Legal issues with WTA Tour vaccine mandate, says Azarenka

Mandates have been proposed in some quarters after the issue of vaccinations dominated the tennis headlines for a week before Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia on Sunday evening.

Azarenka said she believed getting vaccinated was the socially responsible thing to do, and that the WTA was right to encourage it, but there were issues with a mandate, however useful it might be.   -  GETTY IMAGES

There are legal issues with the WTA imposing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on everyone competing on the women's professional circuit, former world number one and tour players' council member Victoria Azarenka said on Wednesday.

Mandates have been proposed in some quarters after the issue of vaccinations dominated the tennis headlines for a week before Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia on Sunday evening.

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Azarenka said she believed getting vaccinated was the socially responsible thing to do, and that the WTA was right to encourage it, but there were issues with a mandate, however useful it might be.

"I believe in science. I believe in getting vaccinated. That's what I did for myself," she told reporters after reaching the third round of the Australian Open with a 6-1 6-2 victory over Jil Teichmann.

"As an entity, as an association of WTA, that is travelling globally, we still have to respect countries, different countries, different mandates, different legalities of the country.

"Some countries will not allow mandates. I think to impose something legally on the WTA Tour can be a challenge. I think that's something that we are facing."

Djokovic and a handful of other unvaccinated players and officials arrived in Australia this month and last holding medical exemptions that were supposed to allow them to enter the country without being vaccinated.

Azarenka said she thought the whole affair could have been prevented by having much clearer rules in place.

"I don't believe there was anybody who looked good in any case. That became a bit of a circus," she said.

"I think there should be a really hard look on this situation moving forward. I think as soon as there is a grey area in the rules, that gives a bit too much questions, and situations like this happen.

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"On certain things I think a black-and-white approach is necessary."

The WTA have not replied to requests for comment about vaccine mandates.

Azarenka said discussions were continuing about how to replace the Chinese events on the WTA calendar after the tour suspended tournaments in the country because of concerns over the safety of former doubles number one Peng Shuai.

"The process is obviously not public at the moment because there is no certainties or any decisions or substitutions that are in play," she said.

"As an association, women's association, I am proud that we are supporting our players. I think that kind of should go without saying. The situation is really unfortunate. We all hope for the best."

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