The boss of the Australian Open has confirmed that unvaccinated players will not be permitted to compete at the first Grand Slam of 2022 following contradictory statements from local politicians.
Speculation has been rampant for weeks over the eligibility of some of tennis' biggest names ahead of the event, which is set to begin on January 17 in Melbourne amid the country's strict rules on minimizing the risk of Covid outbreaks within their borders.
In October, prime minister Scott Morrison indicated that unvaccinated players would likely be granted entry to the country ahead of the tournament as long as a period of quarantine was undertaken - but added that Victoria, which includes Melbourne, would have to apply for exemptions for players yet to receive the jab.
However, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said that the state would not seek any exemptions for unvaccinated players "on behalf of every vaccinated Victorian who has done the right thing."
"If we don't apply for an exemption, then no exemption will be granted and then the whole issue is basically resolved," he added.
But if some players were hoping for a late reprieve, that has been ruled out by tournament director Craig Tiley's confirmation that only vaccinated players need apply.
World number one Novak Djokovic, who has refused to confirm his vaccination status, is thought by many to be one of the players who will be affected by the move.
The Serb is a nine-time winner of the Australian Open, including victories at the last three tournaments, and would move ahead of rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on the all-time Grand Slam title list with 21 if he was to win January's event.
According to Tiley, though, Djokovic must follow the rules if he wants to play.
"Novak knows he will have to be vaccinated to play," he said. "We would love to have him here."
Recent data suggests that 80 of the world's top 100 male players have been vaccinated against Covid-19, while similar figures for female players have not yet been made available.
However, the WTA players' council sent a letter to players - which was leaked to the media - in October stating that unvaccinated players would be allowed to play.
The 2021 iteration of the Australian Open, which took place before the rollout of the various vaccines against Covid-19, saw players and support staff required to complete a 14-day isolation period before being permitted to re-enter society, leading to complaints from some players that they were unable to adequately prepare for the tournament.