• Unvaccinated players unlikely to get Australian Open visa: official
Unvaccinated tennis stars are unlikely to get visas to play in the Australian Open, a local official warned yesterday, with defending champion Novak Djokovic raising doubts about his own participation in the upcoming tournament.
Victoria state premier Dan Andrews said he expected no exceptions from Australia’s Covid-19 vaccine rules for players competing in January’s Grand Slam. “I don’t think an unvaccinated tennis player is going to get a visa to come into this country,” Andrews said. “The virus doesn’t care what your tennis ranking is or how many Grand Slams you’ve won,” he added. “And if they did get a visa they would probably have to quarantine for a couple of weeks, when no other players have to.”
Andrew’s comments came as Djokovic told a Serbia media outlet that he was unsure if he was planning to compete in the Australian Open. “I don’t know if I’m going to go to Australia. I don’t know what’s going on. The situation right now is not good,” Djokovic said in an interview yesterday.
The world number one has publicly voiced opposition to vaccines in the past and refused to say whether he is inoculated against the coronavirus. “It’s a private matter,” said Djokovic in the interview. “Too many people today give themselves the freedom to ask questions and judge people (...) whatever you answer it can be misinterpreted. Of course I want to participate, Australia is the Grand Slam where I had the most success,” added the defending champion and nine-time winner in Melbourne.
Djokovic also said he planned to return to competition at the Paris Masters from November 1 to 7 and then participate in the Davis Cup from November 25 to December 5. He has won three back-to-back Australian Opens and would be trying to secure a record-breaking 21st major in Melbourne — Victoria’s capital — after falling short at the US Open in September. Victoria’s state premier also indicated that anyone hoping to attend Formula One’s Australian Grand Prix would have to be vaccinated. “The Grand Prix is in April, I don’t think there is going to be crowds for the Grand Prix made up of people who have not been double-dosed,” Andrews said.
Tennis Australia, which organises the Grand Slam, declined to comment. Victoria, which is due to exit a near three-month lockdown this week, recently included professional athletes in a vaccine mandate covering millions of “authorised workers”, without clarifying whether it applied to athletes from overseas or other Australian states.
Andrews suggested the mandate covered international athletes, too. “Professional sport is part of those (items on the) authorised worker list and they have to be double-dose vaccinated,” he said.
Andrews said Victoria’s stance could be a “moot point”, given the federal government might not issue visas to unvaccinated athletes. “I don’t think an unvaccinated tennis player is going to get a visa to come into this country and if they did get a visa they’d probably have to quarantine for a couple of weeks,” he added. “I don’t think that the person you indicated (Djokovic) or any other tennis player, let’s not personalise it... or golfer or Formula One driver will even get a visa to get here. “If I’m wrong I’m sure the federal government will let you know.”
Australia’s borders have been shut to non-residents through the pandemic, although authorities have issued visas to athletes and sports staff for major events, including the last Australian Open in February. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government would relax border controls for residents and their overseas-based family members from next month but international tourists and other visa classes would have to wait longer.
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