Novak Djokovic named on Australian Open entry list despite Covid vaccine doubt

The 2022 Australian Open looks likely to have one of the biggest names in tennis in attendance after Novak Djokovic was named on the competition's entry list.

His inclusion follows weeks of speculation as to whether Djokovic is vaccinated against the coronavirus, which has been stipulated as a requirement for those tennis stars wishing to compete in Melbourne.

The nine-time Australian Open champion has competed in every edition of the tournament since he debuted in 2005, winning more titles than any other men's player.

World No. 1 Djokovic, 34, has been vocal in his opposition to mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations and said last month that the "freedom of choice is essential for everyone."

That led to fears the Serb would skip his title defence in January, as did comments from the player's father, Srdjan, who said his son "probably won't play" in Australia if the vaccine is mandated.

Djokovic's inclusion on the entry list has sparked concerns that exemptions could be made for elite players, who may be allowed to take part thanks to a 'loophole' in the system.

Organisers confirmed on Tuesday that Djokovic will form part of Serbia's team for the 2022 ATP Cup, which will take place in Sydney, New South Wales, in early January.

It's been suggested he could then apply for a medical exemption as an unvaccinated player and travel to Victoria, with the Australian Open scheduled to get underway on January 17.

“My view on this is really clear and really simple,” said Victoria’s deputy premier, James Merlino, on Wednesday. “Everyone’s looking forward to the Australian Open and everyone who will attend – spectators, players, officials, staff – everyone is expected to be fully vaccinated.

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“They’re the rules. Medical exemptions are just that – it’s not a loophole for privileged tennis players… It is a medical exemption in exceptional circumstances if you have an acute medical condition.”

Do you think unvaccinated athletes should be allowed to compete at Grand Slams? Let us know in the comments section.

Tennis Australia—who are responsible for the running of the Australian Open—also defended itself against allegations it had used loopholes to ensure the best players participate in the tournament.

"All players, patrons and staff at the Australian Open have to be vaccinated," the governing body said in a statement.

"Any suggestion that Tennis Australia is seeking 'loopholes' within this process is simply untrue."

Assuming Djokovic remains unvaccinated, it's understood he would need to arrive in Sydney by December 16 in order to undergo the mandatory 14-day quarantine and be ready for the ATP Cup start date on January 1.

While the Australian Open looks set to have one of its premier names present, Serena Williams and Roger Federer were absent from Wednesday's entry-list announcement.

"While this is never an easy decision to make, I am not where I need to be physically to compete," said 40-year-old Williams in a statement.

"I will miss seeing the fans, but am excited to return and compete at my highest level."

Reigning U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu will also make her Australian Open debut, named as part of a British contingent that also included Cameron Norrie, Dan Evans and Heather Watson.

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