British tennis star Andy Murray says he supports stricter Covid-19 conditions for unvaccinated players as the issue of personal choice and vaccine mandates continues to be a hot topic ahead of the Australian Open.
Victoria sports minister Martin Pakula has said that competitors at the first Grand Slam event of the year will likely have to show evidence of vaccination to play in the Melbourne tournament when it starts on January 17.
That presents a quandary for several of the sport’s top stars who are yet to receive their immunization jabs – particularly Novak Djokovic, who is widely thought not to have been vaccinated.
The Serbia star has dominated the Australian Open in recent years, winning the last three iterations and nine in total. Another victory in next year’s event would be the 21st Grand Slam win of his career, and would break the three-way tie he currently holds with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal of 20 Grand Slam wins each.
Andy Murray on Australian Open: “My understanding is if you’re unvaccinated you’re still allowed to play. You might just have to leave a few weeks earlier than everyone else. It would be great if more players got vaccinated” 🙏
— Luigi Gatto (@gigicat7_) October 13, 2021
Djokovic’s very participation in the tournament is thought to be in doubt given that he has gone on record expressing his concerns about Covid vaccines – and five-time finalist Murray admits he is in favor of imposing harsher measures on unvaccinated players.
“My understanding is if you’re unvaccinated you’re still allowed to play, it’s just the rules are going to be different,” Murray told the media after his defeat to Alexander Zverev in the third round at Indian Wells.
“You might just have to leave [for Australia] a few weeks earlier than everyone else. That’s the player’s choice. If the local government puts that in place then I would support that.
“It would be great if more players got vaccinated.
“Australia, in particular, has been very, very strict over there. The public there have had to endure a painful 18 months or whatever.
“If people are going to come into the country and potentially risk an outbreak in their community, yeah – that’s understandable.”
Current plans indicate that unvaccinated players will not be permitted to travel throughout Melbourne during the tournament and are likely to be subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine before the event kicks off.
World number four Zverev, who said he was unvaccinated in April, refused to be drawn too deeply into the debate.
“I fully respect the decisions of players that are not vaccinated. I also do respect the decision that the Australian government is giving,” he said.
“I don’t want to be in the middle of something which I kind of am not involved in because I don’t have that issue of the two-week quarantine, all that. I don’t want to go against anybody here.”