The Australian Open in January will be the first Grand Slam tennis tournament to require players to be fully vaccinated against coronavirus, a decision that casts doubt on the participation of Novak Djokovic from Serbia, the No. 1 ranked men’s player who has declined. to reveal its vaccination status.
Craig Tiley, the Australian Open tournament director, confirmed the tournament’s policy in a TV interview in Melbourne on Saturday.
The announcement put an end to months of speculation and mixed messages from Australian government officials. Federal authorities had indicated that unvaccinated players could possibly enter Australia and compete in the tournament in Melbourne after a 14-day quarantine period. But Daniel Andrews, the prime minister of the state of Victoria, has been adamant that players should be fully vaccinated, just as Australian Open spectators and on-site staff will be required to be vaccinated.
Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, has experienced some of the most stringent coronavirus measures in the world with six separate stay-at-home orders over an 18-month period.
“It’s the one direction you can take that you can ensure everyone’s safety and the whole player group understands that,” said Mr. Tiley on demanding that players be vaccinated. “Our patrons need to be vaccinated. All staff working at the Australian Open need to be vaccinated, but when we’re in a state where more than 90 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated – they’ve done a fantastic job with it – it’s the right thing to do. ”
Steve Simon, executive director of the Women’s Tennis Association, said in an interview last week that “over 70 percent” of the WTA’s top 300 singles and top 100 doubles had been vaccinated, and that all singles and doubles who competed in the past WTA finals in Mexico had been vaccinated.
Andrea Gaudenzi, chairman of the men’s tour, said in an interview Friday that the vaccination rate for the top 100 men’s singles was “over 80 percent.”
“We are moving towards 90 percent, 95 percent of fully vaccinated,” he said. “Many will do it in the low season with one shot.”
But it seems almost certain that some qualified players will not take the trip to Australia because of the policy.
All four Grand Slam tournaments, including the US Open, allowed unvaccinated players to participate 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 coronavirus in June 2020 during an exhibition tour he had co-organized in Serbia and Croatia.
He has expressed concern about vaccines and has repeatedly said he would wait for the Australian Open’s policy to be clarified before making a decision to join.