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Tennis Australia Denies Seeking Loopholes For Unvaccinated Players To Play

It has been reported by News Corp Australia that officials has backed Novak Djokovic’s application for a medical exemption.

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INNSBRUCK, AUSTRIA - NOVEMBER 27: Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals 2021 at OlimpiaWorld on November 27, 2021 in Innsbruck, Austria. (Photo by Pedro Salado / Quality Sport Images / Kosmos Tennis)

Tennis Australia has said allegations that the governing body is using loopholes to allow players who have not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter the country is ‘simply untrue.’

 

In line with the rules set out by a health mandate in the state of Victoria, all tennis players must be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to play in the Australian Open. However, there are a few exemptions which allow players who are not double jabbed to participate as long as they meet the criteria. Examples include players who are suffering from an acute medical condition or have suffered from inflammatory cardiac illness over the past six months.

Some news outlets have quoted unnamed sources suggesting that world No.1 Novak Djokovic could try to apply for an exemption on medical grounds and has received the support of Tennis Australia. It is understood that if the 20-time Grand Slam champion applies for an exception he could avoid two weeks of quarantine upon arrival in Australia assuming he has not been vaccinated. Djokovic has refused to publicly speak out about his status but is on the entry list for both the ATP Cup and Australian Open.

However, Tennis Australia has denied using loopholes in order for players to participate in their tournaments without making any reference to Djokovic. In a statement issued on Wednesday to the Australian Associated Press, the organization insisted that “all players, participants and staff at the Australian Open have to be vaccinated”.

“Any suggestion that Tennis Australia is seeking ‘loopholes’ within this process is simply untrue. Adjudicating on medical exemptions is the domain of independent medical experts. We are not in a position to influence this process and nor would we,” the Tennis Australia statement said.
“Any application for a medical exemption must follow strict government guidelines based on Atagi (Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation) clinical advice. This is the same process that applies to any person wanting to enter Australia.”

James Merlino, who is the deputy Premier of Victoria, has slammed any suggestion of using loopholes for who he describes as ‘privileged tennis players.’ He later added that it is the decision of the commonwealth as to who should be granted a medical exemption.

Djokovic is currently tied with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for most Grand Slam titles ever won by a male player at 20 each. He could overtake his rivals should he play at the Australian Open next month. He has already won the men’s title a record nine times.

The Australian Open will begin on January 17th.

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Australian Open Daily Preview: The Quarterfinals Conclude

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Stefanos Tsitsipas on Monday in Melbourne (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

Wednesday’s men’s singles quarterfinals feature four top 10 players.  Daniil Medvedev faces Felix Auger-Aliassime in a rematch of the US Open semifinals.  And in matchup between ATP Next Gen champions, Stefanos Tsitsipas takes on Jannik Sinner.

 

On the women’s side, 2020 Roland Garros champion Iga Swiatek is joined by three players who have never reached a Major final.  Danielle Collins was a semifinalist here three years ago, Kaia Kanepi is 0-6 lifetime in Slam quarterfinals, and Alize Cornet had never previously reached the quarters.  With both of Wednesday’s WTA quarterfinals being first-time matchups, there is plenty of room for new territory to be seized.


Danielle Collins (27) vs. Alize Cornet – 11:00am on Rod Laver Arena

Both players survived grueling matches on Monday in scorching afternoon temperatures.  And the forecast is even hotter for Wednesday.  Collins required nearly three hours to hit her way through Elise Mertens, while Cornet and Simona Halep suffered during the hottest part of the day.  Both Collins and Cornet eventually prevailed 6-4 in the third.  The American is much more accustomed to playing in the heat, and is much more capable of controlling her destiny with her aggressive groundstrokes off both wings, especially her crosscourt backhand which was on fire in the last round.  With Danielle’s previous experience at this stage of a Major, she should be favored to achieve her second Australian Open semifinal.


