Australia’s highest-ranked teenager Olivia Gadecki back playing after missing Australian Open while unvaccinated
Mystery surrounds Queensland rising star Olivia Gadecki’s return to tournament tennis in Canberra this week, after she skipped the Australian Open because she was unvaccinated.
The 19-year-old is one of the country’s brightest prospects, but her competitive return was a world away from the bright lights of grand slam tennis.
Gadecki, who counts world No.1 Ash Barty as a mentor and friend, lost her quarter-final on Friday in three sets to Japan’s Chihiro Muramatsu at the $25,000 ITF event.
A statement to News Corp confirmed that all competitors at the event must present their Covid-19 certificate, also known as the ‘green tick’, as proof they were on the Australian Immunisation Register.
That means Gadecki, the world No.263, has either been vaccinated since the Australian Open or successfully applied for a medical exemption.
A second Australian, Ivana Popovic, 21, also played in Canberra this week – but lost in the first round – after her medical exemption request for the Australian Open is understood to have been rejected.
Gadecki’s return to the court comes as world No.1 Novak Djokovic remains on the entry list for next month’s Indian Wells Masters, which will also require full vaccination to compete.
Djokovic missed the chance to win a record 21st grand slam title and 10th Australian Open when he lost a legal battle to stay in the country after arriving unvaccinated with a medical exemption.
There are unconfirmed reports the Serbian champion has since been vaccinated.
Gadecki, who made her debut for Australia at last year’s Billie Jean King Cup finals, upset 2020 Australian Open champion and then-world No.4 Sofia Kenin in Melbourne 12 months ago.
She would have been a serious contender for a singles wildcard at last month’s grand slam tournament if not for her vaccination status.
Barty confirmed in December she had discussed the situation with Gadecki but said she would not influence her decision-making.
“I’ve spoken to her a little bit, but she’s an adult and she has her own career and makes her own decisions,” Barty said.
“That’s something I’ve said to her a lot of the time. I’ve grown up and made my own decisions that I’m accountable for and she’s done the exact same thing.
“So, I’m not in a position where I’m going to try and sway her or do anything, in a sense, to change her mind.
“I’m here as a friend, to support her and love her, and whenever I see Liv, I try and catch up with her and we chat through everything, not just tennis.”
Barty and her coach, Craig Tyzzer, both had the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires only a single dose.
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