The Margin: Tennis star Novak Djokovic may miss Australian Open over COVID vaccine mandate


Novak Djokovic could miss the upcoming Australian Open tennis tournament over the country’s vaccine rules surrounding visas.

The current No. 1 ranked men’s tennis player in the world by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) risks being denied a visa to enter Australia because he won’t specify his vaccination status. And Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrew, who leads the Australian state hosting the season-opening tennis major, recently introduced a vaccine mandate for professional athletes competing in domestic sports leagues.

Andrew’s mandate requires 1.25 million “authorized workers” to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, including “professional or high-performance sportsperson, workers that support the safe running of that person’s professional sport” and broadcasters.

On Tuesday, he increased the pressure on tennis players traveling from abroad to get their COVID shots.

““The virus doesn’t care what your tennis ranking is, or how many Grand Slams you’ve won. It’s completely irrelevant. You need to be vaccinated to keep yourself safe and to keep others safe.””

“I don’t think any unvaccinated tennis player is going to get a visa to come into this country,” Andrews said in a media briefing. “If they did get a visa, they’d probably have to quarantine for a couple of weeks when no other players will have to.”

He added that, “The virus doesn’t care what your tennis ranking is, or how many Grand Slams you’ve won. It’s completely irrelevant. You need to be vaccinated to keep yourself safe and to keep others safe.”

Djokovic has declined to disclose his vaccination status against COVID-19 due to perceived privacy concerns.

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Australia is preparing to re-open its international borders for the first time in more than 18 months, but it’ll be a gradual, state-by-state process starting in November that will depend on vaccination rates across the country. Fully vaccinated people will have fewer restrictions in Australia than those who are not inoculated against COVID-19.

Some tennis professionals, including Djokovic, have advocated that the decision to get the vaccine should be a personal choice. Others, including Andy Murray, have said it should be mandated for the good of the majority.

At the U.S. Open this September, fans had to show proof of at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to attend matches, although players weren’t required to get a shot.

“Things beings as they are, I still don’t know if I will go to Melbourne,” Djokovic told the Serbian press. “I will not reveal my status whether I have been vaccinated or not, it is a private matter and an inappropriate inquiry.”

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Djokovic has won the last three men’s singles Australian Open tournaments.

The Australian Open is scheduled to begin Jan. 17.

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Both the men’s and the women’s tours are recommending that all players get vaccinated, but so far have not enforced it. Just before the U.S. Open, roughly half of the elite male and female players were vaccinated.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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