'Your responsibility': Fresh fallout in Novak Djokovic 'blackmail' drama

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Victorian Sports Minister Martin Pakula is pictured right alongside Novak Djokovic.
Victorian Sports Minister Martin Pakula has hit back at explosive claims from the father of Novak Djokovic about the Australian Open. Pic: Getty

Victoria's Sports Minister has fired back at the father of Novak Djokovic for claiming that the Australian Open's vaccination mandate for players was tantamount to "blackmail".

Djokovic's participation in the Melbourne Park grand slam has been the subject of intense debate across the tennis world, with Australian Open officials declaring unvaccinated players won't be able to participate and the World No.1 refusing to reveal his vaccination status.

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The 34-year-old Djokovic, who would be bidding to overtake rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal with a record-breaking 21st grand slam title in Melbourne, has refused to say whether or not he has been vaccinated against coronavirus.

The ongoing drama led to angry comments from the World No.1's father Srdjan, who said his son probably would't compete at Melbourne Park under current conditions.

"Of course he would want to go with all his heart," Srdjan told Serbia's Prda TV.

"But I really don't know if that will happen. Probably not under these conditions, with this blackmail and when it's done that way."

Pictured here, tennis star Novak Djokovic and his father Srdjan.
Novak Djokovic's father Srdjan (right) has made the bombshell prediction that his son won't play the Australian Open. Pic: Getty

Victorian Sports Minister Martin Pakula initially responded on social media to refute suggestions the vaccination mandate was equivalent to blackmail.

On Wednesday, Mr Pakula doubled down on that sentiment by insisting that the measures put in place were about protecting the wider community.

He said it was the "responsibility" of any player that wishes to attend Melbourne Park for the 2022 grand slam - Djokovic included - to respect the State's rules.

"If you're a visiting international tennis player or a visiting sportsman of any kind it's about your responsibility to the community that you are being welcomed into," Pakula said.

"And that's why we are asking those international tennis stars to follow the same requirements as Victorians are.

"It's not about blackmail, it's about making sure the Victorian community is protected.

"I want to make it clear that I really hope that Novak Djokovic gets vaccinated and plays in the Australian Open but if he chooses not to that's a matter for him."

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Djokovic's position is expected to become clearer in the next fortnight when entries into the Open close.

Australian Open tournament chief Craig Tiley recently expressed his confidence in Djokovic taking part in the first grand slam of the new year, saying he couldn't imagine the Serb passing up the chance to move ahead of Federer and Nadal on the all-time majors list by winning a 10th Australian Open crown.

"He has not shared his status with anyone," Tiley told sports radio station SEN.

"He believes that what you say around your medical position is private and he believes people should have the right to choose."

But Tiley added: "Novak has won nine Australian Opens and I'm sure he wants to get to 10.

"He's on 20 Grand Slam titles as is Rafa Nadal, who is coming, and Roger Federer, so one of them is going to surpass the other.

Pictured right, Australian Open boss Craig Tiley and Novak Djokovic arm-in-arm at Melbourne Park.
Australian Open boss Craig Tiley is confident Novak Djokovic won't miss out on the chance to win a 10th crown at Melbourne Park in 2022. Pic: Getty

"I don't think Novak will want to leave that feat to someone else.

"One thing is for sure, if he is playing here in January, then he is vaccinated."

Currently around 85 percent of players have got the jab and Tiley said he expected that to reach between 95 and 100 percent by January.

"We take a lot of credit for that because we put a vaccination requirement on it (coming to Australia)," Tiley added.

with AAP

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