The women’s draw has also been hit hard, with two more players from the top 10 joining Barty on the sidelines over the weekend.
World number five Elina Svitolina — who made the semi-finals of the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open last year — and seventh-ranked Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens are also gone.
Popyrin’s withdrawal means 2012 US champion Andy Murray, who had been granted a wild card at the tournament, will now move into the main draw.
The French Open, traditionally the second major of the year, starts on September 27, meaning anyone who wanted to play both would only have a two-week turnaround from hard court to clay if they reached the final.
Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer has appeared cautiously optimistic about Victoria’s ability to get its coronavirus outbreak under control.
With case numbers hovering around the 500 mark for the past seven days, Dr Nick Coatsworth said on Sunday: “It appears that we’re on the plateau”.
With metropolitan Melbourne under stage four restrictions kicking off last week and with the lockdown set for at least another five weeks, Dr Coatsworth said good news appears to be on the horizon.
“What we’re looking for is the inflection point that tells Victorians that their efforts are being rewarded, that we see numbers going down,” he said.
“We haven’t seen that yet but I have no doubt that we will see it. If you consider that stage three restrictions had us almost at a plateau, then the stage four restrictions will produce a result.”
Dr Coatsworth said that the coronavirus outbreak in Victoria currently has a “basic reproductive number” of one “or just below one”.
The reproductive number is basically how many people one infected person will transmit the virus to.
“The ideal situation would be if we could see that reproductive number at 0.5,” he said.
“We don’t have enough data at the moment from the numbers to see whether that’s approaching 0.5, but in the coming days to week we will see that.”
Dr Coatsworth’s comments echo analysis suggesting Victoria’s coronavirus outbreak peaked on July 30, sparking hope that the state has seen the worst of the crisis.
Last week, Melbourne University epidemiologist Professor Tony Blakely provided news.com.au with details of his analysis published on Pursuit, which uses a five-day average that smooths out the daily cases so a more accurate picture of how the state is tracking can be seen.
Prof Blakely’s analysis suggests coronavirus cases peaked on July 30 and have since plateaued, about seven days after masks became mandatory in Melbourne on July 23.
“If you look at the five-day average, even though cases are fairly volatile day-by-day, it does look like they flatten off from about 8-10 days after masks were introduced,” he said.
“Masks were introduced on July 23 but a lot of us were starting to wear them before that as well.
“I am reasonably comfortable that we have bent the curve.”
There are 634 Victorians in hospital, 43 of whom are receiving intensive care. 26 people are on ventilators.
Premier Daniel Andrews said on Sunday there were 2758 cases with an unknown source, an increase of 174 since Saturday.
“That’s 174 of those mystery cases which are, in many respects, our biggest challenge,” he said.
“Even large numbers in known, contained outbreaks are, to a certain extent, less significant than the smaller number of cases where we simply can’t find the circumstance or the point of origin.
“Where did that person get the virus from? They’re the ones that are incredibly challenging from a containment point of view, and that’s what has made fundamentally necessary these really challenging settings, these really difficult decisions we’ve had to make to drive down movement, and therefore, drive down the number of cases.”
The list isn’t long, but there are a few good things that have emerged during the coronavirus pandemic.
The long-overdue recognition of our doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals are certainly up there.
As is the ability of opposing political parties to work together in the national interest.
Oh, and that Powderfinger online reunion concert back in May was pretty special too.
The pandemic has also shown us another side of many of our sporting greats.
Top footballers, basketballers and cricketers have had their lives and livelihoods turned upside down by the mass cancellation or restructuring of sporting events.
Some have struggled to adapt to the new COVID normal, others have taken it in their stride and have even grown in stature.
Which brings us to Nick Kyrgios.
Pampered brat turned tennis elder statesman?
Now, it’s fair to say many haven’t been much of a fan of tennis’s bad boy.
I have often expressed my dismay, frustration and outright anger at Kyrgios’s on and off-court antics.
To be honest, when he’s in full racket-smashing, umpire-abusing and chair-hurling mode, Kyrgios is an exceptionally hard person to like.
And, judging by the free character references that flow whenever he throws one of his tantrums, it’s clear a lot of other Australians feel the same way.
A tennis player of prodigious talent has often looked as though he wanted to be anywhere else than on the court.
If that was the case, Kyrgios has certainly got his wish this year, but for all the wrong reasons.
The pandemic has smashed the international tennis circuit.
A raft of tournaments have been cancelled, including the biggest of them all, Wimbledon.
Others have been postponed in the hope the virus threat eventually eases, but some, astonishingly, are going ahead as scheduled.
