New Zealand’s top-ranked doubles tennis player Michael Venus fears he may have to cut short his season next week, which could hinder his chances of playing at the Tokyo Olympics.
The World No 8-ranked Kiwi and his Australian partner John Peers play their second round doubles match at the Paris Masters tomorrow night and a win would almost certainly see them qualify for this month’s season-ending ATP World Tour Finals from November 15-22 in London.
They are sixth in the race to make the lucrative eight-team tournament and should still qualify even if they don’t win their match tomorrow, depending on other results. Venus is looking to reach the Tour finale for the fourth straight year.
However, Government regulations over Covid-19 quarantine look set to force Venus’ hand and it could have dramatic consequences. Anyone boarding a flight home needs to show they have a voucher for quarantine when they arrive in New Zealand.
The 33-year-old, who has been away from his wife Sally and two-year-old daughter Lila since the beginning of August, has a flight booked back to New Zealand for next Tuesday. He made the booking some time ago before realising his European trip would likely need to be extended due do qualifying for the prestigious event at the 02 Arena.
But Venus has discovered if he doesn’t fly home next Tuesday, there are no quarantine vouchers available until December 20, which would mean an additional month in London after the World Tour Finals and he wouldn’t see his family until the New Year. That’s not a scenario he’s prepared to consider.
“I would have to spend a whole month in London while it’s locked down and not be able to practice and then fly back to New Zealand and quarantine for two weeks and not be able to practice and then spend a few days with my family before leaving to go play the Australian Open.
“It’s just not possible to have that much time off and then be ready to go at the Australian Open.”
Venus has 700 ranking points to defend from the London tournament after he reached the semifinals at the O2 Arena last year with his then partner Raven Klaasen.
But those points will come off his ranking if he qualifies but doesn’t play.
“Playing the World Tour Finals has huge implications on my ranking and with the Olympics coming up next year this could decide whether we qualify or not. This is because the amount of ranking points available at World Tour Finals is a reward for having a good year. My ranking would go from eight to around 20 if I don’t play. Qualifications for the Olympics guarantee everybody in the top 10 in the rankings. Without being top 10 there is a chance I will not make it to Tokyo.”
Venus is prepared to give up on his Olympic dream to be with his family.
“My wife is in NZ working and caring for our two-year-old daughter and is also pregnant, so it is not possible for them to travel. I have been away from them since early August and if it is not possible to get a spot in isolation earlier then I am prepared to sacrifice my chance for Tokyo next year to be home with my family.”
Tennis NZ is working with the New Zealand Olympic Committee to see if they can assist in getting a voucher for Venus that will enable him to play his season finale and return to New Zealand soon after.
“I just hope there’s a way to figure out for that to happen. I am more than happy to pay for the quarantine, I am not asking to avoid it and not do the isolation.
“I have been in a bubble and have had about 40 Covid tests in the last few months. I have been really safe and doing all the things right and I just hope we can find a way to make these things work.”
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