Iga Swiatek (7) vs. Kaia Kanepi – Not Before 1:00pm on Rod Laver Arena

Swiatek overcame a considerable hurdle on Monday.  Prior to her fourth round match, she had lost three of her last four matches at Slams when dropping the first set.  But as per Tennis Abstract, every time in her career when she’s then won the second set, she’s gone on to win the third as well, just as she did against Sorana Cirstea.  For Kanepi, this round presents the biggest hurdle of her career, as she’s lost all six times she’s appeared in a Slam quarterfinal.  Kaia has only won one of 13 sets in those matches, which have occurred at the other three Majors.  Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova also held an 0-6 record in Slam quarterfinals, before breaking through in her seventh try at last year’s Roland Garros.  While the big-swinging Estonian seems due for a similar breakthrough, Swiatek’s more consistent, versatile style will likely draw plenty of errors from Kanepi.  Iga remains the favorite to reach her second Slam semifinal.


Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Jannik Sinner (11) – Not Before 3:00pm on Rod Laver Arena

A big factor in this match will be how much Tsitsipas has left physically, and how his elbow feels coming off a five-set battle with Taylor Fritz.  Stefanos also contested back-to-back four-setters in his two rounds prior.  Sinner has advanced much more comfortably, losing only one of 13 sets, and should be the far fresher player.  Tsitsipas leads their head-to-head 2-1, though all three matches have taken place on European clay.  Sinner feels primed for a breakthrough, and his authoritative groundies may keep Tsitsipas on the defensive.  Despite Stefanos’ significant edge in experience, the 20-year-old Italian has a great chance to achieve his first Major semifinal.  However, it likely won’t come without a huge fight from the Greek.


Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime – 7:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Their aforementioned US Open semifinal from this past September was pretty one-sided, with Medvedev prevailing in straight sets.  And their rematch just a few weeks ago at the ATP Cup was even more so, with Daniil dominating Felix 6-4, 6-0 in only 68 minutes.  Their first meeting was by far their tightest, when the Russian needed a third-set tiebreak to beat Auger-Aliassime at the 2018 Canada Masters, when the Canadian was ranked outside the top 100.  As impressive was Felix’s last two victories have been over Dan Evans and Marin Cilic, Medvedev has appeared completely unbothered by Auger-Aliassime’s game.  And I expect Daniil to remain much more positive today after his unprofessional conduct against Maxime Cressy, where he openly complained his opponent was “lucky.”  He will be happy to be back on Rod Laver Arena, as he expressed frustration with getting scheduled on Margaret Court Arena multiple times.  He’ll also be happy not to be facing a tricky serve-and-volleyer like Cressy.  Medvedev should be able to advance to his fourth consecutive semifinal at a hard court Major.


Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Australian Open Daily Preview: The Quarterfinals Commence

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Rafael Nadal was pumped up on Sunday in Melbourne (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

Rafael Nadal is only nine sets away from a record-breaking 21st men’s singles title at a Major.  On Tuesday, he faces fellow lefty Denis Shapovalov, who upset Sascha Zverev in the round of 16.  The other men’s quarterfinal sees Matteo Berrettini take on Gael Monfils, in a rematch of an epic contest from the same round at the 2019 US Open.

 

On the women’s side, World No.1 Ash Barty has been dominant through four rounds, but will the Australian begin to feel the pressure of vying for her country’s biggest title?  In the quarterfinals, she meets American Jessica Pegula.  And reigning Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova will play another American, Madison Keys.


Barbora Krejcikova (4) vs. Madison Keys – Not Before 12:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Krejcikova is into the quarterfinals for the third time in the last four Slams.  This is the first Major quarterfinal for Keys since Wimbledon 2019.  Both women dropped only four games in their fourth round victories: Krejcikova dominated an injured Victoria Azarenka, while Keys played excellently against Paula Badosa.  This will be Barbora and Madison’s first career meeting.  It is forecast to be extremely warm when this match begins.  Thunderstorms are possible for the rest of the day, but likely not until this match is over, meaning this should remain an outdoor contest.  Madison’s power game thrives in fast conditions, and the Floridian is usually unbothered by high temperatures.  That could be the perfect recipe to enable the American to achieve her fifth Major semifinal, which would extend her current win streak to 10.


