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Serena Williams confirms skipping Australian Open; Novak Djokovic on entry list despite vaccine requirements

·3 min read
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  • Novak Djokovic
    Novak Djokovic
    Serbian tennis player
  • Serena Williams
    Serena Williams
    American tennis player

Serena Williams confirmed she will not compete in the Australian Open next month "following advice from her medical team." But it seems Novak Djokovic will be there despite the country's strict regulations regarding vaccination and COVID-19. 

The Australian Open, the first major of the season, begins Jan. 17 at Melbourne Park. The entry lists for the men's and women's competitions were released Wednesday. 

Williams will skip Australian Open 

Williams was not included on the entry list and confirmed the news to the Australian Open's website. 

“While this is never an easy decision to make, I am not where I need to be physically to compete,” Williams said. “Melbourne is one of my favorite cities to visit and I look forward to playing at the AO every year. I will miss seeing the fans, but am excited to return and compete at my highest level.”

Williams, 40, last competed at Wimbledon in June. In the middle of her first set in Round 1, she slipped on the grass while planting her leg and retired from the competition. The right hamstring injury kept her out of the U.S. Open so that her body could "heal completely." She had already announced prior to Wimbledon she would not compete at the Tokyo Olympics

Currently ranked No. 41 in the world, Williams last won a Grand Slam at the 2017 Australian Open when she was pregnant with her daughter. Her 23 Grand Slam titles remain one short of tying Margaret Court's all-time record of 24. She has won seven times at the Australian Open. 

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic is on the entry list for the Australian Open. (Meng Dingbo/Xinhua via Getty Images)

Djokovic on entry list despite vaccine requirement

Djokovic, the defending champion, is on the entry list at No. 1. He is scheduled to play for his 21st major singles title, which would set the men's record and break a tie between himself, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. 

Nadal is on the entry list for the Australian Open, while Federer is skipping it to continue rehab from knee surgery.

It seemed unlikely Djokovic, 34, would be included in the competition given Australia's strict regulations that all players, officials and fans be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley confirmed as much in an interview last month, adding that the organization hopes to see Djokovic at the competition. 

Vaccine status still uncertain

Djokovic, a nine-time Australian Open winner, has railed against vaccine requirements and declined to comment on his vaccine status. His father, Srdjan Djokovic, said last week he didn't expect his son to play given the regulations.

Djokovic was included on the Serbian team for the ATP Cup that starts Jan. 1 in Sydney, opening speculation he would compete at the first Grand Slam later that month. There are reports in Australia that Djokovic is seeking a medical exemption to compete at the events. Tennis Australian reiterated its rules on Wednesday: 

"We can confirm that everyone entering Australia for the summer of tennis will need to meet the strict requirements set by health authorities across the country," a TA spokesperson said.

"These include certified proof of vaccination, or a valid medical exemption approved by Australian medical officials.

"What has also been made clear by health officials is that international arrivals who don't meet these requirements will need to quarantine for 14 days."

The men's field includes 49 of the 50 top-ranked players in the world. The only one missing is No. 16 Federer. Naomi Osaka is the defending champion on the women's side. 

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