190313 Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic Image Credit: AFP

World No. 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic “probably won’t” play the Australian Open beginning January 17 as his father Srdjan feels the tournament organisers’ decision to not allow unvaccinated players — or players who don’t share their Covid-19 vaccination status — amounts to “blackmail”.

Djokovic is keeping the Australian Open organisers and his fans guessing about his Covid-19 vaccination status, adding to the uncertainty over whether he will compete at next year’s opening major.

The Australian Open director Craig Tiley has categorically stated that only fully vaccinated players will be allowed to compete in the tournament. Djokovic, the nine-time and defending Australian Open champion, has refused to divulge his vaccination status, or whether he intends to get vaccinated before the event. Recently, Tiley had said that, “Djokovic has not shared his status with anyone.”

Srdjan Djokovic said that Novak’s participation in the opening major of 2022 will “depend on how they (organisers) position themselves”.

“He would want it with all his heart because he’s an athlete, and we would love that too,” Srdjan said of Novak’s appearance in Melbourne. “Under these blackmails and conditions, he probably won’t. I wouldn’t do that. And he’s my son, so you decide for yourself.”

Srdjan said even he did not know about Novak’s vaccination status, adding that he respected his son’s privacy. “As far as vaccines and non-vaccines are concerned, it is the personal right of each of us whether we will be vaccinated or not,” he said. “Everyone has the right to decide on their health. Whether he is vaccinated or not, that is his exclusive right. Will he publish it, I don’t think so. I don’t know that decision either, and if I did, I wouldn’t share it with you. He has the right to decide as he wants.”

Srjdan also slated the 14-day hotel quarantine idea, which was mooted by the Australian Open organisers for unvaccinated players but later ruled out by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.

“Quarantine, right, but one should spend 14 days in a hotel room and not even come out in the hotel lobby. Well, they came up with a great idea, let them play in the tournament then,” Srdjan said.

Djokovic had contracted Covid-19 during his Adria Tour event, which he organised in June 2020. He was asymptomatic.