Tennis: Victoria lockdown bans fans at Australian Open
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Novak Djokovic could have his Australian Open hopes snatched away once again after a leaked email revealing unvaccinated players were allowed to compete has been labelled a “setback”. The WTA Players Council sent the letter after Tennis Australia communicated to them that those who hadn’t been vaccinated could still play but needed to undergo a two-week hotel quarantine.
Djokovic’s Australian Open chances have looked increasingly in doubt in recent weeks, but he was offered a huge boost when a leaked email revealed that unvaccinated players were allowed to compete, subject to a 14-day ‘hard’ quarantine.
The world No 1 previously said he didn’t know if he would play the tournament after Ministers looked to back a vaccine mandate.
However, it appears current plans will still allow unvaccinated players into the country for the tournament, though they must undergo a mandatory two-week hotel quarantine, while vaccinated players will have full freedom of movement with no restrictions.
“We have been communicating regularly with Craig and the Tennis Australia team in recent months and they shared some good news with us on our Players Council call last Friday that we would like to share with you so that we know the facts and are not confused by the rumours that have been circulating,” a leaked email sent from the WTA Players Council to players on the WTA Tour said.
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“Tennis Australia has asked us to wait a few days before speaking about it as they were still working with the government on the details.”
The email also discloses that unvaccinated players are allowed to compete “but will be subject to two weeks hard quarantine”, “are required to go through mandatory hotel quarantine for 14 days upon arrival” and “must submit to regular resting”.
All players can arrive in Australia any time after December 1 and must test negative for Covid within 72 hours of departure, while vaccinated players must also test within 24 hours of arrival.
The email had been leaked after the Players Council wrote: “We ask that everyone please keep this information confidential until the government makes an official announcement. Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions.”
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However, the leak may now serve as a “setback” in plans to allow unvaccinated players in, throwing the nine-time champion’s chances into doubt once again.
According to Australian newspaper The Age, the Victorian government is yet to officially settle the matter on unvaccinated players, and communication with the WTA came from Tennis Australia, who remain optimistic.
The Age also reported: “Sources with knowledge of the situation told the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age Tennis Australia’s negotiations with the federal and Victorian governments to grant a handful of exemptions for unvaccinated players were progressing, but the leak of the WTA email would provide a setback.”
The WTA Player Council email said conditions for players were set to improve “significantly” as a result of the vaccination rate in Victoria, which is expected to hit 80% by the end of the week and 90% by next month.
Even if unvaccinated players are allowed to compete in the first Grand Slam of the year, Djokovic could still opt out of playing if a hard quarantine is retired.
The 34-year-old took issue when a number of players were forced to undergo a last-minute two-week hotel quarantine during the event earlier this year, if they had been on a flight with someone who tested positive, even if they continued to test negatve.
He also recently told Serbian newspaper Blic: “The main problem is that if you are on a plane with a person who is positive, whether you are vaccinated or not, you automatically have to go to the room for 14 days.”
The WTA Player Council email also revealed that Tennis Australia had not yet communicated what would happen to players who found themselves in the same situation again in January.
“We understand that the issue of close contacts is a key issue for everyone. It is not 100% resolved yet but we do expect a further update from Tennis Australia on this topic on our player call scheduled for Friday,” they wrote.
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