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With AO deadline approaching, Djokovic keeps everyone guessing on vaccination status

Turin, Nov 21 (IANS) World No. 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic is keeping the Australian Open (AO) organisers and his fans guessing about his Covid-19 vaccination status, adding to the uncertainty on whether he will compete at the year's opening major.

On a day he lost to Germany's Alexander Zverev in the semifinal of the year-end ATP Finals here, the Serbian when asked to clarify his stand on the Covid-19 vaccine, said "we'll wait and see".

The Australian Open director Craig Tiley had categorically stated on November 20 that only fully vaccinated players will be allowed to compete in the tournament beginning January 17. Djokovic, the nine-time and defending Australian Open champion, has refused to divulge his vaccination status, or whether he intends to get vaccinated before the event.

"We'll see. We'll have to wait and see," Djokovic said of the Australian Open after losing to Zverev here. "I haven't been talking to them (Australian Open organisers), to be honest. I was just waiting to hear what the news is going to be and now that I know we'll just have to wait and see."

Tiley had put a lid on speculations on November 20 whether unvaccinated players could be allowed at the AO, saying that no exceptions would be made. "There's a lot of speculation about vaccination and just to be really clear, when the (Australian) Premier announced that everyone on site... will need to be vaccinated... we made that clear to the playing group," Tiley had said.

Djokovic is on the threshold of breaking a tie with Swiss ace Roger Federer and Spaniard Rafael Nadal, all three of whom have won 20 grand slam titles each. A win will move the Serbian to 21 majors.

"Everyone on site, the fans, all the staff, the players, will need to be vaccinated," Tiley said at the tournament's official launch. "There's been a lot of speculation about Novak's position; he's said it's a private matter. We would love to see Novak here, but he knows he needs to be vaccinated in order to play. He's always said that the Australian Open is the event that puts the wind in his sails.

"We have been speaking to Novak and his team and they understand clearly that in order to come and play in the Australian Open they need to be fully vaccinated," added Tiley.

"They know that it's a condition for everyone, not just the players, but the fans and all the staff and he had indicated that it's a private decision for him and at the right time he will tell us. I know that he wants to play, he's clearly indicated that and he knows the conditions that he would have to undergo in order to be eligible to play."