Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Is it fair for the Australian Open to only allow vaccinated players?

Posted on 28 November 2021 by Kristina Thiedeitz

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Tears of relief flowed, and families and friends reunited as Australia opened its borders to the indigenous population on 1st November after 19 long months.

The island’s strict covid-19 policies have caused plenty of discussion in the tennis world. Before the Australian Open, the question is whether unvaccinated players will be allowed to compete.

Daniel Andrews, the Premier of the state of Victoria, which will host the Australian Open in January, said:

“I don’t think an unvaccinated player will get a visa to this country. The virus doesn’t care where you are in the world rankings or how many Grand Slams you have won.”

Nine-time Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic has refused to disclose his current vaccination status. The Serb feels unfairly treated and has criticised the scaremongering of the media.

Only vaccinated players will travel to Australia when the Grand Slam tournament begins on 17 January.

In recent months, coronavirus cases have increased in Australia, but since the beginning of November, the numbers of new infections have been declining. This is also due to a high vaccination rate of 86.7 percent.

There are numerous rules in Australia for the unvaccinated. They not permitted in pubs, cafés, and restaurants. With this restriction, the government wants to encourage more people to vaccinate. 

The government has not allowed its people into the country for 19 months in some cases and can therefore in no way justify special treatment for some tennis players. Like the Australians, the athletes must abide by the rules.

People in the public eye, like Djokovic, are role models. They share their lives via social media and give fans an insight into their world.

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But this also brings with it responsibilities. Fans, especially the younger ones, are impressionable and, in some cases, will blindly believe whatever their idols say.

Some people are unsure about getting vaccinated because they are afraid of the side effects. Then, when a world-renowned tennis pro like Djokovic, with 9.4 million followers on Instagram, raises doubts about vaccination, they are likely to feel even more insecure.

Contrary to what the anti-vaxxers claim, vaccination against the coronavirus is essential. Both individual and societal health depend on it. We are all one big collective. 

No one should be forced to vaccinate, whether in public or not. Coercion is the wrong way to go. Every person decides for themselves what they want to put into their body.

A better option is to encourage people who have doubts with reliable information.

Djokovic also criticises the media and blames them for promoting the division of society through their reports. It is absurd to accuse the press of spreading fear and panic. The media are only fulfilling their duty by informing those of current developments. The media are also trying to use their reach to draw attention to the importance of vaccination.

Every person makes a conscious decision not to vaccinate. It’s that person’s choice, but they will have to live with the consequences of their decision. 

In Djokovic’s case, this means that he will be denied entry to Australia for the tournament in Melbourne as things stand. The number one tennis player of 2021 will then not defend his title. There will be a new Australian Open champion in 2022.