The Australian Open organisers have offered assurances that they will do everything possible to protect players from outbreaks of the deadly meningitis virus. Tennis Australia has again ruled out an invitation for unvaccinated players or the more than 50 members of the entourage travelling with the 24-time grand slam winner Novak Djokovic, and said those wishing to attend could still practise at Melbourne Park or Hobart’s coast this week.
“Tennis Australia will ensure that any prospective player without appropriate immunisations, including children under the age of 12, is identified and will attend in accordance with any advisories issued by the Meningitis Australia National Meningitis Taskforce,” the statement said.
Djokovic is recovering from right elbow surgery and is expected to miss the entire tennis season. The Serbian hopes to return next year. Although only one person has died of meningitis in Australia this year, it is spread through close contact, making the high-profile sport particularly vulnerable.
“Tennis Australia advises that we have not reported a confirmed case of meningitis this year,” the statement added. “However, the risk of meningitis is very real, which is why Tennis Australia has consistently advised all potential applicants that if they are unsure of their medical condition, they should consider not applying for a place at the 2018 Australian Open.”
The new chief executive of Tennis Australia, Craig Tiley, added that discussions with meningitis specialists have revealed that “it’s a very low risk event”.