Unvaccinated players welcome at Australian Open: leaked WTA email

by AFP

MELBOURNE – The rules would also likely apply to the men’s tour, leaving the door open for world number one Novak Djokovic to defend his title at Melbourne Park in January.

The email to players from the women’s governing body was leaked to New York Times tennis writer Ben Rothenberg – who posted it on Twitter – and contradicts officials earlier statements implying unvaccinated players would not be granted visas.

It said players fully inoculated against coronavirus would not have to quarantine or remain in bio-secure bubbles, enjoying “complete freedom of movement”.

In contrast, unvaccinated players would have to undergo two weeks mandatory hotel quarantine and submit to regular testing, the email stated.

“We feel the need to reach out to you all to clear up false and misleading information that has recently been spread by other parties about the conditions the players will be forced to endure at next year’s Australian Open,” the email read.

“Because Victoria’s vaccination rate will hit 80 percent at the end of the week and 90 percent next month, it has been confirmed that conditions for players at the Australian Open will improve significantly.”

Vaccinated players could arrive any time after Dec 1, must have a negative test within 72 hours of departing for Australia and test again within 24 hours of arrival. Otherwise, there will be no restrictions, the email said.

Tennis Australia told AFP it expected to issue a statement later Monday.

The apparent move to allow unvaccinated players into Australia contradicts comments from senior government officials last week.

Victoria state premier Dan Andrews said unvaccinated players were unlikely to get visas, a stance echoed by the country’s Immigration Minister Alex Hawke.

“Every visitor to Australia will need to be double vaccinated,” Hawke said.

Nine-time Australian Open champion Djokovic is one of many players who have refused to share their vaccination status, casting doubt over whether he will defend his title.

“I don’t know if I’m going to go to Australia,” he told Serbian newspaper Blic last week, refusing to say whether he was inoculated, calling it “a private matter”.

Melbourne is in Victoria state, which on Friday emerged from one of the world’s most prolonged series of Covid lockdowns, in total more than 260 days since the pandemic began.

It recorded almost 1,500 new cases and a further seven deaths in the past 24 hours, but it is rapidly nearing an 80 percent vaccination rate when more freedoms have been promised.

This year’s Australian Open was hit hard by the pandemic with all players going through two weeks of quarantine, while crowds were restricted and a five-day snap lockdown was called mid-event.