ANDY MURRAY will make a belated start to 2021 at a Challenger Tour event in northern Italy tomorrow, with one eye on what’s happening at the Australian Open and a nagging feeling that he should be there too.

The former world No.1 is missing from the first Grand Slam of the year after testing positive for Covid-19 last month.

And what makes Murray even more annoyed is that he is convinced he picked up the virus at the National Tennis Centre in west London, where he feels Covid-19 protocols were not being adhered to as well over the Christmas
period as they were before or since.

“I couldn’t [have picked] it up anywhere else because I hadn’t left my house or the NTC for 10 weeks, and then obviously there were some positive cases there,” Murray said.

“I certainly couldn’t have picked it up from my family because they were all negative.”

Murray said he was “pretty ill” for two days.

“My wife tested negative, my whole family tested negative, so I was isolating in my room at home for five days because I didn’t want my family to get it, if possible.

“But then five or six days later my wife tested positive, then a few days after that the kids tested positive, so the whole family got it in the end. That’s how I know obviously where I picked it up.”

Murray’s frustrations are that much greater because he feels he and his team took every precaution possible.

“I didn’t leave my house or the NTC for the 10 weeks of training,” he said. “I would have gone for a walk with my dogs around the block or taking my kids around the block on their scooters for some exercise. I have got an electric car so I didn’t stop at any petrol stations on the way there. I was very careful because it’s not just for tennis reasons.

“My feeling is that we stuck to all the protocols as best as we could. I obviously don’t know what everyone gets up to when we are away from the tennis venue but I know that none of my team have had the virus. I was the only one to pick it up and none of my family had it before, so I brought it to them.

“The only two places I went to were the National Tennis Centre and my house, so I know where I got it from. I am very comfortable with how I conducted myself.

“My family are okay, I was p***ed off that I missed the tournament and wasn’t able to go to Australia from a personal perspective, but then the
wider more important point,
is that it’s not just about a tennis tournament, when I am going back and giving the virus to all of my family and infecting them. I care about that a lot.

“And I don’t think people
always realise that if you’re not sticking to what the rules and the protocols are, or the protocols that are in place are not good enough, you’re putting people in serious danger. It’s frustrating.”

Dan Evans backed up Murray’s comments.

“Obviously the virus got into the centre somehow,” he said. “I think [in the] Christmas period and the new year period maybe [things] slackened a little bit. Obviously the doctor [at the NTC] had Covid as well, so that coincided with, I think, players then getting it when she was isolating.

“If I was being a bit harsh…there were probably people in there who weren’t preparing for tournaments and they were using the centre just to practice, to get out [of the house]. But they were allowed to, and that was sort of the way it was.”

In a statement yesterday, the LTA said they had set strict guidelines which varied according to government guidance.

“Our protocols are regularly communicated to everyone using the venue and we expect them to be adhered to in the player lounge and all other areas of the building,” the statement said.

“It is impossible for LTA staff to police every part of the building continuously and ultimately individuals are responsible for their own behaviour and ensuring they follow the rules to protect themselves and others.”

Murray, who faces world No.207 Maximilian Marterer of Germany in the first round tomorrow, said he had been training well but was still disappointed not to be in Australia.

“I’m still gutted,” he said. “When I’m sitting in my hotel room here when I’m obviously healthy and fit and ready to play and compete, seeing the tournaments going on over there, is tough, because I’d prepared really, really well.

“It had probably been the best two or three months training that I had done in the last few years.”