It may not have been the most outlandish sports story of 2020. But Sam Querrey’s exit into the darkness of Russia after testing positive for COVID-19 ranks up there. It was considered a “serious breach of protocol“By ATP, potentially subject to a $ 100,000 fine and prolonged suspension. Ten weeks later, ATP concluded his investigation, issuing Querrey a suspended fine of $ 20,000, provided he does not commit “further violations of health and safety protocols related to COVID-19 within a six-month trial period.”
Still, Querrey worries that a tennis community is judging him harshly, not armed with all the facts. Consider this a frequently asked question about your misadventure, as well as a look at what can go wrong on an international circuit during a pandemic. As he says, “It is not as simple as, Oh, I got COVID, and then I went to see my wife and I said, ‘Let’s get out of here. I just want to say what happened and then people can judge me for what happened. If you still hate me after you know what happened, that’s fine. “
SI: So what happened?
Sam querrey: Since tennis started at the US Open, there have essentially been one or two people who have contracted COVID-19 at each tournament, and those people would simply self-quarantine themselves at the tournament hotel for what seemed like 10-14 days , whatever the local situation. was the rule, and then you would go on your merry way.
So for me, when I was playing in Saint Petersburg, [my wife, son and I] It arrived on Wednesday in advance, in the afternoon. We got up on Thursday morning, we went to do our COVID tests at the hotel; we got the tests later that day, we were negative [and were told]: “Come back four days later for another test.”
So the Sunday before the tournament started, my wife and I went down, we did another COVID test. I went to practice; she stayed in the room with the baby. On Sunday afternoon, I got a call from the woman organizing the COVID tests. “Hey you and your wife tested positive, can you come down and get another test to make sure it’s positive?” No problem. We go down the stairs, do another test and go back to the room.
She calls back a couple of hours later. “Hey, you guys tested positive. Please stay in the room. Someone is going to come up to you. “I know that’s the risk and the rules, and we had no problem with that. An ATP rep came up.” Hey, make sure they stay in the room, order the rooms. Do you guys need anything? So it sucks, like I said, but that’s the plan so we’re doing it. We quarantine ourselves for two days, we’re only getting room service, they’re bringing boxes of takeout, Putting new sheets outside the door doesn’t seem like a big deal, we’ll quarantine there for two weeks and feel safe, we’re at the tournament hotel, everything is fine.
Then two days later, around 8pm, I got a call from one of the ATP supervisors. “Hey, you guys can’t stay at the hotel anymore. And two doctors will come to your room, one for you and your wife, and a pediatrician for your baby. And they will determine if you have symptoms or not, and if you have symptoms, the three of them will go to the hospital for a minimum of two weeks. ”
And I had this on speaker, so my wife starts to panic. Obviously I’m not happy with that, because we feel safe in the tournament hotel. Now, two doctors come at random? Who are the doctors? I have no idea who they are with, what hospital they are in, what is going on. And I couldn’t get any answer.
Also, our son is seven months old at the time, his teeth are coming in, and he has a slight fever anyway. And then I did not know if the doctors would determine that he has a fever, it is symptomatic. “Are they going to take the baby alone to a different hospital than the one we were going to go to?” And no one answered these questions for me. No one could say, “Oh, they sure will be together,” or anything like that.
So, at that moment, I felt very uncomfortable. And not to mention that it was 10pm at night, so I said to the tour supervisor, “Hey, I’m not letting the medics come into the room at 10pm on Sunday. The baby is sleeping. We also have essentially no symptoms. We’re all fine. “And then, at that point, I called [my agent] John Tobias and we’ve reached out to ATP to hopefully get some answers and help. I say, “Hey, we feel very vulnerable, it’s very uncomfortable. It is in the hands of these Russian doctors, and they are going to determine whether or not we go to a hospital in Russia for two weeks. ”
Once again, we were very happy at the hotel. We were distancing ourselves. We were not close to anyone, we were staying in the room and never had a complaint or a problem. So I said, “Please try to get the doctors to come the next morning at 10 am, not Sunday night at 10 pm.” The tour finally agreed to that, and because we were still going to get help from the tour, the embassy. But I had to make a decision between 10 pm and 10 am the next day. I had my wife there and my baby there, and as a human decision, I said, “Hey, I’m not comfortable with this.” So we made the decision to rent a plane and leave.
SI: Let me stop you there. The only thing I see people saying is: This is what you signed up for. You take your family across an ocean during COVID and this is a possibility. What is your answer?
SQ: I tell those people, my plan was initially to play the French Open, then St. Petersburg, then Cologne, then Vienna, then Paris, so it was going to be a seven to eight week trip. We have a baby and I didn’t want to be away from my wife and son for so long; They didn’t want to be away from me for so long, so they came. And we knew that there was a risk of contracting COVID, and that the rule was going to be quarantine in the hotel, and we agreed with that. It’s not like we are the only people. I was not the only person who brought a wife and a baby. Other players also brought their wife and children. This is how tennis works. We were aware of the risk, but we thought that nothing more than quarantine would never occur in a hotel room.
