Tennis News: The COVID-19 vaccine mandate for the Australian Open is about protecting the community, not “blackmailing” Novak Djokovic, according to Victoria’s sports minister Martin Pakula.
The first Grand Slam of the year has announced that all players must be vaccinated in order to compete, provoking criticism from the world No. 1’s father.
Srdjan Djokovic told Serbian media, “Under these blackmails and conditions, (Djokovic) probably won’t (play).”
Martin Pakula, Victoria’s sports minister, said the vaccine requirement applies to all athletes in the state, which holds the Australian Open in Melbourne.
“It’s about your responsibility to the community that you’re being welcomed into if you’re a visiting international tennis player or a visiting sportsman of any sort,” Pakula told Australian media.
“That is why we are requesting that those worldwide tennis stars adhere to the same standards as Victorians.”
“It’s not about blackmail; it’s about ensuring the safety of the Victorian community.
“I’d want to state unequivocally that I sincerely hope Novak Djokovic gets inoculated and competes in the Australian Open.
“However, if he decides not to, it is his decision.”
Djokovic has won nine Melbourne Park titles, including this year’s event, and is tied with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal for the most men’s Grand Slams (20).
The 34-year-old was coy about his participation in next year’s first Grand Slam earlier this week, saying he wasn’t in communication with Australian Open officials at the time.
He stated, ” “I haven’t spoken to them in a long time. I was just waiting to find out what the news would be. We’ll just have to wait and see now that I know.”
“The freedom of choice is crucial for everyone, whether it’s myself or someone else,” Djokovic added, who has yet to announce his vaccination status.
“It makes no difference whether it’s about immunisation or anything else in life. You should be able to make your own decisions and pick what you want to do. What you want to put in your body in this particular circumstance.”
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