Novak Djokovic must be vaccinated to play in Australian Open, tournament head confirms

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Novak Djokovic will officially need to get vaccinated if he wants to defend his Australian Open title next year.

Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley confirmed in an interview with the country's "The Today Show" that players will need to be vaccinated to participate in the tournament this year, including the tournament's all-time leader in men's singles titles.

When asked specifically about Djokovic, Tiley indicated he still hopes the Serbian does what it takes to play:

"We're expecting Novak to come. Obviously, there's a lot speculation around vaccination; the good news is that most of the tennis players, both the men and the women's side, are fully vaccinated. Novak, as he previously said, it's a private issue for him. He's had great success here in Melbourne, and he's always said that the Australian Open is the event that puts the wind in his sails. So I hope we get to see Novak."

Djokovic, currently ranked No. 1 in the world, has so far declined to confirm whether or not he is vaccinated. Like many vaccine-refusers in sports, he has said he is not against vaccines in theory, but objects to being "forced" to receive one. As far as the Open goes, Djokovic said he was waiting for a final decision on the vaccine question before making a decision on playing, which Tiley's confirmation now provides.

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison had previously provided hope that unvaccinated players would be allowed to play, but Victoria premier Daniel Andrews quickly shut down that possibility.

Tiley:

"It's been made very clear. When the premier announced several weeks ago that in order to participate in the Australian Open, to come into Victoria, you'll need to be fully vaccinated. Immediately, we communicated that to the playing group. It is the one direction that you take that you can ensure everyone's safety."

Tiley also confirmed that the Australian Open would see 100 percent capacity crowds. Per the Australian health department's most recent data, 92.6 percent of Victoria residents 16 or older have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The tournament is scheduled to begin on Jan. 17.

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