Djokovic’s ranking fell to 626 in August before recovering to 70 in October
Victoria’s sports minister has dismissed claims by world number two Novak Djokovic that an Australian mandatory vaccine plan is “blackmail” tactics to stop a demand for equal prize money.
Djokovic said the motivation behind the policy – aimed at preventing men playing men’s tennis – was blackmail.
“I don’t see that’s the motivation,” said David Hodgett.
“I think any of our athletes should be free to make decisions for themselves.”
Djokovic was speaking after an Australian newspaper reported the introduction of the mandatory vaccine policy for every child entering junior tennis tournaments in Australia was a direct result of the prize-money debate.
The Serb, who returned from an elbow injury to win Wimbledon and reach the US Open final, said the policy “promises 100% immunity to any Pertussis (whooping cough) should any player get exposed.”
In August, Djokovic, 31, had his ranking cut by more than 100 places after cutting short his season.
“I don’t want to sit in front of you and talk about other people’s plans and blackmail,” he told a press conference.
“But personally when you have some boys that are continuously getting more money than others, at times I think girls have got so much less, having to travel half the world in a year for one tournament, having to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars – I don’t know – that at times, it really rubs against boys – it was just a little bit frustrating.”
In its article, The Australian said the Australian Tennis Association had contracted a firm to provide vaccinations free of charge to all players under 18.
Australian tennis officials are refusing to say whether or not the policy would extend to men’s Grand Slam events in the future.
Hodgett said Djokovic was free to criticise how the sport was operated, adding that the government would not be able to set rules without consultation.
He added he had personally spoken to Djokovic, and had not noticed any negative reaction to the policy.
Australian tennis chief Craig Tiley also said this week that the policy would not be extended to men’s tournaments, but later denied he had said that in an interview with one of the country’s tabloid newspapers.