Why So Many Tennis Players Don’t Want the Covid Vaccine

When the United States Tennis Association introduced on Friday that proof of coronavirus vaccination could be required for all spectators 12 and older to enter the grounds of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, it widened a gulf between the spectators and the gamers they’ll be watching at the U.S. Open.

Adults in the stands will now be roughly twice as more likely to be vaccinated as the gamers on courtroom: The WTA Tour, which is the girls’s tour, mentioned “nearly 50 percent” of its gamers had been vaccinated, whereas the ATP Tour, for males, mentioned its vaccination charges had been “just above 50 percent.”

Despite the attainable penalties of not being vaccinated — sickness, in fact, but additionally the lack of ability to play and make cash — tennis gamers have been stubbornly gradual on the uptake, at the same time as many have misplaced alternatives to play in main tournaments due to optimistic checks. While some gamers are brazenly skeptical of the want for a vaccine as a wholesome younger particular person, some merely haven’t prioritized it.

The French veteran Gilles Simon, who was disqualified from the U.S. Open on Friday for “medical reasons,” confirmed in an interview with L’Equipe that he was eliminated as a result of he hadn’t been vaccinated. Simon’s coach, Etienne Laforgue, examined optimistic for the coronavirus after arriving in New York, and Simon was disqualified as a result of he was deemed a “close contact.”

“I was not against it to the point of never being vaccinated, I’m just saying I didn’t feel the need or the urge,” Simon advised L’Equipe.

Simon would have remained eligible to compete in the match, with elevated testing, if he had been vaccinated.

“I’m not very scared of Covid, actually,” Simon mentioned. “My basic philosophy is: ‘If you’re afraid of it, you get vaccinated; if not, no.’ It’s still a choice.”

Simon should now isolate in his lodge room for 10 days, in line with federal and New York City pointers. Simon, 36 and ranked 103rd, rued that his lodge room, the place he’ll keep throughout what he admitted may need been his final U.S. Open, lacks a pleasant view.

“If your last memory of a U.S. Open is 10 days in a room, it is not one you want to keep,” he mentioned.

The highest-profile tennis participant to overlook this yr’s U.S. Open due to a optimistic Covid take a look at is the fifth-ranked Sofia Kenin, who, regardless of disappointing outcomes this yr, stays the highest-ranked American on both tour underneath the pandemic-adjusted rating system. Kenin mentioned she had examined optimistic regardless of being vaccinated.

“Fortunately I am vaccinated, and thus my symptoms have been fairly mild,” she mentioned.

Many tennis gamers have been capable of make the most of on-site vaccination packages arrange by tournaments as they journey on tour. The top-ranked Ashleigh Barty, whose native Australia has lagged behind in its vaccination rollout, was capable of get vaccinated in April at a match in Charleston, S.C. Before she did, Barty made positive that she wasn’t slicing in line.

“That was important to me, knowing that those who were the most vulnerable were able to get it first,” she mentioned in April.

Simon’s rivalry that vaccination ought to stay a selection is supported by each excursions, at the same time as they urge gamers to decide on vaccination.

Other sports activities have been extra profitable at getting their athletes to get the shot. The W.N.B.A. said in June that 99 percent of its gamers had been vaccinated. The M.L.S. Players Association mentioned in July that it was “approaching 95 percent.” This week, the N.F.L. announced it had reached a participant vaccination price of almost 93 p.c. Michele Roberts, govt director of the National Basketball Players Association, said in July that 90 percent of N.B.A. players were vaccinated. Earlier this month, the N.H.L. mentioned its player vaccination rate was at 85 percent, and its union warned that unvaccinated gamers may lose pay in the event that they examined optimistic.

In tennis, the place every participant is an impartial contractor, there isn’t a participant union to encourage unified habits and no common supervisor or workforce proprietor to encourage vaccination for the workforce’s aggressive profit. Other particular person sports activities are nonetheless forward of tennis, nonetheless: The PGA mentioned early this month that its participant vaccination price was “above 70 percent.”

“While we respect everyone’s right to free choice, we also believe that each player has a role to play in helping the wider group achieve a safe level of immunity,” the ATP mentioned in a press release. “Doing so will allow us to ease restrictions on-site for the benefit of everyone on Tour.”

The WTA mentioned it “strongly believes in and encourages everyone to get a vaccine,” and has set a objective for 85 p.c of gamers to be vaccinated by the finish of the yr. But it’s at present “not requiring players to get a vaccine as this is a personal decision, and one which we respect.”

The third-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas caused an uproar in his native Greece earlier this month after he mentioned that he would get vaccinated provided that it had been required to proceed competing.

“I don’t see any reason for someone of my age to do it,” mentioned Tsitsipas, 23. “It hasn’t been tested enough and it has side effects. As long as it’s not mandatory, everyone can decide for themselves.”

Giannis Oikonomou, a spokesman for the Greek authorities, mentioned Tsitsipas “has neither the knowledge nor the studies nor the research work that would allow him to form an opinion” about the necessity for vaccination, and added that individuals like athletes who’re broadly admired must be “doubly careful in expressing such views.”

The top-ranked Novak Djokovic has drawn scrutiny for his method to well being points all through the pandemic, and has declined to reveal his personal vaccination standing. Djokovic mentioned it was a “personal decision” when requested about vaccine protocols on Friday. “Whether someone wants to get a vaccine or not, that’s completely up to them,” Djokovic mentioned. “I hope that it stays that way.”

Andy Murray, a member of the ATP participant council, mentioned that “there’s going to have to be a lot of pretty long, hard conversations with the tour and all of the players involved to try and come to a solution” on the excessive variety of gamers holding out on vaccination. He mentioned he appreciated the privileges New York City rules afforded him as a vaccinated particular person, similar to consuming indoors in eating places.

“I feel like I’m enjoying a fairly normal life, whereas for the players that haven’t, it’s different,” Murray mentioned. “I’m sure they’ll be frustrated with that.”

Murray mentioned he believes gamers have an obligation to others.

“Ultimately I guess the reason why all of us are getting vaccinated is to look out for the wider public,” he mentioned. “We have a responsibility as players that are traveling across the world, yeah, to look out for everyone else as well. I’m happy that I’m vaccinated. I’m hoping that more players choose to have it in the coming months.”

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