October 25, 2021
MELBOURNE (Reuters) -Unvaccinated athletes will be able to take part in next year’s Australian Open after undergoing 14 days of quarantine, the WTA Tour has told its players, according to an e-mail leaked to U.S. media.
The e-mail, obtained by freelance tennis journalist Ben Rothenberg, contradicts a statement made last week by Australia’s immigration minister that players would need to be double vaccinated to get a visa to compete at the Grand Slam.
Up to a third of players on the WTA and men’s ATP remain unvaccinated, according to reports, and men’s world number one Novak Djokovic has declined to disclose his vaccination status.
In the e-mail, the WTA said it wanted to “clear up false and misleading information” about the conditions players would be subjected to at the Australian Open.
The WTA said the information came from organisers Tennis Australia, who had requested players keep it confidential for “a few days” as they were still discussing the details with the government.
Tennis Australia declined to comment.
Victoria state Sports Minister Martin Pakula said no decision had been made on whether unvaccinated foreign players would be allowed into the country.
“It’s not settled,” he told radio station 3AW.
“We are still resolving with Tennis Australia and the Commonwealth whether unvaccinated foreign nationals will be allowed into Australia at all and if so, under what circumstances they will be allowed.
“We don’t expect that to be settled for another couple of weeks.”
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said last week there would be no special deals for unvaccinated players to compete in the state, where vaccination is mandatory for athletes, coaches and officials in professional sport.
Pakula said TA boss Craig Tiley had told him the vaccination rate among tennis players was nearly 80%.
He added that fully vaccinated players would not have to quarantine on arrival in Australia.
“The one thing that we have assured them all, is that the vaccinated players will be treated the same way as any other vaccinated entrant to the country,” he said.
From Nov. 1, fully vaccinated citizens, permanent residents and their overseas-based family members who arrive in Sydney and Melbourne will no longer need to quarantine.
All players who arrived from overseas for the 2021 edition of the Australian Open were forced to undergo two weeks of quarantine, although most were allowed to leave their hotels to practise.
Vaccinated players who enter Australia from Dec. 1 will not be required to quarantine or stay in a biosecure bubble, the WTA e-mail said.
The e-mail also says that qualifying, which was moved to the United Arab Emirates for the 2021 tournament, would again take place at Melbourne Park as normal.
There was no immediate response to a request for comment from the WTA.
The Australian Open is scheduled to start Jan. 17.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne and Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; editing by Pritha Sarkar and Stephen Coates)