Kiwi Olympic medallist Michael Venus is considering legal action against the Government after trying for months to return to New Zealand - only to be left frustrated with the country's managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) system.
The 33-year-old hasn't seen his family in months, having been competing on the ATP Tour either side of his Games success in July, when he and doubles partner Marcus Daniell became the first New Zealanders to win an Olympic tennis medal since the legendary Anthony Wilding in 1912.
Venus left New Zealand in April, one week after the birth of his second daughter Georgia. Last week wife Sally, mum Lyn, Georgia and two-year-old Lila-Grace finally left Auckland to join him in San Diego.
Lyn had to quit her job as an emergency department nurse as she, too, couldn't secure an MIQ voucher and wasn't able to tell her employer when she would be able to return to New Zealand, Venus said.
"I've been trying since before the Games for a spot," he told the Herald. "You couldn't book a November spot when I left New Zealand (in April). My wife and mum left because we weren't optimistic about getting me a spot and I hadn't seen my kids in five months.
"We needed her (Lyn) to help Sally with the kids as she is also trying to work."
Venus has now added his voice to the growing chorus of those unhappy with the Covid-19 MIQ booking system - with the latest room release on Tuesday seeing as many as 30,000 overseas-based Kiwis queueing virtually for 3,800 spots.
"It's going to be a challenge and it's tricky obviously. We would love to know what we're doing once the season ends where we're going to go. My mum's got another grandkid expected late December and she would love to be back for that, but we just have to wait, and we will keep trying and see what happens," Venus said.
"We're probably also going to have a look down the legal options and see what's going on in that regard to see if it is actually legal what's happening."
Last year Venus also had issues with MIQ after qualifying for the season-ending ATP Finals in London and endured some stressful moments before finally securing a voucher in late November.
He says he is staggered that 19 months into the pandemic things haven't improved for New Zealanders overseas.
"You understand at the beginning of the pandemic - for health reasons and trying to get the country right - you know it needed to be done, but at the same time to stop New Zealand citizens coming back while you're letting other sporting countries come into the country and take up spots away from citizens... then we kind of think it may be in a bit of a grey area and we're looking at exploring some of that," Venus said.
His frustration follows that of Kiwi UFC superstar Israel Adesanya, who this week announced that he would be based in the US indefinitely following what he claims was preferential treatment for certain sporting codes.
In response to Venus' complaint, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told the Herald the Government "has taken legal advice on all aspects of its decision making throughout the pandemic".
"We're acutely aware of and acknowledge the challenges the MIQ system has created for people wanting the sort of free international travel we all we enjoyed pre-pandemic. We've had to strike a balance between facilitating travel in and out of New Zealand and preventing Covid-19 from overwhelming our country, as it has many others," Hipkins said.
"As vaccination rates continue to climb, we're already working on options for the first quarter of next year to make it easier for fully vaccinated people to travel safely. We will also learn from the pilot we announced on Monday, starting this year, for a small number of fully vaccinated business employees to isolate at approved addresses.
"It is, of course, the right of any New Zealander to challenge a government decision in court."
Venus and Daniell are reunited today when they face Americans Tommy Paul and Taylor Fritz in the first round of the San Diego Open.
There is a chance the duo could also play together at the prestigious Indian Wells Masters next week - with Venus' regular partner, German Tim Puetz, still recovering from the side strain that forced him out of the US Open.