Novak Djokovic Australian Open hopes boosted amid organisers ‘back door’ plan to avoid ban

Novak Djokovic celebrates Serbia's WC qualification

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Unvaccinated tennis players could compete in January’s Australian Open after details of a plan emerged that would see the city of Sydney used as a ‘back door’ route. Government officials have been at odds over the introduction of a vaccine mandate, but the Victoria Premier has remained firm on his stance that tennis players needed to be double-jabbed to come to Melbourne. Novak Djokovic is one of the players in doubt, after he refused to disclose his vaccination status and admitted he wasn’t sure if he’d compete.

There have been months of uncertainty surrounding the conditions for unvaccinated players at the upcoming Australian Open.

Those travelling to the country must be fully-vaccinated, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously admitted that pro players could receive an exemption, provided those who are unjabbed complete a two-week hotel quarantine.

However, the Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, has repeatedly ruled out applying for an exemption and stood strong on his stance over banning unvaccinated players, previously saying: “What I want to make very clear is that the state of Victoria will not be applying for any exemptions for unvaccinated players.”

Now, it appears Tennis Australia is exploring options to use Sydney as something of a ‘back door’, having unvaccinated players fly to the New South Wales city to complete their mandatory hotel quarantine, after which they would be free to travel down to Melbourne and compete in the Australian Open.

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According to the Sydney Morning Herald, sources say the governing body for tennis is looking into the possibility of bringing players to the state of New South Wales, and hosting Australian Open warm-up tournaments, including the ATP Cup.

An apparent loophole would allow unvaccinated players to complete their 14-day hotel quarantine, play the Sydney lead-up tournaments and join the vaccinated players in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open, kicking off on January 17.

The NSW Tourism Minister sounded keen to host unvaccinated players ahead of the first Grand Slam of 2022.

“Marquee sporting events like the ATP Cup are important to NSW for the significant boost they provide to our state’s visitor economy,” Stuart Ayres said.

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“The ATP Cup attracts the world’s best tennis players, officials and their supporters to the Greater Sydney area, who stay in our hotels, visit our attractions, and spend in our retail stores, restaurants, bars and cafes.

“It has been a challenging year for Sydney, but we have made swift progress following the NSW Government’s COVID-19 reopening roadmap.

“As we continue on our path to reopening we know events like the ATP Cup will play a vital role in our social and economic recovery.”

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Tennis Australia is set to announce its full summer schedule by the end of the week.

The plan to allow unvaccinated players into the country through Sydney will come as welcome news to Djokovic, who has been against plans for a vaccine mandate and does not want to disclose his vaccination status.

Last month, the nine-time champion cast doubt over his participation at the Australian Open as he told Serbian newspaper Blic: “I don’t know if I’m going to Australia, I don’t know what’s going on. Currently, the situation is not good at all.

“I have my opinion and it has always been the same. I will not reveal my status whether I have been vaccinated or not.”

However, at the recent Paris Masters, the world No 1 said he would not comment on the matter again until a final decision was announced.

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