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Australian Open will require players to be fully vaccinated

The Australian Open in January will become the first Grand Slam tennis tournament to require players to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, a move that casts doubt on the participation of Novak Djokovic of Serbia, the No.1 male player. who refused to disclose their immunization status.

Craig Tiley, the tournament director of the Australian Open, confirmed the tournament’s policy on Saturday in Melbourne, Australia, in a television interview.

The announcement ended months of speculation and mixed messages from Australian government officials. Federal authorities had said unvaccinated players might be able to enter Australia and participate in the tournament in Melbourne after a 14-day quarantine period. But Daniel Andrews, the Prime Minister of Victoria, has insisted that players will need to be fully vaccinated, just as Australian Open spectators and staff on site will need to be vaccinated.

Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, has seen some of the world’s toughest coronavirus measures, with six separate stay-at-home orders over an 18-month period.

“This is the only direction you can take to keep everyone safe, and the whole playgroup understands that,” Tiley said of demanding that players be vaccinated. “Our customers will need to be vaccinated. All staff working at the Australian Open will need to be vaccinated, but when we’re in a state where over 90% of the population is fully vaccinated – they did a wonderful job with that – that’s the right thing to do. to do. “

Steve Simon, president and CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association, said in an interview this week that “over 70 percent” of the WTA’s top 300 singles and 100 top doubles players have been vaccinated and all Singles and doubles players who competed in the recent WTA Finals in Mexico had been vaccinated. Andrea Gaudenzi, president of the men’s tour, said in an interview on Friday that the vaccination rate of the top 100 men’s singles players was “over 80%”.

“We’re heading towards 90 percent, 95 percent of fully immunized,” Gaudenzi said. “A lot will do it in the offseason with one hit.”

But it seems almost certain that some qualified players will not make the trip to Australia because of the politics.

“It’s an unfortunate situation,” Gaudenzi said of the compulsory vaccination, speaking shortly before the tournament’s announcement. “I really hope that in the future, in America and after this, there is going to be a change: at a minimum, allow exceptions even with a quarantine lasting seven or 14 days, but allow entry.”

All four Grand Slam tournaments, including the US Open, have allowed unvaccinated players to participate this year, as have the tour’s regular events, including the ATP Finals currently underway in Turin, Italy.

Nine-time Australian Open singles champion Djokovic has yet to confirm whether he will defend his title next year. He and his wife, Jelena, contracted the coronavirus in June 2020 during an exhibition tour he helped organize in Serbia and Croatia. He said he was concerned about vaccines.

“How do we expect this to solve our problem as this coronavirus mutates regularly from what I understand?” he told the New York Times last year.

He has said on several occasions that he will wait until Australian Open policy is clarified before making the decision to participate.

That moment has come with Djokovic set to face the German Alexander Zverev, number 3, in the semi-finals of the Turin tournament on Saturday.

“He’s always said the Australian Open is the hottest event,” Tiley said of Djokovic. “So I hope we can see Novak.”

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