By Giri Nathan
Happy New Year! This auspicious day would ordinarily mark the approach of Grand Slam tennis, and new beginnings, and bold resolutions, and so much other brightness, but humanity has it pretty rough right now, so instead we’ll be talking about—let’s see here—Sam Querrey.
Stick with me, though. Roughly a decade ago, in October 2020, you might have heard about the American tennis player’s stirring escape from local authorities at the St. Petersburg Open. Our comrade Ben Rothenberg spared no colorful detail in his Twitter reportage, which I encourage you to read in full, but long story short: Querrey and his wife tested positive for COVID-19 a day before the tournament began, and didn’t let a tournament-appointed doctor into their hotel room to check their symptoms, choosing instead to flee the hotel—and eventually Russia altogether—with their 8-month-old son, via private jet. Sitting as far away from the pilot as possible, the refugees successfully made their way to an Airbnb in some nearby European country that remains undisclosed. (I’m genuinely still curious which country took them in. That’s a good plot point!) The Querreys were reportedly concerned about a potential hospitalization in Russia that would have separated them from their son; while it’s unfortunate that players were even put in a position to work out trade-offs between professional and personal life, mid-pandemic does not seem like a great time to tour internationally with the whole family, if alternatives were available. But that’s how the three ended up in the jet. At the time, the ATP flagged this improvised getaway as a “serious breach of protocol” and promised to take “the matter extremely seriously.”
On Wednesday, the ATP announced the results of their investigation into this incident. Their findings? Querrey had committed “conduct contrary to the integrity of the game,” that incredibly broad provision in the ATP handbook that encompasses breach-of-pandemic protocol and Nick Kyrgios tanking and berating fans. The punishment? A $20,000 fine—sort of. Citing Querrey’s “otherwise good standing with the ATP and other mitigating factors,” the tour said the fine will be suspended, and eventually waved away so long as Querrey does not violate COVID-19 protocol again over the next six months. If that’s the punishment for fleeing tournament medical officials, and a tournament, and a country, after testing positive for COVID-19, without informing anyone, then, whew. Do less “serious” breaches of protocol earn a disappointed voicemail? Or a confiscation of the offender’s videogame console? Why should the tour even bother with protocol at all? If the punishment is a slap on the wrist, and the slapping palm is actually just hovering over their wrist for six months, our heroes will be back at the nightclub, shirtless and howling, in no time.
But maybe this is unfair. Maybe ATP players have learned the hard lessons of this deadly year, and they’re ready to stay responsible.
Oh, right. More cool dispatches from the great American culture war. I feel bad for the people of Australia. Don’t let us in.
Above: Sam Querrey under the weather at the French Open. (Getty)