'Worst nightmare': Australian Open facing staggering player revolt

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·Sports Editor
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Novak Djokovic, pictured here after winning the Australian Open in 2021.
Novak Djokovic won't be the only player affected by the federal government's vaccine mandate. Image: Getty

The Federal government's no-jab no-play policy threatens to rob the Australian Open of some of the biggest tennis players from around the world.

While Novak Djokovic has been the poster boy for the saga due to his unwillingness to reveal his vaccination status, it is believed dozens more top tennis stars from various countries are likely to be unvaccinated.

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Questions about Djokovic's return to Melbourne Park to defend his title in January were raised when Victoria recently introduced a vaccination mandate for professional athletes.

On Tuesday, Premier Daniel Andrews said unvaccinated sports stars would be unlikely to receive a visa, making the domestic restriction a moot point.

And on Wednesday, Federal Immigration Minister Alex Hawke confirmed there was no prospect of travel rules being relaxed for incoming tennis players.

"Not at this time. Our health advice is that when we open the borders, everyone that comes to Australia will have to be double vaccinated," Mr Hawke told ABC Radio.

"I don't have a message to Novak. I have a message to everyone who wishes to visit Australia, you'll need to be double vaccinated.

"That's a universal application, not just to tennis players."

Alex Hawke, pictured here at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra.
Alex Hawke speaks at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

And while Djokovic's participation in the year's first grand slam is now heavily clouded, the situation looms as the "worst nightmare" for Tennis Australia if more top stars are unable to enter the country and decide to skip the Australian Open.

"Tennis Australia‘s worst nightmare is evolving," wrote Scott Gullan of the Herald Sun.

"It won‘t just be the men’s best player who will be missing with both the men’s and women’s tours having more than a third of the players not yet fully vaccinated.

"Estimates on vaccination rates last week had the ATP Tour (men) at 65 per cent and WTA (women) on 60 per cent."

That means a whopping 35 per cent of male players and 40 per cent of female players won't be allowed to play the Australian Open.

Novak Djokovic unsure of Australian Open participation

Djokovic is tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on a men's record 20 grand slam titles and will be the heavy favourite if he plays at Melbourne Park.

The World No.1 said on Monday he was unsure whether he would be playing.

"I will not reveal my status, whether I have been vaccinated or not. It is a private matter and an inappropriate inquiry," Djokovic told the online edition of Serbian daily Blic.

"People go too far these days in taking the liberty to ask questions and judge a person.

"Of course I want to go, Australia is my most successful grand slam tournament.

"I am following the situation regarding the Australian Open and I understand the final decision (on COVID-19 related restrictions) will be made in two weeks.

"I believe there will be a lot of restrictions just like this year, but I doubt there will be too many changes."

with AAP

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