Novak Djokovic could be banned from defending his title at the Australian Open because he refuses to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The Victorian government appears likely to impose vaccines on all tennis tournament players in January, even though the state has passed 90 percent of the bites.
Prime Minister Daniel Andrews asked if Djokovic would even be allowed to get a visa to enter Australia without being vaccinated.
Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley had previously expressed fears that such a requirement would prevent a group of big stars from competing who are reluctant to get vaccinated.
Among them is world number one and nine-time Australian Open champion Djokovic, who would try to win his record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title in Melbourne.
Novak Djokovic (pictured with wife Jelena Ristic in 2019) is said to be chasing his record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title in Melbourne in 2022
Djokovic, who has already won the event nine times, could be banned from playing if a vaccination warrant is introduced (pictured at the 2021 Australian Open in front of a minimum number of participants)
While tennis and cricketers have avoided the Andrews government’s large-scale worker vaccination rules, discussions on a separate mandate for the Australian Open are ongoing.
Tiley along with AFL boss Gillon McLaughlin, Melbourne Cricket Ground general manager Stuart Fox and government officials held meetings on how Covid-safe sporting events would be handled.
Despite Tiley’s objections, Victorian health director Brett Sutton will likely only let fully vaccinated international players attend the tournament.
‘Tiley said we won’t have star players and the state government has effectively said’ drop it [and] they capitulated, âsaid a source with direct knowledge of the negotiations Age.
The group of sports bosses also quickly agreed that spectators and customer service workers at sporting events need to be fully immunized to attend.
Mr Andrews dodged questions about whether the Australian Open’s vaccination mandate would definitely happen, but said Djokovic might not get a visa.
‘[Tennis grand slam] titles won’t protect you either. The only title that will protect you is so that you can have your first dose and your second dose, âhe said.
“Logic tells me and many conversations with the Prime Ministerâ¦ tell me that if you are an Australian citizen you will be allowed to go home if you haven’t had the jab.”
“But if you come on a tourist visa or a business visa, so you’re not an Australian, like, you come to visit, the idea of ââyou coming in here unvaccinated, I think very, very weak . ‘
Fans who want to watch the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest tennis event firsthand will need to receive a double knock to get through the gates (Photo: 2021 Australian Open spectators)
Tennis’s top governing bodies, ATP and WTA, have no rules in place requiring mandatory vaccinations for players – leaving that requirement to individual tournaments.
In September, while the US Open was underway, ATP estimated that around half of male players had been vaccinated against Covid-19 while the WTA said their figure was a bit higher, at around 60% of female players.
Both sporting bodies have said they are recommending the vaccine to players but will not make a jab mandatory.
“While we respect everyone’s right to free choice, we also believe that every player has a role to play in helping the group at large achieve a safe level of immunity,” ATP said in a statement.
“This will allow us to relax restrictions on site for the benefit of everyone on the Tour.”
Briton Andy Murray (pictured with wife Kim Murray) is pro-vaccine and says the community at large needs to be protected
At the US Open, the same rules didn’t apply to spectators – who weren’t allowed through the doors unless they could show they were fully immunized.
The top tennis stars of the tour are split on the jab. Retired British star Andy Murray said the vaccination was needed to “keep the general public under surveillance”.
Australia’s top player Ash Barty was one of the first on tour to be immunized in April as part of a WTA early vaccination campaign.
But others like Stefanos Tsitsipas, semi-finalist of the Australian Open, resist.
The 23-year-old caused an uproar in his home country Greece when he said he would only get the jab if it was made compulsory to participate.
And German Alexander Zverev was pictured partying in Monaco just days after being swept away by Novak Djokovic’s Adria Tour debacle in 2020.
Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas (pictured in Boston last month) already caused a stir when he said he wouldn’t get a Covid vaccine unless ATP made them mandatory
The event, organized while the official tour was at a standstill, led Djokovic, his wife, three other players and other members of their entourage to test positive for the coronavirus after a stint in a Belgrade nightclub.
âI just received the news that my team and I have tested negative for Covid-19,â Zverev wrote in 2020.
âI deeply apologize to everyone I have potentially put at risk while playing this tour. I will continue to follow the self-isolation guidelines advised by our doctors. As an added precaution, my team and I will continue with regular testing.
âI wish everyone who has tested positive a speedy recovery. Be careful.’
An enraged Nick Kyrgios took to the 22-year-old on Instagram over the photos of the nightclub.
“So I wake up and see more controversial things happening all over the world, but one of the things that struck me was seeing Zverev man again, again, again, how selfish can you be?” How selfish can you be? ‘ he said.