Two-time Australian Open queen backs vaccine mandates after Djokovic ‘circus’
Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka said players should ‘believe in science’ as she voiced support for a vaccine mandate on tour in the wake of the ‘circus’ surrounding Novak Djokovic.
The Belarusian ace breezed into the third round in Melbourne with a straight-sets victory over Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann on Wednesday, but afterwards much of her post-match press conference was dominated by the lingering scandal surrounding the deportation of the men’s world number one.
Azarenka, who is a member of the WTA Player Council, was asked if she would support a ‘no jab, no play’ policy on the tour in light of the saga involving the unvaccinated Djokovic.
“To make it as a mandate, there is much more to it. But if you ask me just for my opinion if that should be the case, I think it would just be helpful for everybody in the world, especially when we are traveling internationally,” said the former women’s world number one.
“If you’re home and you don’t travel and you just remotely can safely do the measurements, the social distancing, all the precautions that are being introduced to us, I think that’s one thing.
“But in our case I think [the vaccine] is what has been recommended, and that’s what I believe is the right thing to do.”
Azarenka acknowledged, however, that imposing a mandate would legally be difficult for the likes of the WTA or its men’s equivalent, the ATP.
“From my standpoint, it has been very clear,” said the Belarusian, seeded 24th this year Down Under.
“I believe in science. I believe in getting vaccinated. That is what I did for myself. I don’t want to push my beliefs onto everybody else however, we are playing a global sport that are traveling around the world.
“As an entity, as an association of WTA, that is traveling globally, we still have to respect countries, different countries, different mandates, different legalities of the country.
“Some countries will not allow mandates, so I think to impose something legally on the WTA Tour can be a challenge. I think that’s something that we are facing.
“I believe that spending a lot of extra money over this last almost two years now on all the testing, that is a big budget.
“I don’t necessarily say that getting vaccinated, then nobody will be sick, but I think it is a step to hopefully battle against this coronavirus, hopefully bring it down globally.”
Azarenka cited her own experience of Covid in November, saying that infections to her parents at the same time could have been far more severe had they not been vaccinated.
“For me, there is a social responsibility for other people who are much more vulnerable maybe than us. I definitely look at it from that point,” argued the 32-year-old.
Regarding Djokovic, who was deported on Sunday following the personal intervention of Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to cancel his visa, Azarenka admitted the situation could have been handled much better.
“This could have been prevented, this could have been addressed way earlier than it was. What happened after, I don’t believe there was anybody who looked good in any case. That became a bit of a circus,” said the 2012 and 2013 Melbourne queen.
“So I think there should be a really hard look on this situation moving forward. I think that as soon as there is a grey area in the rules that gives a bit too much questions, situations like this happen.
“On certain things I think black and white approach is necessary and in my opinion, this should be the case.”
After overcoming Teichmann on Wednesday, Azarenka next plays Ukrainian 15th seed Elina Svitolina in the third round in Melbourne on Friday.