Tennis players planning to compete in the Australian Open at Melbourne Park should get vaccinated for Covid-19 to give themselves the best chance of playing the Grand Slam, an Australian government official has said.
Victoria state, of which Melbourne is the capital, has introduced a vaccine mandate for all professional athletes but authorities have yet to clarify whether athletes from overseas or other Australian states must also vaccinate.
Victoria sports minister Martin Pakula urged players to leave no room for doubt.
“If I was an ATP or WTA player, I’d be getting vaccinated,” Pakula told local radio station SEN. “That will give them the best opportunity to play in the Australian Open with the more minimal restrictions that might be in place for those people.”
Both the women’s WTA and men’s ATP tours have urged players to get vaccinated but some have expressed reservations, including Australian Open men’s champion Novak Djokovic, who is opposed to vaccine mandates.
Tennis Australia, which organises the Grand Slam, has not disclosed any arrangements for players for the upcoming tournament in January.
But fully vaccinated players are expected to enjoy more freedoms to move around and may be able to avoid the country’s mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival.
Australia’s borders remain effectively shut to non-residents, and Pakula said he did not know whether unvaccinated people would be allowed to enter the country by the time of the Australian Open which starts Jan 17.
“That’s going to be the subject, I suspect, of discussion at national cabinet and amongst the federal cabinet,” he said. “As for the rules that might apply around the Australian Open, specifically, we’re in discussions with Tennis Australia and the department of health about that.”
Melbourne has been locked down for months as authorities battle to control an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant while rolling out vaccinations.
Victoria will lift some lockdown restrictions when 70% of adults are fully vaccinated, which should be late-October according to official projections.