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21 Dec, 2021 08:52

‘This is so wrong’: Ace ruled out of Australian Open because of Russian vaccine

‘This is so wrong’: Ace ruled out of Australian Open because of Russian vaccine

Russia's Natalia Vikhlyantseva says she won't be competing at the Australian Open in January because the Sputnik vaccine is not approved, leading some fans to claim discrimination.

All players competing at the season-opening Grand Slam in Melbourne need to be fully vaccinated against Covid, but the list of jabs verified by the Australian government does not include Russia’s Sputnik V.

That is despite the jab being administered to millions of people around the world and officially approved for use in more than 70 countries.

“Unfortunately, I will not participate in this year’s AO event,” Vikhlyantseva, 24, tweeted.

“I’m really happy with a level of tennis I showed on a last few events and I wish to play in [Australia] but Sputnik is not verified yet.

"Good luck for all participants and AO team who always made amazing events,” she added. 

Vikhlyantseva is a former world number 54 but has dropped down the WTA singles rankings to 194.

The Volgograd-born star would have had to come through qualifying or be handed a wildcard to reach the main women’s draw in Melbourne.

Fellow Russian stars will be in Melbourne, including the likes of men’s world number two Daniil Medvedev, although they have presumably had access to vaccines which are on the Australian government’s approved list.

The biggest question mark for the tournament surrounds nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic.

The Serb is yet to reveal his vaccine status or whether he will be there to defend his title in Melbourne, although he has previously defended the right for freedom of choice over vaccination.

An independent panel will decide whether unvaccinated players will be allowed medical exemptions to compete at the Melbourne showpiece, which runs from January 17 to 30.

Online, Vikhlyantseva’s fans argued that she was being victimized because of the vaccine rules.

“This is so wrong; there shouldn't a vaccine hierarchy. Is this about health or politics. Lots of studies prove this vaccine's efficacy. Boo Australia,” read one reply to the Russian’s announcement.

“Sputnik has been approved in over 70 countries, it is commonly used in 18 countries. It has been successfully administered to over 100 million people. For [Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews] to ban players from playing [at the Australian Open] for taking Sputnik is 100% political and 100% discriminatory,” tweeted tennis blogger ‘Pavvy G’.

Others argued that Vikhlyantseva knew the names of the approved vaccines in advance, although the counter-argument was that not all Russian players necessarily have access to those on the list. 

“It definitely is political, anybody sane is aware of it. But Tennis Aus. follows recommendations from WHO which didn't approve Sputnik,” added another person.

The WHO said earlier this month that Sputnik V could finally be added to its approved list within the first few months of next year.

Vikhlyantseva has enjoyed the best Grand Slam performances of her career in Melbourne, reaching the second round in 2017 and 2019, but will not have the opportunity to improve on that in 2022.