Australian Open officials clarify COVID-19 testing, mask protocols

MELBOURNE, Australia -- After COVID-19 safety protocols had been called into question, Australian Open organizers clarified the process on Day 4 of the tournament.

Tournament officials on Thursday said daily rapid antigen tests were being provided, testing clinics were open both onsite and at the player hotel, and there was mandatory symptomatic testing.

Masks also must be worn at all times at Melbourne Park except when playing, exercising or eating and drinking. Tournament organizers said everyone who traveled into Australia for the year's first major had to undergo a mandatory PCR test on arrival and another between Days 5 and 7.

Safety protocols at the event have been a touchy subject, particularly after nine-time champion Novak Djokovic was deported for failing to meet the country's strict vaccination requirements.

So Olympic champion Alexander Zverev attracted wide attention after his second-round match when he said "we are not getting tested'' and, therefore, there's more COVID-19 cases around now than there were in the more locked-down environment of last year.

Because of a surge in the omicron variant and more pressure on the public health system, PCR testing has become more difficult to access in Melbourne and rapid antigen tests have also been in short supply.

Players, their entourages, officials and media are required to show evidence of regular negative tests to access Melbourne Park.

"They are very strict,'' fourth-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas said. ``Well, it's the responsibility of each and every athlete to test themselves regularly to see whether or not they are positive, which has been the case for me.

"I have been trying to get a few antigen tests and rapid tests to see whether or not I'm positive, which is a responsibility that I have, it's something that I have to do in order to see if I'm 100%.''

Former major champions including Garbine Muguruza and Andy Murray are among those who said they were testing themselves regularly -- treating it like an honesty system.

"I want to keep myself and my team safe and everyone around me,'' Australian player Maddison Inglis said of the precautionary testing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.