Andy Murray was invited to the U.S. Open’s main interview area for a pre-tournament press conference on Saturday. The moderator advised him that he could remove the light blue mask that had become so common during the coronavirus pandemic.
Murray decided to keep his mask on, unlike the other nine players who had met with media at that spot one day before. Murray, unlike nearly half of the other players who will take the court at Monday’s Grand Slam tournament, has been vaccinated for COVID-19.
He wishes there were more tennis pros. It sets up a couple of contrasts at Flushing Meadows when it comes to a hot-button issue across society these days, especially as cases connected to the delta variant increase.
One, players and team members don’t need to be vaccinated. But spectators who pay to see them play — some courts allow you to get close enough to the action for high-fives — must now be able show that they have at least one shot.
There are also players like No. Novak Djokovic, the No. 1 player in the world, views the decision to take a shot or not as a personal one. Murray is one of those who says it’s not about protecting yourself but about helping others.
“I feel like my life is pretty normal, but for those who haven’t it’s very different. They’ll be disappointed, I’m sure. I think the main reason we all get vaccinated is because we want to protect the public. As players who travel around the globe, we have an obligation to ensure that everyone is protected,” Murray stated. “I am happy to have been vaccinated. “I hope that more players will choose to get it in the next months.”
A ATP spokesperson stated Saturday that approximately 50% of male players have been vaccinated. The men’s tour also strongly recommends vaccinations. A WTA spokeswoman confirmed that nearly half of women players have been vaccinated. WTA has a goal to increase vaccine coverage to “exceed 85%” by the end-of-the year, but does not require athletes to receive the shots.
The U.S. Tennis Association stated Wednesday that fans would not need to be vaccinated for the U.S. Open. But, prompted by the New York mayor’s office, the USTA did an about-face Friday, making it mandatory for fans over 12 years old entering the grounds to show proof they’ve received one dose — drawing praise on social media from those pleased about the extra layer of precaution and complaints from others upset about the policy and its timing.
Players interact with people already required to have their vaccines: USTA employees, chair umpires and ball kids.
Some players claim that their itinerant lifestyle of constantly traveling from one city to the next, or continent to continent, makes getting the vaccine difficult.
“There have been some opportunities throughout the year. Johanna Konta, a three-time major semifinalist, said that there are only a few. Johanna Konta is not vaccinated. She pulled out of Wimbledon due to contact tracing after one of her team members tested positive for COVID-19. Konta then became ill and missed the Tokyo Olympics. It is logistically difficult to coordinate and time these things. This is the nature of our sport.
Tennis is a team sport. However, unlike in other sports like the NFL and Major League Baseball where vaccines were encouraged or incentivized for players, it’s an individual sport. Some tournaments offer players the opportunity to play on-site while others do not — even the U.S. Open.
“We gave the information to the athletes about where they could go to get vaccinated within the immediate vicinity of the hotel. … Stacey Allaster, tournament director, said that there are many places in New York City where non-citizens can receive the vaccine. “We won’t be doing it on-site.”
Coco Gauff, a 17-year-old American, was a quarterfinalist in the French Open in June. She said that she was supposed get her first vaccine shot the week after she received COVID-19.
Gauff stated that “the real problem is getting the dosages spread out and, obviously it is difficult to go from country to country.”
She said “But,” and added, “But I’m going get it as soon (if) possible.”
Others, like Stefanos Tisipas, who finished second to Djokovic at French Open, said they would only be vaccinated if necessary.
“At some time I will have to,” Tsitsipas said. He is set to face Murray on Monday.
After he hosted a series exhibition matches, Jelena Djokovic, and his wife tested positive for coronavirus in the last year.
“I believe that it should always be a personal decision whether or not you want to get vaccinated. Djokovic stated that he supports the idea. It’s up to the individual to decide if they want to receive a vaccine. It should remain that way, I hope.