Novak Djokovic to defend Australian Open tennis title after COVID-19 vaccination exemption
Novak Djokovic ended speculation about his Australian Open title defense by announcing on Tuesday that he would compete in the Grand Slam tennis season opener after receiving a medical exemption from being get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The world No.1, who had refused to disclose his vaccination status, has previously said he was not sure if he would participate in the tournament Jan. 17-30 in Melbourne due to concerns over the quarantine rules of the Australia.
“I spent some fantastic quality time with my loved ones during the break and today I’m heading to Down Under with an exemption. Let’s go in 2022,” the Serbian said on Instagram.
The organizers of the Australian Open had stipulated that all participants should be vaccinated against the coronavirus or benefit from a medical exemption granted by a panel of independent experts.
Organizers released a statement later Tuesday to confirm that Djokovic will be cleared to compete in the Australian Open and is on his way to Australia.
“Djokovic requested a medical exemption which was granted following a rigorous review process involving two separate groups of independent medical experts,” the statement said.
“One of them was the independent medical exemptions review panel 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 last month the panel would be made up of doctors from the fields of immunology, infectious diseases and general medicine and that the decision had been agreed in collaboration with the Victoria Department of Health.
Applicants who pass an initial step undergo a second review conducted by a government appointed committee before the application is submitted to the Australian Vaccination Registry.
Djokovic’s father Srdjan had told a Serbian TV station his son would likely retire from the major, saying Tennis Australia’s stance on mandatory jabs amounted to “blackmail”.
Djokovic has withdrawn from Serbia’s squad for the ATP Cup in Sydney to raise further doubts about his participation in the first Grand Slam of the year.
“I am ready to live and breathe tennis over 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.
He is heading to Australia after training in Marbella, Spain in recent days.
Tennis Australia did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.
Djokovic has won a record nine Australian Open titles, including the last three, and is tied at three in 20 majors with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on the all-time roster.