Tennis – ATP Final – Pala Alpitour, Turin, Italy – November 19, 2021 Serbia’s Novak Djokovic in action during his group game against the British Cameron Norrie REUTERS / Guglielmo Mangiapane
MELBOURNE: World number one Novak Djokovic and all other players must be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to participate in the Australia Open next January, tournament director Craig Tiley said on Saturday.
Djokovic has declined to disclose whether he is vaccinated and said, that he would wait for Tennis Australia to post health logs before making a decision about playing at Melbourne Park.
“There is a lot of speculation about vaccinations and to be clear when the (state) prime minister announced that everyone on site … has to be vaccinated … we made that clear to the playgroup,” said Tiley told reporters at the start of the tournament.
“(Novak) said he considered this a private matter for him. We would love to see Novak here, he knows he needs to be vaccinated to play here.”
The announcement brings months of negotiations to a final conclusion between Tennis Australia and the state government of Victoria, which consistently insisted that everyone in Melbourne Park must be vaccinated.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison opened a window to unvaccinated players when he said they would be allowed into the country if they were quarantined for 14 days and Victoria State requested an exemption.
Victoria’s Prime Minister Daniel Andrews quickly made it clear that no exceptions will be requested for unvaccinated players.
Djokovic shares the record of 20 men’s Grand Slam singles titles with Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer and will try to keep this tie breaking by winning a 10th Australian Open title if he chooses to play in January.
Nadal confirmed that he would play at Melbourne Park in January but Federer, who like the Spaniard is also fully vaccinated, will miss the tournament as he recovers from another knee operation.
Tiley said around 80 percent of the player cohort are now vaccinated and will be playing in front of a full crowd at all stadiums when the Grand Slam tournament kicks off on January 17th.
This is in contrast to last year’s tournament, which was played in front of a limited audience and partially empty grandstands by players who were almost all in hotel quarantine.
Tiley confirmed part of the field for the women’s singles draw, led by Serena Williams, who matched Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles with an eighth Melbourne Park triumph.
Naomi Osaka – who has not played since the US Open – has also confirmed that she will also be on the field in Melbourne with world number one Ash Barty, US Open winner Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez, Tiley said.
Victoria State Sports Minister Martin Pakula also announced that Melbourne Park will host the Australian Open until 2044 under a new contract negotiated with Tennis Australia.
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