Novak Djokovic's dad: Australian Open champ likely won't defend title due to COVID-19 vaccine stance

·2 min read

The Australian Open is requiring all competitors in 2022's first Grand Slam to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The requirement recently announced by host state Victoria immediately raised questions about the eligibility of Novak Djokovic. The nine-time and defending Australian Open champion has declined to publicly state his vaccine status, but has railed against vaccine requirements.

Tennis Australia has confirmed that Djokovic won't be allowed an exception to the state's vaccine requirement. Djokovic's father Srdjan Djokovic said on Monday that he doesn't expect his son to compete, while chiding the state's public health protocol as "blackmails."

"Under these blackmails and conditions, he probably won't," Srdjan told Serb TV, according to BBC. "I wouldn't do that. And he's my son, so you decide for yourself."

Serbia's Novak Djokovic serves the ball to Germany's Jan-Lennard Struff (not pictured) during the men's singles group stage match between Serbia and Germany of the Davis Cup tennis tournament in Innsbruck, Austria, on November 27, 2021. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP) (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
Will Novak Djokovic defend his Australian Open title? (Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images)

What will Djokovic do?

Djokovic has yet to definitively address his Australian Open plans. He said prior to Tennis Australia's confirmation of the requirement: "I still do not know whether I will play in Melbourne."

Event organizers are certainly hoping he shows up. Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley expects him to.

"We're expecting Novak to come," Tiley said on Nov. 19 when discussing the vaccine requirement. "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."