Andy Murray believes that the large number of unvaccinated players in the tennis locker-room is becoming an increasingly serious problem – and one that could threaten the health of the communities they travel through.
Murray himself has been vaccinated, and also has first-hand experience of the severity of the virus, having contracted Covid himself at the start of the year. He expects the split between vaxxers and anti-vaxxers to intensify at January’s upcoming Australian Open, where the two camps are likely to be treated in different ways.
“I can see it’s going to become an issue over the coming months,” said Murray, who is due to play third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas at Monday’s US Open.
“The conversations with regards to the Australian Open are already happening. The players that have been vaccinated are going to be having very different conditions to players who are not vaccinated.
“A lot of the tour is not vaccinated,” Murray added. “They [Tennis Australia] are going to be allowing the players that have had the vaccination to train and move freely between the hotel, potentially not having to quarantine and things like that.”
This is not just a selfishly pragmatic issue. As Murray pointed out, “The reason why all of us are getting vaccinated is to look out for the wider public. We have a responsibility as players that are traveling across the world, to look out for everyone else as well.”
Those close to the tour believe that no more than half the players have now been vaccinated, despite the tennis authorities’ best efforts to encourage a higher take-up rate, and also to make jabs available at tournaments. Tsitsipas expressed a widely held view recently when he said that “the vaccine has not been tested enough, it is new, it has some side-effects,” before adding that he didn’t think it was important for young people to get the jab.
British No1 Johanna Konta – who missed both Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics as a result of contracting Covid – said again yesterday that she had not had the vaccine, but declined to go into the reasons behind her decision.
Over the next fortnight, the US Open will require spectators to show proof of vaccination, which only highlights the fact that players and their entourages do not have to do so.
“There’s going to have to be a lot of pretty long, hard conversations with the tour and all of the players involved to try and come to a solution,” said Murray on Saturday. “Even here in New York, you’ve got the situation with gyms and stuff, you need to be vaccinated. Eating in restaurants and things, obviously have to be vaccinated.
“I feel like I’m enjoying a fairly normal life, whereas for the players that haven’t, it’s different. I’m sure they’ll be frustrated with that. I’m happy that I’m vaccinated. I’m hoping that more players choose to have it in the coming months.”