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Andy Murray Hit By Covid Ahead Of Australian Open Tennis

By Alix Ramsay

Andy Murray’s hopes of competing in next month’s Australian Open look to be getting slimmer by the day after he tested positive for Covid-19.

He was due to be flying from Dubai to Melbourne on Thursday on one of the fleet of charter planes laid on by Tennis Australia. But since his test result, the five-time AO finalist has been insolating at his home in Surrey. He is, apparently, in “good health” but he is following the medical and government guidelines and staying put behind closed doors.

Murray is still hoping that the authorities in Australia will allow him to arrive later than planned and once he has returned a negative test for the virus. He would still have to go through the mandatory 14-day quarantine once he got to Melbourne, though, which would leave him unable to participate in any of the warm-up events being held before the Open starts on February 8.

In theory, having had the virus and then recovered, Murray ought to be free to go where he likes but an announcement from the Australian Open made that sound unlikely.

“Andy Murray has advised that he has tested positive to COVID-19 and is isolating at home in the UK,” the statement read.

“Unfortunately this means he will be unable to join the official AO charter flights arriving in Australia in the coming days to go through the quarantine period with the other players.

“The AO fans love Andy, and we know how much he loves competing here in Melbourne and how hard he’d worked for this opportunity.”

It seems that Murray could not buy a break with a winning lottery ticket. He worked his way back from hip resurfacing surgery in 2019 but no sooner had he re-established himself on tour, winning the title in Antwerp, than he developed further injury problems relating to the hip. That caused him to miss last year’s Australian Open.

No matter, he came back after the Covid hiatus last year and was looking good as he beat Alexander Zverev the week before the US Open. That was when he began to struggle with tendinitis in his left psoas muscle. His season finally ground to a halt in Cologne in October; he had managed to play just seven matches all year.

To prepare for this season, he had given himself a kick up the backside to work smarter and better in training (he felt he had let things slide last year. Well, slide by his exacting standards, at any rate) and was confident that if his body was in good shape, he could still do damage at the major tournaments. And then he caught Covid.

Yet despite the grim tone of the AO statement (it was the use of the past tense in the last clause that made it sound so final), there may yet be hope. Tennys Sandgren was allowed to fly to Melbourne on Wednesday despite testing positive for the virus.

He had contracted Covid-19 in November but then recovered fully and returned a negative test for the bug. But on Monday, with less than two days to go before he was due to board the plane, he turned in another positive test.

After much negotiating with the Victoria State government health authorities, Tennis Australia finally got clearance for Sandgren to fly and he was heading to Melbourne – although, until he did up his seatbelt on the plane, Tennys had no idea whether he would make it or not.

In another statement from the AO on Thursday, the special circumstances of Sandgren’s case were explained:

“Anyone wanting to travel to the AO who has previously tested positive to COVID-19 is required to provide additional and highly detailed medical information as proof they are a recovered case and no longer infectious or a risk to the community.

“In the case of Tennys Sandgren, who has self-disclosed that he had previously tested positive in late November, his medical file had to be reviewed by the Victorian health authorities. Upon completion of that review, he was cleared to fly.”

That could leave the door open, or at least slightly ajar, for Murray. If he were to recover quickly and test negative for the virus, he might be allowed to travel to the Open. There are three weeks and three days to go before the grand slam starts; if Murray can stump up a negative test in the next few days, and the medical authorities in London and Melbourne allow it, he could have time to get to Australia, do his 14-day quarantine stint and be ready for the start of play.

There are a lot of “ifs” in Murray’s best case scenario but “if” ever there was a man who could turn a lost cause into a winning opportunity, it is him. And, let’s face it, the fates owe him a break.