MADRID — Rafael Nadal says Novak Djokovic will need to be vaccinated to keep playing if the governing bodies of tennis make coronavirus shots obligatory once they become available.
Nadal told the Spanish newspaper La Voz de Galicia this week that Djokovic and all players will have to follow the rules when tennis eventually returns to action.
Nadal said no one can be forced to take the vaccine and everyone should be free to make their choices, but all players will have to comply if tennis officials require "vaccination to travel" and to "protect" everyone on the tour.
"Then Djokovic will have to be vaccinated if he wants to keep playing tennis at the top level," Nadal said. "The same for me. Everyone will have to follow the rules, just like now we have to stay at home."
Djokovic recently said he was against taking a vaccine for the coronavirus even if it became mandatory to travel. He later said he was open to changing his mind.
"If the ATP or the International Tennis Federation obligates us to take the vaccine to play tennis, then we will have to do it," Nadal said.
The Spaniard compared it to the restrictions players already have on medicines because of doping controls.
"It's about following the rules, nothing more than that," he said.
There is still no vaccine available against the new coronavirus, which has killed more than 270,000 people around the world.
Djokovic on Monday broke confinement rules in Spain after a local club said it mistakenly allowed him to practice on one of its courts.
Tennis players are likely to be authorized to be back on courts in Spain beginning on Monday, May 11. Nadal said he returned to practice but did it on a private court.
Nadal recently said he was pessimistic about the return of tennis in 2020. He said that if given the option, he would scrap this season entirely so tennis could resume normally in 2021.
Djokovic won the Australian Open in early February, before sports were brought to a halt because of the virus. It was his 17th Grand Slam trophy overall. Only Roger Federer, with 20, and Nadal, with 19, have won more men's Grand Slam singles trophies than Djokovic.
More than 30 sanctioned events have been scrapped since early March until at least mid-July. Wimbledon was canceled for the first time in 75 years, while the start of the French Open has been postponed from May until September.
The US Open is scheduled to begin in New York in late August, but organizers said they will decide in June if that tournament will be held at all.