CLAIM: Three tennis players — Nikoloz Basilashvili, Nick Kyrgios and Dalila Jakupovic — were forced to drop out of this year’s Australian Open after they experienced chest-related health issues.
THE FACTS: Neither Basilashvili nor Kyrgios has dropped out, and Jakupovic was not scheduled to participate in this year’s Australian Open. The false rumor appeared in a widely shared article that also mentioned Australia’s decision to cancel the visa of top tennis player Novak Djokovic because he didn’t have a COVID-19 vaccine.
The Jan. 10 article, published on a fringe website that has spread falsehoods about COVID-19, was titled, “Three players drop out of Australian Open with chest issues while Djokovic awaits his fate.” The story incorrectly claimed Basilashvili dropped out after he was seen “clutching his chest with respiratory difficulties” in a separate match during the ATP Cup. Videos do show Basilashvili seeking medical attention and retiring from an ATP Cup match in Sydney on Jan. 5, but the Georgian athlete did not drop out of the Australian Open, which started 12 days later, on Monday.
In fact, he appeared in the tournament, losing on Tuesday to British player Andy Murray. The article also claimed that Kyrgios, from Australia, was forced to drop out of the tournament after suffering breathing difficulties. Kyrgios did pull out of a tuneup tournament in Sydney on Jan. 10 after testing positive for COVID-19, but he has since recovered and played multiple matches in the Australian Open.
The article’s claim that Jakupovic, a Slovenian player, was forced to retire from an Australian Open match after dropping to the ground is also unsupported. Jakupovic dropped to her knees while coughing heavily from wildfire smoke during a match in the Australian Open in January 2020, before COVID-19 had spread widely across the globe. She is not scheduled to participate in this year’s tournament, according to its official roster.
Thousands of social media users shared videos of Jakupovic collapsing in 2020 to falsely claim that the COVID-19 vaccine inhibited her breathing. There are no credible reports that any vaccine side effects have affected the Melbourne-based tennis tournament. Medical experts say there’s no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines have caused any wave of deaths or illnesses among athletes, either. Tennis Australia, which organizes the Australian Open, did not respond to emailed requests for comment.
— Associated Press writer Ali Swenson in New York contributed this report with additional reporting from Angelo Fichera in Philadelphia.