No Australian Open for unvaccinated tennis players, confirms federal minister

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Tennis superstar and nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic must be double vaccinated if he wants a shot at a 10th title in 2022, with Immigration Minister Alex Hawke confirming on Wednesday morning that there will not be a special exemption for tennis players.

Djokovic has been reluctant to say whether he has been vaccinated, but Mr Hawke said there would be no exceptions, with all visitors to the country needing to be double vaccinated.

“The government in establishing its borders has said that you’ll need to be double vaccinated to visit Australia. That’s a universal application, not just to tennis players. I mean that every visitor to Australia will need to be double vaccinated,” Mr Hawke said on ABC radio.

Asked if he had a message for Djokovic, the Minister said the health advice was clear, backing in the view held by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on Tuesday.

“I don’t have a message to Novak. I have a message to everybody that wishes to visit Australia. He’ll need to be double vaccinated,” Mr Hawke said.

Nationals backbencher Matt Canavan had a different view, saying Djokovic should be allowed in because he’s already had COVID-19.

“We should range the rules. Those rules are wrong. I’m not saying it should be a rule for Novak, it should be a rule for Novak, it should be a rule for everybody. If you’ve had COVID and have natural immunity, you’re better off.”

But Victorian Australian Medical Association president Dr Roderick McRae did not agree.

“I understand he [Djokovic] had it [coronavirus] but, believe it or not, the immunity from the vaccination is better than the immunity from catching the disease,” Dr McRae said.

“I think there is an element of standards [here]. It’s important our leaders make these decisions in our interests and it [banning unvaccinated travellers] demonstrates to the community just how important we take this.”

Djokovic has already hinted the vaccination issue could be a deal-breaker for him playing in the Melbourne grand slam.

“Things being as they are, I still don’t know if I will go to Melbourne,” Djokovic told the online edition of Serbian daily Blic.

“I will not reveal my status whether I have been vaccinated or not, it is a private matter and an inappropriate inquiry.”

World No.3 Stefanos Tsitsipas virtually committed to January’s Australian Open last week, describing any potential limitations imposed on unvaccinated tennis stars, including quarantine, as fair.

After initially declining to reveal his COVID-19 vaccination status, the Greek star was asked last week about the looming vaccine mandate for athletes heading Down Under, and said: “I will play under the conditions that have been set now. I think it’s fair.”

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