Tennis star Novak Djokovic granted medical exemption to play at Australian Open

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) – Novak Djokovic will have the chance to defend his Australian Open title after receiving a medical exemption to travel to Melbourne, ending months of uncertainty over his participation due to Strict COVID-19 vaccination requirements in place for the tournament.

Top ranked Djokovic wrote on Instagram on Tuesday that he had “an exemption clearance”.

Djokovic, who is aiming for a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam singles title, has always refused to reveal whether he was vaccinated against the coronavirus. The state government of Victoria has demanded that all players, staff and fans participating in the Australian Open be fully vaccinated, unless there is a real reason why an exemption should be. granted.

Organizers of the Australian Open released a statement on Tuesday confirming that Djokovic will be allowed to participate in the tournament, which begins January 17 and is en route to Australia. He had previously retired from the Serbian squad for the ATP Cup, which started last weekend in Sydney.

“Djokovic requested a medical exemption which was granted following a rigorous review process involving two independent panels of medical experts,” the statement said. “One of them was the independent medical exemptions review committee appointed by the Victoria Department of Health. They assessed all applications to see if they met the guidelines of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization. “

Tennis Australia said the process included drafting personal information to ensure the confidentiality of all applicants. This means that Djokovic was not obliged to make his exemption public.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said “fair and independent protocols have been established to assess medical exemption requests that will allow us to ensure the 2022 Australian Open is safe. and pleasant for everyone “.

“The central point of this process was that decisions were made by independent medical experts and that each candidate was given due consideration,” Tiley said.

Victoria Deputy Prime Minister James Merlino said last month that medical exemptions were “no escape for privileged tennis players“.

“This is a medical exemption in exceptional circumstances if you have an acute health problem,” Merlino said at a press conference.

The decision announced on Tuesday will be widely debated in a city that has endured months of strict closures and severe travel restrictions at the height of the pandemic.

The reaction on social media quickly turned into questions about the reasons for Djokovic’s exemption and the quarantine conditions he will need to meet upon his arrival in Australia.

Last year all foreign players had to spend two weeks in hotel quarantine ahead of the Australian Open, pushing back the first major tournament of the year from its usual start in mid-January. There were also strict caps on the number of crowds and days when fans were not allowed to enter Melbourne Park as cases of the coronavirus increased.

Djokovic, 34, has won nine of his 20 major Australian Open titles. He shares the men’s record in most major tournaments with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Djokovic has not played at touring level since the Davis Cup final in early December and recently trained in Spain. His social media posts announcing his intention to travel to Australia were accompanied by a photo of Djokovic leaning on a tennis bag at an airport.

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