Novak Djokovic defended by Alexander Zverev over Covid stance amid Australian Open doubts

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Alexander Zverev has spoken out to defend Novak Djokovic as the world No 1 faces a potential ban from the Australian Open. Ministers are moving to require proof of double-vaccination before allowing players into Melbourne for the opening-season Grand Slam, and the nine-time champion has been opposed to disclosing his vaccination status, leaving him in doubt for the tournament.

Djokovic’s chances of making the Australian Open look increasingly dobutful, and the Serb himself has admitted he isn’t sure if he will play the tournament.

There have been talks of a vaccine mandate in recent weeks, though a leaked email sent by the WTA Players Council revealed that Tennis Australia was planning to allow unvaccinated players to compete subject to a hotel quarantine.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also told Channel Nine that unvaccinated tennis players may be given an exemption so long as they undergo a 14-day ‘hard’ quarantine, but the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has doubled-down on his stance against allowing unjabbed players into the state and said he wouldn’t apply for them to become exempt from the rules.

As doubts remain over whether Djokovic and other players who do not want the vaccine or to disclose whether they’ve had it can compete, Zverev has now spoken out in defence of the world No 1.

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“All tennis players have the right to decide for themselves,” the recent Olympic gold medallist said. “Then I learned that in Australia there are strict rules and the unvaccinated cannot play.”

Though the world No 4 said he will be competing in Melbourne, indicating he is already double-vaccinated or will be by the time the tournament comes around, he agreed with Djokovic that vaccination status is a “private” matter.

Speaking in Vienna, where he is currently playing in the ATP 500 event, Zvered added: “It does not concern me.

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“I will go to Australia even if I think it must be a private thing if one is vaccinated or not. Everyone decides for himself.”

Djokovic, a nine-time champion in Australia, said he does not agree with sharing whether or not he is vaccinated, something that was making him doubt his participation in the first Grand Slam of 2022.

The 34-year-old told Serbian newspaper Blic: “I don’t know if I’m going to Australia, I don’t know what’s going on. Currently, the situation is not good at all.

“The media has become…I have no word how to describe it. It spreads fear and panic among people and I don’t want to participate in that rift. I feel that everyone is hostile. I don’t want to give them a reason to write some things about me.”

Daniil Medvedev also previously backed the 20-time Grand Slam champion’s decision not to reveal whether he is vaccinated, though the Russian acknowledged that seeing who is competing in the Australian Open will be a giveaway.

“There is a lot of division in the society, not only in sports, but in the whole society, between those who have not been vaccinated and have been vaccinated. And that’s really scary,” the 25-year-old said, per TennisHead.

Medvedev, who recently beat Djokovic in the US Open final to win his maiden Grand Slam title, added: “I liked what Novak said about this. He said the vaccination was a personal matter and he would not be making it public. And I also decided not to disclose medical things,” he said.

“As for Australia, everyone will see who is vaccinated and who is not. Of course, the players can say that they are injured, but this will be a play on words.

“I want to play in Australia, that’s all I can say.”
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