TURIN, Italy (AP) — Novak Djokovic says he’s going to have to “wait and see” if he plays the Australian Open after tournament chief Craig Tiley confirmed that everyone who attends the first Grand Slam tennis tournament of 2022 will need to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 — including all the players.
Djokovic, a nine-time Australian Open champion, has refused to say if he’s vaccinated — or if he intends to get vaccinated.
“We’ll see. We’ll have to wait and see,” Djokovic said after getting beat by Alexander Zverev in the semifinals of the ATP Finals on Saturday — marking his final match on tour this year.
“I haven’t been talking to them, to be honest,” the top-ranked Djokovic added. “I was just waiting to hear what the news is going to be and now that I know we’ll just have to wait and see.”
If he does go to Australia, Djokovic can attempt to break a tie with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and win a record 21st Grand Slam singles title.
The tournament is scheduled for Jan. 17-30. The Victorian state government had earlier said only vaccinated persons would be allowed into the site for the tournament, and Tiley reiterated that on Saturday.
“Everyone on site, the fans, all the staff, the players, will need to be vaccinated,” Tiley said at the tournament’s official launch. “There’s been a lot of speculation about Novak’s position, he’s said it’s a private matter.
“We would love to see Novak here, but he knows he needs to be vaccinated in order to play. He’s always said that the Australian Open is the event that puts the wind in his sails.”
The third-ranked Zverev was asked if Djokovic’s handling of the vaccine issue should be better respected.
“This is a very tough one because it’s very political,” Zverev said. “At the end of the day I don’t know his criteria.
“But we are visiting another country. This is not about tennis. This is about the virus that is going on, right? … At the end of the day, the country is allowing us to enter. We need to follow the rules and follow the guidelines,” Zverev said.
Zverev said that while it would be “easier to win the tournament” if Djokovic doesn’t play, “he’s No. 1 in the world so he should be there.
“Hopefully,” the German concluded, “the Australian government will make an exemption or whatever it is that they can do for him to be able to participate there.”
Meanwhile, Djokovic is scheduled to play for Serbia at the Davis Cup finals next week in Austria, which has just announced a national lockdown and a plan to mandate vaccinations as coronavirus infections hit a record high.
People visiting Austria for work during the lockdown have to pre-register and show a negative PCR test if they are not vaccinated or recently recovered from COVID-19.
Djokovic and his wife tested positive for the coronavirus last year after he played in a series of exhibition matches that he organized in Serbia and Croatia without social distancing amid the pandemic.
AP writers Dennis Passa in Australia and Eric Willemsen in Austria contributed to this story.
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