Australian Open set to allow only vaccinated players for 2022 event

A report in The Sunday Age newspaper says tournament organisers will make it mandatory for players to be vaccinated against Covid-19 for the 2022 event

Novak Djokovic, Melbourne 2021

If Novak Djokovic wants to win a record 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January, then it looks like he will need to make sure he is fully vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus.

A report in Melbourne newspaper The Age on Sunday said Australian Open tournament director and Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley was “resigned” to the fact that he will have to tell players that unless they’re vaccinated, they can’t come in.

The report comes after the Victoria government announced on Saturday that all athletes in the state would need to be vaccinated, from now on, if they want to carry on their jobs. Though international tennis players are not included in the policy, and though Tiley fought against it for fear of losing some of the sport’s top stars, it now seems likely that the Australian Open will follow suit.

“Mr Tiley has since become resigned to it and is cooperating with the government, according to four government and sports sources speaking anonymously to detail confidential negotiations,” the Age said.

Victoria’s premier, Daniel Andrews, said the rules will apply to everyone. “(Grand slam) titles won’t protect you,” he told reporters. “The only title that will protect you is you being able to have had your first dose and second dose. Logic, and numerous conversations with the Prime Minister, tells me that if you are an Australian citizen, you will be allowed home if you haven’t had the jab. But if you’re coming on a tourist visa or a business visa, so you’re not an Aussie, like, you are coming to visit, the notion of you getting in here without being vaccinated, I thinks very, very low.”

Craig Tiley, Open d'Australie 2021
Craig Tiley, Australian Open, 2021

Some players still reluctant to be vaccinated

Melbourne has had one of the strictest lockdowns in the world. On Tuesday, it will have been under some sort of lockdown protocols for 246 days, more than any other city. However, 56.5 percent of all people 16 and older are now fully vaccinated and the hope is to raise that figure to 80 percent by November, which will enable the country to open up more.

World No 1 Djokovic has said on a number of occasions that he considers it to be a “personal choice” to take the vaccine or not, and refused to say whether he had been vaccinated, or would do so.

Stefanos Tsitsipas also said he was not keen on taking the vaccine, saying he didn’t think someone of his age needed to take it, adding that “it hasn’t been tested enough and it has side effects”. The Greek government pushed back on those comments, saying that Tsitsipas was not qualified to speak that way, and the 23-year-old has since said he will get the vaccine, so he can take advantage of the benefits, like going to “shops and restaurants”.

Women’s world No 2 Aryna Sabalenka, who said she didn’t want to get the vaccine, will miss this week’s BNP Paribas Open after testing positive for Covid-19.

Greater freedoms in Melbourne for fully-vaccinated players

According to a New York Times report at the end of August, only around 50 percent of ATP and WTA Tour players had been fully vaccinated at that stage. Both the ATP and WTA Tours are “strongly encouraging” their players to take the vaccine but so far, have fallen short of making it mandatory.

Players arriving in Melbourne for the Australian Open will again require to quarantine for 14 days. However, the restrictions will not be as strict in 2022 as they were in 2021, with players allowed out to train more than they were this year. Tiley has already said that players who are fully vaccinated will receive “greater freedoms” than those who haven’t.

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