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Exclusive: Novak Djokovic is one of only three unvaccinated players in men’s and women’s top 100

·2-min read
Exclusive: Novak Djokovic is one of only three unvaccinated players in men’s and women’s top 100 - AFP
Exclusive: Novak Djokovic is one of only three unvaccinated players in men’s and women’s top 100 - AFP

Novak Djokovic is now one of only three of tennis’s men’s and women’s top 100 players not to have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus.

The world number one was becoming increasingly isolated in his refusal to get jabbed after the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) confirmed 98 and 99 of their respective top 100s had been fully vaccinated ahead of the Australian Open.

Calls were also mounting on Wednesday for vaccination to be made mandatory at grand slams, with two-time champion Victoria Azarenka – who is on the WTA Players’ Council – saying the issue needed to become “black and white”.

The only other player in the men’s top 100 known to have turned down the jab before the tournament is Tennys Sandgren after he confirmed it was behind him not playing there.

It is not known who the lone player in the women’s top 100 not to have been fully vaccinated is or whether she is at the Australian Open.

All those entering the tournament had to be fully vaccinated unless they were granted a medical exemption – with the decision to hand one to Djokovic sparking an extraordinary furore that culminated in him being deported from Australia this week.

The country’s strict border controls had a dramatic impact on vaccination rates in a sport that in which players were slow to get jabbed.

Ahead of August’s US Open, around half of players across the men’s and women’s tours had not been fully vaccinated.

As well as Djokovic, who made his anti-vaxx views public towards the start of the pandemic, they included world number four Stefanos Tsitsipas, who had said he would only get jabbed if it became mandatory to compete.

Compulsory vaccination appears to have had even more of an impact on take-up among women’s players, surging from 85 to 99 per cent among the top 100 in the days before the Australian Open began.

But the vaccine hesitancy that triggered the Djokovic deportation saga and that remains an issue lower down both the men’s and women’s rankings prompted Azarenka to speak out.

Branding the Djokovic furore a “circus”, she said: “On certain things, I think a black-and-white approach is necessary.”

Alexander Zverev also suggested the Australian Open had fallen prey to a yet-to-be detected Covid outbreak due to a lack of supervised PCR testing at the tournament.

Players are required to take daily rapid antigen tests, with supervised tests conducted on the day they arrive and between days five and seven of their stay.

Zverev said: “Quite a few players, I think, have it now. We’re not getting tested, so I think, if we would get tested, there would be probably more positives than there are now.”

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