Australian Open row erupts as Novak Djokovic sweats on potential ban

Tennis: Victoria lockdown bans fans at Australian Open

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A row has erupted over the plans for unvaccinated players at the upcoming Australian Open. After ministers looked to push a vaccine mandate, Prime Minister Scott Morrison indicated that unvaccinated tennis players would be given an exemption but needed to undergo a mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine. It comes as the Victoria Premier said he would not apply for players to be exempt from the rules and doubled-down on his stance over banning them.

Novak Djokovic’s chances of winning a tenth Australian Open and record 21st Major title have been in doubt, as the world No 1 has faced a ban from the tournament.

The nine-time champion in Melbourne has himself admitted that he wasn’t sure whether he’d travel to compete as he didn’t want to reveal his vaccination status.

The country’s Health and Immigration Ministers have both shared their respective stance on requiring players to show proof they are double-vaccinated in order to enter the country, but the country’s Prime Minister has gone against their words as a row over unvaccinated players has emerged.

Scott Morrison hinted on Wednesday that professional tennis players could be exempt from a vaccine mandate, so long as they underwent a two-week ‘hard’ hotel quarantine.

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“If there is a special exemption that is warranted for an economic reason, well, that can happen,” Morrison told Australia’s Channel Nine network.

“But you’ve got to follow the health rules in that state — and two weeks’ quarantine for unvaccinated people, well, that’s sensible.”

It comes after Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews told ABC Radio earlier this week: “I don’t think it’s too much to say, ‘If you want one of those visas and you want to come here, then you need to be double-vaxxed’.”

Andrews has now spoken out once again and gone against the Prime Minister, saying he refuses to make an exception for unvaccinated tennis players to compete in the Australian Open.

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“What I want to make very clear is that the state of Victoria will not be applying for any exemptions for unvaccinated players,” Andrews said, per the Australian Associated Press.

“I am not going to ask and require people sitting in the grandstand, people working at the event to be vaccinated while players aren’t.”

A leaked email sent by the WTA Players Council on Sunday also confirmed that Tennis Australia was currently working with plans to allow unvaccinated players into the country to compete, provided they completed the hotel quarantine.

While this offers hope for the likes of Djokovic, meaning he will not have to disclose his vaccination status and – if he is not vaccinated – can play the tournament, the Serb has spoken out against Australia’s hard quarantine in the past.

Earlier this year, players arriving for the 2021 edition of the tournament could have five hours out of their hotel room each day to train, but those on flights with passengers who tested positive were forced to undergo a ‘hard’ quarantine and couldn’t leave the room for two weeks – something many players said they were unaware could happen.

Djokovic attempted to bargain with Tennis Australia and the government at the time to make exceptions for these players but was unsuccessful, and recently voiced his issue with the hard quarantine when casting doubt over his participation in Melbourne.

He told Serbian newspaper Blic: “The main problem is that if you are on a plane with a person who is positive, whether you are vaccinated or not, you automatically have to go to the room for 14 days.

“That happened to Viktor Troicki in January this year. Not only him, but also 70 players had to be quarantined. I talked to a lot of players and that is something that everyone has a bad memory of.”

The world No 1 also expressed him uncertainty over competing this year, adding: “I don’t know if I’m going to Australia, I don’t know what’s going on. Currently, the situation is not good at all.

“I have my opinion and it has always been the same. I will not reveal my status whether I have been vaccinated or not.”
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