Andy Murray’s Change Of Heart Was Not Injury Related

Andy Murray (photo: @andymurray/Instagram)

WASHINGTON, January 1, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

For once, Andy Murray‘s change of plans – he announced his decision to withdraw from next week’s Delray Beach Open on Thursday – aren’t injury related. That’s good news for the Briton and his fans, who feared a setback from his planned comeback at the beginning of the 2021 season.

Murray had accepted main draw wild cards for both Delray Beach and the Australian Open, which begins Feb. 8. Now, Murray will begin his season at the site of the year’s first major.

“Given the increase in COVID rates and the transatlantic flights involved, I want to minimize the risks ahead of the Australian Open. I’m really thankful for the understanding of the tournament and I look forward to playing there soon,” the 122nd-ranked Murray said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

There had been much ballyhooing last week, when it was announced that Murray had been given a main draw wild card to start his season on January 8 at the Delray Beach Open in Delray Beach, Fla., an ATP 250 outdoor hard-court event. The event organizers had heavily publicized Murray on its website and advertised he would be featured in an 8 p.m. match on Friday, Jan. 8.

However, by the evening of December 30, Murray’s name had been removed from that day’s schedule and speculation began on social media over whether he had a change of plans. By Thursday, when the news was made official, it suggested that coronavirus protocols were a key reason for Murray’s decision to withdraw. Simply, Murray wants to minimize the risk of coming in contact with anyone who has been exposed to the coronavirus that would prevent him from being able to play in the Australian Open.

Murray missed a good portion of the 2020 season that were related to a pelvic injury. He played just seven official matches this year, going 3-4. His last ATP Tour match was an October loss to Fernando Verdasco in Cologne, Germany. Last week, Murray played twice in the Battle of the Brits Premier League of Tennis exhibition in Roehampton, England, defeating both British No. 1 Dan Evans, ranked 32nd, and British No. 3 Cameron Norrie, ranked No. 71.

It’s been a tough week for the Delray Beach tournament organizers as Murray became the third major name to pull out of one of the ATP’s opening-week tournaments, joining Evans and Kei Nishikori.

Now, Murray will stay behind and continue to train in Roehampton at the Lawn Tennis Association’s National Tennis Centre until it’s time for him to travel to Melbourne and begin the mandatory 14-day quarantining in advance of participating in the Australian Open, where Murray has finished runner-up five times.

Lack of diversity on ATP Player Council?

The ATP Player Council for 2021-22 was announced earlier this week. On the surface, it’s a homogenous group and one with a lot of familiar names such as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray. It’s includes some new faces like Felix Auger-Aliassime, who is the only player of color on the new council. However, the group’s homogeneity may be more of a negative than a positive, as suggested by Canadian tennis journalist Stephanie Myles in her Open Court tennis blog.

Taro Daniel of Japan, currently ranked 117th, wrote on Twitter Thursday: “Great ambassadors and intelligent group of guys. But there is a clear lack in diversity.” The Japanese No. 4 may have struck a nerve, but he makes a good point.

“Most players top 400 are members of the ATP and most of them are not represented even by their own council which has very little power to begin with,” Daniel wrote.

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What they’re writing

Tumaini Carayol, tennis writer for The Guardian of London, from “Roger Federer had the perfect excuse to walk away from 2020 – but he wants to go on”:

“At any age, recovering from a serious injury is difficult. Surgery is physically painful and mentally draining. Rehabilitation is the height of tedium. The uncertainty of it and when it will be possible to return to competition can be suffocating enough as a 20-year-old, let alone in a brittle body after decades of competition. Since February, Federer will have had to navigate all of those emotions.”

What they’re sharing on social media

Billie Jean King / The final sunrise of 2020

Naomi Osaka / Tennis

The Undefeated on Serena Williams / Forever the GOAT

New Year’s wishes: From Kei Nishikori …

••• and Sabine Lisicki

••• and Novak Djokovic