Novak Djokovic celebrates Serbia's WC qualification
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Australian Open director Craig Tiley has revealed he has spoken to Novak Djokovic but does not know his vaccination status as tension builds ahead of the first Grand Slam of 2022. Organisers of the tournament have made the decision to only allow players that have been vaccinated against Covid-19 to compete and the Serb is yet to confirm his status, placing his presence in Melbourne in doubt.
Djokovic has repeatedly declined to disclose his vaccination status, insisting it was a matter of personal choice.
The record nine-time Australian Open winner has publicly criticised issues surrounding the vaccine – including mandates – in the past.
After losing to Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals of the ATP Finals in Turin on Saturday, Djokovic was asked if he would be competing in Melbourne and he said: “We’ll have to wait and see.”
However, Tiley believes the Serbian’s competitive streak may lead to him getting the vaccine as he seeks to stand alone as the most successful men’s player in tennis history.
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“Novak has won nine Australian Opens, I’m sure he wants to get to 10,” Tiley told local radio station SEN on Thursday.
“He’s on 20 Grand Slam titles as is Rafa Nadal, who is coming, and Roger Federer. One of them is going to surpass the other and I don’t think Novak would want to leave that feat to someone else.”
Tiley also defended the views of Djokovic, whose opinions over the years have frustrated the Australian public at times. The Serb was ridiculed for trying to secure improved quarantine conditions for players before the 2021 Australian Open.
Tiley does not expect fans to be against Djokovic if he plays in Melbourne because his participation alone would mean the world number one has received a jab.
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“He’s one of the greatest players of all time,” Tiley added.
“He’s had a view on something, some share and the majority don’t, and I think there will be fair treatment of Novak.”
Tiley expects up to 95 per cent of players will be vaccinated against Covid-19 in time for January’s tournament, although he is unsure about Djokovic.
Victoria state’s strict vaccination mandate had motivated players to get their shots before the Australian Open, where fans and staff will also be banned if unvaccinated.
“Today more than 85 per cent are [vaccinated],” Tiley said of professional players.
“And we take a lot of credit for that because we put a vaccination requirement on it. We think by the time we get to January it will be between 90-95 per cent vaccinated because if you’re not, you cannot play.“
Tiley said there were ‘one or two players’ who had medical exemptions from vaccination but the exemptions followed Victoria’s health rules.
His comments come after the ATP Cup was confirmed to return to Sydney ahead of the Australian Open.
This year’s ATP Cup, as well as all other preparation events, was held at Melbourne Park because of the pandemic but, with the country opening up, Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne and even Victoria will enjoy tennis prior to the Grand Slam.
Australian Open qualifying begins on January 10, with the full tournament kicking off a week later and concluding on January 30.
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