuss with the USTA how we can organize things in order for me to be at least competitive, and have equipment to keep working.”