Victoria State Premier says unvaccinated players are unlikely to get visas ahead of the Australian Open

Can Novak Djokovic defend his Australian Open title?
Can Novak Djokovic defend his Australian Open title?
Sudeshna Banerjee

Victorian State Premier Daniel Andrews has made it clear that players who are not vaccinated are unlikely to be allowed to compete at next year's Australian Open, potentially putting nine-time champion Novak Djokovic's title defense in jeopardy.

At a media conference on Tuesday, Andrews said he wasn't sure if any unvaccinated player will even be allowed to enter Australia.

"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," Daniel Andrews told the media.

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has refused to reveal his vaccination status and is unsure about participating in the Australian Open next year, with authorities being firm about the rule. On being told about Djokovic's stance, Andrews said:

"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."

Andrews emphasized that authorities can't afford to make an exception at the Australian Open since vaccination is the need of the hour.

"(The virus) doesn't care what your tennis ranking is, or how many Grand Slams you've won," he said. "It's completely irrelevant. You need to be vaccinated to keep yourself safe and to keep others safe."

The state of Victoria recently introduced a vaccine mandate for professional athletes, making entry into the country nearly impossible for those refusing to take the jab. International athletes won't be exempt from the mandate, Andrews clarified.

"Professional sport is part of those (items on the) authorised worker list and they have to be double-dose vaccinated," he said.
"This is here for a while," he added. "We're not going to be essentially encouraging people to not get vaccinated because they reckon they can wait a few months or a few weeks. You can't wait out coronavirus."

Tennis Australia, which organizes the Australian Open, is yet to make any comment on the matter.

"According to our law, whoever asks you, can be charged" - Novak Djokovic on being asked about his vaccination status ahead of Australian Open

Novak Djokovic's vaccination status is of prime importance regarding his Australian Open participation
Novak Djokovic's vaccination status is of prime importance regarding his Australian Open participation

Novak Djokovic has been at the center of the vaccination debate for quite a while. The Serb has time and again voiced his disapproval of mandatory vaccination.

In a recent interview with Jelena Medic of Blic, the Australian Open champion refused to talk about his vaccination status and even went to the extent of pointing out how one could be charged in Serbia for inquiring about it.

"I will not reveal my status whether I have been vaccinated or not," Djokovic said. "It is a private matter and according to our law, whoever asks you, you can in some way charge him for asking you. That is an immoderate question."

With the stringent COVID-19 restrictions in place in Australia, Djokovic's participation at the Australian Open remains a mystery. The 34-year-old, who is seeking a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam, might not make it to Melbourne considering the situation.

"I still don't know if I will play in Melbourne," Djokovic said. "I don't know what my schedule will be. There is too much speculation. The media speculates a lot and that bothered me a lot. I didn't advertise too much because everyone made some assumptions based on what I said a year ago."

Edited by Arvind Sriram


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