NEW YORK – French tennis player Benoit Paire tested positive for the coronavirus and was removed from the U.S. Open field, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Sunday.
Paire is the first player to test positive ahead of the Grand Slam tournament, which begins Monday without spectators amid the pandemic.
The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because Paire’s status had not been announced by the U.S. Tennis Association. The USTA later issued a statement saying a player — whom it did not identify by name — “has been withdrawn” from the U.S. Open after testing positive for COVID-19. The statement said the player is asymptomatic.
The 31-year-old Paire was seeded 17th and was supposed to face Kamil Majchrzak of Poland in the first round on Tuesday. Paire’s spot in the draw was filled by 149th-ranked Marcel Granollers, who now plays Majchrzak.
Contact tracing will try to determine who might have been exposed to Paire and needs to be quarantined.
His positive test was first reported by French newspaper L’Equipe.
The person who spoke to the AP said Paire’s result was the second that came back positive out of more than 7,000 tests for COVID-19 administered by the USTA so far as part of its “controlled environment” for the U.S. Open and the Western & Southern Open.
“There’s so many people involved in this tournament. The possibility that somebody is going to be positive is pretty high. I just wish all the best to Benoit. Hopefully nobody else is positive, as well. That’s the most important thing,” said Dominic Thiem, a three-time Grand Slam runner-up who is seeded No. 2 at the U.S. Open.
“I think there is no safer place in the world right now than here. Maybe you can lock yourself somewhere in a cave or something — I don’t know, in the middle of the sea,” Thiem said. “Otherwise, it’s super safe here. We are in a bubble.”
The Western & Southern Open, which ended Saturday, is normally held in Ohio but was moved to the U.S. Open’s site in Flushing Meadows this year. Players and their guests were all subject to tests upon arrival and again over the course of their stay for the two events.
On Aug. 20, the USTA announced one positive test but did not identify whose it was, saying only it was not from a player. Eventually, two players — Argentina’s Guido Pella and Bolivia’s Hugo Dellien — said it was their fitness trainer who had tested positive for COVID-19 and that is why they were dropped from the Western & Southern Open.
Paire stopped playing his opening match in the Western & Southern Open on Aug. 22 while trailing 6-1, 1-0 against Borna Coric.
Paire is ranked 22nd, owns three ATP titles and reached the fourth round of the U.S. Open in 2015, equaling his best showing at any Grand Slam tournament.
He lost in the second round in New York last year.
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