NEW YORK (Reuters) - France’s Kristina Mladenovic complained of living a “nightmare” due to the COVID-19 health protocols at the U.S. Open tennis after suffering a spectacular meltdown to lose to Russian Varvava Gracheva in her second-round match on Wednesday.
Against an opponent ranked outside the top 100 and playing her first Grand Slam, Mladenovic looked set for a breezy win while serving at 6-1 5-1 but things went downhill for her abruptly and she ended up losing 1-6 7-6(2) 6-0.
Mladenovic was one of several athletes placed under an “enhanced protocol plan” for being in contact with compatriot Benoit Paire, who tested positive for the novel coronavirus and was withdrawn ahead of the Grand Slam.
“We’re living a nightmare here. I have only one desire and that is to regain my freedom,” the 44th-ranked Mladenovic told reporters in French. “We have to fight to have our freedom and even that we don’t have yet.”
The United States Tennis Association’s (USTA) protocols have meant that players in contact with Paire are being tested for COVID-19 every day rather than once in four days and are confined to hotel rooms.
Mladenovic, who along with partner Timea Babos are the top seeds for women’s doubles, earlier said she felt like being stuck inside a “bubble within a bubble”.
She was lost for words to explain her loss after having four match points on Gracheva’s serve at 5-2 in the second set.
“At 5-2, I just collapsed. I have nothing more to say, I’m completely devastated,” she said. “It’s absolutely abominable how they are treating us, but I don’t want that to be an excuse for my defeat.
“It’s not the USTA’s fault that I didn’t convert four match points, don’t get me wrong.”
Mladenovic said despite “thirty negative tests” she was still treated like a prisoner and a criminal.
“The conditions are atrocious and if I had known that playing cards for 40 minutes with a player who tested positive, but ultimately negative, would have resulted in these consequences, I would never have set foot in this tournament,” she said.
Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by Christopher Cushing
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