Five-Time Finalist Murray Returning To Australian Open With A Wild Card

Andy Murray (photo: Mubadala WTC)

WASHINGTON, December 24, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Five-time Australian Open finalist Andy Murray has been awarded a wild card into the main draw of next month’s first major of 2022 at Melbourne Park.

The 134th-ranked Briton, who is a two-time Wimbledon champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist, missed this year’s Australian Open after testing positive for COVID-19 prior to departing for Melbourne. Three years ago, Murray tearfully bowed out of the Happy Slam and was close to retirement due to a debilitating hip injury, which he has since had surgically repaired.

“As a five-time finalist, Andy Murray has had so many memorable moments at the Australian Open,” tournament director Craig Tiley said Thursday. “Andy is renowned for his fighting spirit, passion and love of the game and I’m delighted to welcomehim back to Melbourne in January.”

The 34-year-old Murray said: “I’m really excited to be back playing at the Australian Open and grateful to Craig and the team for the opportunity. I’ve had some great times in Australia playing in front of the amazing crowds and I can’t wait to step back out on court at Melbourne Park.”

Murray, who has lost four Melbourne title matches to nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic, appeared in 14 ATP Tour tournaments and two Challenger Tour events this year. His best tour-level finishes both came on indoor hard-courts, where he was a quarterfinalist at Metz and Stockholm. Last week, Murray was a finalist at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition in Abu Dhabi. He beat Dan Evans and Rafael Nadal before losing the final to Andrey Rublev.

The 2022 Australian Open will be Murray’s 14th overall and first since 2019.

Tiley optimistic both Djokovic and Nadal will be at Australian Open

Earlier this week, Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley was optimistic that both nine-time champion Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will come to Australia to compete in the first major of 2022.

Djokovic, who is entered but has not publicly committed whether he will come to Australia to defend his title, is also scheduled to represent Serbia in the ATP Cup starting Jan. 1. He’s been listed on the opening night schedule against fellow-Top 10 player Casper Ruud for Serbia’s tie against Norway. However, Djokovic has refused to reveal whether he’s been vaccinated or intends to do so. It is not known whether the World No. 1 Djokovic, who is tied with Nadal and Roger Federer for most career singles titles with 20, has sought or received a medical exemption from a COVID-19 vaccination.

Nadal, who tested positive for COVID-19 following his participation at last week’s Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition event in Abu Dhabi, is also listed to play in a lead-up event in Melbourne that begins Jan. 4. Upon returning to Spain earlier this week, Nadal said he would meet with his team to decide his whether he will make the trip to Melbourne.

Tiley was quoted in Australian press as saying: “If Novak shows up at the Australian Open, he’ll either be vaccinated or he’ll have a medical exemption. [It’s] his choice on his medical condition, it’s his choice to keep personal and private like all of us would do with any condition we may or may not have.

“We are not going to force him or ask him to disclose that.”

New year, new teams for Cilic and Svitolina

Croatia’s Marin Cilic and Elina Svitolina of Ukraine are the latest high-profile players to announce coaching changes.

In a social media post, Cilic thanked Slaven Hrvoj, his coach of the past 11 years. He wrote: “It has been a privilege to share many moments with, not only a hard-working professional but also a great friend.”

Under Hrvoj’s tutelage, Cilic won a US Open singles title and a Davis Cup title, an Olympic silver medal, titles on the Masters 1000 and ATP 500 levels and 12 ATP 250 titles.

Meanwhile, after parting ways with Andrew Bettles, who guided Svitolina to 12 career titles, the World No. 15 has partnered with Andis Juska, a former ATP Tour player from Latvia, who has worked with several WTA players, including Jelena Ostapenko and Amanda Anisimova, and Günther Bresnik, who will act as a consultant.

“I’m extremely excited to begin next season with my new coach team,” Svitolina said in a statement, “with both their experiences. I’m confident it will be beneficial for my game. I feel they are the right people to partner with at this stage of my career.”

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