The staging of next year’s Australian Open could be in jeopardy after Australia paused the reopening of its borders to some foreign nationals amid fears over the new Omicron Covid variant.
Originally, the country was set to permit fully vaccinated, skilled migrants and international students entry from December 1st.
However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison stressed it was “necessary” to delay the reopening by a fortnight following the discovery of Omicron, in order to assess the impact of the variant and “the efficacy of the vaccine.”
Australia has some of the strictest border policies in the world and had prevented people from leaving the country until November this year.
The country has found five Omicron infections among travellers so far, which has led to “exceptional measures” being implemented for “safety’s sake.”
With Australia’s borders still yet to reopen, the future of the first Grand Slam of 2022 is now in doubt.
The tournament main-draw is scheduled to start on January 17th, but qualification for the tournament will have to take place beforehand. Added to this, the majority of players would normally choose to play warm-up tournaments across Australia in preparation for the major.
While players may well be able to make it to Australia in time if borders open again in two weeks, any further delay could start to impact player arrivals.
It may be the case that tennis players are given exemptions and allowed to enter the country to play in the tournament if they quarantine on arrival.
This was the case last year, where all players were forced to complete a mandatory 14-day quarantine at a hotel in Melbourne.
Men’s and women’s qualifying matches were played in Doha and Dubai respectively and the junior and legends matches were not played at all.
If some players are forced to quarantine on arrival, this would give a significant advantage to those who don’t have to do so.
Women’s number one Ashleigh Barty is already in Australia and chose to miss the recent Tour Finals to focus on preparing for next year.
But regardless of whether players are forced to quarantine, all must be fully vaccinated to have any chance of being allowed to compete at the 2022 event.
Because of this, reigning men’s champion Novak Djokovic is unlikely to take part in the competition, unless these rules are relaxed.
Djokovic has frequently declined to reveal his vaccination status and his father told Serb TV that he “probably won’t” play “under these blackmails and conditions.”
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tilley has said 85 percent of professional players are vaccinated and expects this number to be closer to 95 percent by the time of the event.News Now - Sport News