‘I will not reveal my status’: doubts grow over Djokovic’s Australian Open plans

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‘I will not reveal my status’: doubts grow over Djokovic’s Australian Open plans

By Sam McClure and Scott Spits
Updated

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The likelihood of nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic missing January’s tournament in Melbourne has increased after the world No.1 again refused to reveal whether he’s been vaccinated.

Meetings between Tennis Australia, federal, and state health authorities have been scheduled for the coming days, with clarity expected by the end of next week on the status of unvaccinated players.

Novak Djokovic will not reveal whether he is vaccinated against COVID-19.

Novak Djokovic will not reveal whether he is vaccinated against COVID-19.Credit:Getty Images

And although the Victorian government has mandated that all essential workers must be double jabbed in order to work away from their homes, sources inside the negotiations said the possibility of unvaccinated tennis players arriving in Australia hasn’t been ruled out.

But those same sources said entry requirements would ultimately be a decision for the federal government.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ view was clear on Tuesday.

“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 would probably have to quarantine for a few weeks,” he said.

“I don’t think that’s going to be a relevant issue.”

He said he did not think any unvaccinated professional athlete, whether they be a tennis player, golfer or Formula One driver, would get a visa to get to Australia.

“So it kind of becomes moot. Professional sport is part of the authorised worker list, and they have to be double-dose vaccinated.

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“I don’t control who gets to come in, my understanding is that it’s highly unlikely that in a few weeks’ time, business visa holders, so workers for instance, or tourists who are not Australian citizens or permanent residents, will be given visas to come here unless and until they have got two doses.

“The virus does not care what your tennis ranking is or how many grand slams you’ve won.”

The Victorian government has introduced a vaccine mandate that applies to local professional athletes.

Though the sweeping vaccine requirement for authorised workers will not directly affect international cricket and tennis players, The Age confirmed earlier this month that it is probable a separate vaccine mandate will apply to tennis stars heading to Melbourne. Tennis chiefs resisted the push, fearing it could deter some of the game’s leading players, but eventually became resigned to it.

In an eye-catching interview, Djokovic cast significant doubt on his attendance in Melbourne, where he will be seeking a 10th Australian Open and a record-breaking 21st major title.

“The virus does not care what your tennis ranking is or how many grand slams you’ve won.”

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews

“Things being as they are, I still don’t know if I will go to Melbourne,” Djokovic told the online edition of Serbian daily Blic.

“I will not reveal my status whether I have been vaccinated or not, it is a private matter and an inappropriate inquiry.

“People go too far these days in taking the liberty to ask questions and judge a person. Whatever you say ‘yes, no, maybe, I am thinking about it’, they will take advantage.”

Chasing a fourth-straight Australian Open title, Djokovic, 34, last competed at the US Open, where his bid to complete the calendar slam – winning all four majors in the same year – was ended by Russian Daniil Medvedev in the final.

Djokovic, who is tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on a record 20 grand slam titles, said he planned to compete in the Paris Masters, the season-ending ATP Finals in Turin and the Davis Cup before the end of 2021.

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“Of course I want to go [to Australia],” Djokovic said.

“Australia is my most successful grand slam tournament. I want to compete, I love this sport and I am still motivated.

“I am following the situation regarding the Australian Open and I understand the final decision [on COVID-related restrictions] will be made in two weeks. I believe there will be a lot of restrictions just like this year, but I doubt there will be too many changes.

“My manager, who is in contact with the Australian Tennis Federation, tells me they are trying to improve the conditions for everyone, both for those who have been vaccinated and those who have not.”

As reported last month by The Age, Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley had been worried about the implications for the southern hemisphere’s only grand slam. However, he has dropped his opposition to what two government sources said was the strong likelihood Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton would only permit vaccinated players.

“Tiley said we won’t get star players and the state government effectively said ‘suck it up’, ” a source with direct knowledge of the negotiations said. “They capitulated.”

With Reuters and Simone Fox Koob

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