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Djokovic heads for Australian Open with vaccine exemption

January 4, 2022

Novak Djokovic says he is to compete in the Australian Open after being granted a medical exemption to play. The Serbian tennis star had been in doubt to defend his title owing to Tennis Australia's vaccination stance.

Novak Djokovic clapping
Novak Djokovic has several times voiced skepticism about vaccinesImage: John Minchillo/AP Photo/picture alliance

Nine-time Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic announced on Tuesday that he would defend his title at the January 17-30 event after receiving a medical exemption from getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

He has previously refused to reveal whether he was vaccinated, putting his participation at the Melbourne tournament into doubt.

Its organizers had stipulated that all participants must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or received a medical exemption issued by an independent panel of experts.

"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," he said said on Instagram.

Mandatory vaccination 'blackmail'

Djokovic's father, Srdjan, had told a Serbian television station in November that his son would probably not take part, calling Tennis Australia's insistence on mandatory vaccination "blackmail."

Government officials in the eastern Australian state of Victoria, where the capital is Melbourne, had stated for months that only vaccinated players would be able to play.

"They're the rules. Medical exemptions are just that — it's not a loophole for privileged tennis players," the state's Deputy Premier James Merlino said last month.

Djokovic won the last three Australian Open titles in his record bag of nine. In Melbourne, he will vie for a record 21st Grand Slam title with archrival Rafael Nadal of Spain.

Nadal recently recovered from COVID-19 and is already training in Melbourne.

tj/msh (Reuters, AFP)       

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