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Novak Djokovic declines to say whether he will play Australian Open and defend his title next year after tournament organisers announce BAN on unvaccinated players

Daily Mail
Daily Mail
 2021-11-21

Novak Djokovic refused to say whether he will compete at the Australian Open after it was confirmed players will have to be vaccinated.

The world No.1, who has expressed scepticism about vaccination, replied to a question about the likelihood of his presence in Melbourne with a brief: ‘We’ll see.’

Pressed on the subject, Djokovic said: ‘I haven’t been talking to them. I was just waiting to hear what the news is going to be. Now that I know, we’ll just have to wait and see.’

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Novak Djokovic has refused to say whether he will compete at the Australian Open in 2022

The 34-year-old spoke out again this week against vaccine mandates, saying: ‘The freedom of choice is essential for everyone, whether it’s me or somebody else.

‘Doesn’t really matter whether it’s vaccination or anything else in life. You should have the freedom to choose. In this particular case, what you want to put in your body.’

Djokovic was speaking after his quest for a record-equalling sixth Nitto ATP Finals title was ended by a semi-final loss to Alexander Zverev in Turin.

Zverev, a good friend of Djokovic, hopes the reigning champion will be able to play at Melbourne Park but respects the state of Victoria’s right to set its own requirements.

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Djokovic may not be able to defend his 2021 Australian Open crown due to Covid restrictions
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Australian Open chief Craig Tiley (right) has confirmed unvaccinated players cannot play in the 2022 tournament, putting the participation of the defending champion in doubt

He said: ‘This is not about tennis. This is about the virus. We need to follow the guidelines.’

Third seed Zverev, who ended the Serb’s hopes of a Golden Slam by beating him at the Olympics, played a superb match to win 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-3.

Today the 2018 champion will take on last year’s winner Daniil Medvedev, who had a routine 6-4, 6-2 win over Norwegian debutant Casper Ruud.

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Alexander Zverev (left) said players should follow the medical guidelines instead

Meanwhile, Women’s Tennis Association chairman Steve Simon has said a video appearing to show missing Chinese player Peng Shuai in a restaurant is ‘insufficient’.

Peng, former Wimbledon doubles champion, is seen smiling in the apparently new footage released by China state media.

‘I’m glad to see the videos released by China state-run media that appear to show Peng Shuai at a restaurant in Beijing,’ said Simon. ‘While it is positive to see her, it remains unclear if she is free and able to make decisions and take actions on her own, without coercion. This video alone is insufficient.’

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Tennis is increasingly concerned over the whereabouts of missing Chinese player Peng Shuai

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal added their voices to the many across the game who have amplified the WTA’s concerns.

Federer said: ‘She’s one of our tennis champions, former world No.1, and clearly it’s concerning. I hope she’s safe. The tennis family sticks together.’

Nadal said in L’Equipe: ‘I follow the news and read the articles about her. Even though I don’t have all the information, the most important thing is to know if she is OK.’

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