The Australian Open has banned all unvaccinated players from attending the event in January, tournament boss Craig Tiley has confirmed.
Tiley’s declaration this morning dropped a bomb on the tennis world after weeks of swirling rumours about the tournament’s biosecurity measures.
The announcement leaves the status of defending champion Novak Djokovic in question.
The world No 1 has refused to reveal his vaccination status and earlier this month said he would not address the issue any further until Tennis Australia made a final decision on the restrictions in place for unvaccinated players.
That decision has now been made.
“Everyone on site, the fans, all the staff, the players, will need to be vaccinated,” Tiley said at the tournament’s official launch. “There’s been a lot of speculation about Novak’s position, he’s said it’s a private matter.
“We would love to see Novak here, but he knows he needs to be vaccinated in order to play. He’s always said that the Australian Open is the event that puts the wind in his sails.”
The Serbian champion will be attempting to win a record 21st Grand Slam singles title and his 10th at Melbourne Park — if he is cleared to play.
Tiley said the decision had been made last month as part of the Victorian state government’s health regulations for public events, which means unvaccinated staff, fans and players will all be locked out of the event, beginning in January.
“It’s been made very clear, when the premier (Daniel Andrews) announced several weeks ago that in order to participate at the Australian Open, to come into Victoria, you’ll need to be fully vaccinated,” Tiley said.
“Immediately we communicated that to the playing group, it is the one direction that you take that is going to ensure everyone’s safety.”
Tiley said it will be clear in mid-December if Djokovic intends to play the tournament, which has an entry deadline for players to nominate their attendance in the middle of December.
International players have already been submitting travel visa applications to travel to Australia for the Open.
“I know that he wants to play, he’s clearly indicated that and he knows the conditions that he would have to undergo in order to be eligible to play,” Tiley said of Djokovic.
Meanwhile, it has also been confirmed the Open will be played before a full house with all crowd restrictions removed for unvaccinated patrons.
Victoria Premier Dan Andrews said that the state was about to hit 90 per cent vaccination, allowing long-standing restrictions to be swept aside, including capacity limits on sporting events.
The tournament was hit hard this year with limited crowds and a five-day snap lockdown called mid-event.
But whether a full contingent of tennis stars will make the trip to Melbourne remains to be seen.
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