Andy Murray’s hopes of returning to the Australian Open is in the balance after the Scottish star tested positive for COVID-19.
Murray was expected to travel to Australia on a series of charter flights that tournament organisers were going to use to ensure the safety of players.
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But the 33-year-old will instead isolate at home in London with hopes of arriving in Australia at a later date to compete in the tournament.
Britain’s Press Association news agency said Murray is in good health.
More than 1,200 players and support staff are arriving in Australia from Thursday for 14 days’ quarantine ahead of the delayed tournament, which is due to start on February 8.
Craig Tiley, the Australian Open tournament director, has spent months trying to deal with the logistical nightmares of hosting the Grand Slam during a pandemic.
Tennis Australia said players were only allowed into Australia with proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to departure, or with approval as a recovered case at the discretion of the Australian government.
Murray received a wild card to the main draw in December with Tilley saying the tournament would welcome him back “with open arms”.
“As a five-time finalist he has been an integral part of so many amazing matches and storylines in the recent history of the Australian Open,” he said at the time.
“His retirement was an emotional moment and seeing him come back, having undergone major surgery and built himself back up to get onto the tour again, will be a highlight of AO 2021.
“We wish him all the best and look forward to seeing him in 2021.”
But the news will throw a spanner into the works as Murray tries to return to his best after needing hip resurfacing surgery in 2019.
It came after an emotional press conference where Murray said the 2019 tournament could have been his last.
“Not great,” he said before excusing himself and leaving the interview room.
When he returned, the dual Wimbledon champion and US Open winner said: “So I’m not feeling great.
“Been struggling for a long time, I’ve been in a lot of pain for probably about 20 months.
“I’ve pretty much done everything I could get my hip feeling better.”
He appeared to say he would retire after Wimbledon that season but after his surgery was successful, Murray was on the comeback trail, even winning the European Open crown late in 2019.
A pelvic injury forced him out of the 2020 Australian Open however with Murray taking until June to return after the COVID ravaged season took its toll.
The tournament hasn’t been without it issues either with Roger Federer and American John Isner both pulled out of the tournament.
Early on Thursday Australian Open quarter-finalist Tennys Sandgren being given permission to travel to Australia despite testing positive for COVID but being deemed not contageous.
Sandgren had COVID in November but tested positive again this week.
On Thursday AEDT, the 29-year-old American suggested he had not been allowed to board the chartered flight to Australia from Los Angeles.
“At least I get to keep my points,” he posted to Twitter.
The reason he was allowed to board the plane was that a Tennis Australia spokesperson explained that a non-infectious person who has fully-recovered from COVID-19 could continue to shed the virus for several months.
“Vic government public health experts assess each case based on additional detailed medical records to ensure they are not infectious before checking in to the charter flights,” the spokesperson said.
— with AFP