For Andy Murray, what would have been an emotional return to the Australian Open this year was completely destroyed when he tested positive for COVID-19 just days before his flight to Melbourne. The Scot has expressed his anger at the situation, and blames the the National Tennis Centre for the debacle.
The 33-year-old fully believes that he caught the novel coronavirus over the holiday season, as he spent time training at the LTA's high performance centre in London. He says that the safety protocols were not implemented properly at the venue.
"Tonnes of people were in the gym" Murray told the BBC, noting that too many people were using the training facilities. However, the LTA maintains that "stringent and appropriate restrictions" were in place.
Murray was one of the first people who tested positive among all the players and personnel who had been booked on charter flights to Australia in mid-January. Australian Open organisers took on the monumental task of testing each individual before they were allowed to board one of the 17 chartered flights flying from key points across the world.
All the players, staff and members of the press were shuttled into Australia in these private flights and were tested again upon arrival. The detection of more positive cases among those who arrived led to a two-week isolation period for many players, and a string of complaints ensued. Nevertheless, some of the biggest stars like Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams were full supportive of the safety measures.
Unfortunately for Murray, he was not allowed to board his flight, unlike those who tested positive upon arrival. While others completed quarantine and waited for a negative test result in Australia, Murray was stuck in England. This meant that even if he recovered quickly, he didn't have enough time to fly to Australia and undergo another two-week quarantine period.
"When we went to the NTC in April, if there are six indoor courts, you could only practise on one, three and five. There wasn't any testing at that time, but the gym was closed and it was restricted access," said Murray, explaining that the restrictions have since relaxed drastically.
"Whereas after Christmas you have an indoor venue where they are using all six courts, there were tonnes of people in the gym, and it was just totally different," he said.
He says that the safety protocols are now back in place, but it was too little too late after a large number of infections were reported after Christmas.
Murray, unlike many athletes, was not asymptomatic. He got fairly ill with a sore throat, aches and pains and a throbbing headache. Unfortunately, his wife and kids also tested positive shortly after him even if he tried to stay isolated.
Fortunately, he and his family have now recovered. Murray will now have to focus on getting back in shape for his next tournament in Italy.