Twelve months is a long time in tennis.
A year after nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic was deported because of his vaccination status, tournament officials have confirmed this year’s event will be a Covid free-for-all.
Players with Covid can compete, they don’t have to disclose any positive results and there will be no required testing.
Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley said that was in keeping with all local requirements, given isolation rules were abandoned in Victoria last October.
Tiler pointed to recent incidents in cricket, where Covid-positive players have taken part in both Big Bash and international matches, as examples of how the new Covid normal in sport looks.
Australian batter Matt Renshaw played in the final Test against South Africa after a positive test, using his own changerooms until he returned repeat negative results.
“We’ve made it clear to our players, as well as our over 12,000 staff. We ask … if anyone is feeling unwell, stay home,” Tiley said on Monday.
“It’s a normalised environment for us and, not dissimilar to the cricket, there will potentially be players that will compete with Covid.
“We just wanted to follow what’s currently in the community.
“We have gone a step further by making a recommendation around staying away when you’re ill, and that our medical staff – Dr Karen Holzer is the best in the business – she will continue to monitor that, with the players individually as well.”
Djokovic was deported after his arrival in Melbourne last January because of his refusal to get vaccinated against Covid-19. He remains unvaccinated but will be able to compete for a 10th title at Melbourne Park from next Monday.
Australian star Alex de Minaur supported the decision to scrap all Covid-19 testing and reporting requirements as the tournament returned to pre-Covid conditions.
“I think we, as players and as human beings, we‘ve kind of gone through a very tough situation throughout a couple years,” he said.
“I think we‘re all excited to be back competing, moving around freely, enjoying life as it used to be. We’re just happy to be back where it was pre-Covid.”