WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Reigning Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic famously decided not to get vaccinated against COVID-19 — which prevented him from playing at the Australian Open in January after a legal saga that ended with his deportation from that country, and, as things stand now, prevented him from entering the United States to participate in the US Open in August.
More than two years after the pandemic began, cases of coronavirus are on the rise lately around the world, mainly due to certain variants, and the health – and vaccination status – of individual athletes is again an important issue. At Wimbledon, where the All England Club follows UK government guidelines requiring no shots or testing, three of the top 20 placed men withdrew during the first four days of action as they contracted COVID-19, with No. 17 Roberto Bautista Agut withdrawing on Thursday.
That has raised the specter of an outbreak among players at the Grand Slam tournament, where there is essentially an honor system: if you’re not feeling well, you’re encouraged to take a test yourself; if you test positive, you are encouraged to disclose that and get yourself out of the braces.
“I won’t lie: if I have to cough or something, I get paranoid. It’s what we have to learn to live with a little bit. I feel sorry for people who test positive. A place like Wimbledon is definitely not where you want it,” said Ajla Tomljanovic, a 29-year-old from Australia who is 44th and won on Thursday to set up a third-round match against the 2021 French Open champion. Barbara Krejcikova.
“If you have symptoms or don’t feel well, that is your own responsibility. I think we all travel with home kits; me at least. And once you test positive, it comes down to just saying you have it,” Tomljanovic said. “Because you could have fewer symptoms and try to play, but that wouldn’t be the right thing to do. †
Last month, Krejcikova lost her opening singles match at Roland Garros before withdrawing before attempting to defend her doubles championship after saying she tested positive for COVID-19.
Rafael Nadal, a 22-time Grand Slam champion, said after his second-round win on Thursday that he doesn’t do much but come to the tournament grounds and stay in the house he rents in the area, “don’t go out at all. Lake.”
This is of course not just a tennis issue. It’s something people struggle with in all types of work: how concerned to be, when to test, who to tell.
In sports, it originated in Major League Baseball, where some players were unable to travel for games in the Toronto Blue Jays due to Canada’s rule against admitting unvaccinated foreigners — the same kind of restriction that Djokovic, a 35-year-old from Serbia with 20 Grand Slam titles, from competing in tournaments in California and Florida earlier this season and would deter him from going to the US Open, saying he has no chance against COVID-19. In the NBA, Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving appeared in just 29 of 82 regular-season games last season, largely because of his decision not to get vaccinated.
Virtually all women and men in the top 100 of the WTA or ATP tour rankings have been vaccinated. For some, it was about not wanting to get sick.
“Pretty simple: vaccines work. Everyone has the right to choose, but more or less, the reason we don’t die from diseases from 50 years ago is because we got vaccines,” said Jessica Pegula, the eighth-seeded from Buffalo and won third place on Thursday. from Wimbledon. around for the first time. “Of course it came out really quickly, so of course there’s always that thought, ‘I hope nothing happens.’ Some people had bad experiences, but for me I thought it was worth the risk.”
For other tennis players, it was more about making a living.
“The ATP, similar to the NFL, the NBA, MLB, they make you understand in a way. They say, if you don’t get it, you might not be able to play certain tournaments or in these games, and we’re going to make things so miserable that you have to make it,” said Sam Querrey, an American who reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 2017. “So for me it was a combination that I think it was good to get, and it makes your life a lot easier from a professional standpoint.”
Some players say they respect the choice of Djokovic, who has said he’s had COVID-19 twice, to stick to his no-vax stance, even if it hurts his ability to keep up with Rafael Nadal. a 22-time Grand Slam champion, in the main trophy count.
“The sport needs him – needs him in sport and in big events,” said Denis Shapovalov, a 23-year-old Canadian who finished 13th at Wimbledon. the end: “I thought it was better to be safe than sorry.”
Everything was back to “normal” this year at Wimbledon after 2020, when the tournament was canceled altogether, and 2021, when players found themselves in a bubble-like environment and had to undergo COVID-19 testing, and stadium capacity was kept low in Week 1 and spectators had to wear masks.
An All England Club spokesperson said the COVID-19 policy is “under constant review” and pointed to updates made this week such as increased cleaning, improved ventilation, making masks available to players and recommending masks to players. official tournament transport.
“I didn’t even know people tested positive,” said Coco Gauff, the 18-year-old American who finished second at Roland Garros this year, “until I saw another player wearing a mask.”
Bautista Agut wrote on Twitter on Thursday that his symptoms were not bad, but that withdrawing was “the best decision”.
One of his coaches, Tomàs Carbonell, said in his own social media post in Spanish: “Roberto could have tried to play the game because his symptoms are not bad. Out of respect for his colleagues and for the tournament, we have decided not to go to the track, even though the rules would have allowed it.”
Bautista Agut’s departure from COVID-19 followed on Tuesday that of No. 8 Matteo Berrettini, Djokovic’s runner-up a year ago, and No. 14 Marin Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion and 2017 Wimbledon runner-up, on Monday .
When asked after her win on Thursday what her concerns are after the recent series of positive tests, number 4 Paula Badosa replied quickly: “Nil.”
That, the 24-year-old representing Spain explained, is both because she has been vaccinated and already has, as she put it with a laugh, every “type of COVID possible”.
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