Medvedev confirms Australian Open participation amid debate over vaccine mandate

By Sports Desk November 09, 2021

Daniil Medvedev has confirmed he will play at the Australian Open next year, as the debate over vaccine mandates continues.

Medvedev was defeated by Novak Djokovic in the final of this year's tournament, though the Russian has gone on to enjoy a brilliant season.

He has won four titles, including his first grand slam, beating Djokovic at the US Open in September to end the latter's pursuit of a clean sweep of the four majors in 2021.

Djokovic and Medvedev met again on Sunday, with the world number one coming out on top to clinch his sixth Paris Masters title and a record 37th triumph at ATP 1000 events.

Medvedev had appeared non-committal about being vaccinated against COVID-19, which is likely to be a requirement for any player wishing to compete at the Australian Open, but he dispelled doubts around his involvement when he tweeted on Tuesday: "See you in January @AustralianOpen."

While Medvedev will be involved in Melbourne, the participation of Djokovic – who is a nine-time Australian Open champion – is not yet known.

The Serbian has previously appeared hesitant over the coronavirus vaccine mandate, though he has not revealed whether he has been vaccinated or not.

Australia has enforced strict measures throughout the pandemic, with Melbourne having been under lockdown on six occasions since March 2020. Indeed, the city only lifted its most recent restrictions towards the end of October.

Athletes arriving in Australia prior to last year's event had to go through a mandatory two-week hotel quarantine.

Despite Australia's vaccination programme gaining momentum, travellers who are not citizens must be able to provide proof of vaccination and a negative PCR test result, while quarantine regulations vary depending on state rules.

Tennis Australia is reportedly still hopeful of securing a deal for unvaccinated players to compete in the tournament, subject to a two-week quarantine, with prime minister Scott Morrison suggesting players could be granted an exemption. 

On Tuesday, though, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews insisted players will have to be vaccinated.

"I'm not going to have people sitting in the grandstands having done the right thing, only to have millionaire players that ought [to] be vaccinated running around the place being essentially at such higher risk of spreading this – getting it and giving it," he said.

Speaking last month, Djokovic said: "I don't know if I'm going to Australia, I don't know what's going on. Currently, the situation is not good at all.

"Of course, I want to go, Australia is my most successful grand slam, I want to participate, I love this sport, I still have motivation."

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    World number two Medvedev is now the top-seeded player in the competition after Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia on Sunday.

    Competing in his first grand slam since winning the US Open in September, Medvedev made a solid start by seeing off Henri Laaksonen 6-1 6-4 7-6 (7-3) on Tuesday.

    The Russian, who lost last year's Australian Open final to Djokovic in straight sets, will now take on either Liam Broady or Nick Kyrgios in round two.

    He is aiming to become the first man in the Open Era to follow up his maiden Grand Slam title with another in his next major appearance.

    Medvedev is not shying away from the spotlight, but the 25-year-old considers Nadal the real favourite for the trophy because of his incredible record.

    "I like pressure but last year I started well here in Australia in the ATP Cup and I managed to be in the final here," he said.

    "The tournaments in Australia are always really important for me. I like to play in Australia on hard courts. I want to do better here than I did last year but it's not going to be easy.

    "But I always say whoever is the highest ranked is the favourite so this time I will go with Rafa because he has 20 Grand Slams."

    The 20 major singles titles won by Nadal is equal to Djokovic and Roger Federer, who is also absent in Melbourne due to injury, as the most by a men's player.

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    That path became a little clearer on Tuesday as world number eight Casper Ruud withdrew from the tournament due to an injured ankle.

    Ruud had been due to face Alex Molcan in the first round, but his place will be taken by lucky loser Roman Safiullin.

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    Keys already has seven wins in eight matches in 2022, defeating fellow Americans in each of her past three outings.

    Of the win over 2020 champion Kenin, she said: "At this point every first round is tough, but when you have to go up against a grand slam champion it's never easy.

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    "I had my first real run in a slam here, I missed last year, so absolutely ecstatic to be back in Melbourne. It would mean the world to have another run here."

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