The Role of a Tennis Player: This Health Policy Can Impact the Future of Their Game

Tennis’ governing bodies continue to urge players to get vaccinated ahead of U.S. Open.

During Wednesday’s press conference ahead of the U.S. Open, the International Tennis Federation’s chief medical officer Dr. Steven Simon said the vaccination has been “a priority” in recent years.

He added that the tennis world’s health is more important than the financial reward for a tennis player.

Tennis’ governing bodies reportedly mandate a minimum of six months off before a player can compete again.

When asked about why the U.S. Open was not one of the six that mandates two-year breaks, Mr. Simon said that the decision was not up to him.

“I am not in charge of scheduling,” Mr. Simon said. “They’re always concerned about having a player that they feel is at risk to have an opponent that is more vulnerable. In the past, they felt two years off was appropriate.”

The U.S. Open doesn’t specify exactly how long a player should take off before resuming play, though some tennis teams can run out to two years.

The USTA said that Rafael Nadal has had breaks of between five and 13 months due to injury.

Dr. Simon suggested that the USTA should have the right to “frankly close the thing down” if a player wasn’t able to protect himself in the same time frame as other players.

“That’s a decision they make to protect the player and that’s fine,” Dr. Simon said. “It’s the rule, that’s the etiquette. But they need to be sensitive, it does expose the entire sporting activity if a player has concerns about that.”

The decision was made last year after former No. 1 player Caroline Wozniacki was diagnosed with septic arthritis.

Dr. Simon said the federation continued to push for the health of the players and not the results on the court.

He added that the USTA “need to listen to the message that we’ve been sending.”

Tennis superstar Billie Jean King said at a news conference in November 2016 that skipping the vaccination might affect the game’s ability to attract “the high-functioning players.”

“I understand the sport has to be competitive and have an atmosphere that is competitive and entertaining, but someone has to take precedence over all of that and that’s the health of the player,” King said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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