Players may be able to play if they have COVID-19 at the Australian Open ©Getty Images

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley has confirmed tennis players at the tournament this month will not be required to take COVID-19 tests and could be permitted to play even if they have contracted the virus.

It is a distinct change from previous protocol at the tournament.

In 2021, it took place under a bubble system, while COVID-19 vaccination was required for entry into the country in 2022 and mandatory testing and contact tracing were implemented too.

Serbian 21-time Grand Slam men's singles winner Novak Djokovic was refused entry and deported due to his ambiguous vaccination records.

Tily said this change reflected how Australia was treating the virus in 2023.

"We just wanted to follow what's currently in the community," said Tiley.

"We have gone a step further by making a recommendation around staying away when you're ill, and that our medical staff will continue to monitor that, with the players individually as well.

"We've made it clear to our players, as well as our staff, if anyone is feeling unwell, stay home.

"It's a normalised environment for us and, not dissimilar to the cricket, there will potentially be players that will compete with COVID."

Novak Djokovic is set to return after being deported in 2022 ©Getty Images
Novak Djokovic is set to return after being deported in 2022 ©Getty Images

Recently, Australian cricketer Matt Renshaw continued playing for the national team against South Africa in Sydney despite contracting the virus.

He remained isolated from the rest of the team off-field, until he returned three negative tests.

This year's Australian Open is scheduled to take place from January 16 to 29.

Spanish men's singles world number one Carlos Alcaraz will miss the tournament due to a leg injury, while Japan's Naomi Osaka is set to miss another Grand Slam.

American great Venus Williams has withdrawn too.