The biggest of these is the US Open, which is due to begin in less than a month.
Not surprisingly, some players aren’t willing to hop on an international flight and travel to a country that has the world’s highest number of coronavirus infections and deaths.
Women’s world number one Ash Barty pulled out, as has fellow Australian Sam Stosur.
Kyrgios withdrew on Sunday, but in doing so he sounded more like a tennis elder stateman than a pampered brat.
The 25-year-old pleaded with the tennis community to focus squarely on health and safety.
“No-one wants people to keep their jobs more than me,” he said in a video posted online.
“These are the people who need their jobs back the most and fair play to them.”
He took a none-too-subtle swipe at other players being selfish (more on that in a moment), before urging the tennis world to “act responsibly”.
Are we witnessing Kyrgios 2.0?
Now, you could be forgiven for wondering whether this is the same guy who has become something of a poster-child for irresponsibility and immaturity. And, sure, there may be some image consulting going on behind the scenes.
But Kyrgios has barely put a foot wrong this year.
He lashed out earlier in the pandemic at Novak Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov and other players for going ahead with an exhibition tournament in the Balkans, declaring their actions selfish and stupid.
Djokovic, Dimitrov and two others subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.
While there’s a lot of history between Kyrgios and Djokovic, the Australian’s stance won him a lot of applause.
Going back to the start of this challenging year, Kyrgios was tireless in helping drum up support for victims of the summer bushfires, including donating $200 for every ace he served (and there were quite a few).
He has been particularly active in helping bushfire-affected businesses and communities in his home city of Canberra.
Kyrgios has also used his social media accounts to offer food and support for people who have lost their incomes as a result of coronavirus-induced closures.
In a perverse way, this pandemic could be the making of the Australian tennis star.
After losing to Rafael Nadal in an epic fourth-round match at the Australian Open in January, Kyrgios said he felt like he had made progress as a human.
Call it progress, call it a newfound maturity or call it simply working very hard to avoid the brain snaps, it is such a relief to see.
There’s an awful lot to like about Kyrgios 2.0, and if he channels this positive energy onto the court when play resumes, he could be unstoppable.
The tournament is scheduled to start on August 31 — it will be held at its usual home in Flushing Meadows, Queens but will be played without fans to limit the risk of spreading of the virus.
Kyrgios posted a video on Sunday, where he read from a statement.
“I will not be playing this year at the US Open,” he said.
“It hurts me at my core not to be out there, competing in one of the sport’s greatest arenas, Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“It’s my decision.”
Uncertainty remains around the tournament that is usually the last major of the year.
The tennis world has been largely shut down for months in response to the pandemic, and players have expressed concerns over safety.
While tournaments are just about to restart, there have been a number of exhibition events held — the most notorious being the ADRIA Cup, a tournament organised by world number one Novak Djokovic, held in a number of countries, but which featured poor social distancing.
The current evolution of AFL football can be hard to follow.
Listed set positions are less relevant than ever, and movement patterns are intertwined so that simply following the ball can miss the scope of the play.
When looking at how play sets up in modern footy, there are few better individuals to watch as a case study than GWS defender Nick Haynes.
Haynes simply reads the play better than nearly anyone else.
For a newcomer to this great game, watching Haynes can be an introduction on how to anticipate where the ball is likely to go, or how to influence the game without having the ball.
It’s one of those things best absorbed live, as most of the traditional camerawork neglects his role.
Entering his ninth year in the league, the converted forward/midfielder is leading the conversation for the best defender in the game.
Currently, Haynes sits atop the defenders’ version of the Coleman Medal — the intercept mark leaderboard.
No defender plays alone, and defensive success is best judged by the performance of their entire team. On that measure, GWS have been near the top of their game for much of the past five years.
Is Haynes really a key position defender?
When Haynes was selected by GWS with pick seven in the 2011 AFL draft, he was an overage player without a solid position.
Having grown significantly in the 18 months before he heard his name called, Haynes was seen as a midfielder who could float forward — with nothing about his potential as a defender.
After a year primarily played as an outside midfielder, and another year of growth, Haynes started to settle as a defender — a taller defender.
Some may say Haynes is not a true key position defender, as he doesn’t grab the opposition’s number one key position forward all the time, or because he often rolls off his player to block off space.
And if this piece was being written half a century ago, that criticism would be accurate.
Modern football embraces the idea that the team is greater than the individual.
