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Uncertainty clouds Aussie summer of tennis

A little more than two months out from the country’s biggest annual sporting event, Craig Tiley is refusing to shed light on how the Australian summer of tennis is shaping up.

The Tennis Australia boss swatted away questions about the Australian Open at Dylan Alcott’s retirement announcement on Tuesday, saying more – but not necessarily all – will be revealed at next week’s official launch.

“I just want this to be about Dylan today and then I’ll take any of those questions another time,” Tiley said when asked about the possibility of unvaccinated players being granted exemptions to enter Victoria.

The launch will take place at Melbourne Park on November 18, the day before tickets for the season’s first grand slam go on sale.

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews on Tuesday reiterated his stance over unvaccinated players, slamming the door shut on the possibility of the state applying for exemptions.

Crowds will have to be vaccinated, but whether they are allowed to return to venues at full capacity remains to be seen.

“I’m not going to have people sitting in the grandstands having done the right thing, only to have millionaire players that ought be vaccinated running around the place being essentially at such higher risk of spreading this – getting it and giving it,” Mr Andrews said.

Headline act Novak Djokovic, who is refusing to confirm his vaccination status, is still no certainty to defend his men’s singles title.

The 20-time major winner is awaiting a final announcement on travel and entry requirements as most other leading players commit to playing.

Naomi Osaka has hinted at a return to competitive tennis for the first time since her early exit from the US Open in September, which prompted her to take a break from the game.

Roger Federer could make a surprise comeback after knee surgery and Rafael Nadal is nearing his return from a foot injury.

The Australian Open domestic wildcard playoff is expected kick-start the summer calendar in its traditional mid-December slot.

After being held in Doha and Dubai last year, men’s and women’s qualifying will also return to its usual home at Melbourne Park a week before the Australian Open begins on January 17.

There is still no clarity over the schedule of lead-up events, including the ATP Cup, around the country.

Aiming for an eighth straight Australian Open men’s quad singles crown as the final act in his stunning career, Alcott hopes to achieve the feat in front of full houses.

Thousands of fans were locked out of Melbourne Park last summer as the city was plunged into another COVID-19 lockdown.

“What better way to finish than in my home city than in front of crowds – big, big crowds – after the years that we’ve had the last couple of years,” Alcott said.

“Melbourne deserves it, to be honest. We deserve a bloody good time.”

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