True Stories
October 15, 2020

In a wildly selfish move, "Symptomatic Sam" Querrey flees Russia with COVID-19

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Julian Finney

This is one of those stories that is so completely weird it's hard to know where to begin, so let's start with the basics. Sam Querrey, American tennis player ranked 49th in the world, traveled to Russia for the St. Petersburg Open, and brought both his wife and 8-month-old son along. Is that maybe a questionable choice, re: the family? Well, duh, but believe it or not, that detail is almost too small to care about considering everything that happened next.

First, prior to his opening round match against Denis Shapovalov earlier this week, he tested positive for COVID-19, as did his wife and son. Not to beat a dead horse, but that's the kind of thing that can happen when you're traveling around the world during a pandemic, especially to a country like Russia that has somehow managed to handle things almost as badly as the U.S. (It's also, if you ask me, a terrific reason not to bring your 8-month-old child on the trip.)

Obviously, his tournament was done. Russian health authorities instructed him to quarantine for 14 days, and as Ben Rothenberg originally told the tale on Twitter, the Querreys were just fine with that since the St. Petersburg Four Seasons is incredibly nice. But that's when things got complicated. Per Rothenberg, the Russian health service called Querrey, told him a doctor would be visiting, and that if they had any symptoms they might have to be hospitalized.

As it happens, the Querreys did have mild symptoms at the time. Somewhat understandably, they didn't want to bring their eight-year-old son into a Russian hospital and potentially get separated, so they decided to do something radical: in defiance of the Russian government, they arranged for a private jet to take them to an undisclosed European country that doesn't require a negative test for entry. They managed to flee successfully, and are now staying in an airbnb in the mysterious new country whose name they won't reveal.

So, at first glance, hearing these bare-bone details, you might think, "well, I wouldn't want my extremely young kid in a Russian hospital either. Maybe he did the right thing."

But hang on, because a few things that came to light later that are worth knowing. First, according to a statement, the tournament actually sent a doctor to his hotel, but Querrey refused to open the door, saying that his son was sleeping. Soon after, he apparently agreed to be examined the next day, but took off that morning before 6 a.m. to flee the country before the doctors arrived the second time. If he was asymptomatic, the most the authorities were prepared to do was to transfer him to "premium-class apartments" so he wouldn't infect anyone else in the hotel.

This is a major breach of protocol that put a ton of people—in the hotel, in the car ride to the plane, in the plane itself, in the new country—at risk of contracting the virus. And they were symptomatic! Mildly, but still contagious! And this is almost the worst part: The family isn't just refusing to tell the press where they landed; they aren't even telling the health authorities of that country.

As you see, it's a story that just gets worse and worse for Querrey the more you learn. From the idiotic decision to bring his family to a COVID hotspot to the endless series of risky moves that defied public health and put others in the path of the virus, it's been a nightmare of errors.

The ATP is pissed, as you can see from their statement:

Discipline is almost certainly forthcoming, and all that remains to be seen is the severity. Will they want to make an example of Querrey, not just to influence future player conduct, but to protect their own interests with host nations and sponsors as they stage tournaments throughout the world? The worst-case scenario for a protocol breach is a $100,000 fine and a three-year suspension, which could effectively end the 33-year-old Querrey's career. I don't think he deserves that, exactly, but it will be hard to have much sympathy after what can only be called a selfish debacle.