Andy Murray to start season at Biella Challenger after Australian Open withdrawal

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Simon Briggs
·3 min read
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Andy Murray - Andy Murray to start season at Biella Challenger after Australian Open withdrawal - GETTY
Andy Murray - Andy Murray to start season at Biella Challenger after Australian Open withdrawal - GETTY

Andy Murray has missed out on the Australian Open thanks to an untimely bout of Covid, but his season is poised to begin in mid-February anyway, after he entered the Biella Challenger in northern Italy.

The event has attracted some of the best players who have not travelled to Melbourne, including Murray’s fellow Covid-sufferer Alejandro Davidovich Fokina – the world No 54 – as top seed.

Other notable entrants include the former Australian Open semi-finalist Lucas Pouille – who is working his way back into the game after missing an entire season with a serious elbow injury – and the fast-rising American 20-year-old Sebastian Korda.

Murray had been desperately keen to travel to Melbourne for the year’s first grand slam, but the Australian government ruled that he would have to serve a two-week hard quarantine with no release from his hotel room.

This would have made it dangerous to go straight into a best-of-five-set match on Feb 8 or 9. Italy also requires a 14-day quarantine for travellers from the UK – as, indeed, do most countries. But the start date of Feb 15 would give Murray a little longer to prepare.

Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal says players preparing for the Australian Open under restrictions "can't complain" and has stressed the importance of a "wider perspective" amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Players who arrived in Australia earlier this month ahead of the tournament have been undergoing a strict quarantine process which means they can only leave their hotel rooms for several hours a day to practice.

And 72 are having to spend 14 days confined to rooms in Melbourne following positive Covid-19 cases on flights that had taken them to the country.

Nadal - not among the 72 as he gets ready to compete in the tournament - told CNN's Amanpour programme when asked what the last two weeks had been like: "Of course it is a different situation than usual, but at least we're here.

"We're going to have the chance to play here, and the world is suffering in general. So we can't complain. We only can say thanks to Tennis Australia, to the Australian community, to welcome us and accept us to come, because I know they have been under very strict measures for a lot of months. For us it is good at least that we can keep playing tennis."

When asked for his thoughts on players complaining about the situation, the Spaniard said: "Well, of course, it has been a tough situation for 72 players, plus their teams, coaches. Of course it is not the ideal situation, and of course I feel very sorry for all of them.

"But when we came here, we knew that the measures are going to be strict because we knew that the country is doing great with the pandemic. Australia probably is one of the best examples in the world, how they react through this very challenging time.

"I mean, it is normal to complain in some way.

"But on the other hand, when you have a little bit wider perspective of what's going on in the world, you have to think and say 'well, OK, I am not happy to be 14 days in my own room without having the chance to practice, to go out, to do my normal preparation for a tournament', but on the other hand you see how many people are dying around the world, you see how many people are losing their father, their mums, without having the chance to say goodbye.

"It is a real thing. That's what's happening in my country, for example, and close people to me are suffering these situations. So when you see all of this, you have to stay a little bit more positive."

Nadal, who says he has been practising for "around two hours, two hours 15" every day, added: "I feel that we are privileged people today, having the chance to keep doing our jobs."