'A bad memory': New twist emerges in Novak Djokovic vaccine saga

Seen on the left, Novak Djokovic and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on the right.
Novak Djokovic's participation in the 2022 Australian Open is under a cloud after Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said unvaccinated players would not be allowed to enter the state. Pic: Getty

New details have come to light on the quarantine concerns of Novak Djokovic that leave the World No.1's participation in next year's Australian Open under a massive cloud.

The possible absence of many top players including Djokovic is a serious concern after Victoria introduced a vaccine mandate for all professional athletes.

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Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says his government won't be granting exemptions for unvaccinated players to enter the state, despite comments from Prime Minister Scott Morrison that un-vaxxed stars can compete, provided they've quarantined for two weeks and undergone frequent Covid-19 tests.

Djokovic has refused to reveal whether he is double vaccinated or not, insisting it is a private matter that he doesn't feel the necessity to disclose.

Images of Djokovic living it up at SummerStage in Central Park after the US Open have sparked rumours that he is indeed vaccinated because the event required attendees to show proof of vaccination to get access to the majority of areas.

Considering his previous stance on vaccines though, many have taken Djokovic's comments to suggest that he has not had his two Covid-19 jabs.

However, a full English-version transcript of Djokovic's in-depth interview last week with Serbian daily newspaper Blic has shone more light on the situation that has dominated debate in the tennis world.

During the interview, Djokovic revealed his travel concerns for all players and said the strict quarantine protocols for this year's Australian Open are at the heart of the issue.

"The main problem is that if you're on a plane with a person who is (COVID-19) positive, whether they're vaccinated or not, you automatically (have) to stay in your room for 14 days," Djokovic said.

"That happened to Viktor Troicki in January this year. Not only him but 70 players had to be in (hard) quarantine.

"I've talked to a lot of players and that's remained a bad memory for everyone.

"So I don't know if I'll go to Australia. I don't know what's going on. Currently, the situation isn't good at all."

The situation has only become more complicated and confusing since Djokovic raised doubt about his participation last week, with the Australian PM and Victorian Premier at loggerheads over their stance on unvaccinated players.

Pictured right, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on the left.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison (right) has contradicted Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews' comments about unvaccinated tennis players. Image: Getty

While the PM says un-jabbed stars are welcome in Australia provided they complete 14 days in full quarantine, Andrews insists Victoria won't apply for federal exemptions and will ban unvaccinated players from even entering Melbourne Park.

Djokovic, the president of the newly formed The Professional Tennis Players Association, says many players fear being forced into quarantine through no fault of their own.

Players have bad memories of 2021 Aus Open

"It wasn't a good experience for us (in 2020). For example, it was quite hard for Viktor Troicki," he said.

"Some of us had the quarantine in which we could train. But if a person can't train, then ... to put a professional athlete in that kind of (hard) quarantine where he can't leave the room and then expect him to play at a certain level, truly.

"Not to mention the increased risk of injury, of which there were many, including me, at this year's Australian Open.

"If those conditions remain, I think many players will really think about whether they'll go or not.

"But, in the end, the financial or economic aspect is the determining factor of many players."

Pictured here, Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates with the trophy winning the 2021 Australian Open.
Serbia's 20-time grand slam champion Novak Djokovic has won the Australian Open a record nine times. Pic: Getty (Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images)

Australian super-coach Darren Cahill says he empathises with Tennis Australia as the Open vaccination saga rages between political leaders.

"I feel sorry for Australia and Craig Tiley's team, to be honest," Cahill told SEN radio on Thursday.

"Clearly, they've gone to the federal government and got some instructions that they would be allowing unvaccinated players into the country, albeit they'd have to go through a couple of weeks of quarantine, wouldn't be able to go to restaurants in Victoria or go shopping - some pretty tough restrictions.

"And then Dan comes out and clearly says that no one other than vaccinated people will be allowed to be playing at the Australian Open.

"So at least we have some clarity at the moment but Tennis Australia has kind of been the meat sandwich, which has been a tough position for them because they've been trying to inform the ATP and the WTA and let everybody know where they are.

"And at least now that you go back and say, 'listen, you better get that jab otherwise you won't be playing'."

with AAP

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