New player will play wildcard match that few will fancy – but players face $5000 fine if they do not have vaccination certificate
Get vaccinated, minister tells players seeking Australian Open wildcard
An Australian Open player will have to complete a series of “rigorous” pre-qualifications to be able to play in the tournament, including a “flooded” tennis centre and “common cold vomiting”, if they do not submit a vaccination certificate.
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The standard rule is for a player to have a clean and clear injury history, and a valid immunisation certificate, to be granted a wildcard by the tournament.
That may soon be dropped in favour of an entirely new criteria based on vaccination, in order to deter high-risk players from trying to opt into the tournament.
“If you don’t have a vaccination certificate – and that’s pretty much how it starts, you have to come in and have a set of pretty rigorous pre-qualifications,” said sports minister Stuart Robert.
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The main field for the Australian Open is 38 players, excluding the 10 young Australians guaranteed a wildcard for a Davis Cup team event. The qualifiers take place over five days, and are for players ranked 65th or less in the world.
The winner would play a second-round wildcard match at Melbourne Park, followed by a round of 16 on a grass court. The finals series could be moved to indoors if the player is ranked higher than 65th.
Robert said he had grown concerned at the recent rash of injuries among younger players. “It’s a concern. Some of the injuries they’ve suffered from, whether it’s a virus, a flue, a virus, a sinus infection, is worrisome,” he said.
A qualified medical officer will decide if a player is fit to be registered. “These are serious issues. If it’s a common cold feeling in the chest, or common cold vomiting – that’s where the chief medical officer will have to look at it, and see, is this a virus, is this an illness?” Robert said.
“It is not an illness. You have to have a vaccination certificate. You have to make sure you come in, make sure you’re physically and mentally and physically fit.”
The Australian Open said it wanted a minimum of 85% of the players, when applicable, to be treated by a medic who had medical qualifications, and that record of vaccination should be checked with a representative of the tournament.
“Having high-ranking players in the draws is good for the brand,” Robert said. “If they can play a little bit lighter and just come in ready to play, I think it’s going to work out well for everybody.”
Robert said discussions on the exemption would also be led by Tennis Australia, the sport’s governing body.
The policy goes before the sport’s governance body in the hope of having it made the rule from which wildcards would be drawn.
The governing body’s policy committee is to meet on 13 October to consider the directive.
The Australian Open did not respond to a request for comment.