Australian Open officials have confirmed that a small percentage of tennis players and staff will be granted medical immunization exemptions to travel to Australia for the start of the new season.
Tournament boss Craig Tiley stressed that anyone who successfully obtains a medical exemption – a process overseen by Border Force – will not have to complete the mandatory quarantine upon arrival.
Speaking about the procedure for unvaccinated travelers, Tiley said, “The entry process is a 72 hour test before entering. [taken before flying], a negative test when you arrive, isolate yourself until you get a negative result.
“You have to show proof of that negative test to get your accreditation, and then there are a whole bunch of protocols to coach players on what to do. They are well versed in doing this all over the world.
“All the players stay in the same accommodation. We have a minimized risk environment in the Crown, and they will stay there as a group. There will be tests on site. We will manage their movement.
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Up to 3,000 players and staff are expected to arrive in Australia from December 28. But two of the biggest names in the game, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal may well be missing from the first major of the new year.
Nadal recently tested positive for Covid-19 after exposure in the United Arab Emirates and is currently undergoing a period of isolation.
Meanwhile, Djokovic has often refused to disclose his vaccination status and has previously expressed his belief that players should have “freedom of choice”.
However, Tiley remains confident that Djokovic and Nadal will feature in Melbourne.
The tournament director revealed that he recently spoke with the Serbian and stressed that the 20-time major winner is keen to defend his title as he seeks a 10th Australian Open trophy.
“If Novak shows up at the Australian Open, he will either be vaccinated or he will have a medical exemption,” Tiley confirmed. “[It’s] his choice over his state of health is his choice to remain personal and private as we all would with any condition that we may or may not have. We are not going to force him or ask him to disclose this.
Besides Nadal, a number of female stars have tested positive for Covid in Abu Dhabi.
Olympic champion Belinda Bencic and world number 10 Ons Jabeur have both confirmed they are isolating themselves but still hope to appear in Melbourne.
Britain’s Emma Raducanu tested positive for the virus last week and is expected to fly to Australia at the end of her quarantine, just ahead of her third major tournament.
The new ‘exemption’ guidelines could also allow young Australian prodigy Olivia Gadecki to receive a wildcard after all.
The teenager played for Australia’s Billie Jean King Cup team this year but is still unvaccinated which has reportedly kept her from playing on the Australian tennis circuit so far.
It’s still unclear who exactly will receive a medical exemption for the tournament, but Tiley is confident that all the right measures are in place.
“The good thing is that everyone [coming to Australia] is vaccinated.
“Everyone who comes in is vaccinated and there will be a small percentage – a very small percentage – who will be granted medical exemption.
“So if a player, fan [or] the workforce is on site here – you are either vaccinated or have an approved medical exemption and are enrolled in the Australian Vaccination Registry.
“This gives us additional security and comfort on the site. “
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