Unvaccinated players BANNED from Australian Open; Djokovic is a doubt

Unvaccinated players will be BANNED from playing in the Australian Open – putting defending champion Novak Djokovic’s participation in doubt

  • All players will have to be vaccinated to take part in the Australian Open in 2022 
  • The tournament is set to take place in January at Melbourne Park in Victoria state
  • Tournament chief Craig Tiley has confirmed unvaccinated players cannot play
  • Defending champion Novak Djokovic could therefore miss the competition 
  • The Serb has repeatedly insisted he will not be forced to receive the Covid jab 
  • Nick Kyrgios has slammed Djokovic as ‘morally wrong’ for demanding to play 

World number one Novak Djokovic and all other players will have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to play in the Australia Open next January, tournament chief Craig Tiley revealed on Saturday.

Djokovic has consistently declined to disclose whether he is vaccinated and said he would await until Tennis Australia revealed the health protocols before he made a decision about playing at Melbourne Park. 

Tiley told reporters at the tournament launch: ‘There’s a lot of speculation about vaccination and just to be really clear, when the (state) Premier announced everyone on site… will need to be vaccinated… we made that clear to the playing group. 

Australian Open chief Craig Tiley (r) has confirmed unvaccinated players cannot play in the 2022 tournament, putting the participation of defending champion Novak Djokovic (l) in doubt

‘We would love to have Novak here, he knows that he’ll have to be vaccinated to play here.’

The announcement brings to a definitive conclusion months of negotiations between Tennis Australia and the Victoria state government, which had insisted throughout that everybody at Melbourne Park would need to be vaccinated.

Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews quickly made it clear no exemptions would be sought for unvaccinated players.

Djokovic shares the record of 20 men’s Grand Slam singles titles with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer and will be looking to break that tie by winning a 10th Australian Open title if he decides to play in January.

Serb Djokovic has reiterated his stand about freedom of choice over taking Covid-19 vaccine

Nadal confirmed he would play at Melbourne Park in January but Federer, who like the Spaniard is also fully vaccinated, will miss the tournament as he recovers from another knee surgery.

Tiley said around 80% of the player cohort were now vaccinated and would play in front of capacity crowds in all stadiums when the Grand Slam tournament starts on January 17. 

The vaccine-sceptic Serb has repeatedly insisted he will not be forced to have the jab and emphasised his individual freedom of choice.

Last month the 34-year-old said he was unsure if he would defend his title in Australia, ‘things being as they are’.

World No 1 may not be able to defend his 2021 Australian Open crown due to Covid restrictions

He told reporters in Turin at the ATP Tour Finals: ‘Freedom of choice is essential for everyone, whether it’s me or somebody else.

‘Doesn’t really matter whether it’s vaccination or anything else in life. You should have the freedom to choose, to decide what you want to do. In this particular case, what you want to put in your body.

‘I have been always a proponent of that and always a supporter of freedom of choice, and I will be always supporting that because freedom is essential for I’d say a happy and prosperous life.’ 

Outspoken Australian player Nick Kyrgios, who is fully vaccinated, slammed Djokovic’s demands to play despite being unvaccinated as ‘morally wrong’.

Nick Kyrgios has said it is ‘morally wrong’ to accept unvaccinated players from overseas

The World No 90 said on his ‘No Boundaries’ podcast: ‘For the people of Melbourne, who have gone through hell and back. I think it’s been nearly 300 days of lockdown and your freedom has been taken away from you.

‘I don’t think it’s morally right to accept players from overseas that aren’t vaccinated to come into our country.’ 

Melbourne has had the most cumulative days locked down of any Australian city since the coronavirus pandemic began.

During the last Australian Open in February, Melbourne was plunged into a snap five-day lockdown. The grand slam continued behind closed doors.  

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