(Reuters) – American John Isner will not travel to Melbourne for next month’s Australian Open as strict COVID-19 health protocols would have forced him to be away from his family for an extended period, the 35-year-old said on Monday.
Players are set to begin arriving in Melbourne this week for the Grand Slam event and Victoria’s state government has said it is imposing the strongest restrictions seen at any tennis tournament for the Feb. 8-21 Open.
Players and staff have to isolate for two weeks before they take part in warmup events at Melbourne Park, which is also the venue for the Australian Open, from Jan. 31.
There are also restrictions on players’ entourages travelling to Australia which forced Isner, the highest-ranked men’s American player at 25th, to decide to stay at home.
“At this stage of my career and in my life, I always had visions of being able to travel with my family,” Isner, who has a two-year-old daughter and one-year-old son, told reporters after his defeat in the Delray Beach Open quarter-finals.
“Of course, that wouldn’t be the case for Australia this year. Understandably so, I get it. It really was just a situation where I didn’t want to be away from my family for that long. I decided to stay home.”
The Dallas resident, who is known for his towering frame and massive serve, has been ranked as high as number eight in the world and has won 15 ATP singles titles.
“Me not going to Australia doesn’t mean that I’m not committed, because I still am,” Isner added.
“I’m healthy, I feel really good and I’ll continue to take care of my body. Once the tour gets back from Australia, I look forward to playing as full of a season as I possibly can.”
(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Ed Osmond)