Serbian tennis player announces he will compete in Melbourne after receiving exemption for COVID-19 vaccination.
Novak Djokovic has ended speculation about his Australian Open title defense by announcing that he will be taking part in this season’s opening Grand Slam event after receiving a medical exemption to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The world number one, who refused to disclose his vaccination status, had previously said he was not sure if he will compete at the January 17-30 tournament in Melbourne due to concerns about Australia’s quarantine rules.
“I spent fantastic quality time with my loved ones over the break and today I am on my way Down Under with a release permit. Let’s go 2022, “Djokovic wrote on Instagram on Tuesday.
Australian Open organizers issued a statement later Tuesday confirming that Djokovic would be allowed to take part in the tournament.
Tennis Australia (TA) has determined that all participants in the Grand Slam must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or that a medical exemption must be granted by an independent panel of experts.
The panel will consist of doctors from the fields of immunology, infectious diseases and general practice and that the step has been agreed in collaboration with the Victoria Department of Health.
TA said the 34-year-old Djokovic had applied for a medical exemption granted after a “rigorous review process” involving two separate independent panels of medical experts.
“One of these was the Independent Medical Exemption Review Panel appointed by the Victorian Department of Health,” TA said in a statement.
“They have assessed all applications to see if they meet the guidelines of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (ATAGI).”
It added the process included editing personal information to ensure privacy for all applicants. This means Djokovic was not obliged to announce his release.
A government official from the Victorian state confirmed the release and told the Herald Sun newspaper that any player who was granted one would have gone through a two-stage process to verify that they had a medical condition related to the meet criteria for an exemption.
“I am ready to live tennis and breathe in the next few weeks of competition. Thank you all for the support, ”Djokovic added in his post, which was accompanied by a photo of him at an airport.
‘Not a loophole’
Craig Tiley, director of the Australian Open, said “fair and independent protocols have been put in place to assess medical exemption applications that will enable us to ensure that the 2022 Australian Open is safe and enjoyable for all”.
“Central to this process was that the decisions were made by independent medical experts and that each applicant was properly considered,” Tiley said.
Victoria’s Deputy Prime Minister James Merlino said last month that the medical exemptions were “not a loophole for privileged tennis players”.
“This is a medical release in exceptional circumstances if you have an acute medical condition,” Merlino told a news conference.
The decision announced on Tuesday will be widely debated in a city that has endured months of strict restrictions and strict travel restrictions at the height of the pandemic.
The release has been questioned by British doubles player Jamie Murray, who said it is unlikely he will get one if he is in Djokovic’s place.
“I think if it was me who was not vaccinated, I would not have received a release … but well done to him for making it clear to come to Australia and compete,” he said after the doubles match. against Canada in the ATP Cup said.
“Ultimately, you have to trust that he does have a valid reason for the medical release.”
Djokovic leaves for Australia after training for the last few days in Marbella, Spain.
Djokovic won it a record nine Australian Open titles, including the last three, and is tied in a three-way tie at 20 majors with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal in the all-time list.