Tennis COVID cluster grows before Australian Open as world No.5 Andrey Rublev tests positive

A COVID-19 cluster linked to a tennis event in Abu Dhabi has grown again after world No.5 Andrey Rublev announced he had tested positive.

Rublev joins Rafael Nadal, Belinda Bencic, Ons Jabeur and Denis Shapovalov in quarantine with COVID after playing in this month’s World Tennis Championship exhibition.

All of the players are now in doubt for the Australian Open beginning on January 17.

Rublev said he tested positive after returning to Barcelona and has minimal symptoms.

“I am in isolation and following all the protocols under the supervision of doctors,” the Russian said.

“As you know, I am fully vaccinated and was preparing for tournaments – ATP Cup and Australian Open.

“Now I have to recover and I will go to Melbourne only when it will be safe for everyone.”

Rublev used his announcement to issue a plea to fans as COVID cases continue to rise across the world.

“I am very upset and concerned about what is happening,” the 2021 Australian Open quarter-finalist said.

“Please, take care of yourself and of the people around you.

“I will return to the court as soon as possible.”

Rublev’s positive test means five of the eight players who took part in the Abu Dhabi exhibition event currently have COVID.

Andy Murray, Dan Evans and Taylor Fritz have so far avoided the same fate.

Shapovalov, who defeated Nadal in the third-place playoff, tested positive upon arrival in Sydney over the Christmas weekend.

“I am following all protocols, including isolation and letting the people who I’ve been in contact with know.

“Right now I am experiencing minor symptoms and look forward to getting back on the court, when it is safe to do so.”

Nadal’s positive test, meanwhile, has left his participation in the Australian Open in further doubt.

The 2009 champion was already considering withdrawing from the Melbourne grand slam to manage his comeback from injury.

“I am having some unpleasant moments but I hope that I will improve little by little,” Nadal said on December 20.

“I am now homebound and have reported the result to those who have been in contact with me.

“As a consequence of the situation, I have to have total flexibility with my calendar and I will analyse my options. I will keep you informed of any decisions about my future tournaments!”

Nadal’s coach Carlos Moya also tested positive after the Abu Dhabi event.