Unvaccinated players will seemingly be allowed to compete at next year’s Australian Open after all.
A leaked email from the WTA to its Players’ Council has revealed unvaccinated players must still endure 14 days’ hard quarantine in a hotel.
The memo asked players to “please keep this information confidential until the government makes an official announcement”.
Government leaders only last week insisted the world’s tennis stars needed to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to take part in the Open, casting doubt on Novak Djokovic’s participation at the Melbourne Park major.
Djokovic has repeatedly refused to reveal whether he has received a jab, having also previously expressed hope the vaccine would not become mandatory for players on the ATP circuit.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews last Tuesday said unvaccinated sports stars would be unlikely to receive a visa, while federal Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on Wednesday confirmed there was no prospect of travel rules being relaxed for incoming tennis players.
“Not at this time. Our health advice is that when we open the borders, everyone that comes to Australia will have to be double vaccinated,” Hawke told ABC Radio.
But it appears the Victorian and federal governments have both completed an about face.
“We feel the need to reach out to you all to clear up false and misleading information that has recently been spread by other parties about the conditions that players will be forced to endure at next year’s Australian Open,” the email starts.
“We have been communicating regularly with Craig (Tiley) and the Tennis Australia team in recent months and they shared some good news with us on our Players’ Council call last Friday so that you know the facts and are not confused by rumours that have been circulating.
“Tennis Australia had asked us to wait a few days as they were still working with the government on the details.
“Because Victoria’s vaccination rate will hit 80 per cent at the end of the week and 90 per cent next month, it has been confirmed that conditions for the players at the Australian Open will improve significantly.”
The email said fully-vaccinated players can arrive in Australia from December 1 and are not required to stay in quarantine or any training bubble as they did this year.
In addition to unvaccinated players needing to quarantine, they will be subjected to regular COVID-19 testing.
Victorian Sports Minister Martin Pakula on Monday morning maintained nothing was set in stone, a fact which Tennis Australia acknowledged.
“We are working with the Victorian and federal governments on the conditions for players at Australian Open 2022 and look forward to having the details confirmed soon,” TA said in a statement.
“Everyone has been buoyed by the easing of restrictions over the past week, along with the premiers announcement yesterday that large crowds will be welcomed back to events next year.
“We are optimistic that we can hold the Australian Open as close to pre-pandemic conditions as possible.”
Mr Pakula said he didn’t “want to put the cart before the horse”.
“We’re still talking to the feds and that will play out over the next two or three weeks,” he told Melbourne radio 3AW.
“And it will be done in plenty of time for all of the players to know what the requirements are and for those who aren’t vaccinated to get vaccinated.
“We are still resolved with Tennis Australia and the Commonwealth the question of whether unvaccinated foreign nationals will be allowed into Australia at all and, if so, under what circumstances.”