World No 1 Novak Djokovic and all other players will have to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to compete in the Australia Open next January, tournament chief Craig Tiley said on Saturday.
Djokovic has declined to disclose whether he is vaccinated and said that he would wait until Tennis Australia revealed the health protocols before he made a decision about playing at Melbourne Park.
“There’s a lot of speculation about vaccination and just to be really clear, when the [state] premier announced that everyone on site … will need to be vaccinated … we made that clear to the playing group,” Tiley told reporters.
“[Novak] has said that he views this as a private matter for him. We would love to see Novak here, he knows that he’ll have to be vaccinated to play here.”
The announcement brings to a definitive conclusion months of negotiations between Tennis Australia and the Victoria state government, which had insisted throughout that everybody at Melbourne Park would need to be vaccinated.
Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, had opened a window for unvaccinated players when he said that they would be allowed into the country if they served 14 days quarantine and Victoria applied for an exemption.
Victoria’s premier, Daniel Andrews, quickly made it clear that no exemptions would be sought for unvaccinated players.
Djokovic shares the record of 20 men’s grand slam singles titles with Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer and will be looking to break that tie by winning a 10th Australian Open title if he decides to play in January.
Nadal confirmed he would play at Melbourne Park in January but Federer, who like the Spaniard is also fully vaccinated, will miss the tournament as he recovers from another knee surgery.
Tiley said vaccination rates among players had jumped from 50% to 80% in the past six weeks and they would play in front of capacity crowds in all stadiums when the grand slam tournament starts on 17 January.
Fans this year were banned for five days due to a snap lockdown and limited through the event.
He said international players were currently going through the travel visa process with the federal government while entry for the Open closes in December.
“Entry in here will be determined by around early to the middle of December on the entry deadline,” Tiley said. “So you’ll know when a player’s entered an event … so in the next couple of weeks you will have really good indication of where everyone’s at because at that point there’s an official list of who’s going to be here.”
Tiley said he had spoken this week with seven-time champion Serena Williams, who confirmed she will play.