Rafael Nadal (6) vs. Denis Shapovalov (14) – Not Before 2:00pm on Rod Laver Arena

Of course it was in August of 2017 when Shapovalov made a name for himself by upsetting Nadal at the Canada Masters in a final set tiebreak.  But since that time, Nadal has owned this rivalry, claiming their last three meetings.  Two of those were on clay, which includes a huge comeback from a set and 4-1 down last May in Rome.  The other was a Davis Cup match in 2019.  Denis played one of the best matches of his career in taking out third-seeded Sascha Zverev on Sunday.  But it’s important to remember he had lost 17 consecutive matches against the top five prior to that victory.  While Nadal is not currently a member of that club, defeating the King of Clay in best-of-five remains a daunting task.  Rafa himself is still publicly minimizing his chances of winning this title, in just his second tournament after foot surgery.  But the 20-time Major champion has looked superb, and is yet to lose since returning.  While Nadal has lost seven times in the Australian Open quarterfinals, including three out of the last four years, I like his chances of overcoming the aggressive Canadian on Tuesday.


Ash Barty (1) vs. Jessica Pegula (21) – 7:00pm on Rod Laver Arena

Like Nadal, Barty remains undefeated in 2021.  And the World No.1 is yet to lose a set this fortnight, dropping her serve only once.  This is the second year in a row Pegula has reached this stage of the Australian Open, and she’s also won all eight sets she’s contested.  Like Keys, Jessica is an American who resides in Florida, so she is fully accustomed to hot conditions.  And she would not be the first American to upset Barty on a warm day in Melbourne in the latter stages of this event, just as eventual champion Sofia Kenin did two years ago.  However, this may turn into an indoor match based on the rain in the forecast.  And thus far, Barty has remained unphased by the pressure of trying to win her home Slam.  Ash’s all-around skills have been smothering the opposition, and I don’t see that changing on this day.


Matteo Berrettini (7) vs. Gael Monfils (17) – Last on Rod Laver Arena

This is a rematch of an epic US Open quarterfinal from 2019, when Berrettini prevailed in a fifth-set tiebreak.  They also met at last year’s ATP Cup, where Matteo was also victorious.  The Italian has endured a far-more complicated path to this quarterfinal, playing 16 sets and spending over 12 hours on court.  Monfils has won all 12 of his sets, and spent less than eight hours on court.  The Frenchman has been playing some of the best tennis of his career, coming off a title run in Adelaide to start the year.  But Gael has been known to wilt under pressure throughout his career, and is only 2-7 lifetime in this round of a Major.  And he’ll surely feel plenty of pressure from Berrettini’s serve, especially if Matteo serves as well as he did on Sunday.  Facing Pablo Carreno Busta, he struck 28 aces, served 77% on his first serve, and won 87% of those points.  And considering he should feel rather fresh coming off that straight-set victory, Berrettini should be favored to advance to his third Major quarterfinal.


Tuesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Australian Open Daily Preview: The Round of 16 Concludes on Monday

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Marin Cilic on Saturday in Melbourne (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

On Monday in Melbourne, the remaining singles quarterfinalists will be decided.  Major champions such as Simona Halep, Marin Cilic, Daniil Medvedev, and Iga Swiatek seek further Grand Slam glory.  Meanwhile, players like Felix Auger-Aliassime, Jannik Sinner, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Aryna Sabalenka are looking for their first Major title.

 

Each day, this preview will highlight the most intriguing matchups, while outlining the other notable matches on the schedule.  Monday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time.


Elise Mertens (19) vs. Danielle Collins (27) – 11:00am on Rod Laver Arena

Collins was a surprise semifinalist here three years ago, and is coming off an intense three-set battle against Clara Tauson on Saturday.  Mertens was a semifinalist in the year prior, and has quietly advanced thus far without dropping a set.  Notably, both women are still alive in the doubles draw as well, so they’ve accumulated plenty of wins this past week in both disciplines.  Collins will look to dictate play with her aggressive groundstrokes, while Mertens will utilize her consistency and guile.  They have split two previous meetings, with Collins claiming their hard court encounter, which was just a few months ago in Chicago.  When the American is striking the ball as much confidence as she is now, she is tough to beat in these fast conditions.


