Mystery illness deemed as 'the US Open bug' spreads around tournament

Mystery illness deemed ‘the US Open bug’ spreads around this year’s tournament – with one player saying she ‘feels like a zombie’ and others struggling with sniffs and coughs

  • Persistent coughing, sneezing and sniffing can be heard throughout matches  
  • Ons Jabeur described feeling like a ‘zombie’ due to flu-like symptoms last week
  • provides all the latest international sports news 

A bug appears to be spreading around at this year’s edition of the US Open, with a certain number of players either suffering shocking upsets or being forced to retire due to illness ahead of the start of the tournament’s closing stages this week. 

Tunisian tennis star Ons Jabeur, 29, told reporters after her second round win over Linda Noskova on Thursday that she felt unwell during the match and struggled to bring her A-game onto the court due to persistent coughing and other syndromes. 

‘I’m a zombie because I have a flu,’ said this year’s finalist at Wimbledon. ‘I’m taking a lot of medicine.’

Jabeur – the world’s No. 5 seed – added that she ‘basically took every medication’ recommended by the tournament’s doctors. 

Her run at Flushing Meadows ended over Labor Day Weekend when No. 23-ranked Zheng Qinwen, of China, caused an upset in straight sets (6-2, 6-4).

Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur said she felt like a ‘zombie’ after going down with illness similar to the flu

Dominic Thiem, of Austria, showed signs of illness during his second round loss to Ben Shelton

Petra Kvitova, of Czech Republic, complained of stomach pain before her second round match

And just like Jabeur, other players have fallen victim to the so-called ‘US Open bug’ since the tournament started at the USTA Billie Jean King National Center on August 28. 

Iga Swiatek, the women’s defending champion and World No 1, said before her defeat by Jelena Ostapenko that she wasn’t sure if the illness was Covid-related.

‘It would be nice if those players who feel bad would wear masks or something like that,’ she said. ‘I don’t know if it’s something related to Covid, but usually at sporting events like this, these things can spread easily.

‘I try to be careful and attentive, take care of my health.’

On August 30, tennis journalist Ben Rothenberg tweeted about illness among the media covering the tournament.

‘I can tell you people in the press room and player lounge sure are coughing and sniffling a lot,’ he wrote.

Finland’s 24-year-old Emil Ruusuvuori had to declare forfeit before his first-round match due to an unspecified illness. Dominic Thiem, of Austria, withdrew during the second set of his second-round match on Wednesday after looking unwell while leaning onto the net. It was later revealed that the 30-year-old was suffering from a stomach issue by The New York Post

He was reportedly heard saying during his match against Ben Shelton that he felt ‘completely f***ed’ and ‘so s***’.

US player Tenny Sandgren, 32, openly revealed he had the ‘us open bug’ on Twitter last month

Sandgren was knocked out of the US Open last month when losing during a qualifying round

Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova also reported pain in her stomach before having to face Caroline Wozniacki on Wednesday, according to Tennis World. The 33-year-old ultimately lost in straight sets, 7-5 7-6. 

Wozniacki herself acknowledged the ill health hitting players last week.

‘I haven’t been spending much time on site,’ she said. ‘I come to practice and play my matches. I try to hydrate and stay healthy. 

‘I feel pretty good. I usually stay away from people that look sick anyways, but I haven’t seen many people in the locker room not feeling well. Hopefully, people stay healthy.’

‘I got the us open bug.. in a way still feels like I’m in the tournament but at home,’ said Tennys Sandgren, who was eliminated during the competition’s qualifiers, tweeted on Thursday. 

‘Def a bug going around at the Open,’ he added in a separate post. 

Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz, 26, also showed signs of illness on the court on Thursday and sought treatment from the tournament’s medical staff before ultimately falling to Jack Draper, according to The New York Times.  

During matches, persistent sniffing, coughing and sneezing, as well as other signs of illness, were heard from within the crowd and on the court.

US tennis great John McEnroe disclosed that he caught COVID-19 early on during the US Open

Players have also been carrying tissues in their racket bags, as shown by US Open footage. 

What’s more, is that tennis-great-turned-analyst John McEnroe disclosed that he had tested positive for COVID-19 on the second day of the tournament in August. 

‘I’m watching the US Open from home & can’t wait to get back to work soon,’ McEnroe told ESPN.  

Tournament organizers fear that McEnroe’s diagnosis and the spread of troubling symptoms among players are the results of the COVID Pirola variant expanding, which experts have described as a health issue.

Players, who share many facilities among each other and stay not too far away from one another, are not required to test for COVID at the US Open, according to The New York Times.

Fans aren’t asked to provide proof of vaccination, wear masks, or test at stadium entry in Queens either. 

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