Less than three months before the Australian Open (January 17-30), the Australian government authorities repeat the imperative need to be vaccinated to participate, even if the WTA has mentioned a scenario with a previous fortnight. A red line that casts doubt on the participation of world No.1 Novak Djokovic.
According to the ATP and WTA, interviewed by AFP, nearly two out of three players and more than 60% of female players are vaccinated to date.
What is the position of the Australian authorities?
Uncompromising and constant. For a week now, from local authorities to the federal government, the message has been firm: no vaccine, no visa.
” I do not believe that an unvaccinated player will obtain a visa “, pronounced mid-October Daniel Andrews, the Prime Minister of the State of Victoria, where Melbourne is located – which has just come out of more than 260 days of confinement cumulative, which makes it one of the longest-standing cities in the world.
” The virus does not care about your ranking or how many Grand Slams you have won. You have to get vaccinated to protect yourself and others, ” he pleaded.
A position supported by several federal ministers in the following days. ” I do not have a message for Novak (Djokovic), I have a message for anyone who wants to come to Australia: he will have to be doubly vaccinated, ” they hammered at the Immigration Department. ” Our rules apply without exception. It does not matter whether you are world No. 1 or anyone else, ” insisted Health.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has since raised the possibility of granting exemptions, as has been the case for skilled workers since the start of the pandemic. But Daniel Andrews brushed off that possibility.
” I want to say very clearly that the state of Victoria will not ask for an exemption for unvaccinated players. So it will not be granted. And the problem is solved, ” he said Wednesday. Question of consistency, he explains: ” I will not ask spectators and tournament employees to be vaccinated when players are not .”
Are other scenarios being considered?
The WTA, in particular with Tennis Australia, which organizes the first Grand Slam of the season, informed the players of a more open health protocol under discussion, according to an email revealed by a specialist journalist on Sunday.
A two-tier system is exposed: rigorous with the unvaccinated, flexible with the others.
In summary, for the unvaccinated, “a compulsory quarantine of fourteen days at the hotel” and “regular tests”, not to mention the question of contact cases “not yet 100% stopped”.
For the vaccinated, on the other hand, “complete freedom of movement” provided they present two negative tests, one within 72 hours before departure and one within 24 hours after arrival.
But the WTA then asked for discretion, the Australian federation “still working with the government”. Contacted by AFP, the latter then said “optimistic about the possibility of organizing” the tournament “in conditions as close as possible to those pre-pandemic”.
What are the players saying?
The voice that finds the most echo is that of the world No.1 Novak Djokovic, who has publicly taken a stand against vaccines in the spring of 2020 and refuses to share his vaccination status.
” I don’t know if I’m going to go to Australia, ” the Melbourne title record holder (9) told Serbian newspaper Blic about ten days ago. The scope of the Australian Grand Slam is however historic for Djokovic: overtake, with a 21st major trophy, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
“ Personally, I am opposed to vaccination, and I would not want to be forced to be able to travel, ” he said in April 2020. A year later, he was still pleading for “freedom of choice”.
” It’s a private matter. It seems incredible to me that society judges you based on a vaccine, ” said the Serbian. A reluctant time, the world No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas, who argued about his youth, or the French Gilles Simon, decided to extend their arm.
Since the US Open at the beginning of September, the former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka considered it ” odd that spectators are obliged to be vaccinated and not players “, and thus ” inevitable that it becomes mandatory “. Andy Murray, also ex-world No. 1, saw it as ” a responsibility as players who travel around the world “.