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Fact Check-Article naming three tennis players who ‘dropped out’ of the 2022 Australian Open is false

An article on a vaccine-sceptic website has named three tennis players it falsely claims have dropped out of the 2022 Australian Open after suffering chest issues. The International Tennis Federation told Reuters that two of the players are competing, while the third did not qualify because her ranking was not high enough.

The report was published on Jan. 10 on the conservative news website Free West Media (FWM) (here), a website previously fact-checked by Reuters (here) – and was shared widely on social media here and here , here , here).

Its headline, published before world No. 1 Novak Djokovic’s deportation from Australia, reads: “Three players drop out of Australian Open with chest issues while [Novak] Djokovic awaits his fate.”

Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili, Australia’s Nick Kyrgios and Slovenia’s Dalila Jakupović are then named as the three affected players.

The article also suggests a link to COVID-19 vaccines, writing in a subheading: “’Breathing difficulties’ plague the vaccinated.”

However, none of the three players referenced have retired from the first major championship of 2022, the International Tennis Federation confirmed to Reuters.

A spokesperson for the governing body of world tennis said via email: “You can find the order of play for the first round of the Australian Open ausopen.com/schedule#!27316 – you will see Basilashvili and Kyrgios are scheduled to play on day two. Dalila Jakupović’s ranking was not high enough to have entered the 2022 Australian Open.”

Basilashvili was forced to drop out of an earlier tournament, Sydney’s ATP Cup, on Jan. 5 after struggling to breathe and needing treatment from a doctor (here and here).

His agent told Reuters on Jan. 11 that the player had recovered and was ready to compete in the Australian Open.

Basilashvili was ultimately knocked out in the first round of the tournament on Jan. 18 by Britain’s Andy Murray (here).

Kyrgios was forced to pull out of the Sydney Tennis Classic on Jan. 10, a few hours before his scheduled match against Italy’s Fabio Fognini, after testing positive for COVID-19. However, Kyrgios remained on the roster for the Australian Open (here and here).

He was knocked out of the tournament on Jan. 20 by Russia’s Daniil Medvedev.

Finally, Jakupović was at the centre of misinformation claims about the 2022 Australian Open after an old video resurfaced of her suffering breathing difficulties on a court. This Reuters fact check here explains that the video was captured in 2020 – prior to the pandemic – due to the poor air quality in Melbourne following months of deadly bushfires (here).

VERDICT

False. Tennis players Nikoloz Basilashvili, Nick Kyrgios and Dalila Jakupović did not drop out of the 2022 Australian Open prior to its commencement.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.

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