Two days after Danielle Collins was dismissed by the World TeamTennis (WTT) for allegedly breaking protocol, the American has claimed she was unaware of the rule organisers had put in place forbidding athletes to leave the venue through the duration of the event.
“The rule I was alleged to violate was a rule that was instituted in the midst of the tournament and not a rule of which I was aware when I left campus,” the 26-year-old said in a statement.
“I would never intentionally violate the rules put in place for the safety of my teammates, and I hope everyone can reserve judgement until all the facts are made available.”
The current world no 51 had allegedly left the Greebrier Resort in West Virginia, the venue for this year’s edition of the WTT, on Monday to drive two hours to Charlottesville, Virginia, to shop for medical supplements she needs for rheumatoid arthritis.
Incidentally, that was the same day organisers were conducting COVID-19 tests to ensure none of the participants had been infected.
While Collins, who had reached the semifinals of the 2019 Australian Open, asserted she wasn’t aware of the rule, WTT CEO Carlos Silva refuted the claim, stating that the requirement to remain at the venue as a health and safety protocol had been explained to the players and staff on July 11 at the stadium, and again in a meeting on July 15 with team coaches and general managers.
“I wanted to absolutely make sure it was clear,” Silva told The New York Times.
“I don’t think Danielle was trying to do anything bad, but it put us in a situation where you’ve got to uphold what you are trying to do here so we can keep the other 150 people here safe.”
Collins though, reportedly, claims she did not hear of any such measure.
Her breaking protocol at the WTT comes after she had questioned world no 1 Novak Djokovic’s reservations about competing at the US Open because of the strict protocols the USTA had put in place for the Grand Slam.
“For those of us (most tennis players) who don’t travel with an entourage, we actually need to start working again. It would be nice to have the best player in the world supporting this opportunity and not spoiling it for the players and the fans!” she had said at the time.
Despite being barred from playing at the WTT this year, she maintains her stand against the Serbian.
“I don’t feel I intentionally broke a rule so I don’t feel it affects what I said about the U.S. Open,” she told NYT. “There was a waiver that I signed that was specific to the safety protocols and practices that were to take place during World TeamTennis, and it didn’t have any mention of not leaving the hotel.”
The American player, who has reached as high as 23 in the world, reportedly also mentioned that she had informed a tournament official about her decision to leave the venue.
But Silva’s investigation allegedly found no indication that any official had approved of her decision. He also stated that Collins was not being held to standards different to the other players.
“It wouldn’t be bright, wouldn’t be fair,” Silva said.
“I think also a surprise trip two hours away to a different state definitely raises your level of attention for sure. If she had made a mistake and gone down the street to a pizza shop and she really didn’t know, I would have talked to her about it. But a surprise trip that was a two-hour drive?”
Meanwhile, organisers have conducted 740 tests on players and staff so far, all of which have come up negative.