Yet another chapter is set to be written in Andy Murray‘s extraordinary, sometimes torturous relationship with the Australian Open.
Melbourne is already a place where he has lost five heartbreaking finals, where his father-in-law coach Nigel Sears suffered a major health scare in 2016, and where he looked set to retire two years ago, farewell videos and all.
Andy Murray has suffered his fair share of heartbreaks at the Australian Open over the years
In 2019, following an emotional interview, there was confusion over whether he was retiring
Having been absent last year with further hip problems, he is desperate to defy the odds again and return to the scene of so many dramas.
Yet instead of joining one of this week’s charter flights departing from the Middle East he is isolating at home in Surrey following a positive test at the start of this week. According to his management Murray is suffering only the mildest of symptoms.
The 33-year-old Scot believed he had been infected back in March last year, but no tests were available then to confirm it.
Now he must wait to see if health authorities will flex their two-week quarantine rules at an event whose potential health implications have already caused much debate in Australia.
Murray, and probably Tennis Australia, will argue that if he returns a series of negative tests ten days from now he cannot pose a threat to anyone en route or when he arrives.
Yet there are still some formidable hurdles to overcome, not to mention the awkward PR optics of making exceptions, even if the tennis influx does not affect the thousands of Australians currently stranded abroad, who are being let back home by limited quota.
Murray played at the Battle of the Brits at the NTC but has since tested positive for coronavirus
Murray holds the runners-up shield after his second of five final defeats at the Australian Open
It remains to be seen what sort of quarantine he would have to serve, with the rump of players needing two weeks in a hotel room while being allowed out to train five hours per day.
Just the journey will be difficult, with it taking more than two days because of the highly reduced flight options right now.
There is hope for Murray, based on the case of world number 50, the American player Tennys Sandgren, who was allowed on Wednesday night’s charter flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne.
He tested positive last week, having also tested positive back in November. The Australian authorities appear to have accepted the widely-discussed possibility that old infections can residually show up but be harmless.
His father-in-law Nigel Sears suffered a serious health scare at the tournament back in 2016
Sears required medical attention after collapsing in stands, but has since made a full recovery
The tournament statement on Sandgren was more relevant than the blandishments acknowledging Murray’s situation. Of the American it said: ‘His medical file had to be reviewed by Victorian health authorities. Upon completion of that review he was cleared to fly.’
It added that nobody could enter Australia to play in the Open unless it was proved they are recovered. Decisions would be made ‘at the complete discretion of an Australian government authority.’
The country is concerned not to give up his hard-won gains in the battle against Covid’s spread, and there is already widespread concern about more than 1,000 tennis personnel entering the country, even under strict rules.
Of course Murray might see this latest setback as small discomfort compared to the years and months or agonising rehab that have got him back in a position to play again.
Murray was beaten by Roger Federer 11 years ago in 2010 final, his first heartbreak in Australia
He will be desperate to get out to Melbourne in time to compete in the 2021 tournament
He won both his matches at the mini ‘Battle of the Brits’ event at the National Tennis Centre before Christmas, and has been feeling confident about his prospects for this year.
Ironically, he pulled out of last week’s season-opening ATP event in Delray Beach, Florida, to try and minimise the chances of catching anything prior to the departure for Australia.
However, there has been a mini outbreak of the virus at Roehampton’s NTC in the past seven days, where he has been training, after months of it managing to stay Covid secure. Insiders have suggested that protocols there have slipped of late.
Murray is currently self-isolating at home in Surrey and hoping he will recover in time to travel
Tennis players get off one of the first charter planes into Melbourne ahead of the tournament
At least two non-travelling players, including Paul Jubb, and a couple of coaches are known to have returned positive tests.
It is not believed that any of the remaining British contingent who are on their way – 13 players including Dan Evans, Jo Konta and qualifier Francesca Jones – have been affected. Another player who has tested positive and will not be travelling is former US Open finalist Madison Keys.
Murray’s latest dose of bitter ill-fortune only underlines what a huge undertaking it is to get the Australian Open on in a slot that has already been delayed by three weeks.
This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk