Australian Open chiefs reveal the latest on Novak Djokovic’s possible participation

Novak Djokovic looking ahead

Australian Open organisers still do not know whether defending champion Novak Djokovic will play in next month’s tournament.

The world number one, who has lifted the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup on nine occasions, has repeatedly refused to say whether he has been vaccinated against Covid-19 having previously expressed vaccine hesitancy.

All players competing at Melbourne Park are required either to be vaccinated or to provide proof of medical exemption, but that will not be made public.

There has been some anger in Australia at the idea Djokovic could secure an exemption in order to play.

Speaking to media in Melbourne, tournament director Craig Tiley said: “Everyone who is coming in is vaccinated and there will be a small percentage – a very small percentage – that will have a medical exemption.

“So, if any player, fan (or) workforce is on site here, you’re either vaccinated or you have a medical exemption that’s approved and you’re on the Australian Immunisation Register. That provides us with safety and an extra level of comfort on site.

“If Novak shows up at the Australian Open, he’ll either be vaccinated or he’ll have a medical exemption. (It’s) his choice on his medical condition, it’s his choice to keep (it) personal and private like all of us would do with any condition we may or may not have.

“We are not going to force him or ask him to disclose that.”

Tiley expressed confidence that Rafael Nadal, who is currently isolating with coronavirus as he contemplates his return to the tour following a foot problem, will be in Melbourne.

He is also expecting full crowds to be permitted at Melbourne Park but all the players will again stay in one hotel to try to reduce the risk of them catching or spreading coronavirus in the community.

With rates of the Omicron variant surging around the world, there are major concerns that the opening grand slam of the new season, which begins on January 17, could be badly affected.

Nadal, his coach Carlos Moya and fellow players Belinda Bencic and Ons Jabeur all announced positive tests for Covid-19 after playing an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi last week.

Emma Raducanu had already been ruled out of that tournament and forced to isolate in Abu Dhabi after testing positive ahead of her match.