Victorian Sports Minister Martin Pakula says Novak Djokovic is not being “blackmailed” by Australian Open organisers over their COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
- Pakula says visiting tennis players have a responsibility to be vaccinated
- Djokovic’s father likened the Open’s vaccine stance to “blackmail”
- The defending men’s champion hasn’t revealed if he will play at the Open
Pakula was responding to comments made by Novak Djokovic’s father, Srdjan, who claimed his son “probably won’t” contest the Australian Open because of the vaccine stance adopted by tournament organisers.
Australian Open organisers confirmed last month all players must be vaccinated against COVID-19 if they want to compete at the major in January.
Srdjan Djokovic — speaking on Serbian TV earlier this week — said the stance was tantamount to “blackmail”, but Pakula dismissed the suggestion.
“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 said.
“And that’s why we are asking those international tennis stars to follow the same requirements as Victorians are.
“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.”
Novak Djokovic has refused to reveal his vaccination status.
The men’s world number one’s position is expected to become clearer in the next fortnight when entries for the Australian Open close.
The 34-year-old has won nine Australian Open men’s singles titles and is the defending champion.
He shares the record of 20 men’s major singles titles with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
The Australian Open begins at Melbourne Park on January 17.