Tennis players who have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19 will not be allowed to participate in the Australian Open despite some initial optimism. Victoria Prime Minister Daniel Andrews on Wednesday announced his government would not seek travel permits for unvaccinated players, shortly after Prime Minister Scott Morrison suggested such permits – along with quarantines of two weeks for each unvaccinated athlete – would allow them to compete.
Victoria is set to host the Australian Open in Melbourne in January.
“On behalf of every vaccinated Victorian who did the right thing, my government will not seek an exemption for an unvaccinated player,” Andrews said. “If we don’t ask for an exemption, then no exemption will be granted and then the whole problem is fundamentally solved.”
According to CNN, around 30% of the top 100 male and female tennis players remain unvaccinated, which could lighten the pitch for the Australian Open. World number one Novak Djokovic – who has refused to share his vaccination status – said last week that “things being as they are” in Victoria could force him to skip the tournament. A victory at the Australian Open would give Djokovic a record 21st men’s Grand Slam title.
Andrews says keeping unvaccinated players out of the Australian Open ensures no double standards arise. Victorian professional athletes are required to get the COVID-19 vaccine, along with all coaches, officials, media, staff and fans.
“I’m not going to demand that the people sitting in the grandstand, the people working at the event, be vaccinated when the players are not,” Andrews said.
Australia, and in particular Victoria, have taken the COVID-19 pandemic seriously since the start of the pandemic. Australia’s borders have been closed for 18 months except those with travel exemptions, and Victoria has locked its capital Melbourne six times. Unvaccinated Australians are still excluded from pubs, restaurants, sporting events and more.
The Australian Open is scheduled to start on January 18.