The Issue With Diplomacy and COVID-19

Olivia Gadecki is ranked 181st in the world. Like world #1 Ash Barty, she is Australian. In fact, Barty has been supporting the 19-year-old Gadecki for some time. The teenager’s ranking isn’t sufficiently high to qualify for the Australian Open next month, but she was primed to receive a wild card into the main draw. The only problem? Gadecki is refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, which is a must for Australian Open participants.

Barty has recently spoken about Gadecki’s decision — most disappointingly saying “I’m proud that she’s made her decision, for her reasons, for her right reasons.” There are several issues with this. Gadecki’s choice isn’t shocking; a teenager making the unenlightened choice not to protect themselves, and potentially others, from COVID-19, is tragically far from unique. The more surprising reveal is Barty’s apparent peace with Gadecki’s unvaccinated status. Barty is vaccinated. Due to travel restrictions in Australia, she skipped last year’s U.S. Open and this year’s WTA Finals, passing up her chance to defend her title at the latter tournament.

Though it’s much better than many players’ stances on vaccination — take Pierre-Hughes Herbert, who is also refusing to get jabbed and will therefore miss the Australian Open — Barty’s philosophy is frustratingly inconsistent. It’s great to be vaccinated to protect those around you, but why someone wouldn’t then hold others to the same standard is beyond me. I’d like to protect myself and others from a disease that has been killing thousands of people every day, but you, you can do whatever you want.

Holding people accountable is often difficult or uncomfortable. With COVID-19, it is necessary. The world has already been deeply scarred by the pandemic, and there is no end in sight. People still refuse to wear masks out of belief of conspiracy theories or sheer selfish negligence. Many who do wear masks wear them below their noses, seemingly unaware that people draw in air through that body part as well as through the mouth. 21 months into the pandemic, it all tragically screams I don’t care, and we should care, we should care an immense amount.

Barty’s quotes are a million miles from the most discouraging takes on vaccination, but they’re still detrimental to the push to get through the pandemic. It’s natural to want to support someone you mentor. But in today’s climate, it’s crucial to call out those who aren’t doing their part, regardless of who they might be. Criticizing someone and wanting them to do better is not the same thing as turning one’s back on them or expressing dislike (assuming that’s what Barty wants to avoid).

The best response to the Gadecki news is to disagree with her decision and hope she comes to her senses.

Photo by the very talented Adam Nieścioruk over on Unsplash.com

Published by Owen

Owen has been a tennis fan since Roland-Garros in 2016. Initially a Federer fan, his preferences evened out the more tennis he watched and the more he learned. He started a blog (https://racketblog.com/) in early 2019. In the summer of 2021, he got a media credential at the ATP 250 event in Newport, Rhode Island, and got to talk to a few players, including former world No. 5 Kevin Anderson and rising star Jenson Brooksby. Owen will argue to the death that the 2009 Australian Open semifinal between Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco is the greatest match ever, he hates that one-handed backhands are praised so often for their subjective elegance (sucking praise away from the more effective two-handers), and he thinks the best part of tennis is its scoring system, the mental and physical challenge not far behind. You can follow him on Twitter @tennisnation.

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