The Australian Open in January will be the first Grand Slam tennis tournament to require players to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, a decision that casts doubt on the participation of Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, the No. 1 ranked men’s player, who has refused to grant his vaccination status. to announce.
Craig Tiley, the tournament director of the Australian Open, confirmed the tournament’s policy in a televised interview in Melbourne on Saturday.
The announcement ended months of speculation and mixed messages from Australian government officials. Federal authorities had indicated that unvaccinated players may be able to enter Australia and participate in the tournament in Melbourne after a 14-day quarantine period. But Victoria’s Prime Minister Daniel Andrews is adamant that players should be fully vaccinated, just as Australian Open spectators and on-site staff should be vaccinated.
Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, has undergone some of the strictest coronavirus measures in the world, with six separate home orders over an 18-month period.
“It’s the only direction you can take to ensure everyone’s safety, and the whole playgroup understands it,” said Mr. Tiley on requiring players to be vaccinated. “Our customers will have to be vaccinated. All the staff working on the Australian Open should be vaccinated, but if we’re in a state where over 90 percent of the population is fully vaccinated – they’ve done a fantastic job with that – it’s the right choice. ”
Steve Simon, the chief executive of the Women’s Tennis Association, said in an interview last week that “more than 70 percent” of the WTA’s top 300 singles and top 100 doubles had been vaccinated and that all singles and doubles competing in the recent WTA final in Mexico was vaccinated.
Andrea Gaudenzi, the president of the men’s tour, said in an interview on Friday that the vaccination coverage for the top 100 men in singles was “above 80 percent”.
“We’re moving towards 90 percent, 95 percent of the fully vaccinated,” he said. “Many will do it with one shot in the off-season.”
But it seems almost certain that some qualified players will not make the trip to Australia because of the policy.
All four Grand Slam tournaments, including the US Open, allowed unvaccinated players to compete this year, as did regular tour events.
Djokovic, a nine-time Australian Open singles champion, has yet to confirm whether he will defend his title next year. He and his wife, Jelena, contracted the coronavirus in June 2020 during an exhibition tour he helped organize in Serbia and Croatia.
He has expressed concerns about vaccines and has repeatedly said he would wait for Australian Open policies to be clear before making a decision on whether to participate.