Tennis: Victoria lockdown bans fans at Australian Open
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Alexander Zverev has been slammed for criticising himself by requesting an exemption for Novak Djokovic at the upcoming Australian Open. Tournament organisers announced on Saturday (November 20) that full vaccination would be mandatory for all players looking to compete in January’s season-opening Grand Slam. Nine-time champion Djokovic remains a doubt to compete in Melbourne, as he has previously been outspoken against vaccine mandates in tennis and even admitted he was unsure whether he’d travel to Australia.
There had been talks of a vaccine mandate for the 2022 Australian Open over the last few months, with government ministers opposed to the idea of unjabbed players entering the country.
Tournament organisers and even Prime Minister Scott Morrison had looked at the idea of an exemption for tennis players, with those who were not vaccinated completing a two-week hotel quarantine instead, but the Victoria Premier refused to back down on his strict stance on requiring full vaccination for all players coming into Melbourne.
On Saturday (November 20) Tennis Australia boss and the tournament director Craig Tiley confirmed that all players would need to be vaccinated in order to compete in January’s Australian Open.
“It’s been made very clear, when the Premier 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.
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“Immediately we communicated that to the playing group, it is the one direction that you take that is going to ensure everyone’s safety.
“All the playing group understands it, our patrons will need to be vaccinated, all the staff working at the Australian Open will need to be vaccinated.
“But when we’re in a state where there’s more than 90 per cent of the population fully vaccinated, they’ve done a magnificent job with that, it’s the right thing to do.”
One player whose chances of competing in the tournament have now been called into question is Novak Djokovic, as the nine-time champion previously shared his uncertainties over going to Australia if a vaccine mandate was implemented.
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“I don’t know if I’m going to Australia, I don’t know what’s going on. Currently, the situation is not good at all,” he told Serbian newspaper Blic last month.
“I have my opinion and it has always been the same. I will not reveal my status whether I have been vaccinated or not.”
The Serb has continued to cast doubt over his participation, as he was asked for his decision at the ATP Finals after Tiley’s announcement was made and remained ambiguous, saying: “We’ll see. We’ll have to wait and see.”
Now, world No 3 Alexander Zverev – who ended Djokovic’s 2021 season by defeating him in the semi-final of the ATP Finals on Saturday evening – has called for tournament organisers to give the world No 1 an exemption.
Speaking on Tennis Australia’s decision to make vaccination mandatory, Zverev said: “This is not about tennis, this is about the virus. We are visiting a different country and they are allowing us to enter, we need to follow the rules.”
However, he came under fire when he contradicted himself in the same sentence, calling for the Australian government to let the Serb play, as he added: “Djokovic is number 1 in the world so he should be there, hopefully the government will make an exemption or whatever.”
Many have pointed out that the world No 3 sounded understanding and accepting of the reasoning behind the vaccine mandate, before immediately going back on himself by asking the government to make an exception for the world No 1.
Last month, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews made it clear that top players wouldn’t get special treatment, saying: “[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.”
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