Australian Open warm-up event could be axed casting more doubt over unvaccinated players

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Plans for unvaccinated players at the Australian Open have been thrown into more doubt as another tennis tournament usually held in Australia in January faces being axed. Organisers of the Brisbane International have been sent into ‘panic mode’ over fears their event will be cancelled for the second year in a row after an outbreak of Covid cases. It does not bode well for unjabbed players, who are hoping to receive an exemption so they can fly to Australia to compete in the season-opening Grand Slam.

There have been uncertainties surrounding the fate of unvaccinated players in Australia for several weeks.

The likes of Novak Djokovic could find themselves banned from the first Grand Slam of 2022 as ministers move to introduce a vaccine mandate, something the world No 1 has openly voiced his disagreement with.

A row erupted between government officials recently, after Prime Minister Scott Morrison said professional tennis players could receive an exemption that would allow unvaccinated players into the country if they completed a 14-day hotel quarantine.

However, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews refused to apply for an exemption for players in his state, home of the Melbourne Tennis Park, saying: “I am not going to ask and require people sitting in the grandstand, people working at the event to be vaccinated while players aren’t.”

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While no final decision has been announced yet, the chances for unjabbed players looking to compete in Australia look worse after fears another tennis tournament could be cancelled after an outbreak of Covid.

The Brisbane International, a WTA event held as a warm-up for the Australian Open, looks set to be scrapped for the second year running.

Organisers are said to be in ‘panic mode’ after an outbreak of Covid in the area has left them wondering whether the tournament will be axed once again.

It comes just weeks after the Kooyong Classic was also cancelled due to the pandemic.

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“While the door is still ajar for 2022, it is a challenge with the current health advice,” tournament director Mark Handley said.

He said the event was a “day-to-day proposition”, with preparations for the tournament set to begin by the end of the month – something that could be derailed after a spike of cases.

The tournament director continued: “Three weeks from now we are normally beginning the bump-in. Brisbane is part of the lead-in tours to the Australian Open and we want to continue to be a part of that.

“We’ve been a major venue in hosting international players for 11 years. Last year we could not get it off the ground, but we are hopeful we can this year and we are hopeful that we can for another 11 years leading into the Olympics.

“It is a challenge, but we’re hopeful because we know how important the event is to Brisbane.”

With Covid still causing a problem for other events on the calendar, it is looking increasingly likely that the Victorian Premier will refuse entry for unvaccinated players, even if Australian Open organisers fight to get the top players to their event.

The likes of Dominic Thiem have already confirmed that they are vaccinated in time for the first Grand Slam of the new season, while Andrey Rublev and Stefanos Tsitsipas are among the players who will be getting jabbed over off-season.

Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic remains in doubt after previously admitting he was unsure whether he’d travel to Melbourne, as he refuses to disclose his vaccination status.

Earlier this week, the Serb said he would not comment on the matter anymore until a final decision was announced, saying: “Right now, we don’t have any official announcement or statement, so until that’s out, I won’t be talking about this anymore because I don’t want to be part of the stories about the assumptions and what-ifs.”
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