When the United States Tennis Association announced on Friday that proof of coronavirus vaccination would be required for all spectators aged 12 and over to enter the grounds of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, it created a wedge between spectators and the players they will be watching at the US Open.
Adults in the stands will now be about twice as likely to be vaccinated as players on the pitch: The WTA Tour, which is the women’s tour, said “nearly 50%” of its players were vaccinated, while that the ATP Tour, for men’s tennis, said its vaccination rates were “just over 50 percent”.
Despite the possible consequences of not being vaccinated – disease, of course, but also the inability to play and make money – tennis players have been stubbornly slow to adopt, although many have lost the opportunity. to play in major tournaments due to positive tests. While some players are openly skeptical of the need for a vaccine as a healthy youngster, some simply did not prioritize it.
French veteran Gilles Simon, who was disqualified from the US Open on Friday for “medical reasons”, confirmed in an interview with L’Equipe that he was withdrawn because he had not been vaccinated. Simon’s coach Etienne Laforgue tested positive for the coronavirus after arriving in New York, and Simon was disqualified because he was considered “close contact”.
“I wasn’t against the point of never getting vaccinated, I’m just saying I didn’t feel the need or the urge,” Simon told L’Equipe.
Simon would have remained eligible to participate in the tournament, with increased testing, had he been vaccinated.
“I’m not very scared of Covid, actually,” Simon said. “My basic philosophy is this: if you are afraid of it, you get vaccinated; otherwise, no. It’s still a choice.
Simon must now self-isolate in his hotel room for 10 days, according to federal and New York City guidelines. Simon, 36, and 103rd overall, regretted that his hotel room, where he will stay during what he admitted might have been his last US Open, lacks a great view.
“If your last memory of a US Open is 10 days in a room, that’s not the one you want to keep,” he said.
The most prominent tennis player to miss this year’s US Open due to a positive Covid test is fifth-ranked Sofia Kenin, who, despite disappointing results this year, remains the highest-ranked American on the table. ” one or the other round according to the classification system adjusted in the event of a pandemic. Kenin said she tested positive despite her vaccination.
“Fortunately, I have been vaccinated so my symptoms have been quite mild,” she said.
Many tennis players have been able to take advantage of the on-site vaccination programs set up by the tournaments while traveling on tour. Top-ranked Ashleigh Barty, whose native Australia has fallen behind in her vaccination rollout, was able to get the shot in April at a tournament in Charleston, SC. Before her, Barty made sure she didn’t cut the line.
“It was important to me knowing that those who were most vulnerable could get it first,” she said in April.
Simon’s claim that vaccination should remain a choice is supported by both circuits, even though they urge players to choose vaccination.
Other sports have been more successful in getting their athletes to shoot. The WNBA said in June that 99% of its players were vaccinated. The MLS Players Association said in July it was “approaching 95 percent.” This week, the NFL announced that it had achieved a player vaccination rate of almost 93%. Michele Roberts, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, said in July that 90% of NBA players were vaccinated. This month, the NHL said its player vaccination rate was 85%, and its union warned that unvaccinated players could lose their pay if they tested positive.
In tennis, where every player is an independent contractor, there is no players union to encourage unified behavior and no general manager or team owner to encourage vaccination for the competitive benefit of the team. However, other individual sports are still ahead of tennis: the PGA Tour said earlier this month that its player vaccination rate was “over 70%”.
“While we respect everyone’s right to free choice, we also believe that every player has a role to play in helping the group at large achieve a safe level of immunity,” ATP said in a statement. “This will allow us to relax restrictions on site for the benefit of everyone on tour.”
The WTA said it “strongly believes and encourages everyone to get vaccinated,” and has set a target for 85% of players to be vaccinated by the end of the year. But he currently does not require “that the players be vaccinated because it is a personal decision and which we respect”.
Third-place Stefanos Tsitsipas sparked an uproar in his native Greece this month after saying he would only get the shot if necessary to continue competing.
The State of Vaccine Mandates in the United States
- Vaccination rules. On August 23, the FDA granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for people 16 years of age and older, paving the way for mandates in the public and private sectors. Such warrants are authorized by law and have been confirmed in court challenges.
- College and universities. More than 400 colleges and universities require students to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Almost all of them are in states that voted for President Biden.
- Schools. California became the first state to issue a vaccination warrant for all educators in public and private schools. New York City has also introduced a vaccination mandate for teachers and staff, but it has not yet come into effect due to legal issues. On September 27, a federal appeal board overturned a decision that temporarily suspended that mandate. this. Los Angeles has made vaccines mandatory for students 12 and older who attend in-person classes.
- Hospitals and medical centers. Many hospitals and large healthcare systems require their employees to be vaccinated. Mandates for healthcare workers in California and New York state appear to have forced thousands of holdouts to receive injections.
- New York City. Proof of vaccination is required from workers and customers for indoor meals, gymnasiums, shows and other indoor situations. City education staff and hospital staff also need to be vaccinated.
- At the federal level. September 9 President Biden announced a vaccination mandate for the vast majority of federal workers. This mandate will apply to employees of the executive, including the White House and all federal agencies and members of the armed forces.
- In tthe private sector. Mr Biden demanded that all businesses with more than 100 employees require weekly vaccination or testing, helping to propel new corporate vaccination policies. Some companies, like United Airlines and Tyson Foods, had mandates in place before Mr. Biden’s announcement.
“I don’t see any reason for someone my age to do it,” said 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.
Greek government spokesperson Giannis Oikonomou said Tsitsipas “does not have the knowledge, studies or research that would enable him to form an opinion” on the need for vaccination, and added that people like athletes who are widely admired should be “doubly careful in expressing such views.”
Top-ranked Novak Djokovic has taken a close look at his approach to health issues throughout the pandemic and has refused to disclose his own vaccine status. Djokovic said it was a “personal decision” when asked about vaccination protocols on Friday. “Whether or not someone wants to be vaccinated is entirely up to them,” Djokovic said. “I hope it stays that way.”
ATP player council member Andy Murray said “it’s going to take a lot of pretty long and difficult conversations with the tour and all the players involved to try to find a solution” on the high number of players resist vaccination. He said he appreciated the privileges New York City regulations granted him as a person vaccinated, such as eating indoors in restaurants.
“I feel like I’m living a pretty normal life, but for players who haven’t, it’s different,” said Murray. “I’m sure they’ll be frustrated by this.”
Murray said he believes players have a duty to others.
“At the end of the day, I guess the reason we all get vaccinated is to watch out for the general public,” he said. “We have a responsibility as players who travel the world, yes, to look after everyone as well. I am happy to be vaccinated. Hopefully more players will choose to have it in the coming months.