Novak Djokovic with his 2021 Australian Open title
Novak Djokovic’s participation at the 2022 Australian Open still hangs in the balance even though the tournament is a little over two months away. But a recent letter penned by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) does provide some clarity on the situation.
The letter, reportedly sent in confidence to all WTA players, was posted by New York Times journalist Ben Rothenberg via Twitter on Monday. It states that unvaccinated players will be permitted to enter the country and play in the Australian Open, provided they undergo two weeks of quarantine.
The following are the entry conditions for unvaccinated players, as highlighted in the letter:
“[Players] can arrive any time after December 1st, but will be subject to two weeks’ hard quarantine. [Players] must have a negative test within 72 hours of departure, are required to go through mandatory hotel quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, [and] must submit to regular testing.”
While this letter was sent solely to WTA players, it is believed that the same rules will also apply to their male counterparts. That in turn means it could have ramifications for Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev and several other players who haven’t yet confirmed whether they are vaccinated or not.
Djokovic has refused to reveal his vaccination status so far, because he believes it is a personal matter. But many experts, including Todd Woodbridge and Tracy Austin, have assumed that he is yet to take the jab against the COVID-19 virus.
It was initially believed that unvaccinated players wouldn’t be granted visas into the country, as per statements made by the Immigration Minister of Australia and the Premier of Victoria. But going by the WTA letter, it seems that the Australian government has given the matter a second thought and decided to permit unvaccinated players into the country.
Novak Djokovic could be allowed into Australia even if he is unvaccinated, but would he really want to undergo hard quarantine?
Novak Djokovic during Hotel Quarantine in The Lead Up To 2021 Australian Open
Novak Djokovic has repeatedly voiced his concerns against making the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory. But he has also spoken out against the rigorous quarantine rules enforced at the 2020 edition of the Australian Open.
All players were required to spend two weeks in quarantine back in February, with the conditions being particularly harsh for the lower-ranked players.
In a recent interview with Blic, Novak Djokovic explained the difficulties faced by players at this year’s Australian Open. He recalled that players were unable to train, which in turn led to serious injuries for many – including himself.
Djokovic believes that if such conditions continue to exist, then many players could be dissuaded from taking part in the 2021 edition.
“It was not a good experience for us, for example, it was very difficult for Viktor,” Novak Djokovic said. “We had that quarantine where we could train, but if a man can’t train, then … Put a professional athlete in that kind of quarantine so he can’t get out of the room, and then expect him to play on some level, really.””Not to mention the increased risk of injury, of which there were many, including me at this year’s Australian Open,” he added. “If such conditions remain, I think that many players will think very well whether they will go or not.”
The 20-time Major champion is someone who is very conscious about his physical well-being. Given that Djokovic suffered a serious injury (abdominal tear) at this year’s Australian Open, many are questioning whether he would want to put his body under similar duress in 2022.
Novak Djokovic’s other option – which would clear all doubt and speculation – is to get vaccinated. But that is another story in itself.
Having said that, none of the rules mentioned in the letter are set in stone yet. It is believed that all parties, including Djokovic himself, are negotiating for the best possible conditions.
The Premier of Victoria has refuted the points stated in WTA’s letter
Daniel Andrews, the Premier of Victoria
Daniel Andrews, the Premier of Victoria, has seemingly not taken well to the contents of the letter released by the WTA.
In a recent conversation on ABC Radio, Andrews pointed out that most countries are currently not granting visas to unvaccinated individuals. As such, he believes that Australia should follow a similar path.
“You try getting into the US … most of Europe, really, so many different parts of Asia if you haven’t been vaccinated,” Andrews told ABC radio. “Like, you’re just not getting a visa – why would that be different here?”
Andrews believes it is reasonable to ask people to get vaccinated if they wish to be granted a visa to enter Australia.
“I don’t think it’s too much to say, if you want one of those visas and you want to come here, then you need to be double-vaxxed,” he added.
The Premier also claimed it would be unfair to allow unvaccinated players into the Australian Open if all spectators and staff are mandatorily required to get the jab.
“All the people who are watching the tennis at the Australian Open, they’re going to be double-vaxxed, all the people that work there are going to be double-vaxxed,” Andrews continued. “It stands to reason that if you want to get into the country to be part of that tournament, then you should be double-vaxxed as well.”
So while the WTA letter has offered some clarity into the situation of Novak Djokovic and others, there is still lingering doubt over the players’ Australian Open participation.