Novak Djokovic: Australian Open vaccine mandate not in place to blackmail world No 1, says minister Martin Pakula
Djokovic's dad has said the Serb 'probably won't play' in the Grand Slam early in 2022 because of the tournament's policy on vaccination against coronavirus; the 34-year-old world No 1 has won the Australian Open a record nine times
Last Updated: 01/12/21 9:27am
The Australian Open's COVID-19 vaccine mandate is about protecting the community, not about "blackmailing" Novak Djokovic, Victoria's sports minister Martin Pakula has said.
Organisers of the year's first Grand Slam have said all players would have to be vaccinated to take part, drawing criticism from the world No 1's father.
"Under these blackmails and conditions, (Djokovic) probably won't (play)," Srdjan Djokovic told Serbian media.
Victoria sports minister Martin Pakula said the vaccine mandate applied to all athletes in the southern Australian state, which hosts the Australian Open in Melbourne.
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"If you're a visiting international tennis player, or a visiting sportsman of any kind, it's about your responsibility to the community that you are being welcomed into," Pakula told Australian media.
"And that's why we are asking those international tennis stars to follow the same requirements as Victorians are.
"It's not about blackmail, it's about making sure the Victorian community is protected.
"I want to make it clear that I really hope that Novak Djokovic gets vaccinated and plays in the Australian Open.
"But if he chooses not to, that's a matter for him."
Djokovic has won nine Melbourne Park titles, including this year's tournament, and shares the record of 20 men's Grand Slams with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal.
Speaking earlier this week, the 34-year-old was reticent over his participation in next year's first Grand Slam and said he wasn't currently in contact with Australian Open officials.
He said: "I haven't been talking to them. I was just waiting to hear what the news is going to be. Now that I know, we'll just have to wait and see."
Djokovic, who is yet to reveal his vaccination status, added: "The freedom of choice is essential for everyone, whether it's me or somebody else.
"Doesn't really matter whether it's vaccination or anything else in life. You should have the freedom to choose, to decide what you want to do. In this particular case, what you want to put in your body."