Female tennis player Natalia Vikhlyantseva was denied the opportunity to attend this year’s Australian Open due to the country’s Covid-19 vaccination mandate. Unlike other players who are unable to attend, however, Vikhlyantseva is fully vaccinated.
The situation surrounding the first tennis major of the year hit news headlines when Novak Djokovic was granted a medical exemption, allowing him to enter the country even though he had not taken a coronavirus vaccine, and had publicly spoken against the taking of vaccines. Vikhlyantseva’s problem is different. Even though she is fully vaccinated, it is with the Russian Sputnik jab, which is not recognized as a legitimate vaccine in many Western countries.
“I was really upset that I can’t be in Australia with the whole tennis world,” the women’s world no. 54 said in an interview with ITV News. “I know it was anonymous how they did the exemptions … so I can’t say that something’s not right but I just feel that I can also play and I’m ready for all the test, just give me a chance to play.”
During her time touring with WTA last year, Vikhlyantseva was offered Western-approved vaccines, but declined, saying she did not want the risk of side effects to impact on her game. She refused to speak ill of Djokovic being allowed to attend the tournament, instead claiming the problem lay with the Australian Open organizers.
Djokovic has since been stopped at the Australian border and may face deportation over a visa dispute.