A number of tennis stars, including Novak Djokovic and Aryna Sabalenka, are set to miss next year’s Australian Open as they are not yet vaccinated against Covid-19.
The Grand Slam is due to begin on 17th January 2022, in Melbourne, Victoria and the state has introduced a vaccination mandate for professional athletes.
And Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, believes tennis players are no exception and are unlikely to be allowed into the country unless they are jabbed in time.
“I don’t think an unvaccinated tennis player is going to get a visa to come into this country,” he said.
“If they did get a visa they’d probably have to quarantine for a couple of weeks.
“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.”
These regulations are likely to impact a number of players on both the men’s and women’s tours.
Back in August, freelance tennis reporter, Ben Rothenberg said that “only 50 percent roughly of the men and women” who were competing at the US Open were vaccinated.
Speaking to KCRW, he explained the reasons for players’ scepticism and disinclination to take the vaccine.
“Some of them just think they’re healthy young athletes and don’t need it, and why would they take something that they conceive of as being risky for no purpose?
“Some have had genuine reasons for being slower to get it, whether it’s travel, you know, tennis players are very nomadic, going from different cities every week, different countries. And so if … one of the vaccines requires different doses at different intervals, that can be tricky to do.”
Men’s world number one, Djokovic, declined to reveal his vaccination status in an interview with Serbian publication, Blic, and said it was “a private matter.”
However, the 34-year-old did admit in May earlier this year that he was opposed to mandatory vaccines for players on tour, arguing it would be against freedom of choice.
The nine-time Australian Open winner is still unsure if he’ll defend his title in Melbourne, but it may well be out of his hands.
In the women’s game, world number two, Sabalenka, was recently ruled out of the Indian Wells Open after testing positive for Covid-19 after revealing she “doesn’t trust” vaccines.
Back in March, the Belarusian said: “It’s tough to say, but I don’t really want it yet and I don’t want my family to take it. If I will have to do it, then, of course, I have to do it because our life is a travel life.”
In terms of quarantine measures for the tournament, organisers are hopeful of players spending time in a bio-secure bubble as opposed to hotel quarantining like last year.
The 2021 competition was pushed back three weeks this year and players were forced to remain in their hotel for a fortnight upon arrival in the country.