Russian player barred from Australian Open over unrecognised vaccine

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Natalia Vikhlyantseva, pictured here in action at the WTA Ladies Open Lausanne in 2019.
Natalia Vikhlyantseva in action at the WTA Ladies Open Lausanne in 2019. (Photo by RvS.Media/Robert Hradil/Getty Images)

The Australian Open has been hit by a fresh Covid drama, with Russian player Natalia Vikhlyantseva forced to miss the grand slam because her vaccine isn't recognised by Australian authorities.

Vikhlyantseva, who was set to compete in qualifying for the Melbourne Park tournament in January, is vaccinated with the Sputnik V vaccine.

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However she won't be able to travel to Australia because the only vaccines approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration for use are Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Janssen.

Sinovac, AstraZeneca (Serum Institute of India), Sinopharm China and Bharat Biotech are also approved for the purposes of travel to Australia.

However Russia's Sputnik V isn't.

“Unfortunately, I will not participate in this year AO event," Vikhlyantseva, a former World No.54, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

"I’m really happy with a level of tennis I showed on a last few events and I wish to play in, but Sputnik is not verified yet. 

"Good luck for all participants and AO team, who always made amazing events!”

The Australian Open, as well as lead-up events in Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne, are the first in world tennis to introduce a vaccination mandate.

The participation of men's World No.1 Novak Djokovic remains under a cloud due to his repeated refusal to reveal his vaccination status.

Natalia Vikhlyantseva, pictured here in action against Angelique Kerber at Indian Wells in 2019.
Natalia Vikhlyantseva in action against Angelique Kerber at Indian Wells in 2019. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images)

Multiple Covid cases in lead-up to Australian Open

Covid-19 issues continue to wreak havoc in the lead-up to the Australian Open, with Belinda Bencic and Ons Jabeur joining Rafa Nadal in testing positive this week.

On Tuesday, Swiss star Bencic and Jabeur of Tunisia confirmed they had both tested positive following an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi last week, where Nadal also played.

Bencic, Jabuer and Nadal had all travelled to the UAE capital to play in the Mubadala World Tennis Championship.

Bencic lost to Jabeur, who had replaced US Open champion Emma Raducanu after the Briton also tested positive for Covid-19 and withdrew.

Both Bencic and Jabeur said they were fully vaccinated and were experiencing strong symptoms.

"Unfortunately and even though I am fully vaccinated, I recently tested positive for COVID-19," Bencic said on Twitter.

However, Bencic was quietly confident of contesting the new year's opening slam which starts in Melbourne on January 17.

"I am currently isolating and taking all precautionary (measures) to get through this as best as possible as I am experiencing quite severe symptoms (fever, aches, chills)," Bencic posted.

"While the timing is not ideal - as I was in the final stages of my preparations for the Australian Open swing - I will make my way to Australia as soon as I am cleared and past the isolation period."

Jabeur said she was isolating in Tunisia.

On Monday, Nadal also said he was having some "unpleasant moments" after testing positive upon his return to Spain.

with AAP

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