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Novak Djokovic to play Australian Open after being handed exemption over Covid vaccine

Djokovic will look to defend his Australian Open title after ending weeks of speculation by confirming he is ‘heading Down Under’ for the tournament

Jamie Braidwood
Tuesday 04 January 2022 14:24 GMT
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Novak Djokovic has confirmed he will play the Australian Open after receiving a medical exemption to compete at the tournament without a Covid-19 vaccination.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said last month that all players competing in Melbourne are required either to be double vaccinated or to provide proof of medical exemption.

While Djokovic has yet to disclose his vaccination status, the world No 1 said in an Instagram post on Tuesday that he will be travelling to Australia with an “exemption permission”.

In a statement, the Australian Open said Djokovic’s application for a medical exemption had been granted following a “rigorous review process” involving two separate panels of independent medical experts.

The tournament, which starts on 17 January, will see Djokovic attempt to win a 10th Australian Open and move clear of Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal with his 21st Grand Slam title.

Doubts had grown over whether the Serbian would defend his title after he withdrew from the ATP Cup in Sydney last week, but Djokovic said: “I’ve spent fantastic quality time with my loved ones over the break and today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022!”

Djokovic, 34, won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon titles in 2021 but was defeated in the finals of the Olympic Games in August and the US Open in September.

In December, Australian Open director Tiley said an independent panel of medical experts would determine whether players would be granted medical exemptions to play at the tournament.

“We’ve worked closely with the Victorian [state] government to establish fair and independent protocols for assessing medical exemption applications that will enable us to ensure the Australian Open is safe and enjoyable for everybody,” Tiley said.

“Central to this process is that the decisions will be made by independent medical experts and that every applicant gets due consideration.”

A statement from the Australian Open said: “Novak Djokovic will compete at the Australian Open and is on his way to Australia.

“Djokovic applied for a medical exemption which was granted following a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical expert.

“One of those was the Independent Medical Exemption Review Panel appointed by the Victorian Department of Health. They accessed all applications to see if they met the Australian Technical Advisory Group of Immunisation guidelines.”

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