Novak Djokovic's defence of Australian Open in doubt as unvaccinated may not get visas

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Novak Djokovic - Novak Djokovic Australian Open defence in doubt after official confirms no special plans for unvaccinated players - GETTY IMAGES
Novak Djokovic - Novak Djokovic Australian Open defence in doubt after official confirms no special plans for unvaccinated players - GETTY IMAGES

Novak Djokovic could boycott the Australian Open and surrender his title if mandatory coronavirus vaccinations are imposed on players.

The world No 1, who has become sport’s most high-profile anti-vaxxer, said he would refuse to divulge whether he had been jabbed amid the growing likelihood of those travelling to Melbourne being forced to do so.

A health order was issued two and a half weeks ago that meant players faced being banned from the first grand slam of the year if they failed to get fully vaccinated by the end of next month.

Speaking to the online edition of Serbian daily Blic, Djokovic said: “Things beings as they are, I still don’t know if I will go to Melbourne.

“I will not reveal my status whether I have been vaccinated or not. It is a private matter and an inappropriate inquiry.

“People go too far these days in taking the liberty to ask questions and judge a person. Whatever you say – ‘Yes, no, maybe, I am thinking about it’ – they will take advantage.”

Defending nine-time Australian Open champion Djokovic is among several top tennis players known to have held out against the jab.

The Serb revealed his anti-vaccine stance in a Facebook chat last year, saying: “Personally I am opposed to vaccination and I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel.

“But, if it becomes compulsory, what will happen? I will have to make a decision. I have my own thoughts about the matter and whether those thoughts will change at some point, I don’t know.”

Britain’s Johanna Konta has also expressed reservations about taking the vaccine, despite missing Wimbledon and the Olympics after contracting Covid-19.

She said in August: “This is a tricky thing to talk about because it’s a very inflammatory subject and there’s no real right answer. I don’t want to talk about it because I wouldn’t be able to get my point across without it being a case for argument.”

More than a third of players on the men’s and women’s tours had not been fully vaccinated by the start of last week, according to figures provided by the ATP (35 per cent) and WTA (40 per cent).

In football, almost 70 per cent of Premier League players are now double-jabbed following warnings about uptake in the sport from scientists including Jonathan Van-Tam.

The most detailed assessment carried out by clubs shows a total of 68 per cent are fully vaccinated, and 81 per cent have had their first dose, Telegraph Sport can disclose.

The league was unable to disclose like-for-like previous figures on uptake, but club sources previously revealed how, as of last month, the squads of only seven teams in the top flight were more than 50 per cent fully vaccinated.

All unvaccinated players faced being barred from the Australian Open under a health order issued by the state of Victoria that included a requirement for “authorised workers” to have their first jab by October 15 and second by November 26.

The man behind that order, Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews, has warned that tennis players could not count on being handed an exemption from it.

“I don’t think any unvaccinated tennis player is going to get a visa to come into this country,” Andrews said. “If they did get a visa, they’d probably have to quarantine for a couple of weeks when no other players will have to.

“Professional sport is part of that authorised worker list and they have to be double-dose vaccinated.”

The men’s and women’s tours have so far refused to force players to get jabbed but have recommended that they do so.

Andy Murray has been among those to voice concerns about the low uptake among his peers.

Speaking in August, Murray said: “I feel like I’m enjoying a fairly normal life, whereas for the players that haven’t, it’s different. I’m sure they'll be frustrated with that.

“Ultimately, I guess the reason why all of us are getting vaccinated is to look out for the wider public. We have a responsibility as players that are travelling across the world to look out for everyone else as well.

“I’m happy that I’m vaccinated. I’m hoping that more players choose to have it in the coming months.”

At this year’s Australian Open, all players had to quarantine for two weeks and get tested regularly under strict Covid protocols.

Anyone who tested positive, or was deemed a close contact of someone else who had, was not allowed to leave his or her hotel room.

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