Former world No.1 Andy Murray may have to miss out on competing in the Australian Open after he was confirmed as a coronavirus case.
The British tennis star and winner of three Grand Slams had tested positive just days before he was due to board the official charter flights for the tournament, which are scheduled to arrive in the next 24 hours.
But Murray, who is isolating at home near London, hasn’t yet given up hope for making an Australian Open return.
“Andy Murray has advised that he has tested positive for COVID-19 and is isolating at home in the UK,” Tennis Australia said in a statement.
“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.”
British media reported Murray was in good health and is hoping to recover in time to compete at Melbourne Park in the major.
He will have to miss out on a seat on one of 15 charter flights which must arrive in Australia during a 36-hour window from Thursday.
The major tournament will start on February 8 due to being pushed back three weeks because of strict pandemic health measures in Australia.
But even if Murray recovers soon it will be difficult for him to make it to Australia.
The first charter flights carrying tennis players and officials landed at Tullamarine’s Melbourne Jet Base about 6pm on Thursday.
Murray is not the only tennis player to miss out on a chartered flight.
US tennis ace Madison Keys has also tested positive for COVID-19 and will have to miss the Australian Open in Melbourne.
The world No. 16 says she returned a positive result before she was due to travel to Australia and is now self-isolating at her home.
“I’m very disappointed to not be able to play in the coming weeks after training hard in the off-season and knowing Tennis Australia and the tours did so much to make these events happen,” the 25-year-old tweeted.
Keys was a semi-finalist in Melbourne in 2015 and she made the final of the 2017 US Open.
Back home, the Doha flight arrivals were greeted by airport staff and biosecurity officials wearing personal protective equipment including masks and face shields, before being whisked away to hotel quarantine.
More private jets from Doha, Abu Dhabi, Los Angeles, Singapore and Dubai will land in the Victorian capital over the next 36 hours.
American world no.50 Tennys Sandgren, who was allowed to board his LA flight despite testing positive for coronavirus this week, is expected to arrive just before 3am Friday AEDT.
The former Australian Open quarter-finalist was deemed to be no longer contagious and a case of viral shedding, having been struck down with COVID-19 in November.
Sangdren praised Australian Open boss Craig Tiley for getting him on the flight, despite testing positive for COVID on Monday.
“Wow I’m on the plane … Craig Tiley is a wizard,” he wrote on Twitter.
Victorian Police Minister Lisa Neville defended the decision, saying health experts had deemed Sandgren’s positive test to be a result of viral shedding from his previous infection.
“No one who is COVID positive for the first time – or could still be infectious – will be allowed in for the Australian Open,” Ms Neville tweeted.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 14, 2021
Tennis Australia also scrambled to explain the situation.
“Some people who have recovered from COVID-19 and who are non-infectious can continue to shed the virus for several months,” the official Australian Open Twitter account wrote in response to Sandgren’s tweets.
“Victorian 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.”
Sandgren had “self-disclosed that he previously tested positive in late November”, the Australian Open added in a follow-up statement, and “his medical file had to be reviewed by Victorian health authorities”.
“Upon completion of that review he was cleared to fly.”.
Daily COVID tests for players and staff
All players and staff based in Victoria will be tested daily and must quarantine at one of three Australian Open-dedicated hotels for two weeks.
But not all will be serving their quarantine stint in Melbourne.
Two special charter planes with mega-stars including Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Simona Halep, Naomi Osaka and Dominic Thiem are flying direct to Adelaide on Thursday night.
They will quarantine in North Adelaide’s Majestic M Hotel hotel before an exhibition event at Memorial Drive on January 29 in the South Australian capital.
Before the 1200-strong international contingent’s arrival, Mr Andrews rejected criticism of the Australian Open going ahead despite thousands of Victorians not being able to return home from the “red zones” of the Greater Brisbane and Sydney.
He said the grand slam was cleared to proceed on public health advice and added it is a massive jobs creator.
“This event is very important to our city and our state,” he told reporters.
“It is worth going to these unprecedented measures to be sure it goes ahead.”