Novak Djokovic is unsure if he will play the 2022 Australian Open due to the strict Covid-19 protocols at the tournament – and will not reveal whether he has been vaccinated
Djokovic has won in Melbourne for the last three years in a row and another victory would see him move ahead of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 21 Grand Slam titles.
However, players will again have to quarantine upon arrival in Australia and will also have to live in bio-secure bubbles. They may also have to be vaccinated to compete, with the state of Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, introducing a vaccine mandate for all professional athletes.
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“I still don't know if I will play in Melbourne,” Djokovic told Serbian newspaper Blic.
“I am following the situation around Australia and as far as I understand, the final decision of the government of Australia and Tennis Australia will be in two weeks, so it is the first or second week of November.
“I do not believe that the conditions will change much in relation to what we already know. As was the case this year, there will be plenty of some restrictions. What I heard from my manager who is in direct contact with people from the Australian federation is that they are trying to improve conditions for everyone. Both for those who have been vaccinated and for those who have not.”
It was recently reported that vaccination rates on the ATP Tour are 65 per cent while the WTA Tour is 60 per cent.
World No 1 Djokovic is among those yet to confirm whether he has been vaccinated, having said in the past that he hoped he would not be made mandatory to play.
“I will not reveal my status whether I have been vaccinated or not,” he said.
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“It is a private matter and according to our law, whoever asks you, you can in some way charge him for asking you. That is an immoderate question. Too many people today allow themselves such freedom to ask things and condemn a person. Whatever you answer: "Yes, I didn't, maybe, I don't know, I'm thinking!" they will abuse it.
“The media has become…I have no word how to describe it. It spreads fear and panic among people and I don’t want to participate in that rift. I feel that everyone is hostile. I don’t want to give them a reason to write some things about me.
“Now what I told you, one of your editors can take and make a scandal out of it. I don't want to take part in any storm that is happening right now. I'm telling you, I don't know if I'll go [to Melbourne]. Of course I want to go, Australia is my most successful Grand Slam, I want to participate, I love this sport, I still have motivation.”
Djokovic has not played since seeing his historic Calendar Slam bid ended in the final of the US Open by Daniil Medvedev.
He has confirmed that he is going to return at the Paris Masters on November 1 and will then play the ATP Finals in Turin and the Davis Cup finals with Serbia.
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He says his experiences at the Australian Open earlier this year, when players were confined to their hotel rooms for much of the time, could put him off making the trip again.
“The main problem is that if you are on a plane with a person who is positive, whether you are vaccinated or not, you automatically have to go to the room for 14 days.
“That happened to Viktor Troicki in January this year. Not only him, but also 70 players had to be quarantined. I talked to a lot of players and that is something that everyone has a bad memory of.
“It was not a good experience for us, for example, it was very difficult for Viktor. We had that quarantine where we could train, but if a man can't train, then…
"Put a professional athlete in that kind of quarantine so he can't get out of the room, and then expect him to play on some level, really…Not to mention the increased risk of injury, of which there were many, including me at this year's Australian Open.
If such conditions remain, I think that many players will think very well whether they will go or not. After all, the financial or economic aspect is the one that decides with many players. I don't know if I'm going to Australia, I don't know what's going on. Currently, the situation is not good at all.
Djokovic also expressed frustration with the way that both he and others who have expressed reservations over the vaccine have been portrayed in the media.
“There is a lot of division in the society, not only in sports, but in the whole society, between those who have not been vaccinated and have been vaccinated. And that's really scary. That we fell for discriminating against someone if he wants to decide for himself one way or another, whether he wants to be vaccinated or not.
“It's really…I am very disappointed with the world society at this moment and the way in which the media transmit and put pressure on all people. There is too much ambiguity, too much information that is not valid, so it turns out that it is, so it is not, everything changes a lot.”
Talking about his future ambitions, he added: "I said before this year that my main goal is to achieve the historical No 1 [weeks as No 1] that I have done and that my main focus is to continue my career to play as well as possible at the Grand Slams and to play for the national team. These are my main motivations. Every other tournament is less important to me in this part of my career and they are just preparation for either national tennis or Grand Slams."
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