When Andy Murray sat in the U.S. Open’s main interview room for a pre-tournament news conference Saturday, the moderator informed the 2012 champion he was allowed to remove the sort of light blue medical mask that has become ubiquitous during the coronavirus pandemic.
Unlike the nine players who met with the media in that spot a day earlier, Murray chose to keep his mask on. And unlike roughly half the other men and women who will be taking the court when the year’s last Grand Slam tournament begins Monday, Murray has been vaccinated against COVID-19.
He wishes more tennis pros were. 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.
For one thing, players and their team members do not need to be vaccinated, but the spectators who have paid to watch them — and at some courts can get close enough to the action to offer high-fives — now must be able to show they have had at least one shot.
Plus, among the players, there are those, such as No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic, who frame the decision about whether to get a shot as a purely personal choice. And there are those, such as Murray, who explain it as being not just about protecting oneself but also about helping others.
“I feel like I’m enjoying kind of a fairly normal life, whereas for the players that haven’t, it’s different. I’m sure they’ll be frustrated with that. Ultimately, I guess the reason why all of us are getting vaccinated is to look out for the wider public. We have a responsibility as players that are traveling across the world to look out for everyone else, as well,” Murray said. “I’m happy that I’m vaccinated. I’m hoping that more players choose to have it in the coming months.”
An ATP spokesman said Saturday that just above 50 percent of male players are vaccinated and the men’s tour “continues to strongly recommend vaccination to players.” A WTA spokeswoman said nearly half of female players are vaccinated and the women’s tour “strongly believes in, and encourages everyone to get, a vaccine,” with a goal of raising numbers “in excess of 85 percent by the end of the year,” while not currently requiring athletes to get the shots.
Unlike team sports such as the NFL or Major League Baseball, in which vaccines were encouraged and incentivized, tennis is very much an individual sport. Certain tournaments offer players the chance to get shots on-site and others — including the U.S. Open — don’t.
We provided the athletes with the information of where they can go to be vaccinated in the vicinity of the hotel,” tournament director Stacey Allaster said. “We won’t specifically be doing it here on-site.”