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U.S. Open: Women’s doubles team removed after potential exposure

A day after talks between the U.S. Tennis Association and health officials over a player’s quarantine status delayed a match for three hours, the top-seeded women’s doubles team was withdrawn from the tournament because of concerns over exposure to covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Kristina Mladenovic and Timea Babos were removed from the doubles draw because Mladenovic was in a group of people who spent time around Benoît Paire, a French player who tested positive Sunday and was withdrawn from the tournament.

On Friday, New York public health officials had attempted to prevent No. 32 seed Adrian Mannarino — also one of the people who had close contact with Paire — from playing his third-round singles match against No. 5 seed Alexander Zverev. After a wait of nearly three hours, they took the court, and Zverev won the match in four sets.

Why Mannarino was permitted to play and Mladenovic was not is unclear. Both players were determined to be part of the potentially exposed group earlier in the week. Mannarino played three singles matches before being eliminated; Mladenovic played two singles matches and a doubles match.

“Public health officials of Nassau County, N.Y., have issued quarantine notices for all individuals who had prolonged close contact to a person who previously tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus,” the USTA said in a statement. “As the players are staying in Nassau County, the quarantine notices prevent any of these individuals from commuting to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City. The USTA is obligated to adhere to government guidance at the State, City and County level. All persons who were identified as having prolonged close contact with the infected player will quarantine in their rooms for the remainder of their quarantine period. Kristina Mladenovic is one of these individuals, and as the Women’s Doubles competition has begun, the women’s doubles team of Kristina Mladenovic and Timea Babos has been withdrawn from the US Open.”

As for the matches that went on uninterrupted, Frances Tiafoe won his bout with Marton Fucsovics, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2, to advance to the fourth round for the first time. Tiafoe’s second-round match was a grueling, marathon effort, but Saturday’s match took less than two hours in Louis Armstrong Stadium as the Hyattsville native emerged as the last American man standing in the singles field.

Third-seeded Daniil Medvedev took out the other American contender of the day, J.J. Wolf, in straight sets and will face Tiafoe next. Last year’s runner-up in New York, Medvedev defeated Tiafoe in the first round of the Australian Open this year, but the 22-year-old is playing with a newfound gusto after tennis’s months-long hiatus.

“Definitely one of my best performances, start to finish,” Tiafoe said. “I wasn’t really making so many unforced errors. I was playing very aggressive. I mean, I was playing smart. I wasn’t trying to be too fancy. I just kind of got it done today. Very professional, very businesslike. Those are the kind of performances I’m looking forward to in the future.”

Tiafoe, ranked 82nd in the world, is one of just four unseeded men to have broken through to the fourth round. Canadian Vasek Pospisil upset eighth-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut in five sets Saturday to join him, backing up a busy time off the court with on-court results. Along with Novak Djokovic, Pospisil was a driving force behind the formation of the Professional Tennis Players’ Association, a breakaway group from the ATP designed to advocate for player interests.

On the women’s side, France’s Alizé Cornet moved into the fourth round after her American opponent, Madison Keys, retired with an injury while trailing 7-6 (7-4), 3-2. She will face Tsvetana Pironkova, who upset No. 18 seed Donna Vekic; this is the unranked Bulgarian’s first professional event since Wimbledon in 2017.

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