What does Victoria's vaccine mandate mean for Novak Djokovic's 2022 Australian Open title defense?

Novak Djokovic at the 2020 Australian Open
Novak Djokovic at the 2020 Australian Open

Novak Djokovic's pursuit of a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title may extend into the European summer following the latest developments in Australia. The state of Victoria, home to Melbourne and the Australian Open, recently announced that professional athletes must be fully vaccinated by November to carry out activities in the region.

Novak Djokovic has expressed reservations about the COVID-19 vaccine in the past and it is unclear whether the Serb has been vaccinated. Prior to the 2021 US Open, the World No. 1 made it clear that he was against players being forced to take the jab and that they should be allowed to make their own decision.

"I feel like that should be always a personal decision, whether you want to get vaccinated or not," Novak Djokovic had said. "So I'm supportive of that. So whether someone wants to get a vaccine or not, that's completely up to them. I hope that it stays that way."

Earlier this year, the World No. 1 categorically stated that he is not against vaccination, but he has thus far remained tight-lipped on his own vaccine status.

What is the vaccination mandate, and how could it impact Novak Djokovic?

It is unclear if Novak Djokovic has taken the COVID-19 vaccine
It is unclear if Novak Djokovic has taken the COVID-19 vaccine

The Australian state of Victoria, led by Premier Daniel Andrews, has decided to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for workers in the region due to a recent rise in the number of cases.

The state issued a health order on Friday, which stated that all "authorized workers" must receive their first vaccine dose (if they haven't yet) within the next two weeks.

“Ultimately, if you want to come to work and you’re on the authorised list, you need to have your first jab by (Oct. 15),” Andrews told reporters as Victoria announced 1,143 new local Covid-19 cases.

It is being reported that all workers, including professional athletes, must also get the second dose by the end of November. As things stand, it is unclear whether the mandate applies to international workers, although that is likely to be the case.

That means Novak Djokovic will have to get his first dose (assuming he hasn't yet) by the 15th of October, should he wish to take part in the 2022 Australian Open.

Daniel Andrews was not directly probed about the Australian Open, but he was asked about English cricketers who are scheduled to travel to Australia in December for the Ashes.

Andrews hinted that Australia would most likely prevent players who are not fully vaccinated from entering the country. While he did suggest that the policy might change in the future, those tweaks are unlikely to be made before the Australian Open.

“I don’t issue passports or visas ... but I think it is highly unlikely that the Commonwealth government will be letting anybody into this country that has not been double-vaxxed, certainly in the medium term," Andrews said. "That might change over time.”

Australia has always been strict in its implementation of COVID-19 rules, and it seems unlikely they will bend it for athletes.

As things stand, assuming Djokovic is yet to be inoculated, there is a strong chance that the nine-time Australian Open champion will not be permitted into the country for the first Major of 2022.

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Edited by Arvind Sriram
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