Twist emerges in Djokovic Open vax drama

World No.1 Novak Djokovic is unsure whether he'll defend his Australian Open title.
World No.1 Novak Djokovic is unsure whether he'll defend his Australian Open title.

The prospect of enduring a fortnight of hard quarantine even if fully vaccinated has emerged as a key concern for Novak Djokovic as the nine-time champion wavers over his Australian Open participation.

It's been widely reported that Djokovic is in doubt for the 2022 edition because he is vaccine hesitant, despite the world No.1 having never publicly disclosed his vaccination status.

But a full English-version transcript of Djokovic's in-depth interview last week with Serbian daily newspaper Blic has surfaced and reveals the 34-year-old also has travel fears - for all players.

"The main problem is that if you're on a plane with a person who is (COVID-19) positive, whether they're vaccinated or not, you automatically (have) to stay in your room for 14 days," Djokovic said.

"That happened to Viktor Troicki in January this year. Not only him but 70 players had to be in (hard) quarantine.

"I've talked to a lot of players and that's remained a bad memory for everyone.

"So I don't know if I'll go to Australia. I don't know what's going on. Currently, the situation isn't good at all."

And the situation has deteriorated since Djokovic raised doubt about his participation last week, with Australian prime minister Scott Morrison and Victorian premier Dan Andrews at loggerheads over their stance against unvaccinated players.

While the PM says unjabbed stars are welcome in Australia provided they complete 14 days in full quarantine, Andrews insists Victoria won't apply for federal exemptions and will ban unvaccinated players from even entering Melbourne Park.

Djokovic, the president of the newly formed The Professional Tennis Players Association, says many players fear being forced into quarantine through no fault of their own.

"It wasn't a good experience for us (in 2020). For example, it was quite hard for Viktor Troicki," he said.

"Some of us had the quarantine in which we could train. But if a person can't train, then ... to put a professional athlete in that kind of (hard) quarantine where he can't leave the room and then expect him to play at a certain level, truly.

"Not to mention the increased risk of injury, of which there were many, including me, at this year's Australian Open.

"If those conditions remain, I think many players will really think about whether they'll go or not.

"But, in the end, the financial or economic aspect is the determining factor of many players."

Australian super-coach Darren Cahill says he empathises with Tennis Australia as the Open vaccination saga rages between political leaders.

"I feel sorry for Australia and Craig Tiley's team, to be honest," Cahill told SEN radio on Thursday.

"Clearly, they've gone to the federal government and got some instructions that they would be allowing unvaccinated players into the country, albeit they'd have to go through a couple of weeks of quarantine, wouldn't be able to go to restaurants in Victoria or go shopping - some pretty tough restrictions.

"And then Dan comes out and clearly says that no one other than vaccinated people will be allowed to be playing at the Australian Open.

"So at least we have some clarity at the moment but Tennis Australia has kind of been the meat sandwich, which has been a tough position for them because they've been trying to inform the ATP and the WTA and let everybody know where they are.

"And at least now that you go back and say, 'listen, you better get that jab otherwise you won't be playing'."

Australian Associated Press