Nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic won’t want to risk missing a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title, tournament chief Craig Tiley predicted on Thursday as an exceptional series of preparatory events were announced . All players traveling to Australia for the major opening tournament of the year in January must be vaccinated against Covid, which casts doubt on whether the Serbian world number one will play. Djokovic, who is aiming for a record 21st Slam crown, declined to reveal if he had been vaccinated.
“He hasn’t shared his status with anyone,” Tiley told sports radio station SEN.
“He thinks what you say about your medical position is private and he thinks people should have the right to choose.”
But Tiley added: “Novak has won nine Australian Opens and I’m sure he wants to reach 10.
“He’s on 20 Grand Slam titles, just like Rafa Nadal, who is coming, and Roger Federer, so one of them is going to outdo the other.
“I don’t think Novak will want to leave this feat to anyone else.
“One thing is for sure, if he plays here in January, then he’s vaccinated.”
Djokovic said at the weekend that “we’ll have to wait and see” when asked if he will be at Melbourne Park to defend his title.
Currently, around 85 percent of players have secured the jab and Tiley said he expects it to reach between 95 and 100 percent by January.
“We take a lot of credit for ourselves because we put a vaccination requirement there (by coming to Australia),” he said.
His comments came as the season’s opening schedule was released after repeated delays as organizers determined what could be played as Australia gradually eases national and international borders after long lockdowns from Covid.
All Australian Open preparatory events were held in Melbourne Park this year under biosecurity conditions after players were forced to quarantine themselves in hotels for 14 days.
Fully vaccinated players should be able to enter Australia without being quarantined or confined to bubbles in 2022, with Sydney and Adelaide returning on the schedule.
Brisbane, Perth and Hobart, which traditionally host events, are out for a second year, as is Auckland in New Zealand.
“It’s not news to anyone that the pandemic, border closures and varying vaccination rates have created a huge challenge for us and have led to changes specifically for the summer,” Tiley said.
“That is why we have waited as long as possible to ensure optimal conditions for players and fans in as many places as possible.”
The Men’s ATP Cup, won this year by a ruthless Russian team led by Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev, and Djokovic’s Serbia the year before, will kick off the season on January 1 in Sydney.
It will be followed the following week by the Sydney Tennis Classic, a combined ATP-WTA men’s and women’s event.
Top-level tennis returns to Adelaide with around fifteen men’s and women’s competitions combined from January 2.
There will also be action in Melbourne with three tournaments – two WTAs and one ATP – from January 3-9 ahead of the Australian Open which kicks off on January 17.
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