John Isner to skip Australian Open over strict COVID-19 health protocols

John Isner has decided to skip the Australian Open as strict COVID-19 health protocols would have forced him to be away from his family for an extended period.

Some 1,200 players and coaching staff are set to begin arriving in Melbourne later this week for the first Grand Slam of the year and Victoria’s state government has said it is imposing the strongest restrictions seen at any tennis tournament.

Players and staff have to isolate for two weeks before they take part in warm-up events at Melbourne Park, which is also the venue for the Australian Open.

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There are also restrictions on players’ entourages travelling to Australia which forced Isner, the highest-ranked men’s American player at 25th, to decide to stay at home.

“At this stage of my career and in my life, I always had visions of being able to travel with my family,” Isner, who has a two-year-old daughter and one-year-old son, said.

“Of course, that wouldn’t be the case for Australia this year. Understandably so, I get it. It really was just a situation where I didn’t want to be away from my family for that long. I decided to stay home.”

“Me not going to Australia doesn’t mean that I’m not committed, because I still am,” Isner added.

“I’m healthy, I feel really good and I’ll continue to take care of my body. Once the tour gets back from Australia, I look forward to playing as full of a season as I possibly can.”

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Six-time champion Roger Federer will also be missing from Melbourne Park as he continues to work his way back to fitness from two knee operations in 2020, while Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has also withdrawn after failing to recover fully from a lower back injury.

Professional tennis has mostly been held in biosecure bubbles since it returned last August after a five-month hiatus due to the pandemic.

Positive coronavirus tests

In other news, Francisco Cerundolo and Denis Kudla have been withdrawn from the Australian Open qualifying event in Doha after testing positive for COVID-19.

“Two players have returned a positive COVID-19 test at Australian Open men’s qualifying in Doha, Qatar,” Tennis Australia said in a statement. “Both players have been withdrawn from the tournament and transferred to a quarantine hotel.

“Local health authorities, the tournament physician and medical team are monitoring each individual. Contact tracing is currently underway to notify close contacts.”

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