Australian Open: Rafael Nadal, the “confident” tournament leader, will play

Australian Open chief Craig Tiley said on Wednesday he was confident Rafael Nadal would play in Melbourne despite testing positive for Covid-19, as new doubts emerged about Novak Djokovic. Spain star Nadal said on Monday he tested positive after returning from an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi and was having “unpleasant times”. While the 20-time Grand Slam champion has said he is reviewing all of his playing engagements, Tiley believes Nadal will be well enough to chase his second Australian Open title in January.

“I have no doubts that Rafa will be there,” the tournament director told reporters in Melbourne.

“Players who test positive now will complete a period of time until they are no longer contagious and you will be fine.”

World number one Djokovic, who has won nine of his 20 Grand Slam tournaments at Melbourne Park, remains in serious doubt over his refusal to confirm whether he has been vaccinated.

The 34-year-old was named to the tournament’s entry list, but his father Srdjan reportedly said his participation was still not guaranteed.

Tiley said “a small percentage” of unvaccinated players and staff would enjoy medical exemptions at the Australian Open, but their identities were protected by strict confidentiality protocols.

He was unaware of any player informing the organizers that he was granted a bye.

“If Novak shows up at the Australian Open he will either be vaccinated or he will have a medical exemption,” Tiley said.

“Medically, he doesn’t tell anyone about it – I’m not going to ask Novak that, it’s none of my business.”

Any indication that Djokovic had received a vaccination exemption would likely spark a furious public backlash in Melbourne, which has endured long periods of lockdown in an attempt to contain the virus.

The Australian Open pitch has been ravaged by injury before, with superstars Serena Williams and Roger Federer, as well as Jennifer Brady, Karolina Pliskova, Bianca Andreescu and Karolina Muchova.

Former US Open champion Dominic Thiem is struggling to come back from an injury layoff, while rising star Emma Raducanu and Olympic champion Belinda Bencic have tested positive for Covid-19.

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Tiley said there was still enough time for players with coronavirus to recover for the event, which begins January 17.

“If you are to test positive and want to play the Australian Open, your timing would be now,” he said.

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