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October 20, 2021

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Djokovic unsure about Australian Open defense amid vaccine rules

Unvaccinated tennis players and other athletes are unlikely to get visas to enter Australia, a government official said yesterday, putting Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open title defense and bid for the Grand Slam record in doubt.

World No. 1 Djokovic, level on 20 Grand Slam titles with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, declined to reveal his vaccination status again this week and said he was unsure if he would defend his Australian Open title as authorities work out COVID-19 restrictions for the tournament.

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said he doubted any unvaccinated athletes would be allowed into the country, let alone Victoria, which hosts the Australian Open in Melbourne.

“I don’t think an unvaccinated tennis player is going to get a visa to come into this country and if they did get a visa they’d probably have to quarantine for a couple of weeks,” Andrews told a media briefing.

“I don’t think that the person you indicated (Djokovic) or any other tennis player, let’s not personalize it ... or golfer or Formula One driver will even get a visa to get here.

“If I’m wrong I’m sure the federal government will let you know.

“(The virus) doesn’t care what your tennis ranking is, or how many Grand Slams you’ve won. It’s completely irrelevant. You need to be vaccinated to keep yourself safe and to keep others safe.”

Tennis Australia, which organizes the Australian Open, did not provide immediate comment.

Victoria recently introduced a vaccine mandate for professional athletes, without clarifying whether it would cover those coming from abroad or other Australian states.

Andrews suggested the mandate did cover international athletes and said there should not be special arrangements for athletes coming to compete at high-profile events.

“On the question of vaccination, no,” he said.

“Professional sport is part of those (items on the) authorized worker list and they have to be double-dose vaccinated.

“This is here for a while .... We’re not going to be essentially encouraging people to not get vaccinated because they reckon they can wait a few months or a few weeks. You can’t wait out coronavirus.”

Earlier, Djokovic told the online edition of Serbian daily Blic: “Things being as they are, I still don’t know if I will go to Melbourne.

“I will not reveal my status whether I have been vaccinated or not, it is a private matter and an inappropriate inquiry.

“People go too far these days in taking the liberty to ask questions and judge a person. Whatever you say ‘Yes, no, maybe, I am thinking about it’, they will take advantage.”

Djokovic has won the season’s opening Grand Slam a record nine times, including the last three editions.

The 34-year-old last competed at the US Open, where his bid to complete the calendar slam — winning all four majors in the same year — was ended by Russian Daniil Medvedev in the final.

Djokovic said he plans to compete in the Paris Masters, the season-ending ATP Finals in Turin, Italy, and the Davis Cup before the end of 2021.

“Of course I want to go, Australia is my most successful Grand Slam tournament. I want to compete, I love this sport and I am still motivated,” he said.


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