The Australian Open in January faces more uncertainty after the scheduled reopening of national borders Down Under was deferred for two weeks.
Vaccinated international travellers were due to be freely allowed in from tomorrow but that will not happen until December 15 in response to the new Omicron Covid variant.
With chartered flights due to bring in tennis personnel from December 28 ahead of warm-up tournaments, the dates are getting dangerously close, particularly if there was to be any further delay.
A large majority of tennis players have now been jabbed, although Novak Djokovic has declined to say what his intentions are and his father this week cast doubt on the world No 1’s participation in Melbourne. British Davis Cup captain Leon Smith said his team were watching Covid developments closely as they prepare for today’s quarter-final against Germany in Innsbruck, Austria.
The winners will immediately fly on to Madrid for the finals weekend, with no Covid complications expected at the moment.
Great Britain will try to replicate their win at the same stage against the same opposition when the competition was last held in 2019. ‘It’s going to be a tough match but it will also be a tough match for them,’ said Smith.
‘We have a really good team and we’ve taken a lot from the last couple of days. We’ll go in bouncing and in good form.’
Judging by the world rankings, GB are favourites as Germany’s best player, Alex Zverev, is their only member of the world’s top 10 and he declined to play this week. They can still call on Jan-Lennard Struff and Dominik Koepfer, ranked 51 and 54 respectively.
Cam Norrie and Dan Evans are both higher, although there have been enough instances already in this event when the rankings have meant little in the team format.
Should it come down to a deciding doubles then there looks little to choose between the teams as all four players, including Germany’s Tim Puetz and Kevin Krawietz, are inside the world’s top 20.
Smith is confident that team spirit may give his side the edge in what will be an empty stadium due to lockdown, having all bonded together in their mountain hotel above Innsbruck.
‘Everyone feels part of it,’ he said. ‘We’re in the team room in the evening. We’re lucky we have different stuff to be doing, playing games. We spend time in there because we enjoy each other’s company. It’s been such a good bunch of people to be around.’