Vaccinated tennis star: You’re trying to let Novak Djokovic play, now let me

'Just give me a chance to play': Natalia Vikhlyantseva says she is ready to play as the Australian Open organisers continue to forbid her entry

By Sports Producer Dan Salisbury-Jones

A vaccinated Russian tennis star, who is barred from playing at the Australian Open, has urged organisers to let her play after they gave an exemption to Novak Djokovic.

Natalia Vikhlyantseva, one-time world number 54, spoke out after seeing the reigning men’s champion get a ‘medical exemption’ to enter.

The vaccine she took in October was Russia’s Sputnik, which is not recognised in many western countries. The WTA offered her approved alternatives while she was on tour but she refused as she was concerned about how her body would react during a tournament. She instead waited until she was at home during a break in her schedule.

The Russian told ITV News: “For sure I was really upset that I can’t be in Australia with the whole tennis world.

“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 tests, just give me a chance to play.”

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Djokovic has since been blocked at the border and could yet be denied entry to Australia.

But as the decision from organisers to let him play has prompted a backlash across the world, Vikhlyantseva defended the Serb: “I don’t want to blame someone or say something is not correct, no.

"I think there are some medical exemptions that Nole showed and it was correct for Tennis Australia and the Australian government.”

There is however next to no chance of the Australians changing their mind for her to be in the tournament starting January 17.

An Australian government minister explains why Djokovic was denied entry into the country, ITV News Sports Editor Steve Scott reports

The vast rejection of the Sputnik vaccine is what frustrates her most. She recalls queuing in unvaccinated aisles to enter in France and now of course being shunned by Australia.

“I think now in this new reality that we live, the most important thing is to not forget that we are players and we are players who live in our own countries. It’s not fair I think, because we are not ‘non-vaccinated’, we are vaccinated. Just we decided that Sputnik is also a good vaccine.”

She also believes that she had Covid in August. If she had an expensive medical team with her they would no doubt have logged it. Instead, she has no proof and so the loophole several unvaccinated players are understood to have used to get in is closed to her.

Fame and fortune assists in almost all areas of life. How influential they are in these cases, will be fiercely debated for some time.