SI: So how did you come out?
SQ: I contacted an aircraft broker and said: “Can I take a plane in about nine hours from St. Petersburg to London? And he came and bought me one. And we left the hotel early in the morning so they wouldn’t see us, went straight to the private jet terminal in St. Petersburg and flew to London.
I will say that on that trip my wife and I wear medical masks, we use N-95, we never take off the mask to take a sip of water or a bite of food all the time. We landed, went straight to an Airbnb I rented, and were quarantined there for two weeks. I felt that as a father and husband there is a human element to this, and I had to do what I felt was right. I was not willing to let our family go to the hospital for at least two weeks where we were.
Once I landed, the story broke out, as I’m sure you saw. That’s where i got frustrated [because] made it look like I just got COVID and it bounced. I didn’t feel how he was portrayed after that it was fair. I didn’t turn away the doctors at the door, I just asked them to come the next day, and they accepted that. I read that they offered us a luxury apartment; They never offered us a luxury apartment. They offered us a apartment, but they didn’t tell me where it was, how we were going to get food, and they offered us that apartment Yes these doctors determined that all three of us had no symptoms.
In my opinion, we didn’t really put anyone in danger, we kept ourselves to ourselves, we had two masks; We did everything we could on that trip to minimize exposure to anyone and frankly I think we did a great job. Talk to doctors [afterwards] They said, “Look, you guys did a great job of doing that, and I can’t just see how you would have passed it on to someone during that trip.”
SI: I guess this was not a financially lucrative week.
SQ: That was a very, very expensive flight. It was around $ 40,000. And I also had to pay for two weeks of an Airbnb in London.
SI: Where is the ATP Tour in all of this?
SQ: There is the fine line. I have a good relationship with the ATP. I don’t hit them and make them look bad. We were trying to reach out to the ATP and ask for help, and they kind of said, “Hey, now it’s out of our hands. It’s the local authorities, now it’s up to them. “From one week to the next, they deal with different health authorities in different parts of the world. And then, in this situation, once the player gets sick or tests positive, they go straight back to the health authorities.
SI: What did you think of the press release and the punishment? What do you think of what came out a few days ago?
SQLook, essentially, I’m not suspended or fined, assuming I’ve been good for six months. I’m happy about that. I wish the statement could read something a little more like “Hey, based on extenuating circumstances, we feel like Sam made a decision for his family.” In the future, I think the tour could do a better job of giving players the COVID protocol. Sam regrets what he had to do, but feels like he had to do it, and together we would go a little further and do a better job.
Most people just read a headline and it’s like, “Querrey breaks protocol and gets suspended with a $ 20,000 fine.” I felt the wording was a bit harsh, but if you dig deep and see it, there is essentially no punishment.
SI: What else should people know?
SQ: The easiest option for us was to stay at the hotel in Russia during the 10-14 day quarantine and then fly home. That’s what I wanted to do all the time. And that option was taken away from me. So I had to do what I had to do. At no point did I think, “COVID, let’s get out of here.”
SI: How were your symptoms?
SQ: I describe it as on a scale of 1 to 10, we had symptoms that were 1.5-2 … sore throat, runny nose, three days later we were fine. In my opinion, we didn’t need to go to the hospital at all. I don’t know if we would have gone to the hospital, but maybe we did. So I don’t know these doctors, who they were, what they were going to say….[In London] We just quarantined ourselves and honestly we feel good three days later.
SI: How much of this do you think is grouped with Adria Tour and [Alexander] Zverev in the French, basically, are you grouped with some predecessors and people who do not make distinctions?
SQ: I mean, I don’t know. I don’t think about it much. I think they are all different situations. There are many people where COVID feels strongly that there should be no events. So, there is a group of people where no matter what you have done, they are just angry because you left home … At no point did I remove my mask or do anything to spread the virus. I followed the rules all the time. I did everything right until they put me in this very uncomfortable situation.
SI: Other than all this, you haven’t played a game in 90 days. What has been the impact of all this on your tennis?
SQ: The last six weeks I have been practicing like a normal offseason. And I am not the only one who has not played many games; There are a lot of guys who haven’t played a lot of games so I’m excited to go to Delray, I’m excited to go to the Australian Open. I’m nervous, in a way, like it’s still going to be okay. You hardly know what your level will be. So I’m trying not to set my expectations too high. I feel like I’ve worked really hard the last six, seven weeks in the gym and on the court. But that doesn’t always mean that you’re going to go to Australia and have a career. Hopefully we will put that into practice throughout the year, but I’m excited to get out there and play.
SI: And you will go to Delray, you will go to Australia.
SI: I guess the family probably won’t join you until spring …
SQ: They don’t come, no. I mean, even if all of this didn’t happen, I don’t think they would come.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.