Andy Murray pulls out of Australian Open
Australian Open officials have rejected Andy Murray's bid to play in Melbourne after he tested positive to coronavirus.
As the controversial quarantine program continues to create headlines, Murray, who had been isolating at his home in Surrey, England, revealed he would not make the trip to Melbourne.
The former World Number One had hoped to use his wildcard to play at the Australian Open in a bid to resurrect his injury ravaged career.
"Gutted to share that I won't be flying out to Australia to compete at the Australian Open," he said.
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"We've been in constant dialogue with Tennis Australia to try and find a solution which would allow some form of workable quarantine, but we couldn't make it work.
"I want to thank everyone there for their efforts, I'm devastated not to be playing out in Australia. It's a country and tournament that I love."
Tournament director Craig Tiley, who was at Wimbledon in 2019 to watch how officials there were running proceedings, has been under significant pressure over coronavirus outbreaks among players.
So far nine cases have been linked to the 1200 players and their entourages who flew into Melbourne on private jets.
However, top players including Novak Djokovic have been complaining about the harsh quarantine conditions.
There were 72 players forced to go into full isolation after positive tests emerged from some of the flights.
Any move to bring Murray across to Melbourne would have caused major tensions after he had tested positive.
Murray, 33, has been a runner up at the Australian Open five times, but a hip injury has derailed his career.
His diagnosis was first revealed on January 15 - three weeks before the start of the Open due to begin on February 8.
The day he contracted the virus has not been revealed, but he would not have been allowed to get on a flight to Australia without a negative coronavirus test.
Given that it can take 14 days for a person to deliver a negative test, he may have only been able to arrive a week before the event.
Anyone entering Australia must quarantine for 14 days before they are allowed out into the community.
The allowance for the tennis players to arrive in Melbourne has caused concern among Victorians concerned about the spread of the virus.
A Roy Morgan survey this week found that 36 per cent of Victorians did not want the tournament to go ahead.
The decision to allow tennis players into Melbourne while 40,000 Australians remain stranded overseas has also raised questions about Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews' judgment.
However, he has defended the move saying other nations would take the Australian Open from Melbourne if it did not run.
Tennis ace admits Aus Open is not a fair fight
Dominic Thiem knows there will be players who have no chance of winning the Australian Open even before they step onto the court for the opening round.
The world No.3 says any attempt to project the image of an even playing field at Melbourne Park is pointless as a majority of the field will be hugely disadvantaged.
Thiem is part of the chosen few who are doing their 14-day quarantine in Adelaide alongside Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams while 72 of their colleagues are in hard lockdown in Melbourne.
"I think it's clear there's a complete inequality of opportunity," Thiem said. "All players are fresh out of their pre-season, they are in really good shape and have top fitness.
"If you can't leave your room for 14 days it doesn't matter how much fitness you do in the room, a lot of it just goes away.
"But that's the risk we all took. It's very, very bitter and very, very unfortunate."
The US Open champion denies the game's elite are getting a great advantage in Adelaide compared to the same quarantine program in Melbourne.
"It's a privilege to be here in Adelaide. But it's not that huge an advantage," Thiem said.
"We get the same amount of practice time as the guys in Melbourne. It's just not that busy on-site. It's just that we are [fewer] players here. Compared to the players who are not in hard quarantine in Melbourne, we have pretty similar conditions.
"The only really bad and unlucky thing are the 72 players in the hard quarantine. For them, it's going to be really tough to play a good ATP Cup or good tournament before the Australian Open and then a good Australian Open.
"They have a huge disadvantage, but that's the risk we take when we go onto a plane nowadays."
Exactly how much of a disadvantage is dividing the sports medicine world.
There are some who believe the physical drop-off is only minimal and it's more the mental aspect of the lockdown which could have the most telling effect.
Dr Peter Brukner, who has worked with professional sporting teams around the world, including Liverpool FC, says the biggest concern around the hard lockdown players is the threat of injury when they get freedom.
"There is certainly an increased injury risk when they get out because you just use different muscles," Brukner said. "You have two weeks of not stressing your muscles in the usual way.
"Even if you're running on a treadmill or running on the spot, it's different.
"It's not a matter of on day 14 going straight out and doing a full-on match or training sessions. I think it is going to take a few days of reconditioning and that worries me a bit."
He pointed out the dilemma facing the tennis players was the same issues AFL clubs faced in their quarantine hubs last year.
"We found in the AFL that some individuals and some clubs handled it better than others last year and I think it is the same with tennis players," Brukner said.
"There is nothing you can do about it, it worries me the ones who are raging about it.
"It is a mental challenge and probably if there is some underlying mental health issues it might bring them to the fore.
"Elite sport throws up all sorts of challenges to you whether it be weather or illness or injury and as we know the people who cope best with those sorts of things are the ones who have long successful careers.
"If you don't, you fall by the wayside and this lockdown for the tennis players is the ultimate challenge to their resilience."
Originally published as Why 'gutted' Murray has pulled out of Open