Nick Kyrgios has called for the abierto de Australia to be cancelled rather than enforce a “morally wrong” vaccine mandate on players at 2022’s opening grand slam.
The Australian used his podcast, No Boundaries, to air his views that the tournament at Melbourne Park should be called off after two years of Covid-19 disruption to limit the potential for a new outbreak.
“I don’t think the Aus Open should go ahead, just for the people in Melbourne – you’ve got to send a message,” Kyrgios said. “How long did [Melbourne] do in lockdown? Two hundred and seventy-five days or something?"
The tournament is due to go ahead as planned, starting on 17 enero, but there is still uncertainty as to whether players who have not been vaccinated or won’t reveal their vaccination status will be allowed to compete.
Authorities are yet to reveal final rulings over a vaccination policy for players – they are likely to be presented to Tennis Australia in the coming week – even though Victoria’s premier, Daniel Andrews, is standing firm on his state’s stance that no exemptions will be given to unvaccinated athletes.
The World No 1 Novak Djokovic, who would be aiming to win a fourth straight Australian Open, has refused to reveal whether he has taken the vaccine and his appearance at Melbourne Park remains in doubt.
Kyrgios indicated he supported those players who have not had the jab or were unwilling to disclose their vaccination status.He expressed sympathy in particular for Djokovic and the Melbourne-born basketball star Kyrie Irving, who has missed the start of the NBA season due to his refusal to take the vaccine.
Kyrgios was an outspoken critic of Djokovic after last-year’s ill-fated charity event, the Adria Tour, which ended with the Serb and other high-profile players testing positive for Covid-19.
“Kyrie, Novak … these guys have given so much, sacrificed so much," él dijo. They are global athletes who millions of people look up to. I just think it is so morally wrong to force someone to be vaccinated.
“I’m double vaccinated but I just don’t think it’s right to force anyone and say, ‘You can’t come and play here because you’re not vaccinated.’
“There are other solutions around it, [tal como] to get tested every day. In the States I know they’ve got rapid tests, and it’s coming to Australia. Su 85% success rate, you wait 15 minutos, you get a negative test and then you’re allowed to play.”
Victoria’s sports minister, Martin Pakula, rejected Kyrgios’s call to cancel the tournament and said he found the player’s comments confusing.
“I really like Nick Kyrgios and I cheer for him every time he plays and I certainly don’t want to have beef with Nick Kyrgios but I actually couldn’t follow the logic of his comments,” Pakula said.
“We’ve had a long lockdown so the Australian Open shouldn’t proceed? I’m not sure I follow that. I think the opposite applies. Melburnians, Victorians and, frankly, all Australians, are absolutely gagging for major events.
“Our economy needs it, our state psyche needs it. It’s a global grand slam, it’s going to go ahead.”