Tennis: Victoria lockdown bans fans at Australian Open
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Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open chances have taken yet another hit, as the Victorian Premier has doubled down on his strict stance against allowing unvaccinated players. Daniel Andrews has backed a vaccine mandate for professional tennis players competing in the season-opening Grand Slam, in line with the country’s requirements for travellers to be double-jabbed.
Djokovic’s participation in the 2022 Australian Open has been uncertain for several weeks.
The nine-time champion has previously spoken out against vaccine mandates, refusing to disclose his vaccination status, and even admitted he was unsure whether he’d play the first Major of the season.
Australian government officials have leant towards making proof of full vaccination a requirement for tennis players travelling to compete in the first Grand Slam of next season.
Tennis Australia is still hopeful that unjabbed players can compete subject to undergoing a two-week hotel quarantine, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently admitted pro players could be part of an exemption to the vaccination rule, provided they complete the mandatory quarantine.
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However, Morrison found himself embroiled in a row with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews a couple of weeks ago, as Andrews refused to apply for an exemption for those travelling to Melbourne for the tournament.
The Premier has now doubled-down on his strict stance, refusing once again to let tennis players go against the rules when all Australian spectators and employees at the tournament would be required to be fully vaccinated.
“I’m not going to have people sitting in the grandstands having done the right thing, only to have millionaire players that ought be vaccinated running around the place being essentially at such higher risk of spreading this – getting it and giving it,” Andrews said on Tuesday (November 9).
Less than two weeks ago, the Premier of Victoria shut down the Prime Minister’s suggestion of an exemption for players, saying: “What I want to make very clear is that the state of Victoria will not be applying for any exemptions for unvaccinated players.”
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A leaked email, sent by the WTA Players’ Council at the end of October following correspondence with Tennis Australia, also revealed that tournament organisers were hoping unjabbed players could compete if they underwent a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Nine-time champion Djokovic may be one of the players affected by the ban, and could be forced to miss out on the chance to compete for a record 21st Major title come January.
“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,” he told Serbian newspaper Blic recently.
Arriving in Paris for the final Masters 1000 of the season last week, which he later won, the Serb said he would not comment on the situation further until a final decision was announced.
Revealing his final decision on competing in Australia would come after a final, official statement, Djokovic told reporters: “Right now, we don’t have any official announcement or statement, so until that’s out, I won’t be talking about this anymore because I don’t want to be part of the stories about the assumptions and what-ifs.
“When official condition requirements to travel to Australia and play in Australia are out, then obviously I’ll see what I personally do with that, and also the bigger group of the players, you know, because the situation is obviously different in Australia than most parts of the world.”
However, it is seeming increasingly likely that any pro player hoping to compete in the first Grand Slam tournament of the season will need to prove they are double-jabbed, or find themselves unable to travel to Melbourne.
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