‘I’m sure he wants to get to 10’: Australian Open boss weighs in on Novak Djokovic speculation

Australian Open director Craig Tiley expects up to 95% of players will be vaccinated against Covid-19 in time for the January tournament but is unsure whether Novak Djokovic will be among them despite the world No 1’s hunt for a record 21st grand slam title.

Tiley said Victoria state’s strict vaccination mandate had motivated players to get their shots before Melbourne Park, where fans and staff will also be banned if unvaccinated.

Tiley also said he had spoken to Djokovic, the Australian Open men’s champion, but was none the wiser as to the Serbian’s vaccination status.

“Today more than 85% are [vaccinated],” Tiley said of professional players on local radio station SEN on Thursday. “And we take a lot of credit for that because we put a vaccination requirement on it. We think by the time we get to January it will be between 90-95% vaccinated because if you’re not, you cannot play.“

Tiley said there were “one or two players” who had medical exemptions from vaccination but the exemptions were in line with Victoria’s health rules.

“And so it should be, because there shouldn’t be any preferential treatment coming into the state compared to what the regular community is going through,” he said.

Djokovic has declined to disclose his status, saying it is a matter of personal choice, and was non-committal about defending his Australian Open title when asked about it at the ATP Finals.

“Novak has won nine Australian Opens, I’m sure he wants to get to 10,” Tiley said. “He’s on 20 grand slam titles as is Rafa Nadal, who is coming, and Roger Federer. One of them is going to surpass the other and I don’t think Novak would want to leave that feat to someone else.”

Though massively successful at Melbourne Park, Djokovic has rubbed local fans the wrong way at times and was pilloried in January for trying to secure better quarantine conditions for players as they isolated in the lead up to the 2021 tournament.

Tiley did not expect fans would give Djokovic a hard time if he appeared at the tournament because it would mean the Serb had got with the programme and vaccinated.

“He’s one of the greatest players of all time,” Tiley said. “He’s had a view on something, some share [it] and the majority don’t, and I think there will be fair treatment of Novak.”

Tiley’s comments come amid news the ATP Cup will return to Sydney as the centrepiece of a blockbuster build-up to the Australian Open. A record 17 tournaments will be held before the Open at Melbourne Park from 17-30 January.

This year’s ATP Cup, as well as all other AO lead-up events, was held at Melbourne Park because of the global pandemic. But with the country opening up, Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne and even regional Victoria will enjoy a slice of the action this summer.

The bumper program begins on New Year’s Day with the 16-team ATP Cup from 1-9 January, while Australia’s world No 1 Ash Barty is expected to open her summer at the women’s Adelaide International from 2-9 January.

A new, one-off Sydney Tennis Classic, a combined men’s and women’s event featuring a WTA 500 and ATP 250, will take place in Sydney from 9-15 January. That same week, the world’s best men’s and women’s players will return to Adelaide for a second event in the South Australia capital.

Bendigo and Traralgon will also host ATP Challenger and ITF women’s tournaments from 2-9 January. There will also be two WTA 250 tournaments and one ATP 250 at Melbourne Park from 3-9 January before Australian Open qualifying starts the following day.

source: theguardian.com