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Vaccination requirements may keep Novak Djokovic from Australian Open

Novak Djokovic declined again to reveal his vaccination status, which may keep him out of the Australian Open early next year. (Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/Reuters)
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After Novak Djokovic expressed uncertainty about whether he would play in the Australian Open early next year because of coronavirus restrictions for the tournament, the premier of the state of Victoria warned players Tuesday to get vaccinated or risk being unable to participate.

Daniel Andrews said players’ ability to get a visa may hinge on their vaccination status.

“I don’t think an unvaccinated tennis player is going to get a visa to come into this country,” Andrews said during a news conference (via the Australian), “and if they did get a visa, they’d probably have to quarantine for a couple of weeks when no other player has to. ... I don’t think any other tennis player, or golfer, or Formula One driver, will even get a visa to get here.”

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Andrews’s remarks sent a strong message, particularly to Djokovic, the top-ranked player in the world. The 20-time Grand Slam champion, who won his ninth Australian Open title last year before going on to win the French Open and Wimbledon, declined Monday to say whether he had been vaccinated, as he has in the past. He added that he was unsure whether he would play in the Australian Open, which is scheduled to begin Jan. 17.

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

The 2021 Australian Open was pushed back three weeks, and with vaccines not yet widely available, players were required to quarantine in a hotel for two weeks upon arriving in the country. Djokovic faced criticism at the time for suggesting relaxed quarantine rules.

This time around, Djokovic, whose 20 Grand Slam titles are tied with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for the most among male players, replied that vaccination is “a private matter and an inappropriate inquiry” when asked about his status in an interview with Blic, a Serbian publication.

“Things being as they are, I still don’t know if I will go to Melbourne,” Djokovic said (via Reuters). “I will not reveal my status whether I have been vaccinated or not. It is a private matter and an inappropriate inquiry. People go too far these days in taking the liberty to ask questions and judge a person. Whatever you say, ‘Yes, no, maybe, I am thinking about it,’ they will take advantage.”

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Djokovic added that he wants to compete and expects a final determination from Australian leaders in the next two weeks or so.

If Djokovic cannot play, it would be the latest example of a prominent figure’s vaccination status leading to consequences in high-profile sports. On Monday, Washington State football coach Nick Rolovich was dismissed for failing to comply with the state’s vaccine mandate, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told reporters he had sought a mandate for players, adding that he supported the New York mandate that has created a stalemate with Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving.