Unvaxxed French icon first to shun Australian Open

Five-time Grand Slam doubles champion Pierre-Hugues Herbert has revealed he will not be playing at the Australian Open in January, partly because he is unvaccinated. The tournament will only allow fully jabbed players to compete.

“Personally, I am not vaccinated and the trip to Australia was not an option for me,” Herbert told French media outlet L’Alsace.

World doubles number eight Herbert and partner Nicolas Mahut won the title in Melbourne in 2018 – one of five they have scooped at Grand Slams. They also claimed the ATP Finals title in Italy in November. 

They will not have a shot at the season-opening major in Melbourne after organizers ruled that only fully vaccinated players could compete.

Herbert, 30, said that the decision was also partly down to his ranking in the singles, which has slumped to 100, meaning he would likely have had to emerge through qualifying at Melbourne Park.

“I do what I can. But because of my singles ranking, it may have been a bad thing (to go to Australia) for a good start,” he said.  

It’s unclear whether doubles partner Mahut will make the trip to Australia as he is believed to have received only one dose of a Covid vaccine, having already tested positive for the virus.

Speaking earlier this year on his vaccine status, Herbert said it was a “personal choice.”

“I don’t know how long it will last. I don’t know if it’s feasible today to be a tennis player without being vaccinated,” said the Frenchman.

“There is not only Australia. Today, there are the United States, Austria… it is a rather complex topic.”

READ MORE: ‘I cannot practice, I cannot play’: Tennis ace ends season, admits he regrets taking Covid vaccine after feeling ‘violent pain’

Herbert is believed to be the first star to pull out of the event due to his vaccination status, although the biggest speculation surrounds men’s world number one Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic has refused to publicly state whether or not he has had or will have the Covid jab.

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Tennis Australia recently doubled down after suggestions that loopholes could be used as a way for nine-time champion Djokovic to appear, saying that “all players, participants and staff at the Australian Open have to be vaccinated.”

“Any suggestion that Tennis Australia is seeking ‘loopholes’ within this process is simply untrue. Adjudicating on medical exemptions is the domain of independent medical experts. We are not in a position to influence this process and nor would we,” it added.

Suggestions that Djokovic, 34, could yet defend his title in Melbourne were fueled when his name was included in the tournament draw and also on the teamsheet for Serbia for the ATP Cup in Sydney in January.

If the 20-time Grand Slam winner wants to appear at that tournament, he would need an exemption from the New South Wales government and also complete a mandatory 14-day quarantine on arriving in Sydney.

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