The Australian Open has confirmed after months of speculation, that all unvaccinated players will be banned from attending the event next January.
Everyone on site, the fans, all the staff, the players, will need to be vaccinated, Craig Tiley
Craig Tiley, the CEO of Tennis Australia, finally revealed the decision on Saturday morning which should clarify the situation as far as player participation is concerned.
The announcement now highlights the status of defending champion Novak Djokovic who has refused to reveal his vaccination status and earlier this month said he would not address the issue any further until Tennis Australia made a final decision on the restrictions in place for unvaccinated players.
That has now been resolved.
“Everyone on site, the fans, all the staff, the players, will need to be vaccinated,” Tiley said at the tournament’s official launch. “There’s been a lot of speculation about Novak’s position; he’s said it’s a private matter.
“We would love to see Novak here, but he knows he needs to be vaccinated in order to play. He’s always said that the Australian Open is the event that puts the wind in his sails.”
Will he decide not to play and miss out on the possibility of winning a record 21st grand slam title and his 10th in Melbourne, at a time when his two main rivals are at their weakest? Roger Federer has confirmed he won’t be participating and Rafa Nadal who says he will, is still nursing a foot injury.
Tiley said the decision had been made last month as part of the Victorian state government’s health regulations for public events, which means unvaccinated staff, fans and players will all be locked out of the event, beginning on January 17.
“It’s been made very clear, when the premier (Daniel Andrews) announced several weeks ago that in order to participate at the Australian Open, to come into Victoria, you’ll need to be fully vaccinated,” Tiley said.
“Immediately we communicated that to the playing group, it is the one direction that you take that is going to ensure everyone’s safety.”
Tiley believes it will become clear in mid-December if Djokovic intends to play which is when the deadline for entries need to be received by.
“I know that he wants to play, he’s clearly indicated that and he knows the conditions that he would have to undergo in order to be eligible to play,” Tiley re-affirmed.
Meanwhile, it has also been confirmed the Open will be played before a full house with all crowd restrictions removed for unvaccinated patrons.
Victoria Premier Dan Andrews said that the state was about to hit 90 per cent vaccination, allowing long-standing restrictions to be swept aside, including capacity limits on sporting events.
The tournament was hit hard this year with limited crowds and a five-day snap lockdown called mid-event.
But whether a full contingent of tennis stars will make the trip to Melbourne remains to be seen.