After months of dancing around the question of whether or not he had received the COVID-19 vaccine, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic was granted a medical exemption by the Australian Open, making him eligible for the first Slam of the year later this month.
“Novak Djokovic will compete at the Australian Open and is on his way to Australia,” the Australian Open said in a statement. “Djokovic applied for a medical exemption which was granted following a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts. One of those was the Independent Medical Exemption Review Panel appointed by the Victorian Department of Health. They assessed all applications to see if they met the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization guidelines.”
The tournament has said that all players must be vaccinated to compete, unless granted a medical exemption. The world number one is a three-time defending champion in Melbourne, and has won nine Australian Open titles in his career.
“Happy New Year, everybody!” Djokovic wrote on Instagram. “Wishing you all health, love, and happiness in every present moment and may you feel love & respect towards all beings on this wonderful planet. I’ve spent fantastic quality time with my loved ones over the break and today I’m heading Down Unver with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022!!”
The news of Djokovic’s exemption was met with confusion with many feeling that Djokovic has received special permission that other players would not get.
“I don’t know what to say about that really,” said Jamie Murray from Sydney as he competes for Great Britain at the ATP Cup. “I think if it was me that wasn’t vaccinated I wouldn’t be getting an exemption, But well done to him for getting clear to come to Australia and compete.”
The Australian Open runs from January 17-30.