Tennis commentator and coach Darren Cahill believes vaccination rates among Australian Open participants will skyrocket in the coming weeks, despite admitting only around 65 per cent of players have currently received both jabs.
The Australian Open has been rocked by controversy in recent days; an email from the WTA that suggested players might not need to be vaccinated was leaked, prompting Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to rule out unvaccinated players competing in the Open.
World number one Novak Djokovic is just one player who has refused to reveal his vaccination status, causing headaches for organisers of the event.
Cahill says he feels “sorry” for Tennis Australia, however, he supports the measures currently in place.
“I feel a bit sorry for Tennis Australia and Craig Tiley and his team, to be honest,” Cahill told SEN’s Dwayne’s World.
“Clearly they’ve gone to the federal government and got some instructions that they would be able to get unvaccinated players into the country.
“Then Dan (Andrews) has come out and clearly said no one other than vaccinated people will be able to play at the Australian Open.
“I personally don’t have a problem with it, I actually think they’re doing the sport a bit of a favour.”
While he, like many, support the measures, there is a chance they could severely impact the tournament, due to the current vaccination rates among tennis players.
Cahill believes the number of double vaccinated tennis players is around “65 per cent,” but anticipates it could grow significantly in the lead up to the tournament.
He says there’s a good reason why there is a slow uptake on the tour for vaccinations.
“It seems pretty low, but it’s like telling AFL players right before the finals series, ‘Hey, go and get the vaccination’, and the players are going to go, ‘No, no, no, let us get through our finals series and we'll get it in our off-season,’” he said.
“So, tennis players, they haven’t had their off-season, that’ll come in three or four weeks.”
Cahill also named the strict travel schedule of tennis players as another reason why they couldn’t get the vaccine during the season.
With tournaments only lasting up to two weeks, and vaccines needing to be administered typically at least three weeks apart in the same country, it leaves players with few options.
“You’ve got to be in the same place for about four weeks, and most tennis players aren’t doing that until the off-season,” he said.
However, he’s optimistic that almost all players will eventually be vaccinated before the tournament.
“I’d only be guessing, but I think it’ll be much, much higher than that (80 per cent mark), I think it’ll be around 95 per cent.
“I think most players will take the opportunity to get injected and come and play.”
The Australian Open will be held from January 117 in 2022, with a brand new stadium at Melbourne Park expected to be ready in time for the event.