PARIS • American Frances Tiafoe has joined the list of tennis players contracting the coronavirus, pulling out of an exhibition event in Atlanta organised by former top-10 player John Isner, who had controversially dismissed critics of the tournament as "coronabros".
Ranked 81st in the ATP rankings, Tiafoe said that he had tested negative in Florida the previous week before travelling to Georgia, where around 450 fans have been watching the eight-man event each day.
"Unfortunately, I tested positive late Friday for Covid-19 and have to withdraw from the All-American Team Cup special event this weekend," the 22-year-old tweeted on Saturday.
"Over the past two months, I have been training in Florida and tested negative there as recently as a week ago."
On the eve of the tournament, Isner had lashed out at sceptics who claimed it could not be held safely.
"You coronabros can stay in your basement all you want. I choose to live my life and play/promote the sport I love in a safe manner," the 35-year-old wrote on Twitter.
Fellow American player Sachia Vickery, 25, responded on Saturday: "Now would be a great time to RIP this tweet for good..."
Organisers of the event in Florida reacted to Tiafoe's news on social media, saying that he and all the other players were tested on their arrival in Atlanta and subjected to daily temperature tests.
"Tiafoe has left the event site and will not participate in the remainder of the event.
"We will continue to diligently enforce all guidelines from local health officials."
The statement added: "Following his match (a win against Sam Querrey), he was showing symptoms and was retested and tested positive. Upon learning this... we immediately began deep cleaning and sanitising the event site, and enacted protocols in place for contact tracing and alerting individuals who may have been exposed."
But their decision not to cancel the event drew more flak from observers, particularly as Tiafoe revealed in his post-match interview that he contemplated retiring and had not "felt the best the last couple of days".
Veteran tennis writer Ben Rothenberg tweeted: "Not only have players been testing positive at these mid-pandemic exhibitions, they've also been playing while symptomatic. Yikes."
Tiafoe's announcement follows the slew of players who contracted Covid-19 after appearing at Novak Djokovic's exhibition event in the Balkans last month.
Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki - as well as the world No. 1's coach Goran Ivanisevic - all tested positive at the Adria Tour event, where social distancing was at a minimum, raising serious questions for professional tennis' return next month.
Argentinian Franco Davin, the former coach of Grand Slam champion Juan Martin del Potro, has also tested positive for Covid-19.
The ATP Tour returns after its five-month coronavirus hiatus behind closed doors at the Washington Open on Aug 14, with the US Open at the end of the month.