'Mind-blowingly stupid': Tennis star's photo sparks virus storm

Sam Goodwin
·Sports Editor
·4-min read
Donna Vekic, pictured here on and off the court in Palermo.
Donna Vekic was out sightseeing before winning her first match at the Palermo Open. Image: Getty/Instagram

Donna Vekic has sparked controversy with a candid admission that she’s not really taking every step to prevent contracting coronavirus.

The World No.24 tennis player, a member of the WTA Player Council, has caused a stir after admitting she’d been dining in restaurants and out sightseeing during women’s tennis's competitive return in Sicily.

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The WTA made a long-awaited return at the Palermo Open on Monday, with Vekic winning through to the second round.

But the likes of Nick Kyrgios and Ash Barty might not be too pleased to hear that not all WTA players are taking the coronavirus pandemic as seriously as maybe they should be.

While Kyrgios and Barty are both bypassing this month’s US Open amid COVID-19 health concerns, Vekic doesn’t appear to share the same fears.

“No I'm not worried about that. I'm just more worried about different kinds of scenarios of what's going to happen if someone does test positive in New York,” the Croatian said in Palermo.

“What happens then? I think USTA hasn't been able to answer a lot of the questions, that's more my concern.”

The Croatian is more worried about having to quarantine for two weeks upon her return to Europe from the US ahead of the French Open starting on September 27.

Two weeks of isolation would mean any player attempting to contest both of the season's final two grand slams would have to skip the claycourt lead-up events in Madrid and Rome.

“That would suck,” Vekic said.

Donna Vekic, pictured here during her victory at the Palermo Ladies Open.
Donna Vekic celebrates her victory at the Palermo Ladies Open. (Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images)

Donna Vekic called out on social media

Such a scenario is leading to many players, including reigning French Open champion Barty, having to choose either or the other - or none at all.

But with world No.1 Novak Djokovic's ill-fated Adria Tour sparking a coronavirus outbreak among players following their lack of social distancing at last month's charity event in Belgrade, Kyrgios would doubtless be unimpressed at Vekic's more relaxed approach.

The 24-year-old has shared photos on social media of herself sightseeing and dining out in Sicily, yet is calling for fines for players not towing the line at the US Open.

“I have a feeling that in New York it will be a real bubble. Here (in Palermo) they talk about us being in a bubble but it’s not at all,” she said.

“I don't want to pretend that I'm locked in the room the whole day when I'm not.

“I went to dinner in the city. For sure we're being careful and not being close to people, but I'm not locked in the room and 90 per cent of the players aren't.

“I hope in New York there will actually be fines and if everyone respects that and it makes sense, then I'm all for it.”

Those comments sparked concern among tennis writers and fans, with many slamming Vekic on social media.

However defenders of Vekic say a full biosecurity bubble for the lower-level WTA event would be too expensive, that COVID cases were extremely low in Palermo and claim “traffic (is) more a danger”.

with AAP