Unvaccinated tennis players could be allowed to travel to Melbourne and compete in the Australian Open, according to an email sent to WTA players that appears to contradict previous federal and state government advice.
Last week, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said players who were unvaccinated or did not disclose their vaccination status would not be allowed to enter Australia, casting world number one Novak Djokovic in doubt for the January tournament.
Victoria recently introduced a vaccination mandate for all professional athletes, but the WTA Players Council has informed players on the women’s circuit that they may be allowed to compete under certain conditions, including quarantine for 14 days, if they are not vaccinated.
The leaked email to players said unvaccinated players would need to quarantine, arrive after December 1, and produce a negative test result within 72 hours of departure to be allowed entry.
It would open the door for players such as Djokovic, who has refused to disclose his vaccination status, to make a grand slam appearance at Melbourne Park.
The Players Council said it had been in regular contact with Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley and was informed of the terms late last week. But the email acknowledged that the issue was not yet “100% resolved”, and a further update from the governing body was expected on Friday.
“We have communicated regularly with Craig and the Tennis Australia team over the past few months and they shared some good news with us during our Players Council call last Friday which we would like to share with you so we know the facts. and let’s not be confused by the rumors that have been circulating,” the email reads.
“Tennis Australia asked us to wait a few days before talking about it as they were still working with the government on the details.”
Restrictions for fully vaccinated players would be significantly improved from those at the tournament earlier this year, the email states, given that Victoria’s vaccination rate is expected to reach 80% by the end of the week and 90% next month.
Those who received two doses of the vaccine could arrive any time after December 1 and not have to undertake a period of quarantine or live in a bio-secure bubble as they did in January this year. They would also have complete freedom of movement in Melbourne.
The conditions stand in stark contrast to those suffered at the Melbourne tournament earlier this year, when several players complained about the hotels’ mandatory quarantine conditions and failure to fully prepare for the first Grand Slam of the year.
It is still unclear if the players who are again forced to quarantine this time around would be willing to do so.
Tennis Australia released a statement on Monday afternoon to confirm it was working with the Victorian and Federal Governments on player terms and details would be finalized soon.
“Everyone has been encouraged by the easing of restrictions over the past week, as well as the announcement yesterday by the Prime Ministers that large crowds will again be welcomed to events next year,” TA said. in a press release.
“We are optimistic that we can stage the Australian Open as close to pre-pandemic conditions as possible.”
Victoria Sport Minister Martin Pakula said earlier today the situation was still evolving.
“I don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” Pakula told Melbourne radio station 3AW. “We are still talking with the federal authorities and that will play out over the next two or three weeks.
“And that will be done in sufficient time for all players to know what the requirements are and for those who are not vaccinated to get vaccinated.
“We are still resolving with Tennis Australia and the Commonwealth whether unvaccinated foreign nationals will be allowed to enter Australia and, if so, under what circumstances.”
Despite the easing of restrictions in Victoria by the end of next month, Prime Minister Daniel Andrews on Sunday reiterated the Federal Government’s position that ‘if you’re not vaccinated, you don’t come in’ .
And in response to the leaked email, Andrew reiterated his position. “I don’t think that’s saying too much, if you want one of those visas and you want to come here then you have to be double vaxxed,” said the prime minister, who is not part of the government’s talks with Tennis. Australia on the registration process for tennis players arriving in Australia.
“Everyone who watches tennis at the Australian Open is going to be double-vaxxed, everyone who works there is going to be double-vaxxed. It stands to reason that if you want to enter the country to play this tournament , you should also be double-vaxxed.
Last Wednesday, the immigration minister said tennis players were unlikely to get exemptions.
“Not at this time. Our health advice is that when we open the borders, everyone who comes to Australia will need to be double-vaccinated,” Hawke told ABC Radio.