The New York State Department of Health tried to shut down Friday’s U.S. Open third-round match between Adrian Mannarino of France and No. 5 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany due to the coronavirus.
The match was held up for two hours and 45 minutes over issues regarding the Frenchman’s status in the “bubble within a bubble’’ protocol before it eventually was played at Louis Armstrong Stadium. Ballboys and the chair umpire took the Armstrong Stadium court at 2:30 p.m., but were then told to leave.
Mannarino and Zverev eventually started the match at 5:20 p.m., but not before Armstrong Stadium sat empty of not only fans, but also players for most of the afternoon thanks to New York State. Zverev won the battle 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-2 6-2 after the Frenchman injured his groin late in the third set.
Mannarino — and 10 other players, the majority of them French — were associated with Benoit Paire last weekend before Paire tested positive for COVID-19 and was disqualified from the tournament. Those players were given special restrictions, but were allowed to stay in the Open on Sunday. But the state felt it was unsafe for Mannarino to play.
“I was preparing to go on court at 2:30,’’ Mannarino said. “The state department of health took over this decision to say I’ve been exposed to a positive case, so I should be quarantining in my room and can’t be able to go on a the tennis court and play my match. They [the USTA] were trying to see if this decision could be changed.”
It was, but not before the government had a large effect on the outcome. France’s Kristina Mladenovic, also in the extra bubble, called the additional restrictions “a nightmare’’ after losing her match Wednesday after being ahead 6-1, 5-1.
“I’m not going to call it a nightmare, that’s for sure,’’ Mannarino said. “I’ve been allowed to play. They put me in a situation I couldn’t give my best on the court, so I’m not going to complain about that.’’
In a statement, the USTA said: “The Zverev-Mannarino match was delayed while a collaborative dialogue with health officials was conducted today. Communication with the players was ongoing during the afternoon to keep them updated at all times. Given the sensitivity of the medical issues involved, the USTA is not able to provide further details.”
Mannarino, the lefty 32nd seed, had already been fined $2,500 when someone in his entourage failed to follow mask protocols.
He said after the loss he’ll be stuck in New York quarantining in his hotel room until being allowed to fly back to Europe on Friday.
Mannarino said he has not considered hiring a lawyer over the matter.
Mannarino and several other French players who played cards with Paire were put in “a bubble within a bubble’’ set up, restricting their movements even beyond the regular “bubble’’ for other Open entrants.
Mannarino has been spotted on the grounds walking while being surrounded by security.
Zverev, meanwhile, was seen lounging shirtless in a chair watching the Denis Shapovalov-Taylor Fritz matchup at Arthur Ashe Stadium. He drank from a water bottle and checked his phone while he was supposed to be on court at Armstrong.
“I was told there was very little chance we would play,’’ Zverev said. “But it was just kind of waiting around. I was relaxed. I was happy he was able to play. In the beginning I was a little cold.’’
Indications were city officials stepped in to save the match.
“I didn’t know the situation could change for myself,’’ Mannarino said. “On Sunday they told us we were eligible to play if we agreed to a new protocol.”
The state’s hard line means the Open is in danger of more cancellations if another player tests positive across the final week.
Mannarino didn’t blame the delay on his groin pull, but it could’ve been a contributor.
“During the third and fourth [sets], I was not able to give my best,’’ he said. “I couldn’t run as good. So had no chance to beat that type of player if I can’t give my best.”
Unlike other players, Mladenovic said she can’t leave her hotel room unless it is to go to the Flushing Meadows grounds to play her match, making her training limited.
“I haven’t been sleeping much,” said Mannarino after he beat American Jack Sock in the second round. “I’ve been thinking a lot. … The last thing I want to do now is be dangerous for any other players. I might be infected, I don’t know. So far I’m negative, but I just want everybody to be safe.”