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Prospect of no shot, no visa for Australian Open tennis stars

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Elite tennis players are urged to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or risk missing the Australian Open in January.

Elite tennis players are urged to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or risk missing the Australian Open in January.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews, whose state hosts the season opening in Melbourne Park, has already introduced a vaccine mandate for professional athletes competing in domestic sports competitions and those working in some industries.

On Tuesday, he increased the pressure on tennis players traveling from abroad.

I don’t think an unvaccinated tennis player will get a visa to enter this country, Andrews said. If they did get a visa, they would probably have to quarantine for a few weeks, while other players don’t have to.”

Australian Federal Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said the policy will be the same for all incoming arrivals, including international athletes.

Our health advice is that when we open the borders, everyone coming to Australia should be double vaccinated, Hawke told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. early Wednesday.

Australia is preparing to reopen its international borders for the first time in more than 18 months, but it will be a gradual state-to-state process starting next month and will depend on vaccination rates across the country. Fully vaccinated people in Australia will have fewer restrictions than those who are not.

The vaccination debate has been raging in the tennis world since international competition began to resurface last year after a global shutdown.

Some players, including men’s No. 1 Novak Djokovic, have argued that the decision to get the vaccine should be a personal choice. Others, including Andy Murray, have said it should be made mandatory in the interests of the majority.

Djokovic, who has won the Australian Open title nine times and shares the Grand Slam record of 20 men’s titles with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, has not confirmed whether he has been vaccinated against COVID-19. If he doesn’t get vaccinated, he risks missing the tournament he’s won over the past three years.

The Australian immigration minister thought there would be no exceptions for anyone.

I have a message to anyone who wants to visit Australia: you need to get double vaccinated,” Hawke told ABC. “That’s a universal application, not just for tennis players.

At the US Open, which ended on Sept. 12, spectators were required to show proof of at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to attend matches, although players were not required to get a chance.

Victoria Azarenka, two-time Australian Open champion and three-time runner-up at the US Open, thought that was a mixed message. She reached the US Open final in 2020, when no fans were allowed.

I find that a bit bizarre that fans should be vaccinated and players not, Azarenka said. So I think it’s inevitable in my view that it will be made mandatory at some point, like other leagues do.

Both the men’s and women’s tours recommend that all players be vaccinated, but have so far not enforced it. Just before the US Open, about half of the elite male and female players were vaccinated.

Prior to the Australian Open earlier this year, all players had to be quarantined for two weeks and undergo regular testing under strict Australian regulations on COVID-19 measures.

Most were given limited time to practice, but anyone who tested positive or we considered close contacts of a positive case, which in some cases meant they were just on the same charter flight, had to perform a hard shutdown. Those players were not allowed to leave their hotel rooms.

Melbourne, which hosts season-opening races of the Formula 1 Grand Prix, the richest horse race in the Southern Hemisphere and the largest football crowd in Australia, has in recent months either closed crowds or moved sporting events to the other states during the lockdown months in recent months.

There are plans for crowds at the Australian Open.

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More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

John Pye, The Associated Press



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