Tournament chief Craig Tilly said on Saturday that world number one Novak Djokovic and all other players will have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to compete at the Australia Open next January.
Djokovic declined to disclose whether he has been vaccinated and said he would wait until Tennis Australia reveals health protocols before making a decision about playing at Melbourne Park.
Tilly told reporters, “There is a lot of speculation about vaccination and to be really clear, when the (state) premier announced that everyone on the site … would need to be vaccinated … at the launch of the tournament. .
“(Novak) has said that he sees it as a personal matter for himself. We would love to see Novak here, he knows he has to be vaccinated to play here.”
The announcement brings a definitive conclusion to months of talks between Tennis Australia and the Victoria state government, which insisted that vaccinations would be required for everyone in Melbourne Park.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison had opened a window for unvaccinated players when he said they would be allowed into the country if they serve a 14-day quarantine and the state of Victoria applies for an exemption.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews immediately made it clear that no waiver would be sought for players without vaccinations.
Djokovic shares a record of 20 men’s Grand Slam singles titles with Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer and will look to break that tie by winning his 10th Australian Open title if he decides to play in January.
Nadal confirmed he will play at Melbourne Park in January, but Federer, who, like the Spaniard, is fully vaccinated, will be ruled out of the tournament as he recovers from another knee surgery.
Tilly said around 80% of players have now been vaccinated and will play in front of capacity crowds in all stadiums when the Grand Slam tournament begins on January 17.
This is in contrast to last year’s tournament, which was played in front of restricted crowds and sometimes empty stands by players who almost all went through hotel quarantine.
Tilly confirmed some territory for a women’s singles draw led by Serena Williams, who could add Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles with her eighth Melbourne Park win.
Tilly said Naomi Osaka, who hasn’t played since the US Open, has also confirmed that she will field world number one Ash Barty in Melbourne alongside US Open champion Emma Radukanu and Leyla Fernandez.
Victoria State Sports Minister Martin Pakula also announced that Melbourne Park will host the Australian Open until 2044 under a new deal with Tennis Australia.