Novak Djokovic could play Australian Open despite vaccine stance according to leaked email

Tennis: Djokovic slams critics after Australian Open win

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Novak Djokovic could be allowed to compete in the Australian Open regardless of whether he has been vaccinated. According to an email sent out to WTA players by the tour’s Players Council, Tennis Australia is currently planning to allow unvaccinated players to compete, though they must undergo a mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine upon arrival into the country.

Djokovic has been in doubt to compete in the first Grand Slam of 2022, as Australian government ministers look to introduce a vaccine mandate.

However, according to Tennis Australia, the tournament is currently planning to allow unjabbed player to compete, so long as they undergo a two-week hotel quarantine.

Previously, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews admitted it was “highly unlikely” unvaccinated players would receive a visa into the country, while Immigration Minster Alex Hawke told ABC Radio last week: “I don’t have a message to Novak. I have a message to everyone who wishes to visit Australia, you’ll need to be double vaccinated. That’s a universal application, not just to tennis players.”

Their comments prompted the world No 1 to cast doubt over his participation in the Australian Open, saying he was unsure whether he’d travel to Melbourne to compete.

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Now, the nine-time champion may be allowed to return and defend his crown after a leaked email revealed current plans will allow unvaccinated players to compete.

“We have been communicating regularly with Craig and the Tennis Australia team in recent months and they shared some good news with us on our Players Council call last Friday that we would like to share with you so that we know the facts and are not confused by the rumours that have been circulating,” a leaked email sent from the WTA Players Council to players on the WTA Tour said.

“Tennis Australia has asked us to wait a few days before speaking about it as they were still working with the government on the details.”

Conditions for players are set to improve “significantly”, according to the email, as Victoria’s vaccination rate is expected to hit 80% at the end of the week and 90% next month.

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It means that fully vaccinated players will not be required to quarantine or stay in a bubble, and will have complete freedom of movement with no ongoing restrictions imposed on them.

The email also discloses that unvaccinated players are allowed to compete “but will be subject to two weeks hard quarantine”, “are required to go through mandatory hotel quarantine for 14 days upon arrival” and “must submit to regular resting”.

All players can arrive in Australia any time after December 1 and must test negative for Covid within 72 hours of departure, while vaccinated players must also test within 24 hours of arrival.

It means that, were Djokovic to compete, he would need to spend 14 days in a hotel room before being allowed to visit the tournament grounds and begin practicing.

Tournament organisers came under fire earlier this year when all players and personnel who travelled in charter flights where another passenger later tested positive were forced to undergo a 14-day ‘hard’ hotel quarantine, while other players could leave for five hours a day to train in the gym and on the courts.

The Serb himself was outspoken about this at the time, asking Tennis Australia to allow players out to practice, but was unsuccessful in this.

It is not known whether he will be happy undergoing a hard quarantine to compete, as he recently told Serbian newspaper Blic: “The main problem is that if you are on a plane with a person who is positive, whether you are vaccinated or not, you automatically have to go to the room for 14 days.”

The government could also step in before the tournament begins in January and refuse entry to unvaccinated players, but under current guidelines from Tennis Australia, Djokovic will be able to return and compete for a historic 21st Major title.
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