Simona Halep (14) vs. Alize Cornet – Not Before 1:00pm on Rod Laver Arena

After an injury-laden 2021, Halep appears fully healthy and ready to contend for her third Major title.  She’s allowed her opposition only 12 games through six sets, and won a warm-up event on these same grounds.  Cornet considered retirement last year, but the 32-year-old is surely glad she decided not to, as she’s reached the fourth round of this event for the first time since 2009.  After upsetting Garbine Muguruza in the second round, she came back from a set down to take out another seed, Tamara Zidansek.  Surprisingly, Cornet is 3-1 against Halep, though they haven’t played in nearly seven years.  And based on Simona’s current form, the Romanian is a considerable favorite to achieve her sixth Australian Open quarterfinal.


Felix Auger-Aliassime (9) vs. Marin Cilic (27) – Not Before 2:00pm on John Cain Arena

It’s been two years since Cilic had advanced to the second week at a Major, and he’s now vying for his first quarterfinal since 2018.  Auger-Aliassime is seeking his third consecutive quarterfinal at a Major.  The 21-year-old Canadian crushed Dan Evans in the last round, while the 2014 US Open champion upset fifth-seeded Andrey Rublev in four sets.  Their head-to-head has been quite lopsided to date.  In three matchups since July of 2019, Cilic has been victorious all three times, and has claimed six of seven sets contested.  And Marin has done so during a span where his best tennis has often alluded him.  Felix will surely be eager to join his close friend Denis Shapovalov in the quarters, but I give the slight edge to Cilic considering their history.


Jannik Sinner (11) vs. Alex de Minaur (32) – Not Before 2:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Both these young players have taken advantage of kind draws to this stage, as this will be the first seeded player either has met.  For Sinner, this is his third appearance in the round of 16 out of the last four Majors, and he was a quarterfinalist at the 2020 French Open.  De Minaur reached the quarters at the 2020 US Open, and this is the farthest he’s been at a Slam since.  Their only previous encounter also occurred in 2020, which went to the Italian in three sets, in the quarterfinals of Sofia.  De Minaur will be the underdog, as he does not possess the offensive weaponry of Sinner.  However, the Australian thrives when competing for his country, and will likely make this a compelling affair.


Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Taylor Fritz (20) – 7:00pm on Rod Laver Arena

On his eighth attempt, Fritz has finally broken through to the fourth round of a Major, with a five-set victory over Roberto Bautista Agut, who as usual was not an easy out.  Tsitsipas arrived in Melbourne without much match play, and without many expectations, due to an elbow injury that forced him out of the ATP Finals in November.  But the Greek has advanced rather comfortably to the second week of this fortnight for the third time in four years.  When these two met at the Paris Masters in 2019, Tsitsipas prevailed in straight sets.  I expect Fritz to play rather freely coming off such a big, nerve-wracking win, and knowing he’s not the favorite in this matchup.  The 24-year-old American has the ability to apply plenty of pressure to the Roland Garros finalist with his strong serve and penetrating groundstrokes.  And considering Stefanos’s last few Majors ended with upsets to less-accomplished players (Tiafoe, Alcaraz), it would not be shocking to witness another upset on this day.


Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Maxime Cressy – With Zverev eliminated from the tournament, Medvedev is an even stronger favorite now to win his second consecutive Major.  It will be interesting to see how his game matches up with the serve-and-volley style of Cressy, who has won 11 matches this month in Australia (including qualifying).

Iga Swiatek (7) vs. Sorana Cirstea – Swiatek has methodically dismissed her opponents thus far, which is reminiscent of her title run at Roland Garros two years ago.  Cirstea has already upset two top 20 seeds (Kvitova, Pavlyuchenkova), and is looking for her first Major quarterfinal since the 2009 French Open. 

Aryna Sabalenka (2) vs. Kaia Kanepi – The way Sabalenka continues to advance despite her double faulting woes is one of the most inspiring stories of this event.  Kanepi is 6-3 lifetime in the fourth round of Slams, and gained plenty of wins towards the end of last season, winning two ITF events.  When they played in a tune-up event last year on these same grounds, Kanepi won in three.


Monday’s full Order of Play is here.

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