Political wrangling over whether unvaccinated players can enter Australia has cast doubt on how many of tennis’s biggest stars will show up to play at the 2022 Australian Open in January.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had opened the door to players entering Australia without the Covid-19 vaccination earlier this month, saying that they could be allowed into the country subject to a two week quarantine.
That door was promptly shut by Victoria’s Premier, Daniel Andrews, who, according to the Guardian, stated, “I want to be very clear with every Victorian, my government won’t be applying for an exemption for any unvaccinated player.”
“I am not going to ask and require people sitting in the grandstand, people working at the event, to be vaccinated while players aren’t. We’re not going to be applying an exemption. Therefore the issue is basically resolved.”
The state of Victoria has also passed a Covid-19 vaccine mandate that applies to all parties participating in elite sport; athletes, coaches, officials, media, and other staff alike.
It is estimated that as many as half of the world’s top tennis players remain unvaccinated. Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas are among those who have come out against a mandatory vaccination policy on the tennis tour.
The inability to enter Australia could prove especially costly for Djokovic, who is pursuing a Grand Slam. He came close to winning all four Grand Slam tournaments in 2021, falling short in the final of the US Open.
Should he be unable to enter Australia, Djokovic’s hunt for the Grand Slam could end before it even begins this season. It would be a major blow for both the sport of tennis and the Australian Open.
There has yet to be a final definitive announcement on whether top tennis players who are unvaccinated will have to miss the 2022 Australian Open, but as the tournament, scheduled for January 17 - 30, approaches a decision will have to be made.