Australian Open: no exemptions for unvaccinated tennis players, Victoria premier says

By Mike Hytner

The Victorian government will not apply for exemptions for unvaccinated players travelling from overseas to appear at next year’s Australian Open, the state’s premier has said.

Daniel Andrews said refusing to consider exemptions for players like Novak Djokovic, who has repeatedly refused to reveal his vaccination status, was “the only fair thing to do”, given fans and people working at the tournament are required to be double-jabbed.

“I want to be very clear with every Victorian, my government won’t be applying for an exemption for any unvaccinated player,” Andrews said.

“I am not going to ask and require people sitting in the grandstand, people working at the event to be vaccinated while players aren’t. We’re not going to be applying an exemption. Therefore the issue is basically resolved.”

Earlier, Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, had indicated those athletes who have not taken a Covid vaccine would still be allowed into the country for the season’s opening grand slam, as long as they undertook two weeks of quarantine.

Morrison’s comments contradicted those made a week previously by federal immigration minister, Alex Hawke, who said “our health advice is that when we open the borders, everyone that comes to Australia will have to be double vaccinated ... that’s a universal application, not just to tennis players”.

“Same rules have to apply to everyone” Morrison told the Seven Network on Wednesday. “If I was not double vaccinated when I came home to Glasgow I would be doing two weeks of quarantine. But if you are not vaccinated you will have to quarantine in Victoria. The states will set the rules about the quarantine.”

The Victorian health minister Martin Foley said the state’s public health team would have to “consider what the prime minister said”, but Andrews took aim at the mixed message from the federal government.

“I was perfectly supportive of minister Hawke’s view, which I took to be the view of the federal government and it appears that is not the case,” Andrews said.

“The federal government manages the border and to the extent that anything the federal government says on this is clear, because their position has gone 180 [degrees] from what the immigration minister said, which at the time, I agreed with.

“I am not intending to control the borders, we do not … We will host the event but we will not be applying for an exemption for unvaccinated players to come here. And that is the only fair thing to do. We have all achieved amazing things.”

Debate over vaccination regulations for players at the Australian Open has swirled since Victoria issued a mandate for all professional athletes in the state to be double-jabbed.

Tennis Australia has been contacted for comment.

World No 1 Djokovic, the defending Australian Open champion, would be seeking to win a 10th title at Melbourne Park and the Serb appeared upbeat about his chances of appearing when questioned last week.

“I believe there will be a lot of restrictions just like this year, but I doubt there will be too many changes,” he said.

Earlier this year, the Serb undertook 14 days of hotel quarantine before playing at the Open, but, along with other players, he lobbied for relaxed rules for athletes isolating in Melbourne hotels.