With three larger defenders in Phil Davis, Aidan Corr and Sam Taylor (currently replaced by Lachie Keeffe), GWS have the flexibility to blunt opposing attacks in a variety of ways. If one approach fails, they can easily try another.
A more appropriate label for Haynes would be a hybrid intercept defender, a type of player most sides field every week.
This isn’t to say that he can’t cover the towering Charlie Dixon and Tom Hawkins types as the play evolves, depending on the circumstances of rotations and ball position.
Almost every side defends flexibly these days, and few (if any) players stick to one opponent for an entire game.
The perfect way to see how Haynes works is watching his uncontested intercept marks this year.
He works variously ahead of the pack in “the hole”, off a direct opponent, behind the pack, and as “goalkeeper” in a forward stoppage situation. Few modern players get the luxury of being one-dimensional; and Haynes can fill almost any defensive role in a pinch.
Last week, Haynes started on Charlie Cameron, the best small forward in the competition, and rotated his way up to the 204-centimetre Oscar McInerney, with a few other jobs along the way.
Given his size and pace, few matchups involving Haynes can be considered mismatches for his opposition.
Some teams, like Port two weeks ago, have even temporarily tried to put defensive forwards — in their case Marshall — to limit his damage when floating loose, but this just allows others like Corr to roam free.
These experiments are generally brief and unproductive.
Teams have optimal tendencies, and a good way to look at this is how GWS splits up their intercept marks.
Davis takes the lead with contested intercept marks, while Haynes eats up the uncontested variety. Corr, Keeffe and Taylor provide more of a balance of both.
Haynes also gets out more on the attack than most defenders, while Davis is prone to kill the ball in the air.
The attacking weapon
With the ball in hand, Haynes is trusted to aggressively launch counterattacks. Most sides have a couple of preferred users out of the backline, usually smaller defenders such as Bachar Houli, Nathan Wilson or Callum Mills.
GWS usually has Williams, Shaw and a rotating midfielder as the primary “quarterbacks”, but Haynes chips in more than most taller defenders.
Other talls in this mould are fellow 2019 All Australian squad members Sicily and Howe.
When Haynes does get stuck in a contested one-on-one situation, he is among the best at defusing.
So far this year, the transition through the middle of the ground has let the Giants down. For a team so adept at creating interceptions, they have struggled to convert to points.
With Williams out, Lachie Whitfield has dropped back more, with extra burden on the shoulders of youngster Lachie Ash.
The Giants are willing and able to switch the ball horizontally, but have been reluctant to use the corridor so far this year. This is often down to how opposition sides load up pressure through the middle, scared of how the Giants have hurt teams in the past few years.
The last line
Despite losing their past two games to the top two sides, the Giants’ defence has largely held up well against an attacking onslaught, with issues concentrated upfield. The Giants have lost the inside-50 count by an average of 13 across every game this year — only better than cellar-dwellers Adelaide.
GWS’s run home is softer than almost every other contending side — giving them a little room to move yet. To make finals, they can likely only afford to drop three or four games at most.
There’s still a path to finals if they can work on their ability to transition the ball up the ground while still stopping opposition sides from piling the points on.
For both of those things, Haynes shapes as a key factor.
Zverev had pledged to self-isolate after featuring in the ill-fated tour that led to Djokovic, his wife, three more players and other members of their various entourage testing positive to coronavirus following a stint at a Belgrade nightclub.
But Becker was none too happy with the Canberran’s take-down.
“We all live in the pandemic called #Covid_19 ! It’s terrible and it killed to many lives…we should protect our families/loved ones and follow the guidelines but still don’t like #rats @NickKyrgios @farfetch.”
Kyrgios was quick to strike back.
“Rats? For holding someone accountable? Strange way to think of it champion, I’m just looking out for people. WHEN my family and families all over the world have respectfully done the right thing. And you have a goose waving his arms around, imma say something,” he replied before following up with a second serve.
“Boris Becker is a bigger doughnut than I thought. Can hit a volley, obviously not the sharpest tool in the shed though.”
The slanging match continued with Becker, a six-times grand slam champion and former world number one, saying: ‘Your funny guy ….how is it down under? Respect all the guidelines?”
“Haha nah bro I’m good, don’t act like you’re my friend now because you got sat down,” Kyrgios tweeted.
Zverev had been widely condemned after being filmed dancing in a crowded room in Monaco, prompting Kyrgios to take the 22-year-old to task on Instagram.
“So I wake up and I see more controversial things happening all over the world, but one that stuck out for me was seeing Zverev again man, again, again, how selfish can you be? How selfish can you be?” Kyrgios said.
