French tennis star, Jeremy Chardy announced that he will have to end his tennis season early due to a severe adverse reaction he suffered after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Since getting the vaccine, Chardy said he has experienced violent pain throughout his body when he expends physical effort. Describing his ordeal, Chardy explained, “since I got my vaccine, I have a problem, I have a series of problems. As a result, I can’t train, I can’t play.”1 2 The tennis great who said he got the vaccine to perform a “common good for humanity”3 now says that he is “completely sorry I was inoculated.”4
Unlike many sports, tennis players do not have a players union and individual players do not belong to a team where management can mandate vaccination. Vaccination rates for tennis players lag behind other sports, even those with individual competitors like in the Professional Golfers Association (PGA), which reportedly has a 70% vaccination rate.
By early September, the WNBA had the highest vaccination rate with 99 percent. The vaccination rates for players in organized sports are MLS 95 percent; National Basketball Association (NBA) 90 percent; National Football League (NFL) 90 percent and Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Hockey League (NHL) at 85 percent.5
World Tennis Association Not Requiring COVID-19 Vaccine
Meanwhile, in tennis, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Tour has nearly a 50 percent vaccination rate while the rate for the Men’s Tennis tour is just above 50 percent.6 The WTA would like vaccination rates to reach 80 percent but has said it’s “not requiring players to get a vaccine as this is a personal decision, and one which we respect.”7
For the professional tennis player, making medical decisions in their best interest doesn’t come without consequences. French player, Gilles Simon was disqualified from the U.S. Open because he wasn’t vaccinated and was considered to have had close contact with his coach, who tested positive for the virus. Vaccinated players who have come into close contact with someone who has tested positive are able to compete as long as they submit to testing, while unvaccinated players are required to quarantine.
Tennis Players Defending Importance of Free Will
Rather than playing in the U.S. Open, Simon was ordered to stay in his small hotel room for 10 days.8 Expressing the importance of free will, Simon said:
I’m not very scared of COVID, actually, my basic philosophy is: If you’re afraid of it, you get vaccinated; if not, no. It’s still a choice.9
Novak Djokovic echoed this pro-choice sentiment when he said:
Whether someone wants to get a vaccine or not, that’s completely up to them. I hope that it stays that way.19
Stafanos Tsitsipas, a Greek player who is the third ranked player in the world, admitted that he would not get the vaccine unless it was mandated to play in tournaments stating:
I don’t see any reason for someone of my age to do it. “It hasn’t been tested enough and it has side effects. As long as it’s not mandatory, everyone can decide for themselves.11
The Greek government not only didn’t like Tsitsipa expressing his point of view, they went so far as to say that Tsitsipa shouldn’t even have an opinion at all about vaccination. A government spokesman said:
Stefanos Tsitsipas is a great athlete, his skills in sports and his contribution to sports in the country is unquestionable. What is at stake, however, is his ability to assess the need for vaccinations or whether the vaccine has been tested for a sufficient period of time. And … he has neither the knowledge nor the studies nor the research work that would allow him to form an opinion about it.12
Some Tennis Players and Fans Criticizing Unvaccinated Players
At the Miami Open in March, a number of prominent tennis players including Andrey Rublev, Diego Schwartzman, Aryna Sabalenka, and Elina Svitolina expressed doubts about getting the COVID shot. Sabalenka said:
If you ask me if I can choose and I can have an option, I will not do it… I have to speak with my doctors and see which one is better for me, but for now, I don’t really trust it.13
Some fans have gone as far as saying that they will no longer root for their former tennis favorites because they didn’t get in line for the vaccine. Other fans have expressed the opinion that players are role models who need to take the vaccine for “the greater good,”with one stating…“They have a moral responsibility and they have to be held to a higher standard—because that is what I would do [if I were them].”14
There are top tennis players who have received the shot, such as Romanian tennis player, Simona Halep, who posted pictures of herself getting the vaccine on social media. Ash Barty and Naomi Osake, ranked number 1 and 2 in the world respectively, are fans of the vaccine and both received their shots.
ATP player council member, Andy Murray unhappy with too many players making their own health care decisions, which includes refusing to get the experimental vaccine, said, “there’s going to have to be a lot of pretty long, hard conversations with the tour and all of the players involved to try and come to a solution”15
Murray believes that the players should get the shot because it would be responsible of them to protect others even though the vaccine was not designed to prevent infection with and transmission of the virus, only to prevent severe symptoms of COVID-19 disease. The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rochelle Walensky, MD said that, with regard to the Delta variant, COVID vaccines do not prevent transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. She admitted that a fully vaccinated person could have a “breakthrough case” and be positive for COVID-19 and, despite having no symptoms, pass the virus along to others.16
While players still maintain the right to make the personal medical decision not to get the experimental vaccine, tennis fans must get the shot in order to go to certain stadiums to watch these players in action. Spectators at the U.S. Open were only permitted to see the tennis greats with proof of vaccination.17
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1 Tennis veteran Chardy suspends season after reaction to Covid jab. Sports 24 Sept. 24, 2021.
2 Mesic D. Jeremy Chardy: I regret getting vaccinated, I have series of problems now. Tennis World USA Sept. 25, 2021.
3 Mesic D. Taking vaccine and doing ‘common good for humanity’ force Jeremy Chardy to end season. Tennis World Sept. 27, 2021.
4 Vacca A. Renowned French tennis player can’t train after receiving the vaccine: His career is in danger. The Bl Sept. 25, 2021.
5 Poole M. NFL, NBA, MLB players avoiding vaccines jeopardize wins. NBC Sports Sept. 2, 2021.
6 Rotherbeg B. Why So Many Tennis Players Don’t Want the Covid Vaccine. The New York Times Aug. 30, 2021.
12 Reuters. Greek government pushes back on Tsitsipas’ vaccine comments. Aug. 19, 2021.
13 Morghan R. ‘Don’t trust it’: Tennis players spark uproar with vaccine stance. Yahoo! Sports Mar. 30, 2021.
14 Kumar A. How US Open fans feel about lagging vaccination rates in tennis. ESPN Sept. 2, 2021.
15 Rotherbeg B. Why So Many Tennis Players Don’t Want the Covid Vaccine. The New York Times Aug. 30, 2021.
16 Cáceres M. COVID Vaccines No Longer Able to “Prevent Transmission” of SARS-CoV-2. The Vaccine Reaction Sept. 12, 2021.
17 Keating S. Azarenka calls for mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations. Reuters Sept. 2, 2021.