“I have just received the news that my team and I have tested negative for COVID-19,” Zverev posted.
“I deeply apologise to anyone that I have potentially put at risk by playing this tour. I will proceed to follow the self-isolating guidelines advised by our doctors. As added precaution, my team and I will continue with regular testing.
“I wish everyone who has tested positive a speedy recovery. Stay safe.”
But Zverev has since been widely condemned after being filmed dancing among a room full of people, with a furious Kyrgios taking the 23-year-old world number seven — also known as Sascha — to task on Instagram in a rant filled with expletives.
“So I wake up and I see more controversial things happening all over the world, but one that stuck out for me was seeing Sascha Zverev again man, again, again, how selfish can you be? How selfish can you be?” Kyrgios said.
“I mean, if you have the audacity to put out a f***ing tweet that you made your management write on your behalf saying you are going to self-isolate for 14 days and apologising to f***ing general public about putting their health at risk, at least have the audacity to stay inside for 14 days. My God.
“Have your girlfriend with you for f***ing 14 days. Jesus, man.
The one-time wild child of world tennis, Kyrgios is increasingly becoming the voice of reason for his shut-down sport.
But the decision to delay exams in Victoria to compensate for disruptions caused by COVID-19 led the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority to push back the release of results until the day before New Year’s Eve.
Several school principals who spoke to The Age said they had begun planning for a return to work in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve to be on hand to help students.
Pitsa Binnion, principal of McKinnon Secondary College, said the two-week delay to end-of-year exams had made it impossible to give students their results before the holidays.
The option of holding back their release until January had been rejected because it would have left students in suspense for longer and potentially given them no time to alter their university preferences.
“There is no perfect date; the perfect date would have been the original date in mid-December,” Ms Binnion said. “It’s hard, this is not what we want but it’s the year of a pandemic.”
McKinnon Secondary College in Melbourne’s south-east has about 370 year 12 students completing VCE this year, and most of them hope to go on to university.
Ms Binnion said career counsellors would need to know ahead of December 30 which courses each of them had applied for, so no student was left without an option for 2021.
Gail Major, executive principal at Scoresby Secondary College in Melbourne’s east, said she was saddened by the fact that many of this year’s graduating students would miss out on the communal support they traditionally received on results day.
She and support staff would be on site for students who wanted to come in to discuss their results.
“We have to consider students and their wellbeing,” Ms Major said. “Students need support and my experience has been they celebrate each other’s successes but they also support each other and those who may not have achieved what they hoped for.”
Sue Bell, president of the Victorian Association of Secondary School Principals, said schools would have staff on hand to provide counselling for any students distressed by their results.
“The first guiding principle is what’s best for the students, because they’re the ones who are really suffering this year, they’ve had incredible losses in not being able to have a valedictory dinner or a formal or all the fun days they’ve normally had, they’re just down to the hard work,” Ms Bell said.
The Department of Education and Training said it was working with principals’ associations and with the Catholic and Independent sectors to ensure that support was available to students on December 30.
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Adam Carey is Education Editor. He joined The Age in 2007 and has previously covered state politics, transport, general news, the arts and food.
“I want to make sure anyone who has been in contact with me during the last few days gets tested!” Coric tweeted.
“I am really sorry for any harm I might have caused! I’m feeling well and don’t have any simptoms [sic].”
Dimitrov and Coric played each other over the weekend, embracing at the net before the match but only bumping fists afterwards, although Coric shook hands with the umpire.
Djokovic organised the Adria Tour to be played in four legs across the Balkans — in Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina — with some of the best players in world tennis competing.
Djokovic was widely criticised for hosting the tournament during the coronavirus pandemic, but tried to reassure people last week that the organisers were adhering to government guidelines around safety.
“Of course lives have been lost and that’s horrible to see, in the region and worldwide, but life goes on, and we as athletes are looking forward to competing,” he said.
“Boneheaded decision to go ahead with the ‘exhibition’,” he wrote.
Tennis.com reported that Dimitrov’s coach, Christian Groh, and Djokovic’s fitness coach, Marco Panichi, also tested positive.
In addition to world number 19 Dimitrov and Croatian Coric, world number three Dominic Thiem, seventh-ranked Alexander Zverev and world number 14 Andrey Rublev also took part in the first two legs, before Dimitrov’s diagnosis stopped play.
Zverev, Rublev and Thiem all revealed they had tested negative after Dimitrov’s revelation. Djokovic is reportedly still waiting on test results.
Thiem travelled to France and played Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Ultimate Tennis Showdown overnight.